||Macedonia - Why the Framework Agreement will Fail - Part I
By Sam Vaknin, Ph.D.
"…Many Macedonians contend they were forced to make concessions on an accelerated timetable only because of the ethnic Albanian insurgency. Javier Solana, foreign policy chief of the EU, rejected that charge saying, 'violence has not dictated the pace of progress'. Asked if the force of arms was the father of today's agreement, Ferat Fazliu, a rebel in Tetovo, said 'of course'."
"A more senior rebel figure, Xhevat Ademi, who is on a Bush Administration black list that prohibits him from traveling to the United States, said in Tetovo that the agreement was merely an interim solution. 'In Albanian, we have a saying: 'a mountain shivered and a mouse was born', he said, equating ethnic Albanian grievances with the mountain and the agreement with the mouse. But Ademi would not say exactly what the accord lacks, raising suspicions that some rebels still view partition as the ultimate solution to the country's problems."
(The Washington Post, August 14, 2001)
In the wake of an armed uprising by the Albanian minority in Macedonia, in
the spring and summer of 2001, the parties were cajoled and coerced by the international community into signing in Ohrid a power-sharing agreement ("The Framework Agreement"). The constitution was amended to reflect the role of the Albanians as a constituent ethnicity, affirmative action quotas were introduced in higher education and state employment (especially in the security forces), and, following an act of devolution ("decentralization"), municipal elections were successfully held in March 2005.
The Framework Agreement between the Macedonian and Albanian parties in Macedonia continues the infamous tradition of compacts imposed by a war-weary West on helpless and hapless small nations. The Munich Agreement led to the demise of Czechoslovakia in 1938. The Camp David round of negotiations forced on both Israel and the Palestinians in 2000 led to the al-Aqsa Intifada. The aborted Rambouillet Accord led to the indiscriminate bombing of Kosovo and Yugoslavia. This agreement will lead to a civil war which is bound to equal in ferocity only Bosnia.
Why is this agreement doomed to fail?
Because it was only the first step in a long and convoluted series of constitutional and legislative measures - each and every one of them a potential tripwire. Arrant nationalists, extremists, and opportunistic profiteers on both sides did and will do their damnedest to ensure the vitiation of the pledges made by both parties. This conflict is not between Macedonians and Albanians as it is between those who believe in peaceful tackling of grievances and those who do not. It, therefore, cuts across ethnic lines. The rancor started on the very presidential lawn which hosted the signing ritual, when the Albanian politicians resorted to their mother tongue in their speeches.
Then there is disarmament. It never works. Decommissioning failed in Northern Ireland. It was made a mockery in Kosovo. It was even less likely to succeed in Macedonia. Here is what NATO had to say hours after the celebrity-studded signing ceremony in the posh suburb of Vodno, in Skopje:
"...The basis for the peace deal and the NATO deployment is an agreement by the rebels to voluntarily hand over their weapons. But that raises more questions: How many weapons are there to be handed in? Where are the weapons caches located? And how can NATO verify that all the weapons are being turned in? 'Voluntary disarmament is a tricky issue', the military spokesman said. 'To what extent do we trust them? Why should we send troops in to a risky operation if we can't trust the parties?'" (Washington Post, August 14, 2001)
Thus, no one was committed to this agreement from its very inception, not even NATO. By publicly constraining itself to the administration of arms collection depots, it has self-castrated and enhanced its reputation as a non-fighting, impotent, caricature of an army. The agreement is an orphan, a failure waiting to materialize. A hot potato tossed by its very originators, the buck that never stops. The only exception was, perhaps, Boris Trajkovski, the late President of Macedonia. But, in the eyes of many Macedonians, he was tainted: compromised by his shoddy election, won with Albanian votes, and by the overt and excessive coziness of his relationships with the inapt or bullying procurators of the West. Only his prenature death in February 2004 saved him from ignominy and elevated him to martyrhood.
