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Monday, 2 July, 2001, 07:14 GMT 08:14 UK
Macedonia: Can the violence be stopped?
Macedonia's fragile coalition government is facing a new crisis after a night of violence in the capital Skopje prompted by a government ceasefire with ethnic Albanian rebels.
In some of the city's biggest protests for years, several thousand nationalists demonstrated outside parliament, angry at what they see as government leniency towards the guerrillas.
Demands for President Boris Trajkovski's resignation followed a deal, brokered by Nato and the European Union, that allowed the rebels to withdraw from positions close to the capital without disarming.
Nato has said it is ready to send troops to Macedonia to support a peace deal, and disarm the ethnic Albanian rebel fighters, but only if a political agreement is reached.
What scope is there for political agreement? Can the violence be stopped? Or is the Balkans heading for another war? Should Nato send troops now?
This Talking Point is now closed. Your comments are posted below.
Situation in Macedonia is very simple. From one side we have ethnic Albanians who are 23%. On the other side we have the rest of the population 77% (ethnic Macedonian 72%, ethnic Serbs 4% and ethnic Romanians 1%). In the middle of all this we have the international community who the past 10 years put Macedonia as a positive example in the field of human rights and minorities' rights (Albanians have primary education in Albanian, high schools and before five months they have college where they can study in Albanian).
From the sides we have terrorist organisation, so-called ONA, fighting for greater rights for Albanians in Macedonia, but in fact they are fighting for "Greater Albania". And if these terrorists aren't stopped, we can see every day how more and more of this 77% will take guns in their hands and fight for Macedonia to stay as one country and not be divided from Albanian separatists.
The Albanian rebels may
be extremist. But
nationalisms of the
Balkans are more
NATO should have
known this from the very
beginning of the crisis in
killing fields of Kosova,
and the recent pogroms
against Albanians in
It appears that it may be
too late to find a
negotiated solution now -
the equal rights status of
the Slav Macedonians
NATO will probably
have to intervene once
Florin, London, UK
It is precisely Albanians who kept the peace in Macedonia for so long, because they were hoping that the government will see reason one day, a day which never came. It is the Albanians who have been the major tax contributors per capita - tax which never delivered any services for them, except some basic utilities. All this of course backfired. Most of the Albanians having nothing else to do turned to trade and migration which provided income for them and the state itself. The surplus of that income is now being used to put things right. Imagine what could have been done with all the resources, time and will of both sides that are being wasted in this unnecessary war only if the things were put right by the government from the beginning.
I'm a Kosovan but I really envy the Albanians from Macedonia, they are honest and hard working people, and this is surely not the way to treat such people. I'm sure they will prevail in the end. And as far as NATO and EU are concerned, they're only ensuring that Macedonia is not divided into pieces by the true owners of it; Albanians, Bulgarians and Greeks. Therefore they should be embraced and not despised by Macedonians.
Would USA allow Albanians to have a second language in America? No. USA accepted fewer Kosovo refugees than all other countries. Why? Because they don't want Albanians coming to this country. Now how do Macedonians feel living with 500,000 of these people who are stuck in ancient times?
E B, UK
It is really pathetic that the (western) media are portraying the Albanians as victims in this conflict. Let me remind everybody, Albanians started shooting at our troops back in February, with the excuse they want more rights in the country. I want a promotion in my firm. Should I start shooting at my boss?
I'm Albanian from Macedonia, 27-years-old, living in the USA now away from my family, away from my friends. You would say why don't you go back? Because I'm Albanian, because Macedonian Serbs tell us "Albania, that's your land, not Macedonia". I finished school in Macedonian language because in Albanian they don't even consider that you have a diploma, not to mention getting a job. All my family who finished school are without jobs and are waiting for my $300 a week that I take and with which I have to support myself and my family back there - especially to help my Mom with a tumour to have surgery done in some other state because there's no Albanian doctors in Macedonia. So God bless Nato, EU and USA.
Such a great problem the West has now. The West supported the terrorist Muslims up until now, and now we have an ally threatened by them. Do they continue the unjust support of the Muslims in order to appease their oil-rich allies in the Middle-East, or do they support the not so resource-rich Macedonians who have been loyal allies? We'll see. I guess the West's righteous arguments in the past haven't been so righteous after all. Sadly, the media have been so very biased in their reporting of news in this region, unconditionally damning the Serbs without pause.
