A Nation of Ingrates
It's official: Spring has arrived in the Balkans. It is now the season of renewal and prosperity, when the jovial sun chases away the harsh winter snow, and the fecund earth blossoms with new life. And not only is it Spring in Macedonia, it is also time for celebration, now that the long-awaited donor conference has finally happened. And verily, all across the country the elated Macedonians are rejoicing in their newfound wealth, grateful for the overflowing cornucopia of their international patrons, whose generosity is matched only by their sincerity.
SPRING HAS SPRUNG LIKE A RAT TRAP
The real mood in the country as usual, one of fatalistic cynicism was captured by a recent retort in the daily Makedonija Denes newspaper. The author, Petre Bakevski, pulled no punches in explaining why a $515 million infusion of foreign capital signifies nothing more than "defeat" for his country:
"Yes, this is a defeat. A genuine and helpless defeat. The Ohrid peace pact was reached under great pressure, without asking the people's actual opinion. It was signed by the four Macedonian and ethnic Albanian leaders under threats from the world elite political guard. And, of course, the Macedonian side had to sign it. There was no choice, no alternative. Behind the signatures, there were the raging fires in the Macedonian homes and the 100,000 Macedonians who lived to see the most horrible and humiliating exodus from their own country.
With this, the Macedonian defeat became official. With this, Macedonia was forced to walk a path it did not choose. Squeezed in that agreement, the Macedonian political leadership was placed in a cage made by the strong and powerful, and it had to implement every provision obediently and without defiance. The year-long dramatic chronicle was notable for the constitutional and national changes of the Macedonian country, the minimization of historical continuity, and the endangering of the Macedonian identity. Every change was achieved through violence."
Bakevski goes on to point out that the NLA's demands, chief among them the local self-government clause and the amnesty act, were passed. The first triumphant celebrations for the latter piece of legislation happened last week in Shemsovo, where Albanians fired weapons at random to welcome home some local commanders, freed from Macedonian jails by the amnesty act. After that experience, I'm sure the NLA men of Shemsovo are planning to settle down to a pleasant pastoral existence
THE DONOR CONFERENCE: MORE LIKE HALLOWEEN THAN CHRISTMAS
Mystery handouts, people in costumes, darkness and confusion yes, the situation for the Macedonians held little in the way of Yuletide cheer. Indeed, with the money comes an ultimatum: the West will enforce the donation by installing an "anticorruption advisor" to monitor the spending. Surely, a jocund Santa would make a different kind of house call. Besides, the Macedonian suppliants had to trudge all the way to Brussels, where they knocked on the gilded doors of the European Union, just to be told that they were children needing supervision. Trick or treat, anyone?
LIKE LOVE, CHARITY SEEMS TO BE BLIND
The most farcical aspect of the donor's conference is that the bulk of the money is earmarked for the "crisis region" in other words, those heavily Albanian sections of western Macedonia which are already receiving generous foreign assistance. Driving past the Albanian mansions lining the Tetovo-Gostivar road, one wonders how this scandal of false poverty has been maintained for so long. Of course, it makes sense that the Albanians would get the cash they have, after all, a much warmer relationship with the West than do the Macedonians. In utilizing NGO's and the media, as well as political lobby groups, the Albanians have proven themselves adept at advancing their agenda at the expense of Macedonia. As the donor conference has reaffirmed, loyalty has its benefits.
That said, it is no mystery why the funds were doled out as they were. Deciding where money should be allocated is a lengthy and cumbersome task. It is made much easier, however, by persuasive and well-organized grant letters, sent through all the right administrative channels. Who writes such letters? Non-governmental organizations, and crisis-management groups. And what are such bodies designed to do? To care for poor, downtrodden ethnic minorities wherever they are being oppressed (except for, say, in the United States). And so we have it. By mainlining money from the caring nurturers of the Balkans, the "oppressed" Albanian minority has locked on to something real special.
MACEDONIA'S HALLOWEEN LOOT: A MARS BAR WITH A RAZOR INSIDE
The donor conference seems to have had three motivations. First, to pour money into the Albanian coffers as a means of appeasement; second, to allow the West to keep bathing in the narcissistic light of its own altruism, shining forth as the beacon of hope for human rights everywhere. That this is blatantly false matters little; the average person has not the time to read between the lines of the daily newspaper (or indeed, to read columns like this one). Numbing repetition of the Western position in the media guarantees that over time it will gradually seep into the collective subconscious, in the same way that we've all learned how fundamentally evil the Serbs are.
The third objective of the donor conference is, if we can imagine it, more sinister still: to deprive Macedonia of any future bargaining room when it comes to inter-ethnic negotiations. The donor conference was heralded as a reward to Macedonia for its capitulation to the NLA's demands. And indeed, the NLA kept the peace, the West will proudly proclaim (four months of snow cover had nothing to do with it, of course). The Albanians have held up their end of the bargain, the West will say, and now you Macedonians should too: after all, haven't we just given you $515 million, for the common good of the Macedonian people?
In time, exactly how the money was divided up will be completely forgotten. Not to worry none of the major media have picked up on this yet, anyway. It is unlikely that they will.
The advent of Spring in Macedonia means a time for renewal the renewal of war season, that is. If the NLA, emboldened by its unimpeded gains, decides to fight again, Macedonia will be forced to respond. Not far behind, of course, will be the Western Mother Goose, clucking for caution and a "proportionate response." Inevitably, when the Albanians come up with new and improved demands, the Macedonians will have little to counter with. After all, the West will say, did we not just drop $515 million into your laps? Since no one will remember where the money went, it will be a simple matter for the West to denounce Macedonia, finally and triumphantly, as a nation of ingrates. In the end, the Macedonians will end up on their knees, begging the West to at least allow them the privilege of choosing which state they would like to live in Bulgaria, Greece, or the Greater Albania.
Time passes; seasons come and go. The ebb and flow of time engenders a constant stream of forgetting. In this stream the events of today rush past us, like luminous stones that briefly shimmer, before disappearing into the oblivion of the open sea. They sink to depths where no light can penetrate, until by chance, hundreds of years later, some intrepid adventurer discovers them, buried deep in the mud and wonders how their owners could have parted with objects of such inestimable value.
Previous articles by Christopher Deliso on Antiwar.com
Christopher Deliso is a journalist and travel writer with special interest in current events in the areas of the former Byzantine Empire the Balkans, Greece, Turkey, and the Caucasus. Mr. Deliso holds a master's degree with honors in Byzantine Studies (from Oxford University), and has traveled widely in the region. His current long-term research projects include the Macedonia issue, the Cyprus problem, and the ethnography of Byzantine Georgia.
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