Euro-Atlantic integrations and good neighborly relations
I did not make it to Skopje for the Democratic Union for Integration (DUI) conference on this subject today due to a flight cancellation, but I did speak to the assembled by Skype early this morning DC time. Here are the notes I used:
1. Macedonia is a country of which I am very fond, not least because it has demonstrated its capacity to react effectively to crisis.
2. You are in the midst of a crisis today, one that has cast doubt on the integrity of the institutions your democracy has built over the past quarter century.
3. There is nothing unusual about political crises in democracies. The United States has enjoyed democracy for over two centuries. We still have political crises that revolve around abuse of power, some would say far too often.
4. Nor are we immune from publication of confidential communications.
5. The first resort in any crisis should be to your own institutions: your president, your parliament, your courts, your ombudsman, your press and civil society.
6. It is my hope you will use these institutions to the maximum degree feasible in clarifying, investigating, and eventually prosecuting those whose behavior is contrary to the law.
7. Parliamentary oversight is particularly important. Boycotts in a democracy really serve no purpose but to cut off those who boycott from making a contribution.
8. But there are situations that require more than a country’s own institutions. None of us live in a vacuum, but small countries need to worry more about how neighbors, friends and allies react.
9. You are not the United States, with centuries of a consolidated constitution, friendly neighbors north and south, a giant economy and two great oceans to protect your shores.
10. You are a small, land-locked European country with aspirations to join NATO and the EU.
11. I support those aspirations, which are not so far from realization.
12. Your soldiers have proven themselves, integrated with the Vermont National Guard, in combat in Afghanistan. The defense reforms you undertook after the Ohrid Agreement have put you on track for NATO membership.
13. The European Commission has repeatedly determined you are ready to open negotiations for accession to the EU. Economic reform starting about a decade ago boosted your prospects.
14. But your southern neighbor, Greece, had already blocked both the EU and NATO tracks before the current crisis struck. Countries, like bicycles, need forward motion, or else they fall over.
15. Now you have to pick yourselves up.
16. I am a friend of Macedonia, but I need to tell you frankly that the leaked telephone conversations, and the taping of those conversations, have damaged your international standing. They reflect shocking abuses of political and state power.
17. I doubt you can bank on either NATO or the EU even treating you as well as you have been treated in recent years, which was already unsatisfactory from your (and my) point of view.
18. You are going to need international help to recover. My understanding is that the European Parliament has offered, and your authorities have accepted, mediation.
19. That is good and even necessary, but not sufficient.
20. I wouldn’t of course want to prejudge the outcome of the mediation, but you need to think hard about how to restore both domestic and international confidence in your governing institutions.
21. Macedonia needs a parliament in which all the country’s political forces sit comfortably.
22. It needs a government that welcomes criticism and dissent.
23. It needs a presidency that represents all the citizens.
24. It needs independent courts that pursue malfeasance effectively and impartially, even when committed by the highest authorities, or by the political opposition.
25. No foreigner can tell you how to achieve these things. You know better than I do.
26. But let me offer two suggestions to restore international confidence:
a) End the winner-take-all political mentality that has prevailed in recent years;
b) Make your institutions more transparent and your politicians more accountable.
27. One possible approach would be a technocratic government to prepare new elections. But I don’t see how you can displace the existing one, which commands a wide majority. Even withdrawal of DUI would not guarantee fall of the government, which is not inclined to resign.
28. Another suggestion I’ve heard is to solve the “name” issue that has slowed your reform push, but I see little possibility of that in Greece’s current circumstances, much as I would like to see it.
29. Even entry into NATO as The FYROM seems a bridge too far, much as I would like to see it.
30. Any solution to your current crisis will need to ensure both that people cannot be taped illegally and that legal wire tapping will not be used for political gain. More generally, it will also need to ensure that political parties cannot abuse power or the state apparatus for partisan purposes.
31. That implies a far more independent judiciary and a far more active press and civil society than you enjoy today.
32. DUI is an important part of the picture and needs to think about how it can contribute to restoring confidence in government institutions. That means first and foremost making certain that its own behavior is impeccably clean.
33. DUI also needs to think about how it can collaborate with its coalition partners and the opposition parties to ensure transparency and accountability across the political spectrum.
34. A commission of inquiry into the wiretapping and its political exploitation is one possibility, perhaps with international participation. A white paper recommending political reforms could help Macedonia find its way through the current morass.
35. Your country is facing great challenges, but also great opportunities. You’ve gone a long way with economic reforms. Now you have to go the distance with political and judicial reforms. The things you are learning about your current system aren’t pretty, but they are real.
36. Fix them, and you can expect strong support from the Americans. I’ll let the Europeans speak for themselves.
PS: This is apparently what it looked like as I spoke: