How to Take
Down a Government, Part
Edward Joseph’s grand report on Macedonian governmental corruption was released, with much fanfare, at a press conference in Skopje on 14 August. The room was packed with eager journalists, and Joseph had even flown in Jonathan Greenwald (of the ICG’s Brussels office) for backup. As usual, the conference was difficult to sit through, as every longwinded speech had to be recited both in English and Macedonian. And so, cameramen fidgeted, apologists held their breath, and the pro-government journalists chafed at the bit, waiting to attack.
Indeed, the anticipated hostility of the journalists had made Joseph a bit nervous beforehand, and it showed in his twitching gestures and truncated speech. Yet, as is so often the case, the questions asked were either completely asinine or hopelessly tangential. Joseph had perhaps expected some heat, but it turned out to be a cakewalk. By the time the stressful press conference wound down, his affable front had been restored.
Joseph had also strategized correctly by not releasing the report prior to the conference. The pesky Macedonians were thus kept quiet, as they could not read the monstrous English text fast enough to construct a meaningful question about its contents- which, as we will see, invite serious concerns as to both the method and motive of Edward Joseph and the ICG.
Breakdown of the Report: A Clear Interventionist Bias
At 52 typewritten pages long, the report does appear rather forbidding. Indeed, it is fairly detailed, well researched and comprehensive. Yet separating the meat from the gristle, one finds the following: 7 pages of introduction and recommendations; 2 pages on general attitudes towards corruption; 16 pages on specific cases of corruption; 3 pages discussing different theories explaining why last year’s war occurred; 1.5 pages explaining that organized crime is not merely the Albanians’ fault; 1.5 pages attacking the government’s weak anti-corruption efforts; 7 pages of opinion on the international community’s role in fighting corruption; 6 pages of recommendations/orders to the Macedonian government; 1 page map; 7 pages about previous ICG reports and board members.
In other words, only 16 out of 52 pages (exactly one-third) mentions specific cases of corruption. The rest is devoted to rhetoric defending the principal of intervention, promoting the ICG, and legitimizing the findings by citing dubious opinion polls, friendly media mentions, and NLA warlords.
Even in those 16 juicy pages, the report merely fills in the details of 8 previously known affairs. It does not take a rocket scientist, however, to see that the scandals selected indicate a clear political bias: 7 out of 8 seek to incriminate members of the ruling VMRO-DPMNE party. The other concerns their Albanian coalition partner, DPA.
This bias, and the report’s suspicious timing (it was launched 10 hours before the official kick-off of Campaign 2002), are enough to discredit Joseph’s motives. He has clearly decided to interfere with the Macedonian elections, by disparaging the VMRO/DPA administration, and therefore implicitly supporting the Socialist SDSM and Ali Ahmeti’s new party. Yet as we will find out, his slippery method also offers grounds for suspicion.
Of course, this had been anticipated by the ICG braintrust. Not only in the report’s introduction, but also during the press conference itself, the statement was made that the ICG did not intend to influence the elections and did not seek to be partial to any particular side. In their defense, it must be said that the report raises many compelling issues and does a needed service, in exposing an endemic problem in Macedonian society. Unfortunately, the poor timing and apparent motive of the report mean that it will never be used as an objective, scholarly document in its own right. Unhappily for the ICG, the 2002 corruption report will be remembered merely for its historical value- that is, as a propaganda piece designed to influence the September 15th elections.
Sins of Omission: Where are the Rest of the Scandals?
To judge from the report, it would seem that Macedonia’s ills began in 1998. The almost complete omission of pre-VMRO scandals casts serious doubts on Joseph’s process of selection. Although 90 percent of Macedonia’s privatization deals were carried out under the previous SDSM governments, the report barely mentions any of these. Instead, SDSM-era scandals are either swept under the rug, relegated to a footnote, or omitted completely. SDSM boss Branko Crvenkovski is taken to task (on p. 8) for not following through on anti-corruption measures, but that is it. The Socialists get away with merely a slap on the wrist- that is, the 43rd footnote on page 8:
"prominent examples given of alleged corruption are the failed "pyramid" bank, TAT, administrative corruption in Customs, procurement fraud, export fraud, alleged abuses in the car import firm Asiba, and non-transparent privatization."