Peter Haslett, Australia
Freedom is the only thing that Albanians want. Freedom to study in their language, which they have spoken for thousand of years. Freedom to work, so their children do not go hungry, freedom to breathe, freedom to live in their own land which has been filled with the blood that Albanians have shed defending it from Slavs in 1912, when Europe decided to break Albania into pieces.
I served with a Serb paramilitary unit during the conflict in Kosovo. I was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania - my parents are both Serbian. I volunteered after we were told about the crimes committed by Albanians to our people. Since I speak Serbian and, of course, American English I was gladly accepted in a unit that also had many other foreign recruits - mostly Russians. If the pro-Albanian media would've reported what really happened in Kosovo - especially to Serbs before and after the NATO bombings - things in Macedonia would not be out of control like they are now. The KLA is a terrorist organisation and until NATO and the West recognise this they will continue to terrorise Slavs until they have a greater Albania.
What is happening in Macedonia right now is the result of the "divide and rule" policy of the Western powers that has been pursued after the collapse of the Turkish Empire with respect to the Balkans as a whole. This is how an artificial "Macedonian" nation was created after the Second World War from a population that has always been part of the Bulgarian history and nation. It is regrettable that this event, as well as the following 50 years of existence of the so-called Republic of Macedonia within former Communist Yugoslavia, is the main cause for the ethnical imbalances, tension and the current outburst of violence.
N. Khan, UK
First of all, Macedonia has been invaded by Albanian terrorists from Kosovo. Secondly, when Nato troops entered Yugoslav province of Kosovo they have agreed that all Albanian gangs will be disarmed. However, Nato fail to implement this promise to people of the Balkans. On the other hand, they supported Albanian rebels with weapons and logistics the same way like in Serbia a few years ago. It is very clear that Americans want to dominate in Europe through Nato troops in order to achieve their dirty plans, to rule all the world and to tell everyone how to live and what to do. Finally, it is high time for Europeans - when I say Europeans I mean all peaceful people - to stand up and say no to American imperialists before it is too late for all of us!
The EU and NATO have already done irreparable damage in Macedonia. To redeem themselves in the eyes of the world they must immediately stop making threats to the democratically elected government of Macedonia. Since Nato is not interested in attaining peace in this region (they have to stop financing the KLA immediately) they must immediately withdraw totally from the region before it is too late. If they continue in the same vein that they have so far, the Macedonians out of desperation will have to seek the aid of the (God forbid) Russians or worse still the Chinese, if in sheer numbers only! NATO, wake up to yourselves and stop encouraging another war!
Whether the Albanians are good or bad, it does not really matter. What matters is that Albanians in Macedonia do not feel that Macedonia is their country. For the Macedonian Slavs to say that this is not their problem is naive. The Serbs had only their pride to lose in Kosova, where the Macedonian Slavs can lose their existence as a state. So, is it their problem? Unfortunately, Macedonian governments in the past ten years have not been far-sighted. There is no doubt that Albanians in Macedonia have been treated better than the ones in Kosova, but "better than" cannot be a foundation to build a new state, especially in the Balkans. The Slavs in Macedonia never dared to trust their Albanian citizens. They did not want to risk it. Now they are asked to pay a bigger price than they would have.
In this time of madness in Macedonia, does anybody think about suffering of the Albanian women in Macedonia and the region? Does anybody ask the Albanian women in Macedonia how they feel and, are they happy with this what happen here or we just have to listen to our politicians and our leaders and do what they say? Well, we do not like to do that anymore. We do not want to live different from other women in the world. Albanian women are also willing to participate in the political world and everywhere in the society like every woman in this world. Albanian women want to educate themselves and to be employed in the country, not just staying home and give birth and satisfying our husbands.
It is about time that NATO went into Macedonia properly, or got out of the Balkans altogether, and let the Serbs clear up the situation. After all, the new democratic government in Belgrade has acted with impressive restraint in Southern Serbia, despite constant Albanian attacks. The sooner Yugoslavia is admitted into NATO, as a stabilising force in the region, the better.
