Why the Agreement will Fail

By: Dr. Sam Vaknin

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“…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)

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 is 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 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 is 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 is committed to this agreement, 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 is, perhaps, the fatigued President of Macedonia. But, in the eyes of many Macedonians, he is 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.

Still, the agreement harbors the seeds of its tragic demise mainly because the agreement is between parties who are irrelevant and derided by their own alleged constituencies. The NLA 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 is almost fully controlled by the NLA and its hydra like offspring, ANA and other splinters. Macedonians flee 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 are regularly ransacked. More than 5% of the country's population are 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 is 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 is not voluntary - it is 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 lands 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 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 inane opposition by their neighbours hardens Macedonian resolve to prevail and perpetuate both their national identity and their language. This is a 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 are likely to coerce Macedonia to adopt a contract-based, multi-cultural solution to the crisis. The Americans are likely to impose on it an American style constitution - and the European are likely to implement 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 it would spell the end of Macedonia as the homeland of the Macedonians.


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