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Monday, 2 April, 2001, 09:56 GMT 10:56 UK
Macedonia: Should the West do more?
Diplomatic efforts are continuing as the fighting between Macedonian security forces and Albanian rebels intensifies.
Nato is asking member countries for more troops to secure the border between Macedonia and Kosovo, to stop the rebels using it as a supply route.
The EU's foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, is in Macedonia for talks with the Skopje government.
But there are calls for greater international involvement. Russia's President has said he would support military intervention in Macedonia itself, something that so far has been ruled out.
Are the actions of Nato and the EU enough? Would the deployment of international troops in Macedonia help or hinder the peace efforts?
This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
It is obvious that the fighting in Macedonia is for a Greater Albania and that the rights of Albanians in Macedonia is only an excuse to cover the invasion the hardcore ethnic Albanians from Kosovo are committing. Since NATO equipped and trained them, it is logical that they use the same tactics NATO used in the Kosovo war, fighting for the rights of Kosovo Albanians while the real reason was destroying Milosevic's power in the Balkans.
NATO should include Macedonia in the zone of control of their forces in Kosovo, and start a campaign of disarming any ethnic militant groups in the area. If any problems would arise from the militant groups a full-scale withdrawal of NATO forces from Kosovo would be punishment enough since I am sure that Serbian armed forces wouldn't mind taking back what they lost in the Kosovo war.
No NATO in Macedonia! I think they have caused enough trouble in the Balkans.
Did I hear someone call these Albanians - fighters for democracy? Hello? And who funds these "rebels"? The examples of democratic regimes : Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Pakistan, Afganistan, Syria?
The best approach of the West to the region will an emergency programme for a economical and social revival as a part of a policy for a speedy integration in the EU for Balkan countries like Macedonia and Bulgaria where the democracy and the ethnic peace is still not undermined by the uncertainty for the future. In the long run this will be cheaper, more effective and much more humane than maintaining troops, armed police and UN bureaucrats in imaginary multiethnic creations like Kosovo and indeed Bosnia.
"We would be making a terrible mistake to equate the ethnic Albanian people with a few rebels" says Mr. Solana. How can he know the thoughts of hundreds of thousands of Albanians living in Macedonia or Kosovo?
Imer Berisha, USA
The West has defined human rights by "saving" one nationality and bombing another.
Once a decision is made how the term humanitarian rights is clearly defined and once the Nato and US coalition defines which nationality falls under that definition, perhaps the world can come to a conclusion whether to get involved or not.
Urgent UN and Nato action is essential to ending the hostilities in the former Yugoslavia. Surely we have seen too many times the result of western non-intervention in the Balkans. The area has been ripped because of ultra-nationalist expansionism. Nato has the power to send the message that no progress can be made by violence and should do it now.
In Macedonia we are looking at a crisis caused by the lack of action by the West. How can we expect the relatively powerless nation of Macedonia to stand up against a battle-hardened terrorist army. The Albanians seem to show utter contempt towards a nation that took hundreds of thousands of their refugees. Indeed Serbia was made out as a villain, perhaps this was actually the problem of the media age - Serbia was closed to the world, we could not see Albanian attacks, they may have been dealing with a situation like Macedonia is struggling with.
I feel that the West should take care of their own problems that seem to be growing in their own countries.
Why we have people that seem to intervene at the wrong time I can never understand. Why not let every country solve their own problems.
I don't like having anyone meddle in my affairs, do you?
It is of essential significance that the world does understand that the final aim of ethnic Albanians in Macedonia and in Kosovo (Yugoslavia) is the everlasting romantic dream of a "Greater Albania". NATO and the EU have made a terrible mistake by supporting them blindly in the past and it is time they do something to crush the outrageous Albanian nationalism once and for all.
NATO has no business in Macedonia - imagine if this debate were in relation to Northern Ireland, where there is (or was) also a disparity in democratic and economic rights between the majority and minority ethnic groups. Imagine Britain allowing NATO in! Unfortunately, by resorting to violence first, Macedonia is making the same mistake Britain did in NI when it introduced heavy-handed measures like internment without trial; the Macedonian government and army are acting as recruiters for the KLA!