Although it is not well known, the fact is that Joseph was not planning to mention even this much, except that various informed individuals convinced him that his first draft was utterly one-sided. This lip service to SDSM-era corruption, and the equally trite single mention of how Albanian organized crime funded the NLA, make up Joseph’s lackluster response to such well-intentioned, face-saving criticisms.
Does the ICG Support Albanian Expansionism?
One of the most ominous passages in the report is located on p. 2, fn. 6. It attempts to make some distinctions about Macedonia’s minority mess:
"As ethnic Macedonians never cease pointing out, there are other ethnic groups in Macedonia besides the "big two." However, Turks, Serbs and others make up barely a tenth of the total population, according to the 1994 census. As in other parts of the Balkans, these small minorities have no territorial claims and therefore, do not represent a prime source of conflict."
As there are so many unsubstantiated logical jumps in this paragraph, it is necessary to take apart each sentence.
First of all, note the patronizing attitude of withering contempt at work here: "as ethnic Macedonians never cease pointing out…" The adjective "ethnic" has the implicit effect of demoting the Macedonians to (once again) second-class citizens in their own country. They further are made to seem like childish complainers, like bickering brats ever in need of supervision- a condition that the paternal interventionists of the West have long sought to maintain.
A very strange tactic for such interventionists, however, would be to disempower minorities on the basis of their very minority status- which is precisely what Joseph does in the case of the "Turks, Serbs and others" (perhaps he does not even know who the "others" are) who are said to make up "only one tenth of the population." The conventional wisdom, which has served the Albanians so well, claims that minorities are inherently vulnerable to oppression, and therefore need protection. The smaller the minority, the more forced protection it would need. This is the logic conclusion of the rhetoric that has been used so well to advance the Albanian agenda in Kosovo and Macedonia.
However, it seems that Edward Joseph has ditched the conventional wisdom. While selective democracy may apply to Albanians, the other minorities should be, it seems, left to their own devices. The fact that he cites the 1994 census- one constantly accused of misrepresentation by the Albanians and their Western backers- complements the whole paragraph’s rather self-contradictory nature. But the most ominous part of all this is the statement that the small minorities "have no territorial claims." The implication is that the Albanians, as a "big" minority, do.
Coming from a man who strongly opposes partition, and who champions those Albanians who agree, this is a very disturbing statement indeed. As far as I know, no one from the international community has ever publicly stated that the Albanians have territorial claims to Macedonia. Whatever they might truly believe, everyone has stated that the Albanians’ complaints involve rights- not annexation. A slip of the tongue? I don’t think so.
The final violation of logic is the implication that conflicts necessarily derive from groups having "territorial claims." Because they have no such claims, argues Joseph, Macedonia’s small minorities do not cause violence. Yet not only does this glamorize and apologize for the NLA’s terrorism, it also overlooks an uncomfortable but indisputable fact: in the year 2002, Albanian culture remains inherently violent. This is abundantly clear from chronically unstable Kosovo, where, according to a UNMIK source in Pristina, 26 murders occurred over a recent two-month period. In large parts of Albania itself, general lawlessness and clan-based vendetta killings are the norm. Ever-increasing violence- including robberies, vandalism, shootings and militant attacks- plagues Macedonia. It is carried out almost entirely by Albanians, in those areas where the Macedonian police are allowed no substantial presence.
One would imagine, perhaps, that the very downtrodden Roma would fight a war of liberation- but they do not and never will. And how about those bellicose Serbs? They are quite docile too. And those remnants of the Ottoman oppressors? The Turks are some of Macedonia’s most loyal citizens. As for the Vlachs, they are utterly peaceful pastoralists. No one in the West wants to hear it, but these minorities do not cause problems for one simple reason: their cultures are not based around violence and utter disdain for the rule of law.
