In a telephone survey by Data Press in June 1996, respondents noted that social injustice and inter-ethnic relations (the Albanian issue) were the most serious threats to peace in Macedonia. In September 2019, President Stevo Pendarovski after the Security Council session, referring to the experiences of our surroundings when countries were just about to join NATO or the EU, but also to the “lessons learned” from the domestic political scene and tensions, he noted that in the next 40 to 50 days the country will enter a period of political, as well as security turbulence.
I am sure that this message was more of a warning than intimidation, but understandably somewhat disturbing to the local public. Citizens of this country have been accustomed to warnings and possible bad scenarios by numerous foreign experts since its establishment to date, proving the thesis that Macedonia will one day burst. We have become a laboratory for observation and comparison of Balkan stereotypes. In the nineties the smell of war was felt from Vranje to Triglav, and from Pristina through Srebrenica, and Sarajevo to Vukovar. There were bloody inter-ethnic clashes followed by Mass atrocity crimes.
At that time, Macedonia lived in peace. During that era, when the country was led by President Kiro Gligorov, Macedonia was labeled as “the oasis of peace”. UNPREDEP’s forces and the wisdom of the elderly president watched over the stability of the country. Gligorov believed that silence was a friend who never betrays. However, there was too much silence about the state of inter-ethnic relations, whose effect we will feel in later 2001.
The ARM strategic document at the time, called “White Book”, mistakenly considered that the greatest danger to the stability of Macedonia was a foreign threat from Albania and the SRJ, which included Kosovo. The situation about the danger of bad inter-ethnic relations was completely marginalized. The 2001 crisis showed the hidden face of the devil of war. However, the mindless war did not take root in Macedonia, so the country’s biggest security crisis was successfully overcome by the Ohrid Framework Agreement. This era was marked by the presidency of Boris Trajkovski. Crisis management of shattered inter-ethnic structures following the events of 2001 was led by NATO forces, and later, for the first time in EU history, that task was taken over by Union forces. They focused exclusively on the stability of inter-ethnic relations, while the dangers of social nature and the environment were minimized. However, the sinusoidal democratic history of Macedonia’s wider surroundings has been marked by more crises in the Western Balkans region.
The most common causes of destabilization were the diversification of inter-ethnic structures, conflicting political positions, diverse economic, social and community development levels, divisions over cultural-historical and civilizational heritage. It is therefore no surprise that for 150 years the Balkans has been one of the most conflict zones in the world, though not as rich in minerals or fuels as the Middle East. However, the advantage of the Balkans and North Macedonia is in the important geopolitical position in the Rimland zone – ie the buffer zone over continental Eurasia. The signing of the Prespa Agreement and the open road of North Macedonia to NATO membership have reshaped geopolitical interests towards the state and beyond in the region. In the opinion of Russian analyst at Sputnik, Andrew Korybko, “Serbia, Macedonia and Greece represent the new wholeness of the Balkan strategic position because the territories of these states pass through the north-south axis through which the ‘Silk Road’ corridor extends and connects Eastern Mediterranean and Central Europe. The Russian project “Balkan Stream” relied precisely on this geo-economic entity, which is lately called the Balkan corridor. If we use the geopolitical language, we would conclude that the one who controls this corridor controls the destiny of the whole region”. How accurate is this thesis, and why has the control of the Balkan countries been considered the desired goal of the great powers? Because exploiting local conflicts disables the influence of others who seek to control the Balkans, says geopolitician François Tual. At this point, Macron’s thesis that “penetration of Russia, China and other forces in the region should not be allowed” is getting clearer.
In a turbulent Balkans, when Belgrade and Pristina are frozen by the frozen conflict over Kosovo, when BiH and Kosovo are with a hopeless European future, when North Macedonia hurries to join NATO and the EU, and Greece gradually emerges from the economic and financial crisis, as tensions between the two rise. Athens and Ankara, the aforementioned internal and external destabilization factors combined or individually, sharpened or perfectly animated through fake news and hybrid rhetoric may produce a different correlation in the Balkans and in Macedonia. Thus, the aforementioned Korybko in 2016 linked the events in Goshince and Kumanovo and qualified them as “the first act of the US campaign for creating Greater Albania”. He then lazily concludes that the United States was also against Prime Minister Gruevski’s pragmatic government and organized the colorful revolution to save Zaev from punishment for the coup attempt. At the same time, , he doesn’t miss the chance to emphasize: ” An intense New Cold War competition is taking place in the Balkans between the unipolar and multipolar worlds, with the latter vehemently working to bring their transnational connective projects to the region, whereas the former is ready to do whatever it takes to stop them”. During that time, the United States has been blocking such projects and taking action to launch Hybrid Wars in the region. Under the Hybrid Wars the author considers the realization of the Greater Albania project and the realization of the project a massive migrant crisis across the Balkan route.
When it comes to the internal factors of destabilization, inter-ethnic relations, low living standards and high unemployment rates of young people with no bright future but above all organized crime, corruption, lack of rule of law, nationalism, and extremism are inevitable. When you put together this explosive cocktail, we can understand Pendarovski’s caution, all the more so as we become a member of the privileged Euro-Atlantic family whose values are not respected by everyone in North Macedonia and the neighborhood. By the way, ten days have passed… Macedonia is calm.
Views expressed in this article are personal views of the author and do not represent the editorial policy of Nezavisen Vesnik