May 31, 2001
Eight days ago, Macedonian media broke a shocking story. Leaders of two Albanian political parties in the new unity government, Arben Xhaferi and Imer Imeri, held secret talks with the political leader of the "UCK," Ali Ahmeti, and signed a joint policy platform. The talks took place in German-occupied Prizren, deep inside Albanian-ruled Kosovo. They were organized by OSCE’s ambassador to Macedonia, American diplomat Robert Frowick. Unconfirmed reports also linked NATO’s envoy to Skopje with the affair.
Macedonians were dumbstruck. Political representatives of Macedonia’s Albanians, who were wooed into the unity government under strong pressure from EU and NATO, had used the very first opportunity to stab their colleagues in the back – with the help of an American diplomat! With one stroke of a pen, Xhaferi and Imeri had proved they shared the same goals with the "UCK."
Both politicians have said as much in public, and repeatedly. Imeri’s party even insisted that Macedonian Army declare a unilateral ceasefire, before they would enter the unity government. Only the blind would have failed to notice the matching rhetoric of the UCK and the political leadership of Macedonian Albanians. There is a unity of purpose between them unprecedented even in Kosovo, where Hashim Thaci’s UCK routinely murders members of Ibrahim Rugova’s LDK, even though they both passionately hate the Serbs and desire independence.
One only need compare the demands of Xhaferi’s DPA and Imeri’s PDP with the bandit’s publicly stated demands: from changing the Constitution so Albanians are elevated to nationhood status, and recognizing Albanian as a second official language, to giving Albanians state subsidies for parallel education structures and more jobs in government service. Until the Prizren platform, the only difference was that the DPA-PDP wanted to accomplish its goals through negotiations, while the "UCK" preferred to use the business end of the AK-47 assault rifle. Now, however, the politicians and the bandits have agreed to bring the ballot and the bullets together in pursuit of the cause they already shared.
Now all the pieces of the puzzle are firmly in place. The day the story broke, Frowick left Macedonia for Bucharest, ostensibly to report to OSCE’s current chairman, Romania’s foreign minister. Meanwhile, Skopje declared him persona non grata and kindly asked him not to come back, ever. Javier Solana, EU’s top political officer most responsible for the creation of the unity government, immediately flew to Skopje and tried to reconcile the treacherous Albanians with their Macedonian partners.
Treason is by no means too strong a word. When officials of a government sign a pact with their ethnic kin in a terrorist "army" currently at war with that government, that is treason by any definition. Yet Xhaferi and Imeri not only admitted to signing the Prizren papers, they actually refused to renounce them!
During his "mediation," Solana gave further legitimacy to the treacherous two by agreeing to their refusal to disavow the Prizren platform. Instead, the coalition partners signed a pledge to pretend Prizren never happened. This, in the words of the Reuters reporter, "underscored how vital their [Imeri and Xhaferi’s] cooperation is to the survival of the coalition and the prospects of a political deal."
It would be more merciful towards the Macedonians if NATO simply demanded unconditional surrender to Albanian demands. Which, actually, may not be too far from the truth…
Namely, while claiming to support Macedonia’s integrity and its fight against the "UCK," leaders of the US, EU and NATO literally gave their support to Albanian goals. For example, NATO’s Secretary-General George Robertson, said "There should be no place at the negotiating table for those who prefer the bullet to the ballot box." Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Colin Powell expected NATO to "encourage the government of Macedonia to move more aggressively on reconciliation" with Albanians. EU, through Solana, "backed" the Macedonian government by urging it to "press ahead with discussions on increased minority rights."
This is support? This is mediation? The only thing obvious from these statements is that the US, NATO and EU’s chief concern is the speediest possible appeasement of Albanian demands! Since the Prizren platform unified ballots and bullets, and since Albanian "rights" is the stated aim of the "UCK," why would anyone rational continue fighting the "UCK" and at the same time fulfill its demands?
The message to Skopje is clear: fight all you want, you will have to surrender eventually.
The Prizren platform is just one more physical confirmation that Macedonia’s Albanians – all of them – are pursuing a sinister ethnic agenda. This column has stated repeatedly, and will continue to do so again, that the conflict in Macedonia has nothing to do with Albanian "rights," or human rights in general. That is merely a pleasant fiction, calculated to court outside support. What those "rights" would mean in practice ought to be obvious.
