Man of Vision
Interview with the President
Of the Republic of Macedonia
Mr. Boris Trajkovski
By: Sam Vaknin, Ph.D.
Also published by United Press International (UPI)
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Macedonia – a landlocked country at the southeastern tip of the Balkan, bordering Yugoslavia, Albanian, Bulgaria, and Greece – has been coping with an Albanian armed insurgency since February this year. The insurgents – collectively known as the NLA (National Liberation Army, or UCK in Albanian) – are comprised of commanders with experience in Kosovo and recruits from Macedonia's Albanian population. The NLA demanded improved civil rights, human rights, enhanced participation in the police and public administration (to reflect the Albanians' share of the population, officially c. 24%), and the right to use the Albanian language in parliament and in mixed municipalities (with more than 20% Albanian population). Their demands were met in the Ohrid Framework Agreement signed by the leaders of the four major political parties (2 Macedonia and 2 Albanian). One of the signatories was the Prime Minister, Mr. Ljubco Georgievski, head of the VMRO-DPMNE, the moderate right wing ruling party. Georgievski has tactical differences with his erstwhile friend and co-partisan, the current President of Macedonia, Boris Trajkovski, who came to power in much disputed elections, decided by the votes of the Albanian population in 1999. Trajkovski believes in the constructive role of NATO and the West in restoring peace and stability to Macedonia. The Framework Agreement – if rejected by Albanian extremists – will establish their culpability and responsibility for the current situation, on the one hand, and Macedonia's flexibility, on the other hand. Georgievski resents the West's apparent lenience towards the NLA and firmly believes that agreements should never be signed at gunpoint. About 17% of the 9,800 sq.m. country (its western and north-western parts) is still controlled by the gradually disarming NLA.
The President of Macedonia is a soft spoken but single-minded visionary. We met in his office amid frequent interruptions from a noisy anti-NATO demonstration right outside his window in the Parliament building. Mr. Trajkovski was the deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs during the taxing days of the Kosovo crisis 1999. But this was not his first exposure to foreign affairs. For many years this American educated methodist ran the Commission for Foreign Affairs of the VMRO-DPMNE (then in the opposition).
Q: Whether one agrees with your policies or not – you are definitely a brave man. What did you experience emotionally during this existential crisis? Were you ever afraid? Do you regret decisions you made or refrained from making?
A: I am considering two things on a daily basis: what is right to do and what is wrong to do in my role as President of my people. According to my conscience, I am trying to abide by the right. My vision is peace. My vision is prosperity. Even when making difficult decisions on behalf of my people, I am striving to attain peace, it is very important to me. When you are a man of vision, you are bound to succeed. Consider Anwar Sadat when he flew to Israel to meet his Israeli counterparts. His Egyptian compatriots were furious. He answered: "I am going to these talks for peace. I am going to bring peace and prosperity for my people". I am doing the very same. I want to bring peace and prosperity to all the citizens of Macedonia. This is my vision.
Q: It is a frightening example...
A: (Raises his voice, for the first and only time during the interview)
Leadership and vision! I have to lead my people towards my vision and my goal – peace and prosperity! Never mind how misunderstood I am and how irrationally I am treated. But I have a goal. Time will say. If I succeed, it will prove to the people that I was a man of vision. Therefore, you need courage and leadership. I am ready to accept all accusations, allegations, anger – but I have to succeed.
Q: Parliament has embarked on the path of constitutional amendments in accordance with the Ohrid Framework Agreement. What does the future hold? Armed conflict, unarmed conflict, or peace?
A: I welcome the final vote made by the Macedonian parliamentarians. It is a significant moment which leads towards the implementation of the framework agreement. It allows for discussing, in a democratic manner, the various appendices attached to that agreement.
