Suad Skenderi of Romalitico says that Macedonia “bloomed with the existence of multiculturalism, solidarity, tolerance, dignity and respect”. Determining the country’s future in the face of wiretapping scandals and attacks by small groups of alleged extremists, he argues, isn’t just the responsibility of Macedonians or Albanians, but of Roma, Turks and anyone who holds Macedonian citizenship.
After 2001, Macedonia, that little point on your maps in the southeastern corner of Europe, should have become a bedrock of multiculturalism. After the insurgency in the northwestern and western parts of the country, Macedonia was a prime example of what consociationalism should look like. There was an agreement to claim equitable representation, grand coalition, segmental autonomy and other possibilities for political participation in the country. The “association of the equals”, it was believed, would give birth to stable state institutions and a new awareness among people that the country was not an exclusive club of the majority. Many of experts in the field of security and consociationalism put forward bold statements asserting that Macedonia would be a successful and respected country due to the sacrifices made for the better life of all the ethnicities. However, it was too good to be true.
After 2001, it was clear that the unwritten rule of grand coalition would have strong support and that the government would be representative. Macedonians would shake hands with Albanians, Turks, Roma and other stakeholders for representation. On the side of the story, Macedonians were happy to defend their patria. In addition to the Balkan stereotype of superiority, Macedonians promoted a narrative that said they were always ready to defend their motherland and claimed themselves as the winners in 2001. Meanwhile, Albanians described a similar story, implying that they won the war for the rights and dignity of Albanians in Macedonia. Some Albanians thought that this was a step towards the fulfillment of the great ethnic Albania plan, predicated on the idea that they had been living for many years in sorrow and that it’s about time to show some strength and unity. In the end, there were two discourses and a political agreement. The Ohrid Framework Agreement (OFA) paved the way for the establishment of the Democratic Union for Integration (DUI). This party, led by charismatic National Liberation Army (NLA) leader Ali Ahmeti, became a major political force in Macedonia.
After the establishment of DUI, it was assumed that the NLA would never appear in Macedonia again and that there would be peace and stability in the country. Recent developments within the party indicate that many of the former NLA fighters who held positions in state institutions decided to terminate their roles in DUI due to internal misunderstandings about the party’s strategic aims. This led to the departure of Deputy Defense Minister Arben Labanishta, General Secretary Hasbi Lika and the affiliate office leader in Aracinovo (Skopje), Shefik Duraku from DUI. At the same time, it was reported that the NLA was responsible for the recent attacks on a governmental building and a separate incident in the northern part of the country (Gosince). This came as a surprise to Macedonians and Albanians, as well as to Turks, Roma and others. It was unclear how the NLA could attack again if their leader was in the governing coalition, and many have asked who is to blame. Under political pressure, Ahmeti has said in recent speeches that these attacks are not in the interest of Albanians in the country and that his party was not responsible. In addition, he said that the group that is responsible seeks to destabilize Macedonia, and has strategically seized on the ongoing wiretaps scandal provided by the main opposition party as an opportune moment to launch their attacks.
One still wonders what is happening in Macedonia today, since the opposition has revealed the biggest scandal in Macedonian history with evidence of widespread wiretapping, the NLA is on the move again and Ahmeti does not know anything about it, and protests for most citizens have become part of a daily routine due to the miserable conditions they find themselves living in, regardless of their ethnicity.
Following what experts and analysts have already said about the situation in Macedonia, it seems that there are many possible scenarios for the future, all with various dramatic results. I cannot agree more with what some of them have stated about what is needed for the stabilization of the country. In line with what Ahmeti said at the meeting with COWEB by the Council of Europe and other analysts, it is important to note that the current situation in Macedonia is not only the responsibility of ethnic Macedonians, nor ethnic Albanians. This is the responsibility of anyone who holds Macedonian citizenship, regardless of what the wiretaps say or where the next attack might occur. This is the will of the people against the destabilization in the country. It is up to the first Roma, Turk, Macedonian or Albanian that you meet in Macedonia — every student, every doctor, every unemployed person, every right-wing populist and every leftist in the country. It is up to the people to save the values of the constitution and the Ohrid Framework Agreement, regardless of their ethnicity.
It should be widely understood that Macedonia bloomed with the existence of multiculturalism, solidarity, tolerance, dignity and respect. The common dream of all the ethnicities is a peaceful Macedonia as an “association of the equals”. This idea should be strongly endorsed by all politicians, who should aim to make people aware that Macedonia is not in the hands of the majority but it is a country in the hands of the people.
Cover photo credit: Zé Valdi/flickr/creative commons