The Macedonian prime minister Nikola Gruevski, who has already counted a hundred days since his power assumption, is been facing a criticism from the side of foreign politicians and ambassadors talking about a word-mongering of the Macedonian rightist government. Too many words, but very few deeds; the people, however, expect concrete results. Among the burning issues are the progress towards the integration with the Euroatlantic Structures, the fight against corruption and the cooperation with the Albanian opposition party DUI (Democratic Union for Integration) founded by Albanian insurgents who provoked a conflict in Macedonia in 2001 and also were a part of the previous government of the Social Democratic Union of Macedonia (SDSM) etc. Failure to solve the problem of this cooperation has put Macedonian policy into a dangerous situation of a “pluralist monologue”, or rather, a state which is marked by political scientists as “polarised pluralism”.
In this situation, the political elites from DPA (Democratic Party of Albanians a rightist political party under the lead of Arben Xhaferi and Menduch Taci) and DUI (with Ali Ahmeti the former commander of Albanian insurgents on the head) forced nearly the whole of Albanian community to submit themselves in the process of usurping the territory that was intended to meet basic civil interests. These were suppressed in this case in favour of political confrontation. An integral part of the Albanian parties‛ agenda is in fact nothing more than the control over public finances and enterprises, that used to be under the control of these parties in the past, and an attempt to restore it, or rather, sustain it irrespective of the fact that some methods have nothing in common with democratic values. Their subject matter is the rhetoric which bears in itself a subconscious threat of “playing with arms” and propensity to ignore whatever discussion.
The largest Macedonian parties proved themselves as immature as regards the solution and tackling of similar difficult situations. Instead of putting out the fire, both the parties advocated their Albanian partners. SDSM became a DUI spokesperson and, and to the contrary, VMRO-DPMNE (VMPRO-Democratic Party for Macedonian National Unity) defended its coalition partner DPA. Thus, instead of mitigating the tension a slight polarisation of the country into two blocs arose. DUI is frustrated about not becoming a part of the ruling coalition, and DPA paradoxically behaves as if it wasn‛t a part of it. The former forgot that in order to push their own interests and attitudes, they have a wide range of institutional mechanisms at their disposal. The latter aren‛t aware of the fact that crime rate and corruption as well as unsolved financial scandals from the past should be dealt with by means of state institutions and not by methods typical of cowboys. The largest Macedonian political parties VMPRO-DPMNE (in power) and SDSM (in opposition) just confined themselves to the role of observers as to the dispute between the two Albanian parties. Such a stance is a textbook example of the worst kind of conformism and reluctance towards the process of democracy degradation in the country.
The establishment of the “orange coalition” of prime minister Gruevski in the aftermath of this year‛s elections was like a breath of fresh air on the Macedonian political scene. After the elections, it was mainly young people close to the prime minister that were elected to power. As a result, Macedonia is now facing a severe political crisis due to the antipathy between the two Albanian parties. Apart from the fact that VMRO-DPMNE followed the previous pattern of the leftist SDSM and begun to employ in the administration solely its own members, the growing tension is caused by the absence of Albanian DUI in the country. This party was determined to become a part of the ruling coalition at all costs.
What should Gruevski do as a man vested with the responsibility for the country‛s destiny? What kind of solution does Ali Ahmeti, the leader of Albanian opposition party DUI, suggests? The next question is whether the current Macedonian opposition is able to control governmental steps. Recently (after the lost elections), Social Democrats proposed a vote of no confidence to the former prime minister Vlado Bučkovsky and Radmila Škerinska became a new leader of the left. The new leader, a former European integration minister, has close ties with the current president Branko Crvenkovski. Conflict within the left escalated to such extent that the ex-PM Bučkovski and the current president, who was a leader of Social Democrats in the past and before he was elected a prime minister, started to smear one another owing to different opinions regarding the solution of key issues in the country.
That‛s why, according to some analysts there is a threat that the Social Democracy may fall apart unless it enters a period of consolidation. During Crvenkovski‛s tenure as a leader of Social Democrats, Bučkovski became a spokesperson of the party at first, later on he was elected its vice-chairman and afterwards he became a defence minister. At the peak of his successful career was the leader seat of Social Democrats at the end of 2004, when Crvenkovski was elected Macedonian president. Bučkovski inherited from his predecessor the key positions within the party as well as country.
