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The moon shines behind the dome of a church made of ice at an ice sculpture park in Moscow, December 29, 2001. The ice sculptures were created in as part of festivities marking the forthcoming New Year and Orthodox Christmas. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin
EXCERPTS OF PRIME MINISTER GEORGIEVSKI'S INTERVIEW WITH MTV.
INTERVIEW Macedonian TV: Ljubcho Georgievski
The Macedonian Information Agency presents excerpts on the interview of Prime Minister Ljubcho Georgievski with the Macedonian TV.
What are your assessment on the year 2001 and what do you expect from the following one?
One thing is for sure, Macedonia is karmatically designated to encounter and fight crisis situations all the time. During the last decade, the year 1990/91 was decisive for its future. In that period of time the former Federal Republic of Yugoslavia was falling apart and Macedonia was about to become independent. The year 2001 will be remembered in the history of the Republic of Macedonia. We don't believe it will be the last one, still, it was a year of difficulties, probations, temptations, many responsibilities and finally a year in which our country was to be defeated. I believe that we learned a lot from the burden we carried this year. First of all, it helped us gain that reflex of existence that any country should conditionally have. Its up to us now to preserve that reflex, because one thing is for sure, we live in a region of continuous instability and no matter how well things will develop in the future, the time behind us should serve as a warning for the time ahead of us.
I follow your political activity right from the beginning. You have been somehow distinguished by your quite radical ideas for the independence of Macedonia and for the social and economic justice. You began to overcrowd the city squares throughout Macedonia at age of 25-26, raising the level of patriotism of the Macedonian population. Can we say, ten years later, that a part of these visions, i.e. efforts have become a Macedonian reality?
The greatest vision and our biggest fight for independence of Macedonia is realistic nowadays. I would call that a thousand-year-long miracle for the Macedonian people to have its own state. I believe, if it wasn't for the armed crisis, insinuated to our country, we would have been very positively assessed today. Fact is, this year has shadowed the beauty of our country's independence, the beauty of a dream and ideal that became a reality after many centuries. I really think that the Macedonian people, Macedonian citizens can really be satisfied with what was gained within the last ten years, although with pain, with grieve for the victims and disturbed relations, as well as for the bad economic situation caused by the crisis. Consequently, we come to that old thesis we used to hear a lot back in 1990, no state and independence is ever gained without bloodshed. I don't know if that is the last price that Macedonia should pay for its independence and if all the victims, defenders and civilians killed during the military crisis will be the last monument to the independence of our country that is to be built.
Ten months ago, Tanusevci situation occurred, followed by a serious armed threat to the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the Republic of Macedonia. Was it possible for the crisis to be predicted and stopped?
Considering the events in Kosovo and the fact that the international community granted great help to Albanians in realizing of their goal to come closer to taking control over Kosovo, it seemed logical to expect that the Kosovo conflict would spill over in other regions, as it happened later on in Southern Serbia and finally in the north-western part of Macedonia. Immediately after the developments in Kosovo, the Macedonian Government made quick decisions on higher education - approving the opening of the so-called Stoel's University in Tetovo; initiating for power decentralization, i.e. granting greater authorities to local self-government, and launching of a third, multiethnic channel within the Macedonian Television. Those governmental initiatives, in which I, as a Prime Minister, have taken active part, were considered because we presumed that the demands of Albanians in the region around Kosovo would be drastically magnified. Now, it is obvious how little we have done to meet the national interests of Albanians. I would only like to remind that those governmental decisions were harshly criticized then, by some opposition parties and media, including the departure of six deputies from the party VMRO-DPMNE, who were against the decisions.
The second element is whether we could foresee that a conflict would happen in Macedonia. There were several warnings from different departments, but none of them said that general offensive for conquering of territories would take place in the country. A week before Tanusevci, high Yugoslav officials warned me that Albanians from Kosovo were preparing a general offensive against Macedonia, without any details. In regard to the assessment that Macedonia reacted very slow, I may only say that we were late everywhere, starting from Tanusevci to all other operations, carried out by the Albanian extremists and terrorists. After each action of Albanians, there were debates between the army and police officials, followed by discussions among politicians, on who should take the responsibility. The country paid a very high price because of the discussions on who should defend it. I believe that at least we have learned something from that experience and do better in some other, God forbids, hard time.
Now, the situation is clearer. We may certainly say that the crisis was spilled over in Macedonia from Kosovo. What were the positions of Albanians in Macedonia during the crisis?
The assessment on their conduct is consisted of two parts. In the first two-three months, Macedonian Albanians and their political parties were decent. In that time, those parties presented very soft remarks in defending of the positions of the so-called NLA. I think that the lack of strong response to the armed actions contributed to spreading of the rebellion, and later on to mass inclusion of ethnic Albanians in the NLA groups. The second element that contributed to the conduct of Albanian political parties was the lack of international firm policy. It is a fact that after three months from the beginning of the conflict, KFOR enhanced its control of the border between Macedonia and Kosovo, on the Kosovo part. The international community neither convicted nor took serious action against terrorism. These two elements encouraged the Albanian political parties to join the NLA policy in the second phase of the crisis, which was rather different from the first one. It was pretty bad and contributed not only to spreading of the crisis, but also disturbed the interethnic relations in the country, which may be the most painful wound that should be healed after this crisis.
There are claims that Albanians are preparing some kind of a rebellion in March or April. How well prepared and trained are our security forces to deal with such challenge?
