The Mystification of the Date

Zdravko Saveski

The date. The date. THE DATE! We are waiting to receive that bright, maybe even holy date that is supposed to turn our doors wide open to the prosperity of the West, which we reportedly deserve. Will we finally get lucky? Because we did our part. Every EU diplomat kindly says this to us. So it has to be true.

The government hopes for the Date. Liberal “elite” professors and NGO activists hope for the Date. The whole nation is hoping for the Date. Come on Europe, open your heart! We are part of Europe, don’t hide from the truth! – as Toshe Proeski once said in one of his songs.

It is clear why the government hopes to get a date for the start of accession negotiations. The government will attribute it to itself, as undeniable proof that it is doing a good job. Despite the constant corruption scandals. Although this government is the same as the government led by Gruevski , and that its poltrons, if someone else governed the country like this, they would not have hesitated for a moment to label it as “regime”. With mercy from above, Zaev’s government will constantly lie, convincing citizens that what they see with their own eyes is untrue and that Europeans know better the kind of country they live in than themselves.

It is tragicomic why the liberal intellectual “elite” is hoping for a date. Those strong advocates of democracy believed too much in their own propaganda that a Copernican upheaval would occur if Zaev sat down in the prime minister’s seat instead of Gruevski. And now that they see there is nothing of it, that the ruling SDSM “has not learned any lessons from the ten years spent in opposition”, they publicly praise the government, but privately – they do not hide their disappointment. But they are not giving in! Instead of the illusion of a corrupt SDSM, they have a bright star ahead of them – the European Union! The European Union cannot disappoint us! If we are not capable of establishing democracy ourselves, when Europeans push us, we will finally stand on our own two feet. And the more often they say this to each other, these liberal-minded intellectuals, regular guests of the pro-government media, they are reproducing their hope. Refusing to disclose the facts to the citizens, and even more so, refusing to become aware of the facts themselves.

It is so sad why people are hoping for getting a date. Exhausted from the daily struggle for life that will be at least a little decent and worthy. The people are emotionally consumed by investing empty hopes in all the politicians who marched past in the last 30 years, loudly announcing changes before the elections, just so they turn out to be exactly the same as the previous ones. And do they ask for much? All they want is a decent life. Is that a lot to ask? And under the influence of the empty hopes they are brought up to believe in, as well as the propaganda of those strong liberal-elite professors who paraded on television, computers, and newspapers, they hope that thing will finally change for the better, as soon as we get the date.

Don’t get me wrong. I support getting the date and I hope that Macedonia will join the EU as soon as possible. If you can have it by next year, that would be great! But I do not support EU membership, because I think it will inevitably lead to improved democratic standards in the country, and higher living standards for the ordinary citizens. As in other EU member states, it depends on the citizens themselves, on how much they will do their best to fight their own ruling class, not on the fact of EU membership. And yet, there are two major benefits to joining the EU. The first is to dispel illusions. Once a country in the former Eastern Bloc became an EU member, if the citizens themselves did not try to be different, they soon realized that the stories about the EU were just that – stories, and the problems they were facing – were still there. We need to finally dispel the myths about the EU, and facts here are powerless. We have to join the EU to dispel those myths and finally, after 30 years, move on. The second benefit is – the passport. If the ruling elite in one country, with its two seemingly different parties switching to power, does not show the ability to provide a decent living for the citizens, then it should at least provide an effective way to facilitate the emigration of the citizens!

Getting a negotiations date is just a cheap PR stunt. Far from having some godly power, it only maintains the intoxicating power of the good news narrative. This narrative is very important in order to reproduce the illusion that the country is moving forward, pacifying people and doing nothing in relation to their lives, pointlessly hoping that the “big ones” will do it for them. Therefore, in keeping with the good news narrative, it is important to maintain the illusion that we are making more and more progress every day.

The EU has worked out this good news narrative very well. To keep countries on its periphery in front of its porch, but not letting them inside, it has developed a whole system of “road stations” on the road to membership, which in themselves are of little value, but give hope to the soon-to-be-promised an EU country will open to the afflicted people of countries in its immediate neighborhood. So first you have the Stabilization and Association Agreement. When it is signed – joy! Things are moving forward! Then comes the granting of candidate status! Another wave of joy! They will soon let us in! And then comes the date for start of the accession negotiations! Delirium! Once the negotiations have begun, it is only a matter of time when we become members! Don’t give up before the finish line! And then come not two, not three but – 35 chapters! Each of them opens (a separate step) and closes (another step). And that, when there is no political will among the EU’s powerful, can go on for decades. Meanwhile, the good news narrative is constantly renewed. We keep waiting to join the EU, it’s like waiting for Godot, but the prospect of membership is fueled by each new stage, with each chapter newly opened and closed.

What does getting a date for starting accession negotiations mean? It means that Macedonia will be where Turkey is since 2005, where Montenegro is since 2012 and Serbia since 2014. Did the “experts” tell you that Turkey has closed one chapter of the EU accession process? And what then? It is clear to everyone that Turkey will not become an EU member in the foreseeable future. Do you think the situation with Montenegro and Serbia is any different? Of the 35 chapters, Serbia has closed only two in the past five years, and Montenegro only closed three in seven years. Based on what arguments can Macedonia expect a different treatment? Because, unlike Serbia, it had no open issues with its neighbors? Montenegro has no problems with its neighbors and has closed only three of its 35 chapters in seven years. Having no problems with your neighbors is no guarantee for joining the EU, if the will of the powerful in the EU is lacking. And it is absent from courtesy statements by EU diplomats.

The EU has changed a lot in recent years. Democratic deficit and policies in favor of large capital have also contributed to the closure of its own borders. This, for Macedonia and the other countries of the so-called Western Balkans, means that they will not receive the same treatment as other Eastern European countries. It is unfair, but so is politics. And as for the Holy Date, do not fall so easily into the propaganda of the government. Getting the date will neither mean that the we are getting closer to the finish line, nor not getting it will be such a great tragedy.

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