The UN should, however, have a role - it should set standards for democracy and create international political courts and forums to which those groups who feel they are excluded from the democratic process could bring their case. Violence tends to be resorted to by those who have no other means to resolve their grievances.
Afrim, Tetova, FYROM
I am ashamed at what my Albanian brothers are doing in Macedonia. We have had nearly 10 years of successful incorporation into the political system in Macedonia. Now with all the fighting and mistrust created, I have the feeling that the process is long gone. The trust will be hard to restore and the fighting will go on. Nato is not the solution to the problem, because it has never been able to act in stabilising situations long-term. There are just too many examples known to many of us to support this. I think my people should stop dreaming about Greater Albania and start working on improving their economic situation and try to integrate internationally. Otherwise, we will never be able to be part of the modern world.
Nato should do more because this war by definition is NOT a civil war. Macedonian integrity is attacked by ethnic Albanians not only from Macedonia but from Kosovo too. A reasonable person understands that Albanians were living 10 years in this country, isn't that enough time to sense non-equal position between citizens...? Macedonia isn't closed for negotiations, this country was building a multi-ethnic structure of society until some 900-1200 armed Albanians decided to ruin all that was built including Albanian houses in Tetovo.
Macedonia has given its Albanian minority MORE than essential human rights. If the Macedonian government gives in again, in another ten years or so, the Albanians will revolt again for MORE 'rights.' Slowly but surely, the Albanians will somehow succeed in their campaign for a 'Greater Albania'. If the Macedonian government 'mistreats' its Albanian minority, why do tens of thousands of Albanians pour into Macedonia each year? It's time that the West opened its eyes, and realised that the Albanians are up to something - something that will prove disastrous for Eastern Europe.
The predicament of the Albanians of Macedonia is in large part due to their being Muslims. In this new world order everyone has rights except Muslims. Just look at any major conflict in the world today - Palestine, Kashmir, Bosnia, Kosovo, Chechnya, Xinjiang - the root cause is injustice and denial of the basic human right of freedom and dignity for the Muslim people. When Muslims fight for their right they are termed 'terrorists' and 'bandits'. Albanians of Macedonia have been struggling peacefully since the creation of Macedonia for their legitimate rights. Now when out of frustration and silence of the 'civilised' world, they take up arms the Western world condemns them as terrorists instead of trying to get them their rights.
Bob Morrison, Aldershot, England
In Macedonia Albanians have risen for their rights, which currently are exclusive only for "Macedonians". Macedonian troops using excessive force shelling entire villages indiscriminately should be called terrorists. I think that Nato and the EU should call on the Macedonian Government to come to its senses and start immediate talks concerning legitimate requests they've turned a deaf ear to for years. Once an agreement is reached between involved parties (nations), then the international community can send in troops to back such an agreement. Every solution has to have the consent of Albanians living there, if it aims to resolve the situation once and for all.
I am not sure that having an Albanian University will magically solve all the problems. How will the young Macedonians of all ethnic backgrounds meet one another and learn about each other's cultural differences if we all live in our own little corners? It could isolate people even more. Maybe it will work better if we start programmes in which children of all ethnic backgrounds, including the Macedonian ones, are taught one of the languages of the minorities as a second language. And that means not only Albanian, but alsoTurkish, Roma or Serbian. Mixing is the solution - learning about one another, not trying to isolate.
What the KLA are doing in the Balkans is terrorism pure and simple with the support of the Nato countries - nothing less, nothing more. What the KLA want is a Greater Albania. Did they ever say that they are interested in negotiations? No.
A lot of people are calling Albanian fighters terrorists, but then the PLO where terrorists and afterwards peace partners, therefore it is better for Macedonians to speak to them sooner rather than later when they will have to deal with "a whole nation of terrorists"...