Still, the agreement harbors the seeds of its tragic demise mainly because it is between parties who are irrelevant and derided by their own alleged constituencies. The NLA (and its political successor, DUI) was not party to the negotiations. It acted by remote control, through the proxy of Albanian politicians who purported not to represent its views and negotiating stances. It, therefore, can completely disown an agreement it has not been an official party to - as it is likely to do the moment it feels sufficiently robust militarily. The political class in Macedonia - of both ethnicities - is irreversibly discredited by its own venality, corruption, electoral fraud, and involvement in criminal activities. It does not possess the moral authority to sell the people on the agreement or to preach peace and rectitude.
The agreement was also signed in the wrong circumstances, with a gun to the Macedonian head. Western Macedonia was (and still is) almost fully controlled by the NLA and its hydra-like offspring, ANA and other splinters. Macedonians fled this area, fearing for their lives and property, compelled by the explicit and implicit threats of their Albanian neighbours turned minacious rebels. Albanian and Muslim-owned shops in Macedonian cities were regularly ransacked. More than 5% of the country's population were refugees or internally displaced.
Signing a peace agreement in an atmosphere of fear, intimidation, and victorious violence is inauspicious. It is also untenable and ethically insupportable. This agreement was the outcome of blackmail - both by the West (which imposed economic sanctions and an unofficial arms embargo on Macedonia) and by the assortment of thugs that descended on Macedonia. It was not voluntary - but an act of capitulation. Regardless of the merit of the Albanian demands - their ends do not justify the means they have employed.
The agreement evades the real, hidden and latent, issues. It tweaks and adjusts, fine-tunes and polishes - rather than courageously demolish and re-construct. The botched compromises and evasions that it contains - regarding the use of the Albanian language, the participation of Albanians in public administration, Albanian access to the job market and to higher education, Albanian involvement in organized crime, police brutality against Albanians, etc. - are outweighed only by the issues it completely ignores. Foremost amongst the latter, is the Albanian demand for autonomy or self-government and the nature of the relationship of Macedonia's Albanians to their kin and kith in Albania and, more importantly, in Kosovo.
The real problem is the disparate views the parties hold regarding the nature and future of Macedonia. The agreement fails to bring these into sharp relief, as it should have done. Thus, a golden opportunity was missed to achieve a modicum of consensus and accommodation regarding the image and the conduct of this small piece of land both parties reluctantly share.
The Macedonians regards the current state of Macedonia as the final realization of a dream. It occupies less than a third of the historical territory known as Macedonia - but it is theirs, a sovereign state, where they are fully Macedonian in language and in custom. Macedonia to the Macedonians is, in other words, a fatherland, not merely a convenience. They cling to their tiny plot even more tenaciously in the face of Serb, Greek and Bulgarian disparagement. The Greek doubt the ethnic authenticity of the current inhabitants of Macedonia as do the Serbs (to whom Macedonia is "south Serbia"). The Bulgarians regard Macedonian as a villager's dialect of Bulgarian.
This insane opposition by their neighbours hardens Macedonian resolve to prevail and perpetuate both their national identity and their language. Macedonia is a heartrending throwback to the 19th century concept of nation-state - a space populated by a more or less homogeneous people with their own history, national myths, language, and political agenda.
Where the Macedonian's attitude is historical - the Albanians' is territorial ("Albania is where Albanians are"). To them Macedonia is a mere territory inhabited by two major nations (the Macedonians and the Albanians). It is a political and economic partnership. As such, it can theoretically be dismantled, or substantially altered at will. Since no single nation in such a citizen's compact can have a privileged position - they each can veto each other's decisions and vision.
This Albanian rendering of Macedonia is much closer to the American instrumental ethos of the state. To Americans, the USA, is the outcome of a social contract constantly re-negotiated and rephrased. It is founded upon piles of documents - the Constitution, the Bill of Rights. It is an abstract entity in flux, re-defined by its constituents and managed by semipternal arbitration.
The Albanian position is also close to the European Union's new found totem of the "multi-cultural society". States belong to their citizens, regardless of colour, race, or origin. Germany, the United Kingdom, and France are slowly being transformed into immigrant societies - dysfunctional melting pots of hitherto foreign cultures and societies. This tendency is further enhanced by the gradual emergence of the European supranational federation. Sovereignty is in the descendant - national cohabitation in the ascendant.