We are witnessing a situation where NATO is trying to disarm and disengage the terrorists. We are witnessing a durable cease fire. The terrorists gave their word not to continue to fight. We have to trust them because they gave their word to NATO and NATO gave their word to us. Once we put all this behind us, I hope that Macedonia will continue with its endeavors to be part of the European family and towards a Euro-Atlantic integration. The future prospects of my country in collaboration with the international community is to concentrate on economic prosperity and the achievement of our strategic goals.
Q: There is a growing anti-Western and anti-NATO sentiment among the Macedonian population. It is sometimes expressed even by the Prime Minister, Mr. Ljubco Georgievski. You seem to be the focus of this popular sentiment because you are identified with the goals, policies, and activities of the West here. How do you feel about it?
A: I have no doubt about my orientation. It is Euro-Atlantic. My target is, from the very beginning, to incorporate Macedonia in the European family. Should this fail, I believe that all Macedonian efforts will be in vain. NATO and EU are our friends and they are doing everything to help us overcome this crisis. I am aware that, at this moment, NATO's image is suffering. But, NATO and KFOR still have a lot of problems with armed and unarmed terrorists. Perhaps this engagement created the wrong atmosphere and the wrong image among the Macedonian population that they are allied with the terrorists. There may have been a lot of misunderstandings regarding our mutual co-operation but I think that their final goal is to reach peace in Macedonia as soon as possible.
As far as Mr. Georgievski is concerned, he devoted himself, from the very beginning of his career, to ensuring that Macedonia becomes a part of NATO and the EU family – and I am deeply convinced of that. But he is a man of dignity, honesty, and open rhetoric. It is not a matter of anti-NATO toughness. These are his proper reactions and the way he feels. In our past, together, working as partners – NATO and the Macedonian government – we made mistakes and there were misunderstandings. But there is no person in the government or in the Macedonian population that is against NATO.
But having said that, once NATO's mission is completed successfully within the prescribed timeframe, and with the Framework Agreement signed, we have all the elements in place to re-establish internal stability in Macedonia. But a prolonged NATO presence as either a guarantor of peace or to maintain peace and stability – means that NATO has failed in its mission. It will only foster a false or artificial sense of security. It will produce long term instability. Only the Macedonian security forces are the guarantors of peace. This is not in the interest of either NATO or Macedonia to have a Bosnia or Kosovo scenario. Should those who are against the political document provoke violence – we will have to go to war. There is no capacity to replace the security forces which are the only ones authorized to enforce the constitutional order and rule of law in the country. NATO cannot do it, they are not authorized to do this. Macedonian Albanians have to strongly bear in mind that the Macedonian police is their police as well. Should they reject this, there will be no long lasting solution for our country.
The police were not the ones to cause these problems, violence, and ethnic cleansing. We must not give room to the terrorists to misuse NATO's presence here. Even the security of EU and OSCE monitors will be guaranteed by the Macedonian security forces. NATO's mandate is clear, precise, and limited to the collection of weapons here. They will then depart and the Macedonian police will resume their positions in the villages and cities and take up their normal duties. The Macedonian army will return to the borders to watch over them. My request regarding UNPREDEP was for a collaboration with the Macedonian Army in observing the borders with Kosovo and Albania, something they had a lot of experience with in the past. The current violence was transmitted to Macedonia from Kosovo and from Albania. We think that Kosovo will continue to serve as a centre of violence and regional instability in future.
Q: There is fear among the local population and foreign observers alike regarding the continued existence of Macedonia. Could you relate to the possibility of a division of Macedonia (a proposal floated, in a way, by the Macedonian Academy of Arts and Sciences) – or its transformation into an international protectorate?
A: There is no doubt, even in the Framework Agreement, that the sovereignty, political and territorial integrity, and unitary character of our country are unquestioned and preserved. The Agreement transforms Macedonia into a more inclusive state and a multi-ethnic society. We are now more focused on the development of individual human rights and are creating a society based on the individual and not on ethnic groups. This is a civic model – the individual is given more rights but also more responsibilities.
Regarding an international protectorate – the international community is not interested in such a scenario. Macedonia has legitimate, officially elected political representatives from different communities, unlike in Bosnia, or in Kosovo.