Romancing Ahmeti: Positive Coverage and a Historical Whitewash
Edward Joseph’s close relationship with Ahmeti’s inner circle is well known. He and his former NLA henchmen are referred to frequently, in generally sympathetic terms. As sources, they are made equally legitimate as any other quoted (be it the media, elected officials, bureaucrats or independent thinkers). This sets a dangerous precedent: besides being allowed to run for office, unpardoned terrorists are being arbitrarily empowered by Western power structures.
For example, Ali Ahmeti is mentioned (p. 22) as having "sharply criticised" political corruption, at an all-Albanian conference hosted by the ICG. He is again referred to (on p. 26) as being against partition. Is it a coincidence that Ahmeti has become the mouthpiece for two causes dear to Joseph’s own heart?
In fact, the ICG report does seek to enable Ahmeti’s political career: "Ahmeti has made opposition to the division of Macedonia a prominent plank in the platform of his political party, the Democratic Union for Integration." (p. 26, fn. 177). It also seeks to enable his former NLA thugs. "Commander Hoxha," who first became famous for calling the BBC and CNN on his mobile phone during the war, is mentioned several times. In one case (p. 27), he mentions the ease with which mafia-bought weapons can be procured. This is spun as "Hoxha’s observation," and neatly followed by a reference to "the small arms watchdog group, Saferworld." By placing his testimonial between that of a university professor and a gun control group, Joseph presents "Commander Hoxha" as some kind of genteel, benign observer. This disregards the fact that Hoxha was a direct participant and instigator in a militant offensive that had no justification and (officially) no Western support. What’s next- a speaking tour for "Professor Hoxha"? A chair in some venerable university’s faculty?
The most egregious whitewashing of history, however, occurs (on p. 25, fn. 174) in reference to Robert Frowick’s duplicitous role as a "negotiator" in the Prizren talks last May. One of the war’s most controversial acts of intervention, the American diplomat met in secret with Albanian leaders to begin the process of politicizing (and thus legitimizing) the NLA. Joseph (p. 25, fn. 174) remains an unabashed apologist for a deed which very few still support publicly, one that was instantly disavowed by the West:
"The Prizren accord was brokered by American diplomat Robert Frowick, who was acting in his capacity as OSCE special representative; although Frowick was rapidly disowned by other international actors, the Prizren Declaration was essential to the peace process."
The use of official terminology, such as "brokered," "acting in his capacity," and "peace process" cannot however hide the unpalatable truth: a cowboy negotiator went solo, actively conspiring to aid and abet a declared terrorist campaign, in direct contravention of the stated policies of his minders. As in Bosnia, Edward Joseph must have some vested interest in making sure that his historical whitewash goes down as the official story.
A "Non-Governmental" Organization’s Interesting Sources
The ICG claims to be an independent "watchdog" and analyst. That this is patently false is evident, even from its list of powerful funders- many of whom directly or indirectly abetted Edward Joseph’s "research." While there is no conspiracy, it is manifestly apparent that a circular web of affiliated NGO’s, governmental agencies, and pro-interventionist media exists, and that the ICG corruption report draws heavily on this support network.
As for the first, there are numerous citations of friendly NGO’s, including UNHCR, NDI, and most often, close partner Transparency Macedonia (a local chapter of Transparency International). George Soros’ Open Society Institute and Search for Common Ground are also mentioned. For good measure, the ICG even cites two of its own reports- four times.
Opinion Polls, "Official" Sources, and Fulfilling the ICG’s Agenda
One of the most common and most effective methods of propaganda is the manipulation of statistical data in opinion polls and surveys. The ICG report repeatedly cites such polls as "evidence" to back up its claims. According to the report, a critical mass has been reached in the fight against corruption: now is the time for action. Interestingly enough, the polls cited by this "non-governmental" organization are by and large agencies or affiliates of the US government.
For example, a US State Department poll (p. 1, fn. 2) claims that while 66 percent of defiant Macedonians oppose the Ochrid Agreement, 90 percent of Albanians support it. Needless to say, implementation of this treaty- and rewarding the Albanians- is a central element in official (US State Department) policy, as well as unofficial (ICG) policy.
