IFIMES analysis: North Macedonia will continue to be under attacks and attempts to discredit its leaders

Current events in North Macedonia are the result of a wide, precisely planned, coordinated and skillfully prepared intelligence action performed by external and internal actors with the aim to prevent the country’s NATO integration, read an analysis of the situation in Kosovo, Albania and North Macedonia in 2019, prepared by the International Institute for Middle-East and Balkan Studies – IFIMES in Ljubljana, Slovenia.

The analysis mentioned that the Republic of North Macedonia signed the accession protocol with NATO on 6 February 2019. The protocol is now being ratified by NATO member states. So far 19 states have ratified it. North Macedonia’s full membership is expected to be confirmed at NATO summit in London in December this year.

“North Macedonia will continue to be under attacks and attempts to discredit its leaders and institutions. Experience has shown that Montenegro underwent similar attacks until it became full member of NATO. The international intelligence operation known as “Racket” was skilfully designed outside North Macedonia with carefully selected actors and their roles. North Macedonia did not have the appropriate counterintelligence service to protect its Prime Minister Zoran Zaev (SDSM) and other political leaders. The country therefore needs an urgent reform of security-intelligence and defence sectors which are still dominated by the staff employed by former Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski (VMRO-DPMNE) and former head of Macedonian secret service Sasho Mijalkov (VMRO-DPMNE). The vetting process that has started within the Ministry of the Interior of the Republic of North Macedonia is the first step to professionalization of the country’s security structures. The “Racket” blackmail affair involved intelligence agents, politicians, officials from state institutions, journalists, celebrities, professors and the media as well as certain individuals who were (un)knowingly pulled into this international intelligence operation against the Republic of North Macedonia and its leaders with the aim to discredit, criminalise, eliminate and eventually overthrow Zoran Zaev and his government by creating chaos and taking over the power with or without prior election,” read the analysis.

Analysts believe that current events in North Macedonia are the result of a wide, precisely planned, coordinated and skilfully prepared intelligence action performed by external and internal actors with the aim to prevent the country’s Euro-Atlantic integration.

“Fortunately, with their timely reaction and efforts the security-intelligence services of North Macedonia managed to stop the dissolution of the country. According to estimates Gruevski’s regime illegally took more than five billion Euros out of the country and provided 50 million Euros for the operation against the incumbent government,” the analysis read.

It is therefore of vital importance to accelerate the Euro-Atlantic integration of North Macedonia and help it to get full NATO membership as well as a date to start EU accession negotiations in October 2019, the analysis added.

“Based on experience from Montenegro, attacks on North Macedonia, especially against its Prime Minister Zaev and the key state institutions (especially the judiciary) will continue with even more intensity, using the shock doctrine to create chaos, destabilize the country, prevent its membership in NATO and illegitimately take over power. Macedonian government should therefore spare no effort to achieve agreement between key political actors on passing the law on the Special Prosecutor’s Office, thus confirming their determination to fight crime and corruption and establish the rule of law,” read the analysis.

Analysts have pointed to the importance of developing strong state institutions in North Macedonia, thus preventing individuals acting on behalf of institutions based on “I am the state” slogan, as was the case in recent past.

“The EU has also stressed the importance of establishing the rule of law in North Macedonia, so that there would be no more untouchable individuals and legal entities. North Macedonia will therefore have to carry out a police operation similar to the Sabre operation that was carried out in Serbia in 2003 and finally deal with crime and corruption. Any other partial solution will further complicate the situation in North Macedonia, which has turned from a country of despair into one of hope in the past two years,” the analysis concluded.

The region is strongly affected by confrontations between the superpowers and the main regional actors. The whole Western Balkans functions according to the “linked vessels” principle, which means that any instability –as well as stability – is very quickly transferred to other parts of the region, read the analysis’ introduction.