NATO, go home from Macedonia!
Is the KLA really "fighting for human rights"? Can they tell us what exactly they want? In Macedonia they have all the rights of other minorities in any other western democracy. Some Albanians complain, they are outvoted any time in the parliament, since they are minority. But, that is how democracy works. They have local government representatives at every level. They have 24 hour TV programs, newspapers, books, schools, clubs, and much more.
I spent one year in Kosovo, and many more in Macedonia. While I was in Kosovo, I was witnessing a systematic harassment of the Serbian population organized by Albanian extremists. Many moved to Belgrade to avoid the problems. Kosovo is now almost 100% populated by ethnic Albanians and they are using the same tactic in Macedonia.
I hope when I (a Macedonian) visit Skopje again, my best friend from high school (Albanian) will still talk to me, and we can have a glass of beer, and a basketball game one-on-one. I was taller, but he was always winning.
As an Albanian who was born in Macedonia, but raised in the USA, I frequently go back to Macedonia to visit my family and every time I go back, I get the same ill-treatment from Macedonians like I always do, especially when they see my Albanian eagle tattoo prominently etched on my body for life. Macedonians think there is no problem. They swear we get a fair shake at everything there, so why did I have to go to the telephone company everyday for a month and then finally bribe someone to put a phone in my house? I think it is prejudice. You may think I'm just paranoid, but that is just one example of the prejudice I get in that "democratic" country.
As for all the people who say that Albanians are terrorists and want a greater Albania, you're just a product of your own ignorance. especially if you have not witnessed it first hand. Why is it so hard for the Macedonian government to give equal rights to Albanians that live there and pay taxes and contribute to the economy and call that land "their" home. If you still think I'm wrong, try being a minority. It's not fun.
I hope that NATO and the EU are very pleased with the fact that I can't sleep because of the gunshots in my neighbourhood.
I just love how people who have never followed what has happened in the Balkans the past 20 years have so many qualms with what is going on. Yugoslavia was made up as a multi-ethnic country and at one point there was an Albanian University, library, and media services sponsored by the government. That all changed in the 1980's, thanks to Milosevic and his friends. Since then there had been non-violent protests that but no one listened. Only when force was used did they get noticed. So whose fault was that.
Albanians want their rights, that is it. They make up about a third of the country but almost half of the Albanians have left to work in other countries where they can have jobs, and they are not counted, neither are the Albanians who had moved to Kosova for school or work, they lost their rights and cannot even get a Macedonian passport even though they were born there. Albanians want peace the Slavs don't want them to have it.
Yeah, yeah. Again everybody is against Albanians. But do they really know the reason why they should be. It's so wrong every time. Can you just for ONCE, for the sake of everybody STOP Slavs killing Albanians or, the other way, Muslims. The same things are happening like they use to happen before in Former Yugoslavia. And yes we know that you will feel bad when I will say that Slavs with the help of Russia are trying to remove Albanians once and for all from Balkans (from their homeland). But they are so wrong. The can fight us, kill us BUT they can never take our freedom. So this is our democratic world, where everybody should have their rights. But what with Albanians?!!!
How can Nato assist the Macedonian Government and people when "they" support the very terrorists "they" trained to fight the Serbs? Balkan problems are deep in the blood and hearts peoples of the region I can inform you of this because I am Macedonian. When an organisation like Nato tries to solve problems with the same method as in Kosovo or as in 1913 they are just making future problems. However In my opinion it would seem this is more a US-EU subject indirectly relating to the issue of continuing the Nato relationship.
Imagine that this was a group of black militants, angry about being treated as "second-class citizens", occupying a town in Virginia and threatening to shell Washington DC. Would the US government negotiate, or bomb the militants to kingdom come? We all know the answer to that one, don't we... There is already an Albanian homeland; it's called Albania. The simple fact is that the ill-conceived intervention in Kosovo by Nato has emboldened the Albanian minorities in the region to take up arms against democratic governments such as that in Macedonia.