A poll commissioned by the World Bank and EBRD (p. 6, fn. 28), and published by the Council of Europe, unsurprisingly also found that "Macedonia is subject to especially high levels of corruption." Another poll (p. 5, fn. 20) is attributed to SEEDS (South East Europe Democracy Support), and was commissioned by IDEA (International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance). Yet another survey on corruption (p. 6, fn. 33) was funded by USAID. An IRI-sponsored poll (p. 6, fn. 35) is also cited.
Other citations of "official" US sources include a US government press release (p. 13, fn. 79), the US Chamber of Commerce (p. 13, fn. 81), and the US National Security Council (p. 35, fn. 243). US Ambassador Lawrence Butler is cited (p. 32, fn. 223) as saying "we are working with Transparency Macedonia, the Council of Europe and the OECD to strengthen Macedonia’s fight against corruption." The ICG report lifts this specific citation from an article in an anti-government newspaper, Utrinski Vesnik. The article in question cites data from a USAID-funded study.
Another classic tool for manipulating public opinion, the focus group, is also used (on p. 5) to prove that corruption is the burning issue of the day. Incidentally, the study was commissioned by the NDI. As we can see, the ICG method of citation works within a very closed circle indeed.
As any student of propaganda knows, such polls, surveys and focus group results can be extremely misleading. They can be interpreted widely, and usually the salient details regarding the study’s scientific background are not provided. Yet opinion polls have an almost narcotic effect, as advertisers of the "nine out of ten leading doctors prefer" school already know. And for these reasons, surveys and polls are extremely powerful tools for manufacturing popular consent.
The troubling thought here is not so much that Edward Joseph may have interpreted his data subjectively, to bear out the conclusions he had previously desired. That is to be expected. No, the truly jarring aspect of all this is the following: Joseph expects that by referring to the names of their illustrious sponsors, the polls and surveys themselves will be inherently legitimate for the reader. In this way are decidedly interested parties (such as USAID, the State Department, and the World Bank) represented as objective, disinterested bodies. As we have seen throughout this series, nothing could be further from the truth.
Selective Use of Language and the Media
Another propagandistic strategy is to manipulate sympathies through use of descriptors and phrasing. Almost exactly a year ago, I presented several examples of this in reference to the Western media’s exploits in Macedonia. A year on, and many of their appellations have stuck. For example, the Lions police squads are still dubbed "notorious" (p. 27), and their leader, Interior Minister Boskovski, "questionable" (p. 29). Opinion is also swayed through describing media bodies or institutions as "respected"- though we are never told precisely by whom.
Description has another extreme, however. Joseph’s citations of sources are frequently as simplistic as "Macedonian insider" or "government advisor." For those in the know, it is frequently possible to guess to whom he might be referring. Invariably, it is a politically-connected friend in the SDSM party or president’s cabinet. And even in cases where Joseph does mention a name- for example, with politician Borce Davitovski (p. 9, fn. 46), he plays dumb; Davitovski "is believed to be close to the opposition party." As he attends the same cocktail parties with these people, Edward Joseph must know better than that. In general, use of the passive voice serves to distance the author from taking responsibility for a claim. And thus the report’s myriad uses of "are alleged," "are claimed," and "are said." The adverb "reportedly" is also used often to back up unproven claims.
Another key element of propaganda is to legitimatize sources. However, Western interventionists often do this in a selective and self-contradictory way. When an article from a newspaper or magazine supports the party line, it is cited as a "respected" source. However, in cases when an article goes contrary to the Western line, the very same source is disparaged. Thus Dnevnik newspaper can be "respected" or even "independent" when exposing corruption, and just "state propaganda" when talking about mujahedin or Albanian militant actions.
A similar tactic is that of safety in numbers. Joseph writes: "respected media voices as well assail the DPA/VMRO-DPMNE (Albanian-Macedonian) "corrupt coalition" as inimical to common interests" The "voices" cited are really only one, that of Lobi magazine’s Iso Rusi (p. 23). The same magazine is also called "independent" (p. 4, fn. 16). However, as we saw yesterday, Lobi/Press Online are partially funded by the US government’s NED and IREX, and closely connected with the ICG/IWPR media mafia.
