From Athens to Belgrade, Pristina and Sofia to Tirana, all of Macedonia’s neighbours have had something to say about the troubles in the former Yugoslav republic.
The messages and their nuances vary, predictably, and equally predictably, in some cases – Bulgaria, notably – much common ground can be found with the joint statement released on May 11 by the US and EU ambassadors in Skopje. On the other hand, Serbia, Russia’s closest ally in the region, has been unwilling to say in public what Moscow said about affairs in Macedonia.
In Greece, foreign ministry spokesperson Konstantinos Koutras was asked on May 11 by reporters to respond to statements by Macedonian (FYROM to Athens) president Gjorge Ivanov, which placed responsibility on Greece for the stagnation of his country’s Euroatlantic perspective:
“Unfortunately, the flare-up of tensions in FYROM confirms what we have said repeatedly: that there are serious problems in our neighbouring country; problems that have to do with the functioning of rule of law, respect for human rights, the implementation of the Ohrid interethnic agreement, respect for the principle of good neighbourly relations, and the country’s democratic deficit.
“So the political leadership in Skopje need to focus on remedying these issues, exhibiting a spirit of self-criticism and consensus, rather than looking for scapegoats and blaming others for the impasse in their Euroatlantic perspective – a Euroatlantic perspective that Greece sincerely and firmly supports,” Koutras said.
“We express our grief and deep condolences to the families of the victims of the latest crisis, which we hope will prove to be an isolated phenomenon. What needs to prevail now is restraint, reason and dialogue,” he said.
In Serbia, a government statement on May 10 said that the bureau for co-ordination of the work of the security services, chaired by prime minister Aleksandar Vucic, had concluded at a meeting that day that “the current security situation in Serbia is satisfactory and that there are no indications that the conflicts from the territory of Macedonia will spill over to Serbia”.
On May 12, Serbian news website reported that Vucic had told the Belgrade-based daily Danas Serbia does not interfere in internal affairs of other countries.
“The article then continues that ‘unlike the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs*, which, beside expressing their concern over the armed incidents, also stressed their concern over anti-government protests in that country’ – the Serbian government’s position is not to interfere ‘in the political conflict in Macedonia’.”
Asked how the Serbian government viewed “the internal political conflict in Macedonia, that is, whether it, like Russia, supported the government there,” Vucic was quoted as saying, “We do not interfere in internal affairs of other countries.”
The foreign ministry of Albania said on May 9, “We express our deepest regret for the loss of human lives and in this context, we urge the authorities in Macedonia for transparency, co-operation and thorough investigation in determining the facts.
“Under the direct interest of Prime Minister Rama, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, since the very start of this crisis, has been in close communication and consultation with the authorities and political and social actors in Macedonia, as well as with its international partners.
“Our message is clear: we condemn any act of violence by considering it unacceptable for a democratic society,” Albania’s foreign ministry said.
“At the same time, it is unacceptable that any person or group of armed people be identified ethnically, as it is unacceptable that the loss of civilians lives and lives of police officers is set against the background of ethnic prejudice.
“We understand the expression of revolt against the loss of human lives in conditions of uncertainty, but, we call for calm and restraint.
“Any further escalation of the situation does not serve the democratic stability and prosperity of Macedonia.
“The language of hatred and extremist actions must be replaced by the commitment towards fundamental rights, democracy, rule of law and Euro-Atlantic perspective. Inter-ethnic harmony, sanctioned in the Ohrid Agreement, with the blessing of the international community, is crucial to democratic stability and serves as a compass for Macedonia’s Euro-Atlantic future,” Albania’s foreign ministry said.
Albania’s foreign minister said, “I wish to assure the public opinion that we will continue to be in constant contact with political and social actors in Macedonia, as well as with our allies”.
Kosovo’s foreign ministry condemned “the violation of order and security by any individual or group with destabilising aims in Macedonia. MFA also urges all parties to refrain from violence and find a solution through political dialogue within the country’s institutions and the Ohrid Agreement, which guarantees the integrity of Macedonia and the fulfillment of the rights of communities.”
On May 11, Bulgaria’s Foreign Ministry quoted Foreign Minister Daniel Mitov as saying in a telephone conversation with his Macedonian counterpart that the political stability of the Republic of Macedonia and the preservation of its territorial integrity are particularly important for Bulgaria,
For his part, Nikola Poposki informed the Bulgarian Foreign Minister about the current situation in the Republic of Macedonia.
The Bulgarian Foreign Ministry said that Mitov pointed out that the lack of dialogue with the opposition creates a political vacuum that leads to instability and serves elements and groups that aim to destabilise the Republic of Macedonia.
The current internal political crisis requires responsible actions by the government in order to restore the public confidence in the work of the institutions, he added.
The Bulgarian Foreign Minister underscored the urgent need to restore the rule of law, which is the sole responsibility of the country’s government and it should guarantee a transparent investigation of the events in accordance with the European standards.
Mitov emphasised the crucial importance of safeguarding the civil and ethnic peace in the Republic of Macedonia. He assured his Macedonian counterpart that Bulgaria is ready to contribute to this end both bilaterally and within the efforts of the European Union, the ministry said.
* Russia’s foreign ministry issued a forthright statement on May 9 on Moscow’s take on Macedonia.
“The recent outburst of anti-government protests in Macedonia is cause for grave concern. It is only due to the country’s efficient law enforcement agencies and competent authorities that an escalation in violence has been avoided,” Russia’s foreign ministry said.
“Nevertheless, a number of opposition movements and largely West-inspired NGOs have chosen to follow the logic of the streets and the notorious ‘colour revolution’ scenario, which is fraught with grave consequences. They can be further aggravated by ethnic tensions in the multi-ethnic Macedonia and neighbouring areas of the Balkans, which experienced major conflicts and upheavals in the late 1990s and early 2000s,” the ministry in Moscow said.
“We are concerned by the incoming information on the May 9 armed clash near Kumanovo. We hope that the situation will soon normalise and the incident will be thoroughly investigated.
“We urge all political forces in Macedonia to start a constructive dialogue, and the international community, particularly the OSCE mission, to promote that dialogue as strongly as possible. We are confident that it should be carried out strictly within the institutional and legal framework, in the best interests of friendly Macedonia as well as regional stability and security,” Moscow’s foreign ministry said.
(Photo, of the foreign ministry and financial police headquarters in Skopje: localhero/wikimedia commons)