Q: The disagreement between Macedonia and Greece regarding Macedonia's constitutional name has been dragging on for 8 years now. Any ray of hope for an agreement?
A: Thank you for asking me this. One of our sternest demands, apart from a donor conference, is the recognition of our constitutional name. Now is the time – if we and the international community regard the Framework Agreement as a European document – to prove to us that they are supportive of our democracy and sovereignty. The citizens of Macedonia find the current changes hard to accept. They would be even harder to accept should we not be recognized under our constitutional name. Our citizens will lose their confidence or trust in the values and principles of the international community, especially if our personal identity is denied.
APPENDIX – The Macedonian Position in the Current Conflict
Macedonians have been discriminated against and persecuted throughout history. Even when they finally acquired their independent state – their neighbours (Greece, Bulgaria, Serbia) doubted their language, existence as a nation, borders, history, and rights. One of them even imposed an economic embargo on the newly born impoverished country in the throes of transition from Socialism to Capitalism.
Macedonia is the homeland of the Macedonian people. It represents their aspirations, hopes, and struggles for more than a century.
The Albanians regard it as just another territory, potentially a part of a Greater Albanian or a Greater Kosovo. They regard Macedonia as a NEGOTIABLE political entity whose nature, ethnic composition, borders, constitution, and emblems can be altered at will – or at gunpoint. Above all, they resent the fact that Macedonia is the Macedonians' abode. They use Albanian flags, insignia, and emblems in all their official events and gatherings. This is incompatible with the principle of the integrity of the Macedonian state and the loyalty of all its citizens, regardless of ethnic origin.
Albanian Ends and Albanian Means
Whatever their ends, and even if some of the ends are justified – there is no justification, or excuse for taking up arms. The use of violence, terror, and ethnic cleansing to secure political aims is reprehensible.
Yet, the Albanians have consistently resorted to violence and ignored the well established and well functioning political, media, and juridical channels for expressing their grievances and tackling them.
The Rewards of Violence
The West has always insisted on the just principle that violence, terror, and ethnic cleansing should not pay. This principle was enforced – sometimes militarily – in Bosnia and Croatia. Yet, for tactical and political reasons, the West has made two exceptions: Kosovo, and Macedonia. In Kosovo, it rewarded a crime organization turned liberation movement (the KLA or UCK). It armed it, trained it, and transformed it into a respectable political player and partner in shaping the future and nature of Kosovo. In Macedonia, it has leaned on the democratically elected government of a sovereign country to accommodate the demands of armed terrorists, even as these terrorists continued to intimidate, murder, occupy land, and ethnically cleanse its Macedonian inhabitants. Thus, Macedonia is made to pay for the mistakes of the West in creating a monster (the KLA) that is now well out of their control (in the form of the NLA and ANA) and threatens to transform KFOR into 50,000 hostages in Kosovo.
Kosovo and Macedonia
There is no comparing the Albanians in Macedonia to the Kosovars. The Albanians in Macedonia are an integral and important part of the political structures. They hold important ministries, high level positions in the army, civil service, and public administration. Their language is used on all levels of the education system. They have their own higher education institutions, their own state TV channel, newspapers, and cultural organizations. They are entirely free to do as they like within the law. Some of them have abused this freedom and brought about this conflict. There is no reason or excuse for this outburst of homicidal violence.
Leaders of the NLA
Both Hashim Thaci and Ali Ahmeti gained the flattering attention of the West and the international press by leveraging a virulently nationalistic cause and inciting violence, terror, ethnic cleansing and, in the case of Ahmeti, the illegal occupation of swathes of a democratic and sovereign country. In reality, they abused their power and the gullibility of their followers to advance their aims of self-enrichment and self-promotion. Ahmeti now wants to be a Minister in the government of the very country he so savaged. Crime interests, criminal funds, and individual, self-aggrandizing, agendas are behind the demands for "greater rights" and "self government".
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