Joseph also plays this game with his closest media ally (IWPR’s Saso Ordanovski) and his magazine, Forum. On p. 28, Joseph makes a weak attempt to empower himself and the ICG. He claims:
"VMRO-DPMNE (has) been buffeted by a spate of corruption allegations in the media since the international donor’s conference. The charges and counter-charges show that corruption has, for now at least, replaced "terrorism" as a dominant issue of Macedonian politics."
Of course, if we read fn. 194, we see that "the media" is nothing more than Joseph and his cronies- some pieces from Forum, an article by ICG president Gareth Evans, and the ICG’s March corruption report itself. In other words, one Macedonian periodical and two representatives of the same NGO- far from the critical mass that Joseph would like to claim. Even more damning (p. 31, fn. 212) is the open admission that his local media arm (Forum) has a "team" cooperating with Transparency Macedonia on the corruption issue. In other words, "independent" media working actively with the ICG and its anti-corruption partner, to push a specific agenda with political overtones.
Spreading Outrageous Lies: the Telekom Affair
While we do not have space to dissect each of Joseph’s selected scandals, a close examination of one specific case- the Makedonia Telekom affair- will cast doubts on the veracity of Joseph’s research in general.
The privatization of Macedonia’s national telecom is one of the major scandals cited in the ICG report (p. 14). In another example of subtle manipulation, the government is not accused outright of corruption, but instead the link between government, commerce and corruption is implied:
"Corruption is by no means limited, however, to the actions of government officials. It pervades much of the climate of doing business in the country. The following case may illustrate how confident Macedonian business people are about engaging in questionable practices even when these are detectable by outside parties."
Joseph goes on to claim that the company was sold (to Germany’s Deutsche Telekom, through underling MATAV of Hungary) in a brazenly deceitful way. Telekom was put up to bid in the Fall of 2000, and MATAV won the bid in December, over Greece’s OTE. The company was sold for $362.5 million- a rare case of the Macedonian government winning more than the state-owned asset was worth. Joseph tries to show that the dispute which MATAV raised afterwards was a direct result of shady dealings on the part of the Macedonians. His recap of the facts is as follows:
"According to international sources and Macedonians familiar with the transaction, the Makedonia Telekom Board declared itself two substantial dividends. The first dividend was declared on 30 November 2000, when the company was actively involved in privatization. The second dividend was paid following the acceptance of the buyer’s offer. The first dividend totaled between US $25 million and US $30 million and the second, which is in dispute, between approximately US $8 million and US $20 million.
Former Telekom officials insist that all dividends were fully disclosed to the buyers who ultimately paid $362.5 million for the company. The buyers, however, say they were unaware of the second dividend and have challenged the amount of "sponsorships" (cash grants) given out by the Telekom management during and after the due diligence period."
These comments were surprising- to say the least- to Dan Doncev, the former head of Makedonia Telekom. Doncev served as government-appointed CEO during the entire privatization process, and he categorically refutes Joseph’s claims. Whereas Joseph implies that declaring a dividend was somehow suspicious, Doncev states, "the dividend was agreed- in fact, it was in the share-purchase agreement of 22 December, 2000. We had a right to declare a dividend, and this was known to both bidders (MATAV and Greece’s OTE)." Doncev (who showed me a signed copy of this share-purchase agreement) states that Joseph also made a far more serious error here:
"Joseph claims that there were two dividends. This is false- there was only one, and that one was not $25-30 million, as he claims, but rather 490 million denars- about $8 million- and it was declared on 30 November, 2000.
On 25 December 2000, MATAV was declared the winner. Then, on 11 January 2001, it transferred the proceedings and effectively took control of Makedonia Telekom. Joseph implies that there was somehow a second dividend declared between these two dates. That is not true- there was no second dividend. Perhaps this is why the buyers were "unaware" of it, as he says- because it simply didn’t exist."