Here lies the danger to Macedonia's future. Both the USA and the EU have coerced Macedonia to adopt a contract-based, multi-cultural solution to the crisis. The Americans proceeded to impose on it an American style constitution - and the European implemented a bevy of "minority rights" measures. In a region still steeped in nationalistic lore and enthralled by the spectre of the nation-state, these would spell the end of Macedonia as a political entity. At the very least the Framework Agreement spells the end of Macedonia as the homeland of the Macedonians.
Sam Vaknin, Ph.D. is the author of Malignant Self Love - Narcissism Revisited and After the Rain - How the West Lost the East. He served as a columnist for Central Europe Review, PopMatters, Bellaonline, and eBookWeb, a United Press International (UPI) Senior Business Correspondent, and the editor of mental health and Central East Europe categories in The Open Directory and Suite101.
Until recently, he served as the Economic Advisor to the Government of Macedonia. Sam Vaknin's Web site is at http://samvak.tripod.com
||Macedonia - Why the Framework Agreement will Fail - Part II
By Sam Vaknin, Ph.D.
Every conflict has its economic moments and dimensions. The current conflict in Macedonia perhaps even more so. The USA and its Western allies regard Macedonia as a bridge between Greece, Bulgaria, Serbia and Albania. Hence the EU's plans for the revival of transport corridors 8 and 10 connecting these countries. If all goes well (and nothing has hitherto), railways will connect Bulgaria to Macedonia and river traffic will flow to Serbia from its southern neighbours. All this is envisioned in the Stability Pact. There are talks of an oil pipeline across Macedonia's territory. A pacified Macedonia is fairly crucial to Serbia's recovery and to the prospects of the whole region to attract FDI.
NATO is afraid of Turkish-Greek clashes in the aftermath of Kosovo and Macedonia. Turkey has increasingly cast itself in its ancient role of "protector of the Balkan Muslims". Greece is the only Orthodox-Christian member of the EU and an old foe of the erstwhile Sick Man of Europe from which it won bloody independence at the beginning of the 19th century. Such clashes are likely to destabilize the southern flank of NATO and block the West's access to Iraq, the Middle East, oil-rich Central Asia, and northern China. This will seriously dent the new "Pacific and Middle East Orientations" of the Bush Administration.
And what about the actual combatants?
Albanians and Macedonian crime gangs (in cahoots with kleptocratic and venal local politicians) regard Macedonia as a vital route for drugs, stolen cars, smuggled cigarettes and soft drinks, illegal immigrants, white slavery, and weapons dealing. These criminal activities far outweigh the GDP of all the adversary states combined. This conflict is about controlling territory and the economic benefits attendant to such control.
Crime and war provide employment, status, regular income, perks, and livelihood to many denizens of Macedonia, Albania, and Bulgaria. They constitute an outlet for entrepreneurship, however perverted. Fighting for the cause and smuggling often means travel abroad (for instance, on fund raising missions), five star accommodation, and a lavish lifestyle. It also translates into powers of patronage and excesses of self-enrichment.
Moreover, in ossified, socially stratified, ethnically polarized, and economically impoverished societies, war and crime engender social mobility. The likes of Hashim Thaci, Ramush Harajdini, and Ali Ahmeti often start as rebels and end as part of the cosseted establishment. Many a criminal dabble in politics and business.
Hence the tenacity of both phenomena. Hence the bleak and pessimistic outlook for this region. The "formal" economies simply cannot compete. Jobs are not created, the educated are often bitterly idle, salaries are minuscule if paid at all, the future is past. Crime and politics (one and the same in the Balkan) are alluring alternatives.
Moreover, the NLA and its political successor DUI is not a monolithic entity. It is more like an umbrella organization with serious and fracturing differences of opinion regarding the ultimate goals of the insurrection four years ago (2001) and the means to obtain these goals.
Roughly, NLA was made up of one third veteran Kosovo fighters, some of them professional soldiers, who also fought in Croatia, or in the Foreign Legion. These people are bitter and disgruntled by what they see as the betrayal of the West in refusing to guarantee an independent Kosovo and the failure of the current Kosovar leadership to integrate them economically into the emerging polity there. Their motives for joining the fighting in Macedonia were part emotional and part pecuniary.