Conflicts begun to appear gradually, in the Albanian village of Kondovo for instance (a group of organised criminals under the lead of Agim Krasniq declared it as an independent territory and under the threat of using weapons prevented the entry of the police into the village, simultaneously it threatened with attacks on institutions in the centre of the capital Skopjie), or during the sale of the national electric distribution network to an Austrian investor. Both the politicians had contrary opinions on the future of the relationships with Serbia and Kosovo. President Crvenkovski was more restrained as to the promotion of his opinions. He emphasised that Macedonia cares about the success of its neighbours and their struggle to keep their countries in order. He also declared the support of any solution which would be agreed on by the representatives of Albanians of Kosovo with Belgrade under the auspices of the UN. Under the influence of the then coalition partner Ali Ahmeti, Bučkovski proclaimed publicly that Kosovo was about to reach independence and Macedonia had to preserve a special relationship to its closest neighbour. The conflict escalated in the aftermath of Tito Petkovski‛s departure from the party. He decided to establish his own New Social-democratic Party (NSDP) that entered the new Gruevski government. Petkovski, who lead the unofficial faction within the social democracy for a long time, brought many electors of the Social democracy to take his side. The motif of his decision was possibly the revenge for not being nominated as president by his own party after the tragic death of the former president Traykovski. Recently, it has been quite visible that the relationship between Bučkovski and Crvenkovski turned nearly to enmity. This was connected with the decrease of president‛s involvement into everyday politics, the passivity of the parliament as well as the increase of the government‛s dominant position in all spheres of life. Political vanity and stubbornness resulted in Bučkovski‛s appeal to the president that he should resign his function and stand for a chairman of the Social Democracy. Such an ironic appeal emerges from Bučkovski‛s conviction that Crvenkovski wants, after being elected president, remain the eminence grise and control all processes within the party.
The USA request that as far as key questions concerning the country‛s future in terms of its progress towards the integration into Euroatlantic structures are concerned, a consensus must be reached between the government and the opposition. Gruevski‛s new government has already received the report by American State Department that isn‛t much optimistic as regards the NATO-entry prospects in 2008. The report just confirms the open door policy on countries fulfilling the criteria for membership. The Macedonian Minister of Foreign Affairs Antonio Milošoski expressed his gratitude to the former government for the reforms carried out so far, which make Macedonian NATO and EU membership real. He emphasised that the government was prepared in her quest for the country‛s stability to contribute by its own political capital. The mentioned stability is linked particularly with the rapprochement within the Albanian community. Milošoski has therefore promised that VMPRO-DPMNE persuades its coalition partner DPA to moderate its attitude to DUI.
Based upon these facts Gurevski refused the recent analyses by the London weekly The Economist, according to which, Macedonia is facing a political shakeout due to the coalition‛s discrepancy between Gruevski‛s party and Ameti‛s DUI. The Economist affirms in the article “Macedonia and the European Union, not so fruity salad” with the subtitle “Another problematic Balkan candidate for EU entry” that “after Bulgaria and Romania, few people would remember Macedonia as a country in line for membership of the European Union.” According to this renowned weekly, Macedonia is a poor country with a stagnant economy, which has been offered membership talks but no firm date for starting them. “Macedonia is a land that is in the focus of the world, when something bad happens there,” continues The Economist. As for the doings of the new Macedonian government, it refers to some of their steps and dubs them knotty. Namely the selection of a less successful Albanian party into the ruling coalition, which stirred up grudge within DUI, the dismissal of a large amount of state officials during the first hundred days of ruling the country and their replacement by people loyal to new governmental elite. “In Macedonia, it is a common situation that people (in state administration) devote themselves to the party and not the state,” emphasizes the London weekly. Another thorny point is the scandal concerning the liquidation of the organization Transparency Macedonia (Transparentnost Makedonija), that was excluded from Transparency International, an international organization aimed at the fight against corruption. The reason was the designation of its former chairperson Gabriela Konevska-Trajkovska to the office of the Minister for European Integration, through which Transparency Macedonia actually elected two chairpersons that subsequently argued through media, which is the legitimate one. The mentioned vice-prime minister has expressed herself lately that Macedonia is due to begin the membership talks with the EU in 2007. According to The Economist weekly, such expectations are not legitimate. It is also convinced that concerns over a new war conflict, the former Albanian fighters are supposed to unleash, have not the leg to stand on. The threat of a serious armed conflict is not probable. We will see, whether the decision on the statute of Kosovo affects the situation in Macedonia as well, but it seems that none of Albanian insurgents is likely to dare something like that, because the country is, as a membership candidate under strict EU supervision.