Goran Pancevski, Skopje, Macedonia
Macedonia WELCOMED the Kosovar Albanians two years ago - approximately 350,000 of them. Now what do they get from them - gun fire. As for their rights, believe it or not, they have more rights than the Albanians themselves in Albania. They have primary and high school education in Albanian and now they are building an Albanian university in Tetovo. They are represented in the government with an Albanian political party (DPA). They have TV stations, radio stations, etc. But their main goal is a greater Albania. My point is that if every ethnic group in the world took up arms and said that they were fighting for more rights in the country where they live, there would be chaos.
Why is it that in America, where there are people from many nations of the world, we follow the laws of the American government and go to American schools and speak English in school, but the Albanians in Macedonia, who have far more rights, are never satisfied? What do you think would happen if everyone who came to live in America wanted to start their own ethnic country using force and weapons? Would America just start handing out pieces of land? I THINK NOT! So how do you think Macedonia feels?
Chris Wyatt, London, UK
It seems that everyone has circumvented the fact that democratic people don't shoot at police to attain goals. These terrorists are doing exactly that! There is no doubt that a "Greater Albania" is what is at stake here. There isn't a country in the world that would tolerate this behaviour - especially one that accepted 400,000 refugees when no one else was willing to take them in. It's unfortunate that reporters, and politicians alike are not bold enough to admit that Macedonia is more fair to its minorities than any other country in Europe!
Let's hope that NATO can stabilise this region and encourage these terrorists to put down their arms. They must know that a "Greater Albania" is out of the question.
Before Greece supports the Macedonian Government militarily, they should see their own problems of human rights in their country. How come they support the Macedonians now, when the Macedonian minority does not have any rights at all, in the north eastern part of Greece where they live. Before taking sides on the conflict each of the neighbouring countries should first look at their own record and try to understand the people that suffer.
Europe and USA cannot leave Albanians to the mercy of the Macedonian police and army. Confederation is the only solution especially after what has happened so far.
We can sum up the entire Balkans affair as this:
The flow of money from smuggling keeps local Mafia intent on fighting
and destabilising because, as one military official said, "Peace in the Balkans is bad for the racketeers. They gain too much from disruption".
I find it extremely offensive to read comments from people criticising NATO for trying to put a stop to the atrocities being committed daily in the Balkans. I completed 5 tours of Bosnia and 1 of Kosovo, risking my life to help others.
To now read about mine and my fellow soldiers' efforts being described as incompetent by people who probably couldn't even point to the area on a map is just incredible. I wonder how many times these people have risked their lives to help others? I say that it's better to have tried and only partially succeeded than to just turn my back and say that I don't care that your family has just been slaughtered, it is someone else's problem!
Why can we Macedonians not understand that it is the human right of everyone to enjoy his life? Let's give Albanians in Macedonia the same rights as we have and the conflict will end. Dialogue and understanding may allow us to live together.
I think Nato soldiers are nothing more than kids. Nato watched ethnic cleansing in Bosnia, committed by Serbs just a few metres in front of their eyes. They then supported ethnic cleansing during Operation Storm against Serbs. They are now watching executions committed by Albanians against Serbs in Kosovo - again a few metres in front of their eyes. In 10 years they have never tried to protect civilians. It's time for them to go HOME!!
Bekim Mahmuti, Prishtinė, Kosovė
Macedonian-Albanians have legal ways to achieve their political rights and they have been using them ever since Macedonia became an independent democratic country. These terrorist attacks have no justification and they unnecessarily give a bad image to the Macedonian-Albanians. Nato was shortsighted in the way it handled the Kosovo crisis. Now, Nato, either give some real help (rather than just comforting words) to Macedonia or get out of the Balkans before you make it even worse.
If the Macedonian Government insists on a military solution, we will soon have a civil war in this country, and then it will be too late for Nato intervention and too late for eventual reconciliation of these two entities.
Tom OD, Leicester,UK
The Albanian minority have full rights - they attend Albanian schools and are taught in Albanian. An Albanian university is being built. There are Albanian television stations and Albanian radio stations. Most of all, Albanian national parties have 28 out of 120 seats in parliament and serve in the coalition government of Macedonia.
