Freedom House encourages, advises and warns Macedonia

Naser Selmani

Last week, Freedom House published a report on the level of freedom and democracy in the world, where Macedonia is represented as a bright spot, compared to negative trends in the region. It is sad that the report in the Macedonian media has passed without a serious analysis of the basic messages that it contains in itself. If the media fail, it must not happen to the government. If I were them, I would read each word of this report, sentence after sentence, and I will draw conclusions. It is much more serious than it seems.

And what does this famous report contain? In only one and a half pages long, the ones who wrote it made a perfect assessment of the situation, what was, how, and in what direction the country should move if it wanted to become part of the free world.

Simply put, there is recognition for the work done, encouragement for ongoing reforms, friendly advice to resolve the name dispute, and a sincere warning to the government not to end up in the clientelist network of the captured state. For the opposition VMRO-DPMNE there is a red card for the negative role of the past year.
The main assessment of the report is that Macedonia is a bright spot in the region in democratic change. No matter how unlikely it sounds to us living here, if you make a serious analysis of the last year, you will see that it really is so. Where Macedonia was before April 27 last year, and where it is now, the changes are unthinkable.

Before April 27, we were a country under an authoritarian regime, which, although it did not have a majority in the Parliament, refused to peacefully hand over power, fearing that it would be held responsible for the abuse of power in the time of their rule. A year ago, Macedonia was a black sheep in the region. The whole free world only mentioned as a bad example. Mass wiretaps, partisan judiciary, proprietary media, corruption scandals, election abuse etc. Nevertheless, Macedonia managed to avoid a civil war, which would have had severe and unpredictable consequences on its future.
Today, Macedonia is not exactly heaven on Earth, the new government does not seem to be doing its best, but now we have hope that things can be improved. We have a chance that if we are responsible enough before our children, we will use it and we will pull the country out of this misery that lasts for 27 years.

Undoubtedly, the new government has the greatest responsibility to solve the worst problems, but the opposition should not be amnestied either. Without a strong and democratic opposition, there is no responsible government either. Besides, we are all responsible as citizens, without exception. We must not keep silent, as we have been silent over the past ten years and then when our future was threatened. We have not done much if we blame the political elites for all our failures, but we need to show democratic awareness and maturity. Let’s learn to react decisively and without calculations, as citizens, when needed. We must change our minds and take responsibility that we ourselves decide for our future because we are the real boss of this country. The second message from the Freedom House report is praise for the new government, which is said to be strongly committed to abandoning the status of a “captured state”. This assessment is a friendly encouragement for the government, which should resolutely and without delay enter into serious reforms, for the consolidation of democratic institutions. Reform in the judiciary, secret services, the media and the administration must not be part of the political calculations, but a strong commitment to open a new page. These institutions must be free from the pressure and influence of politics. It is not an easy thing, but if there is political will and determination, it is possible to achieve it. The political dialogue with the opposition on key reform laws is a very positive step that needs to be upgraded in the future.
The authors of the Washington report are being very honest with the government when they advise that the key to its success is resolving the name dispute with Greece, without which Macedonia cannot join NATO and start membership negotiations with the European Union.

I do not even believe that Macedonia can be established as a free and democratic country outside NATO and the EU. Our institutions are still too fragile to guarantee the fundamental human rights and freedoms without the support and expertise of the allies. Euro-Atlantic integration has a significance and will release a positive energy circle for real democratic change. It will be a strong impetus for changing civic and institutional awareness and developing democratic culture and tradition. We will not come out of the shadow of the narrow-mindedness inherited from our past, without the strong influence from Brussels and Washington.
I do not see Macedonia’s membership in the Alliance as a security issue, but as a strong impetus for reforming and modernizing Macedonian intelligence, without which we can not establish ourselves as a democratic country. As a NATO member, I believe that the Macedonian secret services will have the solidarity of the Allied services easier to deal with the attempts for their abuse of politics, as the past has shown.

The settlement of the dispute with Greece, apart from the benefits of NATO membership, will also open negotiations for EU membership. This is the key phase of EU integration when the most serious democratic changes are made in order to prepare candidate countries for membership. At that stage, Brussels does not require the adoption of laws, but the facts that they consistently and indiscriminately apply and provide effective protection of the freedoms and rights of citizens.
The report contains a serious warning for the new government. Not to underestimate the captured state, which for many years has established a customer-oriented network. More importantly, the government must not become part of its network. This assessment shows that the authors of the report are aware of the difficult work of dispersing the captured state, but also send a serious message that they will closely follow the process of dismantling the regime. Moreover, the international factor will not allow the creation of a new captured state. It must be known to everyone by the government. In particular, it will not allow flirting with the exponents from the previous government. Their amnesty is not the solution. I do not believe that there is such a powerful political figure in Macedonia that would dare to amnesty Gruevski and his associates for the charges of the Special Prosecution. It would be playing with fire.

Lastly, the Freedom House report has a negative assessment of the behavior of the opposition party VMRO-DPMNE. It is a signal for the new leader, Hristijan Mickoski, that he should quickly distance himself from Nikola Gruevski and his political philosophy, promoting extreme nationalism and flirting with authoritarian regimes. Looks like Mickoski has already read the message from Washington. The Radicals from his party, who pro-Russian policy, clearly told them that such ideas would not be promoted in VMRO-DPMNE. He reaffirmed the view that Macedonia’s future is seen in NATO and the EU. Mickoski accidentally returned the MPs to Parliament and supported the reform laws. He is aware that only through a democratic struggle can he restore power to VMRO-DPMNE.
The Freedom House report does not mention the Albanian parties anywhere. And for what would you mention them separately? For nothing important! This is another argument of my thesis that Albanians in Macedonia are politically unrepresented as a community, although they have a dozen parties and MPs in the Assembly and ministers in the government. If Albanians want to be seriously understood by the international factor, they will have to seek a replacement for Ali Ahmeti, but also for some opposition leaders who have not shown they have a democratic capacity and a serious political agenda.