A Problem of Method: Joseph’s Willful Disdain for Finding the Facts
One is hard-pressed to imagine how Joseph could have made such a gaping error. The fact of the matter is that here, as in many other cases, he was simply not interested in checking the other side of the story. Although in this case he was informed by "a Macedonian insider and international sources," as he puts it, he failed to take testimony from the very man who had overseen the Telekom sale. Says Doncev:
"I found out about this ICG report only a few weeks before it came out. When I learned that Joseph was planning to write about the Telekom sale, I met with him as soon as I could. I then presented him with all of the facts and financial statements connected with the sale. He apologized, and called me shortly thereafter. Joseph said, "I can assure you that I have sent all of the information you gave me to (ICG headquarters in) Brussels." I haven’t heard anything since, and there has been no subsequent disclaimer or official repudiation of these erroneous statements."
In addition to this rather lukewarm reaction from Joseph, Doncev was dismayed to find that not merely apathy lay behind his failure to get in touch:
"it was only on my initiative that we met- he hadn’t bothered to contact me at any time during the previous four months. When I met with him on 11 July, I expressed my concern that his very specific, detailed investigation would be compromised, if he did not get both sides of the story. I asked Joseph if he had spoken with two other VMRO officials he accuses, Dragan Daravelski and Vojo Mihajlovski. "Why should I talk to them?" he retorted. "I already know the bullshit they’re going to feed me!"
This response notwithstanding, it seems that Doncev’s question had an effect: according to the ICG report (p. 8, fn. 42), Joseph did make the obligatory interview with Daravelski 11 days later. Unsurprisingly, the customs director denied any corrupt dealings. The report also claims (p. 10, fn. 52) that "the ICG sought appointments with (health fund manager) Mr. Mihajlovski, by letter and by telephone calls, on 15 July 2002 and 29 July 2002 without receiving a response." In other words, after it was already too late to obtain anything other than an outright confession or blanket denial.
There is more compelling evidence that Joseph’s willful disinterest to check his facts was glossed over by artificial, eleventh-hour citations. An individual close to the ICG told me that the report was essentially finished by mid-March. Indeed, this is betrayed by the report itself: take the reference to Ali Ahmeti (on p. 22). The report reads, "…speaking in front of the "Council of Albanian Political Parties" that he (Ahmeti) heads…" The use of the present tense ("heads") indicates that this was written in March- since the Albanian "coordinative council" was a short-lived affair that disintegrated completely into widespread inter-Albanian violence, leaving Ahmeti the quite vulnerable head of nothing. Indeed, the citation (fn. 157) leads the reader to a meeting of 6 March 2002.
Further, the report’s final "conclusions" section ends with a reference (p. 41, fn. 258) to a website formerly owned by Sam Vaknin (www.balkanlands.com)- a website which had disappeared completely from the internet by June 2002.
This evidence suggests that sources and quotes added to the report since June are generally window-dressing. Especially in the cases of the accused, the feeble attempt to make contact is merely a veneer covering Joseph’s thinly-disguised subjectivity. Indeed, one wonders if Dan Doncev’s insistence was in fact the only reason why Joseph became even slightly proactive after 11 July.
Another Explanation for the ICG’s Inclusion of Telekom
There is another reason to question the ICG’s interest in the Telekom deal.
First of all, Edward Joseph is correct in one criticism: the dividend did violate certain EBRD loan covenants, which aim to ensure that a floating amount of cash and assets remains perpetually in the company as a loan safeguard. Yet as Doncev states:
"this is not a big deal to the EBRD- after all, they could have called on their loan a long time ago, but they haven’t. And regarding the dispute with MATAV, that is settled- we reached an amicable compromise in June 2002.
The negotiations did not even require legal arbitration. But stated and transparent mechanisms do exist for arbitration, should it become necessary- in the event of any commercial dispute, the strategic investor has the right to go for arbitration to a court in Zurich. …this was simply a commercial dispute. It has no place in a report on corruption.
In the end, MATAV won some concessions from the Macedonian government, which shows that the government is not so inflexible as it is made out to be."
Interestingly enough, there was one concession that Macedonia could not give. One of MATAV’s first requests was to extend the period of Telekom’s much-hated monopoly past 1 January 2005. Yet this is simply not possible under Macedonian legislation, nor under the country’s obligations for EU accession, which stipulate full liberalization of the telecom sector by that date.