Another third was made of unemployed, young Albanians, mainly from Macedonia itself. Their fighting is self-interested. They get a monthly salary and perks and, lacking education and skills, they don't have much of a choice outside the killing fields.
The rest are diehard, hardcore, idealists who either fervently espouse a Great Albania, or would like to take over Western Macedonian in a "constitutional coup" which will grant them their own police force, municipalities, institutions, universities, budgets, and semi-political structures.
The NLA itself was not directly involved in criminal activities, though a few of its members are. But the money that financed it (from the Czech Republic, Switzerland, Germany, and the USA) is tainted by drug dealing, white slavery, illegal immigration, and the smuggling of everything illicit, from cigarettes to stolen cars, to weapons. In this they collaborate with politicians and criminals in Macedonia - both Albanian and Macedonian.
Being a politician in the Balkan is an extremely lucrative proposition. Both Albanian and Macedonian politicians will abandon the peace process if they believe it leads to electoral ruin. Given the current atmosphere, it pays to be a pacifist. Virulent nationalism is a guaranteed vote loser. But every re-election ticket still requires a modicum of xenophobia, ethnic exclusivity, and radicalism. Here lies the future.
Bernard Kouchner, the former administrator of Kosovo, has warned against producing a a second Cyprus in Macedonia. He probably meant a territory divided along ethnic lines by a foreign army. But here the comparison ends. The ethnically cleansing invading Turkish army was not invited by both parties to the conflict in Cyprus to make peace. The Turks were reacting to a military coup by members of the majority Greek-Cypriot community in cahoots with a vicious junta in Athens and to a series of deadly inter-communal clashes. The military and police involvement of the international community was by invitation of both Macedonians and Albanians.
Other have called the smuggling routes used by Albanian fighters to haul weapons and supplies the Ho Chi Minh trail and the reconciliation agreement, imposed by the West, Macedonia's Treaty of Versailles.
But what could fast become the dominant metaphor is Czechoslovakia and the Sudeten Germans. Ostensibly, the resemblance is striking. A small country with a belligerent and violent minority concentrated in its north western parts - sacrificed by an appeasing and war weary West to mollify a brutal neighbouring regime run by the minority's ethnic group.
No metaphor is perfect. Czechoslovakia was an artificial multi-ethnic creation (as its disintegration after 1992 has proven). Macedonia is much more homogeneous ethnically. Czechoslovakia was an industrial and military powerhouse (the 7th largest industrial producer in the world). Even the Germans were deterred by its well equipped and well trained army. Macedonia is low on military hardware and militarily inexperienced. The Sudeten Germans were pawns in Hitler's nefarious plan to conquer Eastern Europe as a much needed lebensraum for the Nordic race.
The NLA was financed and controlled by Albanians in the West - but Albania, Macedonia's neighbour, is a relatively democratic, pragmatic, and EU-orientated country. While it allowed the guerrillas to train in its territory, to offload weapons in its ports, and to cross its borders with impunity - it is by far NOT a Balkanian version of Nazi Germany.
Allowing for these caveats, the similarities are startling.
Czechoslovakia was the reification of Wilson's naively detrimental principle of self-determination. It incorporated the provinces of Bohemia and Moravia, including more than 3 million Germans in what used to be Austrian Silesia. These Germans were transformed overnight from members of the ruling majority in the Austrian Empire to a feared minority subjected to subtle forms of discrimination in their new country. The German region - the Sudeten - in western Czechoslovakia, bordered on Germany and Austria, where Germans ruled and German was spoken. Czechoslovakia refused to grant this restless and hostile minority an autonomy, lest it secedes, joins Hitler's "Great Reich", and deprives Czechoslovakia of important industrial and mineral assets and its rail links to northern Europe. Losing the Sudeten also meant losing Czechoslovakia's ability to defend itself against an ever more imminent German invasion.
The worsening economic situation in the Depression prone 1930's - unemployment, closure of loss makers, inflation - radicalized the Sudeten Germans. Support for Hitler and his pan-Germanic policies increased with every bloodless and bold victory: the militarization of the Rhineland and the Anschluss (unification with Austria). The extremist Sudeten German party, led by the puppet Konrad Henlein, blossomed after 1938.