By amending the Constitution to give Albanians nationhood status, Macedonians would effectively lose their own nationhood – i.e. the legitimate right to have a nation-state of one’s own. Unlike Kosovo, where they have been a presence at least since the Middle Ages, Albanians in Macedonia have grown in numbers from nothing at the end of World War Two, to just under half a million by 1994.
All the other demands – language, education and civil service jobs – are calculated to give official approval to a separate Albanian society within Macedonia. Such an apartheid currently exists, but it is not imposed by the Macedonians. It is the Albanians who wish to remain separate, never intermarry, refuse to speak Macedonian, go to Macedonian schools or even salute the Macedonian flag. They literally want the end of Macedonia as a state.
If this direct explanation does not sound convincing, consider symbolism, then. Former Macedonian president Kiro Gligorov, an old statesman with decades of experience, pointed out to the Belgrade daily Glas Javnosti the symbolism of Prizren as the chosen place for the talks. It was there, in 1878, that Albanians formed a political organization – the "League of Prizren" – tasked with "liberating" all the "Albanian lands" in the Balkans.
Ironically, the political treachery comes at a time when Macedonian security forces are mauling the "UCK" bandits left and right. In heavy fighting north and east of Kumanovo, Macedonian special forces took three out of seven bandit-held villages over the past week, rolling up both flanks of the UCK front.
The two northernmost bandit-held villages, Vaksince and Lojane, were taken by Saturday. On Tuesday, Macedonian troops entered Matejce, the southernmost "UCK" strongpoint. Faced with complete failure of their conventional tactic, the bandits said they were preparing to start a campaign of classical terrorism – blowing up people in the cities.
It is hard to imagine this affecting Western policy. All it can accomplish is to further radicalize the Macedonians, who are increasingly fed up with Albanian violence. The "UCK" and its political arm, the PDP-DPA, are playing with fire. But then, perhaps fire is exactly what they want. It would not only leave most ordinary Albanians without a choice but to join up – and this is already happening, though slowly – but the resulting carnage is certain to score big points on the Western propaganda front. Already the news reports of fighting in Macedonia are routinely accompanied with pictures of weeping Albanian refugees – an eerie throwback to the Goebbelsian nightmare of 1999. Add to this the sensationalist and uncritical reports of Macedonian soldiers torturing the Albanian refugees, and the stage is set for another Kosovo.
Interventionists in Washington are already calling for action. Color-bearers of militant imperialism, such as Jim Hooper (of the BAC, ICG and now something called "Public International Law and Policy Group") are openly calling for Washington to embrace Albanian nationalism and use it to further its own goals in the Balkans – as if this was something yet to be done, instead of an established reality.
Serbian dailies have already published accounts of participants in several meetings, organized by the US State Department and the British Foreign Office, which outlined plans for a partition of the Balkans into ethnically pure statelets. These accounts focus on Kosovo and Bosnia; so far, no one has mentioned the possibility of Macedonia being dismembered and fed to Albania and Bulgaria, respectively. Yet this is a very real possibility. From a strictly utilitarian standpoint, it would simplify US control over the proposed corridor for a strategic pipeline.
Where are the Macedonians in this entire story? No one cares. The Western press has already nearly erased their name, calling them "Slavs" instead, and paving the propaganda path of ending Macedonia’s statehood. As long as the government in Skopje seems willing to ignore the treachery of its Albanian members, or sign anything the EU and NATO offer, the policy of Great Power(s) is unlikely to change. The only obstacle to a peaceful surrender is the determination of Macedonia’s armed forces. What chance do they have, though, surrounded by incompetent politicians, false friends, traitors and outright enemies?
Perhaps most telling, then, is the statement of "commander Sokolli," a UCK leader who has become somewhat of a media darling in the West. He told Reuters Tuesday that the war would not end until Macedonia accepted the Prizren "peace plan." Perhaps "Sokolli" knows something the Great Power(s) are not yet willing to share. Or perhaps he is just shooting off his mouth, incapable of putting up a fight against anyone older than five and armed. As always, only time will tell.
Five years ago, in his film Before the Rain, Macedonian director Milcho Manchevski described a "feeling of heavy expectation, when the skies are pregnant with the possibility of an outburst, when the people are silent, waiting for a tragedy."
Now the skies over Macedonia are dark and heavy, and it is definitely raining.
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