Don’t panic

Petar Arsovski

The past period is interesting mostly because of the rapid swirl of the events around us, which so far have seen most of our citizens only on film. Espionage escapes, arrests similar to the ones in films, harsh accusations and treatment of the defendants, and in general, the total decline of the untouchables so far, as a symbol of the general legal catharsis at the gates of NATO and the EU. These are all events that our society experiences with a relatively large dose of drama and excitement.

It is interesting that these latest developments, especially related to the majority in the Parliament and that political process, have encountered contradictory reactions, even from the public that we have so far experienced uniformly in favor of the EU and NATO. And the biggest advocates of the Europeanization of Macedonia, who without a problem were prepared for serious compromises this time earlier, now seem to have more against the smaller price in this process – reconciliation. So, it is not uncommon to hear from the previous unreserved supporters of the Euro-Atlantic integration, the comment: we better give up the EU and NATO if the price is amnesty.

I think that this new division of society and political discourse comes from the fact that, strategically speaking, at the moment at least two parallel, necessary, but mutually contradictory processes, which produce such dramatic and conflicting echoes in the critical and general public, flow in the state.

The first is the necessary process of political reconciliation and the creation of a national consensus on the process of necessary reforms related to NATO and EU membership.

These two, I would say, Pharaonic projects for Macedonia, require a period of political stability and national consensus, otherwise our society has no real chance to make up for lost time. Our only chance in reaching reforms in the short term is for this generation to be able to hope for European standards, to make a joint strategy, to plunge into overproduction of reforms and not to waste time on mutual accusations. Otherwise, imagine if we bring all the necessary EU reforms and laws as we carry the laws so far – with “filibustering”, with thousands of amendments, with obstacles and sabotage at every step. So we can hope to enter the EU in three hundred years. No, Macedonia needs a period of political stability, which in turn requires a broad political consensus on these processes, which, in turn, requires national reconciliation.

The problem is that the second necessary process – cleansing society from endemic corruption and clientelism through the delivery of justice – cannibalizes the first process.

Because the justice delivery project necessarily intensifies political divisions, since it is directly aimed at members of a political party that has been in power for the last 11 years. In doing so, the same political party has enough influence in parliament to block the first process indefinitely. Hence, the delivery of justice, which should be the introduction and initiation and cleaning of the administration, the police, the judiciary and the like from deeply entrenched endemic corruption and criminogenic clientelism, must be cannibalized with the necessary consensus and political reconciliation.

Therefore, it is not surprising that we are in a relatively schizophrenic political situation. The project for joining Macedonia to the global family of pro-Western countries, it looks like ping-pong between the two processes that are necessary for that project to succeed – a little reconciliation, little purification. The important thing is to draw the line between these two processes so that none of them is completely prevented. They are by their nature competitive, but both are required, necessary. Therefore, I do not think that we should take the radicalization of either of these two axes too dramatically.

Some would say – there can be no compromise, and national consensus can only be done with a new political elite that was not involved in the sins of the predecessors. I agree, theoretically. However, the problem is not solely in the elite. MPs’ results show that society (voters) are not so clearly determined for Europeanization, so that the process can go without a compromise. Otherwise, giving the current government a 2/3 majority, the situation would have been completely different. But now, when the government has no choice but to make a compromise that is the result of small public support, it’s a bit hypocritical for those who did not give them support, blame them for not having it now.

As an example, I will take the amnesty for April 27th. Here the two processes are clearly violated – the political necessity for the process to go forward, despite the necessity of responsibility and justice. The essential question is whether there is a level of amnesty that can satisfactorily satisfy both criteria? Is there a line of pardon, which at the same time will show the capacity for reconciliation, and will not jeopardize the project of delivery of justice to the essential culprits for April 27? Some would say no – any kind of amnesty completely undermines the rule of law. Some would argue that a full amnesty, if it allows for a quick breakthrough, and a parliament that will rapidly complete the negotiation obligations, is a high but acceptable price. I think there is a possibility for the most common denominator. If the political elites manage to create a pardon that will not cover the real culprits for April 27 (those who devised, ordered, organized, and carried out the intrusion, especially those who were violent), then I think that reconciliation can exist, and justice can be satisfied.

And so from one project to another – a drop of wormwood, a piece of chocolate. In the end, it seems to me that, with all our small inconveniences and errors, the process will go forward. With all the errors and falling meanders, we are far from where we were just three years ago, and everything we thought we did not have the capacity to accomplish – the name, the EU and NATO, the persecution of high corruption – happens before our eyes in this composition which slowly but surely moves towards normality. Maybe it’s because someone else is driving.

Views expressed in this article are personal views of the author and do not represent the editorial policy of Nezavisen Vesnik