The real story, it seems, has much larger ramifications and a much greater context. Even before December 2000, when Telekom was sold, the European (and world) telecommunications industry was headed for a major downturn. The boom years of the 90’s had given the big companies false optimism. Europe’s biggest telecommunications companies went on major spending sprees. They bought up smaller companies- sometimes for clearly inflated prices- and paid enormous licensing fees to various governments. Now that the bubble has burst, the effects of competition have started to eat into the profit of the debt-ridden former incumbents. There has been a precipitous decline in the share values of major corporations. The recession has affected everyone, including British Telecom, France Telecom, and Deutsche Telekom. Share prices of the last (the owner of Makedonia Telekom) have fallen from around $80 a share before 2001, to around $10 a share now.
Makedonia Telekom’s sale immediately preceded the crash of the telecom market, and the NLA-instigated war. Had MATAV waited another two month, it may have paid far less than the $362.5 million it did. To compensate for this and other mistakes, parent company Deutsche Telecom is now trying to squeeze money out of its minions in any way possible. It is highly likely that MATAV’s dispute (a burning topic for Edward Joseph) started as nothing more than a means of coercion from the top down, to somehow appease ongoing corporate desperation.
It is possible that Edward Joseph was unaware of this when filing his report. However, it is unlikely. The MATAV consortium that purchased Telekom included the US government’s Southeast Europe Stability Fund, managed by George Soros. Their 4 percent acquisition in Telekom, while modest, proves that the US and Soros are indirect shareholders in the company. Yet George Soros is also a card-carrying board member and funder of the ICG. His hand-picked representative also sits on Telekom’s board. Is there any relation between these facts and the inclusion of the Telekom case in colleague Joseph’s corruption report? Even if there wasn’t, the intervention does open the door for other potential coercion from MATAV.
Behind the Scenes, Fury
Two weeks before its official release, Edward Joseph’s corruption report had reached the desks of ICG’s lawyers. Fearing libel lawsuits and accusations of slander, they removed several salacious parts which were allegedly far more damaging to highly-placed officials. The inside word is that Joseph was furious at the heavy censorship. The report was his baby, and he had put in months of hard work on it. Yet what could have been a sensational exposé turned out to be an underwhelming collection of scandals long known by every voter in the land.
According to inside sources, the ICG did as little as possible to publicize the report beforehand. The reason? Brussels had been rather unhappy when Joseph first hit upon the theme of corruption nine months ago. Apparently, ICG brass did not find the topic half as interesting as did the would-be watchdog. And so, with only the halfhearted support of ICG headquarters, the corruption report became Joseph’s personal crusade. He enlisted his chums in IWPR and Forum along the way. Although they did prove helpful in publicizing the project, the media involved- though powerful and well-funded- proved to be far less than could have been expected, had Brussels only been more enthusiastic about the chosen theme.
Faced with a Macedonian government hostile to his meddling, a local press out to pillory him, and a lukewarm reaction from Brussels, Joseph became more and more isolated, more and more insecure. At the press conference, when asked by a young Albanian journalist if he had good relations with the government, a clearly flustered Joseph retorted, "look, I am able to function and do my job, okay?"
Further, while the ICG leader was never publicly disparaged by any international body, the Western leadership in Skopje had also grown tired of Joseph and his combative, arrogant attitude long before the 14th of August. After the report’s release, international reaction was noticeably mute. Joseph’s main demand was that the European Union install a "corruption watchdog," one with the power to oversee the Macedonian government and even veto international funding. Yet no one took this seriously. In fact, a high official of the EU in Skopje told me as much:
"the simple fact is, we are not the governors of the country. The EU cannot give ultimatums to the Macedonian government… there is absolutely no legal basis for the EU to impose an anti-corruption advisor. Ed has gone too far on this one."
This reaction quite accurately captures current Western sentiment in Skopje. Regardless of the accolades his report may get outside of the country, it seems that an increasingly marginalized Edward Joseph has few remaining supporters within Macedonia itself. In Part V tomorrow, we will analyze the ramifications of this fallout, the unfolding strategies of the parties, and what effect recent turbulence may have on the trajectory of the elections.
Previous articles by Christopher Deliso on Antiwar.com
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