A cold day in February 2008, the most popular privately owned pro-government media outlet said that “NATO launched an investigation against the ambassador of the Republic of Macedonia to NATO for publishing confidential documents”. It was the most shocking news of the day. It was an ambassador who had been elected by the Belgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs as “Ambassador of the Year” two weeks earlier, among the three hundred accredited ambassadors in Brussels, the EU and NATO capitals. Did Kundera joke again with some new edition of the Balkan mindset?
The news was bombastic and overshadowed all other events in the country. During this period, Macedonia ambitiously hoped for an invitation to join NATO at the Bucharest Summit scheduled for April 4. In that year of Rat according to the Chinese calendar, the then prime minister – the creator of the new history of post-communist Macedonia began to intensively change the names of the toponyms in the country. The Skopje airport got the name “Alexander the Great”, the city stadium became “Philip the Second”, the highway to Greece became “Alexander the Great”, etc. There was not one fair-minded diplomat in Brussels, such as US ambassador Victoria Nuland or her predecessor Nicholas Burns, who did not realize that this kind of crazy antiquisation could jeopardize Macedonia’s chances of joining NATO.
Nicholas Burns’ message to Gruevski that read “if you find yourself in a hole, stop digging”, which was conveyed by our ambassador to Gruevski, triggers the affair for his “betrayal” of the Alliance. His spin-doctors recalled a small episode since January 2008 as a great excuse for starting a campaign in the style of Kafka’s process of the ambassador’s “betrayal.” During January’s stay of the Macedonian Prime Minister in the Alliance, when the Macedonian Membership Action Plan (MAP) was adopted, a minor incident occurred in front of the North Atlantic Council of NATO. At the multilateral meeting the then Bulgarian ambassador criticized our delegation that “it is not appropriate for the Macedonian media to publish passages from this document that has not yet been adopted and is exclusively for internal use.” Our resourceful journalists from Brussels have published critical sections of the MAP of the Republic of Macedonia regarding misunderstandings with Sofia.
Gruevski’s closest associates immediately pointed to the ambassador as a culprit because he was suspected of handing over the document to the journalists. However, after the internal investigation into the mission, it was concluded that the texts were published before the document arrived in the mission of Macedonia. Namely, the journalists acquired the document from their Greek counterparts. Greek diplomacy won a great battle, given that it pushed the amendment in our APA, which emphasized that “every future NATO member state must have good neighborly relations with the other members of the Alliance”. With this act, Athens announced that it would block Macedonia in its NATO aspirations because of the critical name relations. Greek diplomats and journalists euphorically glorified their small diplomatic victory and handed over the document to Macedonian journalists without much calculations before reaching the mission of Macedonia.
A month later, when everyone forgot the episode with the Bulgarian ambassador and the reporters’ articles, the ambassador of Macedonia arrived in Skopje for the preparations of the Macedonian delegation for the Bucharest summit. At the meeting with Prime Minister Gruevski, he suggested that it was not too late to withdraw the decision on the name of the airport and deliver a message to Nicholas Burns. “When you find yourself in a hole, stop digging.” At the same time, the ambassador was invited to participate in the work of the round table dedicated to NATO, where he announced the possible membership in NATO with a moderate optimism. When he was about to leave, a number of journalists insisted on saying something more about the problem with Greece, but according to the agreement with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs he did not say anything. However, while leaving he said “When you find yourself in a hole, stop digging.”
The media reported on this, and an hour later the prime minister threatened him via SMS text: “We know how to treat such cool guys as you …” The very next morning, on the first news, a private TV station as its breaking news reported that “Macedonia’s ambassador to NATO revealed secrets and the alliance started investigating.” In fact, it was about the published articles in the domestic media published a month earlier that the Bulgarian ambassador complained about. The voice of lies began to spread as it was the truth. According to the Goebbels’ propaganda, the same sentence appeared on the news as “breaking news” every 15 seconds. Several of his friends, including the current Foreign Minister, and then several journalists, realized that it was fake news and a typical manipulation and sent their reactions to the NATO Headquarters. NATO Spokesman Aparthurai said in the afternoon that “the news from Macedonia about any investigation of the ambassador is incorrect” and said that he “expects his return to Brussels as soon as possible”.
Regardless of NATO’s messages, the pro-government media body and the bombing against the ambassador continued, in order to make the fake news as authentic. These days several courageous journalists have become defense of the ambassador. Finally, after 48 hours of spinning with fake news by Gruevski’s militants, the then foreign minister summoned the ambassador, probably following instructions from the US embassy in Skopje, in order to stop diplomatic embarrassment and focus their energy on NATO membership. In this way, the ambassador instead of going to jail for treason, went to Brussels, directly to the then Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer. He urged NATO to acknowledge in writing that he had not revealed any secrets of the alliance. The Secretary-General instructed the Assistant Secretary General for Political and Security Affairs, Ambassador Martin Erdman to write the requested text. In that text Ambassador Erdman expressed hope that in the future the ambassador will cooperate with the alliance.
The Macedonian ambassador sent the letter to the editorial offices of the Macedonian media at the same time to inform the public about the fake news of the then clique of power. But like the rest of the ambassadors in the alliance, he realized what kind of regime is ruling in Macedonia, and saw the face of the new populist. It was the first small defeat of the then Macedonian messiah who was at the apex of his glory. He did not stop digging, and is still digging and falling deeper into his own tunnel.
Views expressed in this article are personal views of the author and do not represent the editorial policy of Nezavisen Vesnik