Jason, Brit in Boston, USA
Where does Mike, England get the idea that Serbia tried to create a "Greater Serbia"? Serbia never declared independence from Yugoslavia - it only fought to keep areas already vastly populated by Serbs.
Nato be careful!!! Please take care for the lives of yours soldiers. DO NOT let them die on the Macedonian ground as a result of your dirty political games
I wonder how many of those contributing to this discussion have actually set foot in Macedonia and talked to people there? Drank coffee in an Albanian household north of Tetevo? Consumed peanuts and beer with Macedonians in Skopje? Tried to find a convincing answer when asked how you think things will work out? I've been there often enough to know how little I know - most recently in mid-June - but despair of the apparent inability of many contributors to see the situation in anything other than "they're right, they're wrong" terms. The truth is infinitely more complex.
Read the most recent ICG report on Macedonia. Seek out Daniel Serwer's evidence to the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee earlier this month. Go to the US Institute of Peace site and check out their special Balkans reports. You will then understand the grim logic behind Jonathan Eyal's analysis on this site last Friday - the country lurches seemingly inexorably into a confrontation that none but a few extremists on either side want, but none seem able to prevent. Please, spare us the conspiracy theories. There's too much at stake here.
Beware, when the Slavic, Orthodox Christians start war it will lead to more ethnic cleansing of Muslim people. European history is a narrative of one war after another. At this moment in history the Slavic people are going through change and are unstable. Get Nato in, like tomorrow, to prevent a repeat of the horrors of Bosnia.
This is the bitter fruit of appeasing virulent nationalist aspirations in the region. From Germany encouraging Croatian "independence" to the Nato assault on behalf of Albanian terrorists in Kosovo to the latest outrage in Macedonia, we in the West have been responsible for accelerating the disintegration of the Yugoslav federation and the resultant bloodshed.
This is only happening because Nato did not disarm the KLA as agreed and now the terrorists have continued on their rampage to create a Greater Albania. The NLA is the KLA. I wouldn't put it past Nato to try and force Macedonia to give in to the terrorists so that Kosovo can be contained - for now. This is not about constitutional rights, it is about land, just as Kosovo was (and is).
When will the Europeans learn. They have had two world wars this century, both starting in the Balkan region. Now again when there is strife they are just preaching and watching...
Is this the kind of leadership we get from the EU. One minute they talk about disarming the Albanian terrorists and the next minute they even carry their arms around the country for them. Shame on them.
Ivan Fetterolf, Serb (living in the UK)
It is too late. The only possible way to stop this was to discredit the rebels, from the very beginning, as the criminals they are (not representative of Albanians in general in Macedonia) and ruin their chances of developing popular sympathies amongst the minority. Unfortunately, Nato, tiptoeing and careful not to become a target in occupied Kosovo, was rather light in its condemnations. The rebels were emboldened and captured territory. Nato assumed a bit of fighting would hold them back. Nato gambled wrong and now blames the Macedonians publicly, fearing that if Macedonia erupts into war with Nato on the Slavic side, extremist Kosovars will attack Nato's troops in Kosovo. This is pathetic and disastrous. The safety and independence of yet another Balkan state is being sacrificed on the altar of photogenic Western good-intentions. And the media will forget about it soon enough, after blood is shed and an indefinite Nato occupation begins in the name of freedom and democracy.
Let's stop fooling ourselves that the European Union and Nato are interested in peace for the Balkan region, in fact they are causing the war. In the end this goes to benefit the Americans who want to create instability in Europe to make the European countries dependent on American military power to resolve (read cause) conflicts. Let me remind you that a lot of wars have been started in Macedonia and unless Nato gets out of Macedonia, with its spies and corrupt politicians there will be a wide war in the Balkans perhaps WW3.
We are living in a war of leftists fighting rightists because of the lucrative drug trade. I can imagine what Macedonia is going through is terrible. Wars can be prevented if intervention is done promptly to avoid any massacre.
In May I was in Macedonia. One day I attended a market for livestock in Bitola and came across some fellows who spoke both Macedonian and Albanian. Curious I asked who they were and was told they were Macedonians from Albania. I knew that there are Macedonians living there but had no idea how many reside there so I asked. He said 300,000 Macedonians live in Albania. What I found interesting was that he said this without any hesitation. In Albania, Macedonians are only permitted education in their language up to grade four. On census forms they can only declare themselves as either Albanian or other minority. And no political freedoms whatsoever.