I'm sure that Albanians from Macedonia are not against Macedonians. NLA soldiers are fighting to raise the question of equality. The Macedonian Government should understand that 40% of the Macedonian population are not happy with their rights, so their duty is to solve the problem in a democratic way. Nato should support the dialog between NLA and Albanian political parties within the Macedonian Government.
Eileen, UK, says, "The West should pull out and leave them to it". But the Albanians in the mountains of Tetovo are TERRORISTS. This is just an excuse to fight for a greater Albania. They complain about not having enough rights, but they do - they are treated as equals. Macedonia took in many, many Albanian refugees from Serbia in 1998, how many did the UK take? How many did Australia take? How many did America take?
I wonder what Mother Teresa (ethnic Albanian of Macedonia) would say to all this. Probably that, on this Earth, blood is thicker than water - never mind those that have no brotherly love for people of different families, tribes or races for they shall not inherit the Earth, or even a small piece of the Balkans.
Laci, Port Moresby, PNG
I think the Albanians should be grateful for what they have in Macedonian in terms of rights and participation in government affairs. Unfortunately the Macedonian Slavic minority in Greek Macedonia who have lived there for centuries aren't even recognised as a separate ethnic group.
I think that the Macedonian government by giving ultimatums and not being willing to negotiate is being part of the problem and not part of the solution. All the rebels are asking for is more freedom and changes to the constitution. Why can't Albanians learn their own language in their own schools? Why can't they be recognised as the secondary language of the country like in the case of Quebec in Canada?
Both the United States and the European Union must take a strong stance against the current crisis. The Albanians in Macedonia must have their legitimate rights met through democratic institutions, in which their political parties participate. The West must play a leading role in this matter. Not to do so will set off a Balkan nightmare - probably involving Bulgaria, Albania, Yugoslavia, and even Greece and Turkey.
The West MUST do more! Now that Bill Clinton and Madeleine Allbright are gone, Nato has to teach those terrorists a lesson!
D. McCathy, Brisbane, Australia
It is not in the USA's beneficial interest, so why should Nato intervene ?
The ethnic Albanians in the states bordering Albania are now taking up where the Serbs left off. It was not long ago that the Serbs embroiled the whole region with their expansionist policies trying to create a greater Serbia. The Albanians are now trying exactly the same tactics. These insurgents must be put down quickly with the border made secure before this particular part of the Balkans treads the same familiar path.
Anyone who suggests that the present conflict in Macedonia was caused by Nato is effectively saying that the Albanian rebels in Macedonia are fully representative of the Albanian population of Kosovo and everything would have been OK if we had left this population to be terrorised, driven from their homes, and murdered by the army and special police forces of the now deposed Serbian dictator.
But Western governments should act now (and should have acted before) to help the government of Macedonia resolve this problem peacefully.
Do you solve the cause or do you oppress the reaction?
NATO should ask the Macedonian Government to give in to the demands of NLA freedom fighters and other Albanian political parties. After all, they are only asking for equality and nothing more (or less). NLA demands are identical to the ones put forward by the Albanian political parties and which have, for the past 10 years, fallen into the deaf ears of the Macedonian Government. The Macedonian Army, according to military analysts, cannot win this war militarily on it's own and their Slavic brothers in the region are not in position to help them much either, even though that remains a wishful thinking on their behalf.
So why drag out the solution?
Jane, Copenhagen, Denmark
Just let the Yugoslav army in! They know better then NATO how to deal with terrorists.
NATO did not fulfilled its purpose in Kosovo: the KLA are still armed and they have more power then ever.
Therefore, NATO must help Macedonians in this fight, even though it might be hard for NATO to turn their back to their friends in KLA
NATO, especially USA and Germany, have supported and are still supporting the terrorist in Kosovo and now in Macedonia. If they are not in a position to ensure the areas it controls not to be used to harbour terrorists acting against neighbouring states, then what is their use? This current war is a direct result of allowing armed Albanian groups to operate from under the umbrella of Nato "protection" in Kososvo. Also, due to Nato's involvement in Kosovo, it has encouraged such extremist action. They should stay at the border and away from my country.