After the statement of José Manuel Barroso that EU enlargement will stop for a certain period of time after the entry of Bulgaria and Romania, Macedonian prime minister Gruevski realised most probably that Macedonia is obliged to finish at first the inevitable, predominantly economic reforms which are of paramount importance in terms of his agenda. The opening date of membership talks is not thus much crucial meanwhile. Reforms based upon a good will do not ensure substantial results according to the political experiences of Macedonia. Macedonian reforms are carried out under the pressure of deadlines and a permanent supervision from abroad. This is the case of judicial system reform, banking system reform, the fulfilment of the provisions of the General Agreement signed with Albanian leaders with Ochrid in 2001 etc. It is familiar that the work under pressure is more efficient in Macedonia. That‛s why key importance is attached to the setting of a fix date of the EU entry in this country. The diplomats recommend implicitly Macedonia should use its “honeymoon”, offered by the status of a candidate country, so that it is ready for the entry, for instance, by means of drawing grants from Eurofonds. Good will itself is not sufficient for the EU entry, the realisation of fast and efficient reforms are necessary. The final decision about the EU enlargement depends not only on Macedonia itself, because there is scepticism towards further enlargement also within the EU. As a result, Brusel‛s insecurity concerning the future of the EU leads to the growth of Eurosceptic propensities beyond the EU itself.
The latest events in Macedonia testify that the country stakes on German lobbing by means of which it wants get into Europe. Foreign-political direction is more and more orientated towards Germany, particularly after general elections in July and the victory of a right-centric coalition. Gruevski‛s VMRO-DPMNE has enjoyed a long-lasting support from the side of Christian Democratic Union (CDU) headed by the chancellor Angela Merkel. It was exactly Germany, many young ministers of the current government were on educational stays in. Not even a month after taking office Gruevski visited Germany as a guest of the chancellor Angela Merkel and Konrad Adenauer Foundation VMRO-DPMNE has forged close links with.
When Macedonian Foreign minister Milošoski talks about the relations between Macedonia and Germany, he highlights apart from other things the fact that the new Macedonian government set themselves the ambitious goal of becoming an EU member in the first half of 2007, that means during German EU presidency which begun January 1 2007. Positive feature is that closer ties with Germany are complementary with the partnership relations between Macedonia and the USA. There was an initial promotion of Americanisation in Gruevski‛s government. It was linked with the preference to some new ministers like Zoran Stavrevski from the World Bank or American citizens of Macedonian origin Vele Samak and Gligor Taškovič. Nevertheless, a new stance on the need of gaining an European partner occupies the foreground of Macedonian politics. In practice it was displayed by the nomination of former German finance minister Theo Weigel. VMRO-DPMNE representatives say that the time has come and Macedonia is supposed to find, besides the long-lasting cooperation with the USA, a partner also in Europe. It was just the USA that advised the Balkan republic of Macedonia to enhance the image on the European scene as well. ”We have yet to forge friendly links with the Netherlands and Great Britain,” recommend Macedonian experts at diplomacy. “Macedonia is missing the train that would carry it to Europe,” comment other analysts. According to them, the twist towards Germany is a
promising initiative of the new government.
We will see whether these affections are requited also by the other side. At the moment, EU doesn‛t even consider setting Macedonia a date of the beginning of accession talks, since Skopje has not fulfilled the criteria required. Moreover, the Greek prime minister Kostas Karamanlis repeated his country‛s decision to veto all the steps that would lead to Macedonian entry into Euroatlantic Structures unless the problem of the name of the country is solved. Macedonian newspapers may have therefore released the information, that British experts at communication, paid by the British Embassy in Skopje, had prepared a plan of recommendations for the Macedonian government, so that it perpetually enfeebles public‛s expectations as to the early EU entry. Macedonian government, however, still believes that all EU conditions will be fulfilled by 2010. After this date, EU won‛t be able to put Macedonian entry off. Afterwards, a real term of the entry would be the year 2012. On the other hand, the supposed NATO entry is the year 2008, but even this term is still not fixed.
Anyway, the Macedonian foreign minister announced his expectations in an exclusive interview for the EU daily Observer that the way for Macedonia will be paved after French elections in 2007 and the improvement of economic situation in the EU. “We assume that after the elections in France and the European debate on the tiredness of the EU enlargement, it will overcome its problems and gain fresh energy. We are pleased that the European economic situation started to improve. It‛s a factor positively influencing also the behaviour of Europeans towards immigrants, new members; sensitiveness connected with the process of enlargement… We want to get the date of the beginning of accession talks, because being a membership candidate without a fixed date of the start of talks is like a wedding without music. That means the wedding can hardly take place. Macedonia is like Paris excluding the outskirts. That is not a large society able to disrupt the absorption qualities of the EU by means of accepting new members. We are glad that there are only few of us,” emphasised Milošoski for the EU Observer. It is indisputable that the pace of the EU integration process amounts to enigma for all citizens of the country who still believe in their optimism to correspond with the “desired reality of better and promising life.”