Macedonia: The Last Chance for Peace
Macedonia: The Last Chance for Peace
Table of Contents
  1. Executive Summary
Внимавајте на македонската криза..може да прерасне во нова балканска трагедија
Внимавајте на македонската криза..може да прерасне во нова балканска трагедија
Report 113 / Europe & Central Asia

Macedonia: The Last Chance for Peace

In the past three months, since mid March 2001, Macedonia has stared into the abyss of inter-ethnic conflict, pulled away from the precipice, squandered opportunities for a political settlement, then returned as if sleepwalking to the brink of civil war.

Executive Summary

In the past three months, since mid March 2001, Macedonia has stared into the abyss of inter-ethnic conflict, pulled away from the precipice, squandered opportunities for a political settlement, then returned as if sleepwalking to the brink of civil war. The downward spiral was interrupted on 11 June, when the Macedonian government and the ethnic Albanian rebels agreed to a ceasefire. The following day the government abruptly endorsed a peace plan proposed by President Boris Trajkovski. For their part, the NLA guerrillas expressed a readiness to halt their insurgency but want to see concrete steps towards improving Albanian rights.

The ceasefire has more or less held, while the details of Trajkovski’s plan are being worked out in Skopje. In broad terms, it would end the conflict by disarming the rebels, offering them a safe exit from Macedonia or a limited amnesty, and launching a reform process to address the legitimate grievances of the ethnic Albanian minority. Although the plan does not foresee the NLA’s direct inclusion in negotiations, the NLA cannot be excluded from the process if it is to have a realistic chance of success. On 14 June, the government officially requested NATO help to disarm the rebels. Although leading Alliance members responded coolly, the prospects of positive NATO engagement in Macedonia look better than at any time before.

If this initiative is to succeed, Macedonian leaders on both sides of the ethnic divide will have to show unprecedented courage in looking beyond personal or partisan interests. It is extremely unlikely that this will happen unless the European Union (EU) and the United States throw new political and military resources behind the negotiations. U.S. participation in a NATO deployment to assist in the implementation of a settlement is crucial. Otherwise the NLA will continue the conflict, in the belief that the U.S. will eventually engage in its favour. A donors’ conference for Macedonia should be held as soon as a settlement is firmly in place, to demonstrate international resolve to address the economic decline that fuelled the conflict.

The United States and Europe together must work with the government in Macedonia to ensure that multiethnic Macedonia offers equal rights and opportunities to all its citizens without privileging the ethnic majority. The divide separating Macedonians and Albanians is deepening by the day. The status quo of ethnic communities leading parallel lives is no longer tenable or acceptable, and not only because of NLA demands. The Western alliance must do everything in its power to push through a political solution. If Macedonia slides into civil war, the conflict will be difficult to contain within Macedonia’s own borders.

Skopje/Brussels, 20 June 2001

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