Henlein collaborated with Germany to cause the dissolution of Czechoslovakia, "this French air carrier in Europe's midst", in Hitler's words. They demanded civil and human rights and, above all, the ability to exercise the right to self-determination enshrined in numerous international treaties. The status of the German language was a major issue as was the local participation of Germans in the police forces and army. Henlein's instructions were - and I am quoting Hitler: "You must always demand so much that you cannot be satisfied". Hitler's worst fear was that Czechoslovakia will accept ALL the demands of its bellicose minority (as, indeed, it did a few times during this artificially provoked crisis).
"Spontaneous" demonstrations, protests, and riots erupted all over the Sudetenland. The Czechoslovaks were described by Hitler - and many in the West - as intransigent racists, bigots, and bullies. The French and Brits - their armies and economies unprepared for war, their leadership traumatized by the Great (first world) War, their politicians unabashed appeasers - pressured Czechoslovakia to make one unpalatable concession after another. Finally, they weighed on Czechoslovakia to make concessions which endangered its very existence, territorial integrity, unitary character, and sovereignty. In this campaign of brutish intimidation of the Czechoslovaks, the West - Germany, Britain, France, and Italy - collaborated fully and willingly, regardless of other differences. Britain and France effectively annulled their mutual defence pacts with helpless and hapless Czechoslovakia. Bonnet, France's Minister of Foreign Affairs at the time warned the Czechoslovaks not to be "unreasonable". Otherwise, he warned, France will "consider herself released from her bonds". Halifax, the British Foreign Minister, instructed his Ambassador in Paris about the "importance of putting the greatest possible pressure on Dr. Benes (Czechoslovakia's president - SV) without delay".
The Sudeten Germans, without waiting for the results of the world-class diplomatic efforts on their behalf, have established militias and commenced military urban guerrilla actions. Lethal clashes followed between Czechs and Germans in mixed towns. An "independent" British mediator - Lord Runciman - was dispatched to arm twist the Czechoslovaks. His instructions were to prevent war at any cost - especially to Czechoslovakia. "We will use the big stick on Benes" - warned Cadogan, permanent under-secretary in the British Foreign Office.
Henlein had his instructions from Berlin to sabotage the negotiations with the Czechoslovak government, which he did faithfully by constantly raising new demands or old, discredited ones. On September 4, 1938, an exasperated President Benes accepted all the German conditions without exception. This was rejected by both Henlein and Hitler as "too late". An idea of referendum in the Sudetenland (guaranteed to yield unification with Germany) was rebuffed by Hitler.
Finally, the French and the British presented this ultimatum to democratic, multiethnic Czechoslovakia, on September 22, 1938:
"One - That which has been proposed by England and France is the only hope of averting war and the invasion of Czechoslovakia.
Two - Should the Czechoslovak Republic reply in the negative, she will bear the responsibility for war.
Three - This would destroy Franco-English solidarity, since England would not march.
Four - If under these circumstances the war starts, France will not take part; i.e., she will not fulfil her treaty obligations."
Quoted from: Donald Kagan - On the Origins of War and the Preservation of Peace - Doubleday,New York, 1995 - p. 399
Benes accepted this ultimatum as well but Hitler again demurred. Now he demanded that German troops occupy parts of Czechoslovakia to protect rioting Sudeten Germans from Czechoslovak retribution. In the Munich Conference of the leaders of the West these demands were essentially accepted and Czechoslovakia was no more. Hitler conquered it, in stages, and assimilated it in the German Reich.
Why did the West behave so duplicitously and treacherously?
The infamous British Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain made this radio address to the British people in the heat of the crisis:
"How horrible, fantastic, incredible it is that we should be digging trenches and trying on gas masks here because of a quarrel in a far-away country between people of whom we know nothing ... However much we sympathize with a small nation confronted by a big and powerful neighbours, we cannot in all circumstances undertake to involve the whole British Empire in war simply on her account. If we have to fight it must be on larger issues that that."
September 27, 1938 - ibid., p. 402