The Perils of Macedonia

With the European Union mediating, Macedonia’s four major political parties have agreed to some sort of transition arrangement to allow voter rolls to be cleaned up and the electoral mechanism lubricated, followed by elections next April, three years earlier than necessary. This presumably offes a way out of the crisis brought on by opposition publication of wiretaps demonstrating high level government malfeasance.

It’s a win-win-win-win, as one of my correspondent’s declared. Opposition leader Zoran Zaev, who lost a parliamentary election 14 months ago, gets another opportunity. Prime Minister Gruevski so far at least is avoiding calls for his resignation. He came out just one vote short of an absolute majority in parliament last time around and may well be able to beat his rival again in 10 months. The governing coalition’s Albanian leader Ali Ahmeti is relieved of pressure to bring the government down and can still hope to do well next year. The Albanian opposition gets another bite at the apple.

But it still has a big hole in it: that transition arrangement. The opposition will want a technocratic government. Gruevski will want to hold on to at least nominal control. It is not clear how they are going to square that circle.

But once again, Macedonia has taken at least half a step away from the brink of disaster. It has done that repeatedly since handily managing to escape Yugoslavia in 1991 without the secession wars that marked independence for Slovenia, Croatia and Bosnia. It managed a massive influx of Albanians during the NATO/Yugoslavia war of 1999 without the often predicted dire consequences. It negotiated an end to a burgeoning inter-ethnic civil war in 2001 before things got out of hand. Macedonia is the Balkan Pauline: always in dire danger, but escaping somehow at the last moment.

Pauline always escapes, at the last moment
Pauline always escapes, at the last moment

Credit for this latest escape goes in part to the EU, whose Commissioner for Neighborhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations Johannes Hahn did the honors. He reiterated the EU’s commitment to Macedonia’s European perspective, which I suppose involves some sort of assistance promise. He also made it clear the EU wants the government to stop mucking about with the media and the judiciary.

That has become the standard European and American refrain, as Gruevski–originally elected and successful as an economic reformer–has demonstrated an increasing tendency to follow Vladimir Putin’s lead on governance (not to mention Ukraine sanctions and natural gas supplies).

The villain of this episode is Greece, which has blocked Macedonia’s progress towards EU membership for years because it claims the exclusive right to use the name “Macedonia.” That means there is little gain, and much pain, in Macedonia’s politicians doing what is needed to adopt the acquis communitaire as well as align the country’s foreign and security policies with Brussels. Macedonia has already qualified for NATO membership and its soldiers have fought integrated with Americans in Afghanistan. But Greece has blocked that road to international respectability as well, despite a clear, unequivocal and binding decision of the International Court of Justice that in doing so Athens violated a 1995 commitment.

So Pauline lives to provide even more excitement in the next episode, which I imagine isn’t far off. Will Gruevski resign? Will the election be transparently free and fair? Will the judiciary and media act independently and not face repercussions? Will Albanian insurgents try to kidnap the process? Tune in next month for another exciting episode of the Perils of Macedonia.

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5 thoughts on “The Perils of Macedonia”

  1. The villain here is patronizing Greek hating bigots like Daniel Serwer that disingenuously acts like he doesn’t notice Skopje’s bizarre attempts to reframe themselves from Slavs into founders of the Hellenistic period and irredentism against Greece (as Greece warned would happen but was mocked by “experts” like Serwer.. who clearly lacks the integrity to admit he made a mistake supporting Skopje)

    Given the antihellenic behavior of Skopje apologists, their evasion over blatant obvious irredentism, Greece needs to start changing its foreign policy to not only go after VMRO but lobbyists of Skopje as well. Skopje apologists are literally engaged in a subtle attempt to ethnic cleanse Greeks — an act of aggression against the Greek people.

  2. As usual Greek hating bigots like Serwer leave out “minor” details like this about what he today frames as “macedonians”. Wonder what Truman and Eisenhower, staunch supporters of Greece on this Macedonia issue, would have though of modern Jewish Serwer’s behavior towards Macedonians of Greek descent?

    “The Department has noted with considerable apprehension increasing propaganda rumors and semi-official statements in favor of an autonomous Macedonia, emanating principally from Bulgaria, but also from Yugoslav Partisan and other sources, with the implication that Greek territory would be included in the projected state. This (US) Government considers talk of Macedonian “nation”, Macedonian “Fatherland”, or Macedonia “national consciousness” to be unjustified demagoguery representing no ethnic nor political reality, and sees in its present revival a possible cloak for aggressive intentions against Greece.

    The approved policy of this Government is to oppose any revival of the Macedonian issue as related to Greece. The Greek section of Macedonia is largely inhabited by Greeks, and the Greek people are almost unanimously opposed to the creation of a Macedonian state. Allegations of serious Greek participation in any such agitation can be assumed to be false. This Government would regard as responsible any Government or group of Governments tolerating or encouraging menacing or aggressive acts of “Macedonian Forces” against Greece.

    The Department would appreciate any information pertinent to this subject which may come to your attention.
    Department of State ”
    (U.S State Department Foreign Relations Vol. VIII Washington D.C. Circular Airgram – 868.014/26 Dec. 1944)

  3. Before lecturing others on their identity Serwer… I suggest you look into your alleged “Jewish” heritage. Modern Greeks have far far more in common with original Greeks than you do original Jews but apparently hypocrisy is another one of your personal traits.

    It is “Jews” like you that give decent ones a bad name by adhering to the stereotype of the scheming unethical Jew.

  4. Nearly everyone that called them “macedonians”… including the ICJ… lost all moral and intellectual credibility on the issue when they started to act like they downplayed Skopje’s bizarre identity shift into founders of the Hellenistic period and irredentism against Greece.

    When Greek hating liars like Serwer started to evade reporting truthfully in his own lifetime… anything he has to say about history becomes moot. Serwer showed such poor moral judgement for years he was pals with crypto-fascist Gruevski regeme.

    The Jews that suffered at the hands of fascist IMRO during their occupation of Macedonia Greece WW2 (see Ivan Mihalov) would be disgusted by behavior of Serwer.. as would be President Truman and Eisenhower staunch defenders of Greece against Skopje irredentism.

    Skopje apologists are behaving much like the ethnic engineers of the Soviet Union. They are effectively engaged in a CONSCIOUS subtle attempt to ethnic cleanse Greeks (to hide their stupidity of ridiculously calling obvious Slavs “ethnic” Macedonians)

    Why not call them ethnic Athenians Serwer? How about ethnic Spartans? Makes about as much sense. No doubt all the ancient Jewish scripture, and ancient Macedonian artifacts themselves, that identifies ancient Macedonians as Greeks will change to hide your prejudices towards Greeks.

  5. In my view, the EU needs to keep out of non-member countries. It has its own problems and issues to resolve and is not any kind of Saviour or charity. With regards to Mr Serwer saying that Greece is the villain, obviously there isn’t even the slightest attempt to give the impression of neutrality and professionalism. Gradually coming to the conclusion that this is a low-quality blog not really worth people’s time…Also, I would like to know how a state that goes for a Mickey Mouse national identity, Mickey Mouse political life and Las Vegas urban design expects respectability. Need to think hard on that one point.

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