Steve Ilievski, Canada
If Nato enters Macedonia then we have a repeat of what happened in Kosovo. The Albanians forcing all non-Albanians to leave the territory. That's why the terrorists want Nato to intervene so they can under Nato's nose expel everybody else and in that way create ethically clean states. Nato should under no circumstances be allowed to enter Macedonia.
I think that there is something more behind Nato than just helping countries that don't belong to them. I think that they are the troublemakers and a much larger force is working behind the curtain with all this trouble. Nato is an evil entity that will either soon break up or become a one-world army of control. And I also like the point that no Nato country has been invaded. Of course they wouldn't be when you're part of it. The last world empire is arising and everyone is blind to it and how it works in the world today.
The violence in Macedonia stems from the fact that after the disintegration of Yugoslavia, the world community failed to stop the rise of Serbian nationalism, which is the cause of the entire Balkan conflict. As long as ethnic Serbs continue to demonise the Muslim population of the Balkans, this war in Macedonia will be a long struggle indeed.
The hatred between the Slavs of the Balkans and the Ethnic Albanians is a hatred that goes back hundreds of years to the days when the Ottoman Turks first invaded the region. I don't see how Nato or the EU can think that a few days worth of negotiations can possibly bring about an end to this thing. It seems arrogant and self-righteous of the West to think that way. I'm not saying we should pull out of the peace process altogether: I'm all for an end to bloodshed. I'm just saying we shouldn't feel the need to jump in and take sides in this region, since most of the problems there are problems that will either never be solved or won't be solved for many many years.
Aca Ohrid, Macedonia
I know Americans are better at most things than anybody else. It is pleasing, therefore, to have it confirmed (aka B Doiron) that they still lag the world in modesty, humility, and wit. Does this person not realise that Nato is a vital instrument for promoting US economic power, and that policing the Balkans is its only rational role at the moment. Nato's intervention in the Balkans is preventing destabilisation of the northern Mediterranean. The agreement and participation of the US is essential not to provide military aid, but to reassure the Russians that we silly Europeans are not going to involve them in another war. It's a good job there are those in the US who understand their role in life!
When will the EU learn to stop supporting Albanian expansionism all the time? First in Kosovo the EU gave the Albanian rebels a free hand. In fact, the Rambouillet talks practically invited the Albanians to carry on their terrorist attacks at the expense of the Serbs. Now, the West provides no support to Macedonia to defeat the Albanian terrorists. In fact, the EU is doing all it can to help the Albanians at the expense of Macedonia. If the West wanted to help the situation, they would have sealed the Macedonian border and provided military aid to the Macedonian government with guarantees for political dialogue. Instead, Nato made a half-hearted and belated attempt to seal the border and does everything to hinder the Macedonian government's military efforts against the Albanians.
Last Sunday BBC 2's Correspondent programme demonstrated how the US Army deliberately broke the UN's arms embargo during the Bosnian war by covertly supplying the Bosnian Muslims with weapons and training. This even took place ostensibly without the knowledge or support of Nato. It therefore wouldn't surprise me if some major player in the West was publicly condemning the actions of the rebels while secretly supporting them. It seems very suspicious that Nato polices the border between Kosovo and Macedonia, yet the rebels seem to have a steady supply of weapons and men going between these two places, whereas until very recently the rebel Albanians were a non-existent or non-significant force in Macedonia.
Perhaps someone in the West wants yet another Balkan war for some unknown reason. After all, Nato has become something of an army of occupation in that region of late. Whoever controls a region militarily will also be in a position to control it politically. It should be remembered that the region isn't all that far from the rich oil reserves of the Caspian Sea. Maybe there's a connection here. Who knows? But, while this may seem rather too conspiratorial for some, I doubt whether Senior Machiavelli could have scripted it any better.
The Macedonians are being betrayed and the Western media is playing along. Same old Balkan story.
The EU must send troops to defend Macedonia as a matter of great urgency. Ethnic Albanian nationalism and extremism underlies much of the continued strife in that reason and merits a decisive response from the West. Macedonia is a peaceful country that desperately needs our support before it descends into chaos. The British Government must act NOW.
Nato should either give 100% support to the Macedonian government (ie send in some troops to help) or it should not get involved at all. All this cajoling from Western governments is just political manoeuvring to gain the moral high ground without getting their hands dirty - it's Kosovo all over again.
Asan Salioski, FYROM
Less killing is a good thing. You would have thought that the Macedonians would have learnt from all the carnage that occurred in their neighbouring countries. The diplomacy table may or may not work, but it won't kill anyone to try it.
How would Mr Blair react if Richmond were occupied by IRA terrorists? I'm pretty sure there would be an instant military response to flush them out. The British public would expect nothing less. Yet our European foreign ministers are unanimous in their condemnation of the Macedonian Government's attack on the village occupied by these Albanian terrorists. It must be difficult to portray the Albanians as peace loving people (as they did in Kosovo), only to have them prove that quite the opposite is true. Attacks on Macedonian police and civilians are not a recent occurrance. It's been going on for years. But with Nato's intervention in Kosovo, the Albanians thought they could take it a step further. It's finally time for Nato and the EU to shut up, and let the Macedonians deal with the Albanians once and for all.
Whenever there is a conflict the calls go out for Nato and the EU to become involved. Clearly we cannot allow ethnic cleansing to go on or mass murder to occur but I wonder how many conflicts we can get involved with. How many wars we can try to stop. How many troops and resources can we expend in the pursuit of an unobtainable goal. The Balkans is just another area where deep-rooted religious and ethnic problems have existed and will continue to exist. It is the root of the Great War and the tensions which helped to cause it that remain, and no amount of cultural white-washing will remove it. Neither Nato nor the EU can programme minds.
Rahul Mahajan, UK/India
So Nato sends troops, to do what? When will Blair and his colleagues get the message that they have to stop meddling in everything. Hasn't Bosnia and Kosovo taught us that when we poke our nose in on one side or the other we only make things worse. Macedonians were portrayed as the good guys, yet when their army is used against terrorists just miles from the capital they are vilified.
Like it or not the government in Macedonia is in the right. It is only because it is a small country that the West interferes - would we do the same against Russia (Chechnya) or China (over Tibet). Would the UK appreciate the same meddling over Northern Ireland, the Falklands?
I feel very sorry for the Macedonians. Nato and the EU are demanding total subservience and threatening them with economic isolation. And their crime? Being invaded and occupied by Albanian terrorists (Nato's words, not mine) who have already killed several police and soldiers. And if the Nato/EU dictat of "no military solution to this problem" is true, then why did Nato escort these terrorists to safety without disarming them? If the terrorists had no weapons there would be no problem. Nato's threat to the Macedonian economy should be met with threats to Nato's Kosovo supply route through Macedonia. If that were disrupted then the logistics of Nato's Balkan adventure would collapse. This will be the only language Nato will understand.
No one would like to see an escalation of war in the Balkans, but the intransigence of both parties involved seems to be heading matters that way. In such a crucial time the people of Macedonia should refrain from slogans and chants of war just as the Albanians should give up their war games, which are lasting rather long.
Kosovo, Macedonia... Unless someone puts their foot down soon (Nato or the EU) the "Ethnic Albanians" will, I am sure, be visiting Northern Greece in the not too distant future. We all were disgusted by talk of a Greater Serb Republic why is there no such dislike of a Greater Albanian one?
Neither Kosovo or Macedonia are Nato countries. No Nato country has been attacked. The Nato charter is to protect Nato members only, not to attack sovereign countries or intervene in another countries domestic affairs. I believe President Bush is correct by not sending Americans into another so-called peacekeeping mission. I also think he should get the rest of the US troops out of the Balkans. The problem is in your (Europe) back yard. Remember, we are those arrogant, power hungry, domineering, know-it-alls from across the pond that only make your life miserable. I'm sure you don't really want our help. I'm sure you have the military might, financial clout, political resolve and enthusiasm to tackle the problem and show us how smart you are without us.
26 Jun 01 | Europe
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