C. Hathaway, UK
It is incredible if unsurprisingly that yet again NATO is allowing this situation to slowly escalate without even attempting a resolution; its as if they stick their head in the sand until finally the noise around them is so great, they have to pull it out and do something - by which time the problem has already become too complex and difficult to handle; which then provides another reason for the international powers to stall while they argue about which course of action represents least risk. Paddy Ashdown (who is currently on site) as ever seems one of the few politicians who has something constructive to say on the matter.
The situation in Macedonia is another example of NATO's short-sightedness. There is no such thing as a simple solution in the Balkans, the West must be prepared, once it has committed itself to action, to follow though to the end. And that will mean many years to come of heavy military peacekeeping presence in the area. Withdrawal or inactivity will lead to more blood on NATO's hands.
Macedonia is a democratic country, there is no reason why it should be attacked by terrorist forces.
If the country was a dictatorship then I could understand why terrorists would be fighting.
But their own people are represented in the government!
Stamp out these terrorists now, they are only there to start a needless fight for the sake of it.
Intervention of a third party in a civil war, however good their intentions will inevitably swing the balance in favour of one side or other. We stupidly interfered in Kosovo and by concentrating on the Albanian victim scenario ignored the actions of the KLA and allowed them to keep their arms and generally encouraged their activities against Serbia in our arrogant bid to destabilise Milosevic. Why are we so surprised at what has happening now?
The West should pull out and leave them to it.
Why does the West have to step in every time one country decides it doesn't like another country? Forcibly keeping two sides apart only works for as long as our troops are present - you can't force people to stop hating. No doubt our troops will be sent in anyway, their hands tied by oppressive legislation and many more hands will be wrung.
Konstantine, London, UK
Nato should get out
of the Balkans, and let the job be done properly by the Slavic nations in the region, who know how to deal with terrorists.
Marin, Toronto, Canada
Are Nato and the EU doing enough? Maybe not, but can you blame somebody for not doing more than "the best of his abilities" ? The deployment of forces would help far more than asking the Macedonian Government to use "proportional" force". You can only achieve peace if you show terrorists that the peace forces are stronger, in every possible way.
Nato by taking on a role in the area as "international policeman" has an obligation to ensure that the areas it controls are not used to harbour terrorists acting against neighbouring states. This current crisis is a direct result of allowing armed Albanian groups to operate from under the umbrella of Nato "protection" in Kososvo.
So much for Western idealism about a democratic multicultural Kosovo. The seeds we are allowing to be sown now, will be reaped in a terrible harvest in the coming years - just ask history.
Nato should do two things: put military pressure on the guerrillas entering Macedonia from Kosovo and put political pressure on the guerrilla leaders. Nato knows who they are, they used to be friends not so long ago, right?
Jim Nail, Belfast, UK
It is clear that unless the West makes it very clear via a sharp military response that the KLA will continue its cross-border assault on Macedonia. Only a demonstration of steel, not words, by the West will bring an end to their offensive before Macedonia is ripped apart.
There is one thing that Nato should do immediately: withdraw from the entire area. A peaceful solution could not be found in the last one thousand years between the Albanians and Macedonians and it won't be found now. What Nato did in Kosovo just created a bigger problem for the area.
I totally agree with Mr Howgates' assessment. Also, due to Nato's involvement in Kosovo, it has encouraged such extremist action.
No, you've done enough, thank you...
Robert Howgate, London, England
Whom, exactly do you define as, "The West"? I surmise this is another way of saying Nato. No, Nato should remain out of Macedonia unless specifically asked to assist in this, the latest in a long series of Balkan "shoot-em" ups. The problem of Yugoslavia cannot be solved. The country is layered with corruption and mafia like fiefdoms that will erode and undercut the most well-intentioned efforts.
As far as I am aware, Macedonia hasn't asked for help, nor are they committing atrocities within their own borders. We should let them resolve their own problems and assist by ensuring there is no movement of arms within the areas we currently occupy.
Getting involved further would be very foolish.
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