In a New Year greeting card I have received from one Ambassador, he expresses hope that such crisis will never happen again in Macedonia. But he is also afraid that there will be a second crisis round. It is difficult to predict whether it will happen. Many assessments say the second round will happen. Maybe not in Macedonia, but many elements lead to a possible second round - possible declaring of independence in Kosovo; maybe it will happen in southern Serbia; Montenegro or even Greece. Albania and Kosovo are very unstable and some structures think that their instability should be exported. In addition, there is a lot of illegal arms in Albania, Kosovo, southern Serbia and Macedonia. There is another element, which should not be underestimated. Albanians feel that they enjoy the international community support. We have to admit that the international community conduct in Kosovo, southern Serbia, and finally in Macedonia, grants a right to Albanians to think that now is their historical time to do whatever they want. It is a fact that the international community has done nothing to prevent Albanian terrorism, along with the Albanian government and Kosovo politicians. On the contrary, there was an expression of full tolerance of this phenomenon. All of these lead us to believe that there will be a second round, but I think it will not happen in Macedonia, but in our surrounding. However, any game with arms in our neighborhood also means a repeated crisis in Macedonia.
Only a year ago, the international community set Macedonia as an example for interethnic relations, as a leading country in the realization of the reforms in the Balkans. The attitude of the international community toward Macedonia, the Government and the country in overall has suddenly changed, how so? How do you personally see that as a Prime Minister?
The behaviour of the international community is very complex. Firstly, did the international community play a role of a peacekeeper? I can say that it contributed a lot for the rapid instalment of the peace in Macedonia. Did the international community help Macedonia to avoid a lot bigger civil war? Yes, I can say it paid maximal efforts to prevent such a war. Was the international community fair toward Macedonia, in all its life spheres? I could say yes, reminding that only two months after the crisis in Tanusevci (April, 2001), the international community signed the Stabilization and Association Agreement with Macedonia, which shows its good will to keep Macedonia existent and to support it. On the other hand, the fact that several preconditions were not fulfilled, such as the failure to pass the law of local self-government, while a concrete financial aid from the international community has already come, speaks about the serious intentions of the international community toward the Republic of Macedonia. These are positive assessments that have to be given to the international community.
Still, certain things are not clear to me even now and I believe that many of the Macedonian citizens can't understand them either. That is the fact that the international community did nothing against the terrorism in the Republic of Macedonia. The announcement of a black list with certain terrorists, banned to enter into the USA, was actually the only measurement undertaken by the international community in the combat against the terrorism in our country. We should mention here the concern of the same international community for the sufferings of the Macedonians and Albanians in the country. We were witnesses of the sufferings, who and how much they suffered.
In the same time, we were witnesses that the international community, meaning some concrete structures, was more inclined towards the Albanian extremists and their sacrifices, than towards the sacrifices of the whole Macedonian people. The fact is that we didn't see any serious compassion for the Macedonian victims. On the other side, there was a great concern for the eating utensils that the police officers of Albanian origin used, while trained. There was an enormous pressure about the murder of an ethnic Albanian in Ratae village. In this case we can see the concern of the international community toward a victim - Albanian. We have to say that during all these ten months, we couldn't see even a slightest concern for the those eighteen police officers, soldiers, civilians of Macedonian origin, or for the kidnapped persons. Therefore, such a double concern causes more pains. I think that the Chief Prosecutor of the Hague Criminal Tribunal, Carla Del Ponte, had the biggest alibi for the violence in Macedonia, publicizing "one Macedonian" and "one Albanian" case. This is another paradox of those double standards of the international community.
For example, in the report for the situation in Macedonia that should be submitted by the Lithuanian Foreign Minister as a Chairman of the Council of Europe, it is estimated that the interethnic situation in Macedonia is on a highest level.
Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia have excellent marks, referring to their readiness to enter the European Union. On the other hand there are 30 to 40 per cent of great Russian minorities in all three countries that have no right to talk in their native language, not to mention their right for an education and participation into the political sphere of the life in the country. Now, a Minister of Lithuania should prepare some negative report on the interethnic relations in the Republic of Macedonia, contrary to all compliments that Macedonia received before the crisis. The double standards are still an issue that bothers us and we can not abstain from making comments about that.
In his last statement, the Russian President, Vladimir Puttin, refers to this issue, saying that they will also demand, all the Russian minorities in the Baltic countries to enjoy the same rights as the Albanians in our country do.
The international community set huge precedence with the Republic of Macedonia. I think that the international community should explain that to Macedonia. We will feel much better if all these standards are applied in Europe as well. The second paradox is that the Romanian Foreign Minister, Mirchea Geoana, was coming to Macedonia as an OSCE chairman. Romania is our good friend, but there are about 1,5 - 2 million Hungarians in Romania who have ten times less rights than the Albanians in Macedonia have. Not to mention that the minorities are present all over Europe and the Balkans too. If the Macedonian case is a standard that is to be applied in all other countries, it will probably be a historic satisfaction that we were the pioneers of a process that is supposed to be developed further on in Europe and in the Balkans. Therefore, Putin's statement is much more logical and ethical. I hope that the new standardization of the minorities' rights will be processed in the years to come.
The international community saw the great coalition as an opportunity for exit from the crisis, followed by the Framework Agreement, acceptation of constitutional changes, followed by SDSM's leaving with the explanation that the crisis has been solved. How did you see this? How do you comment SDSM's move and how far are you satisfied from the outcome of events?
I did not see the point of SDSM's entrance in the Government, as well as their leaving. I would like to remind that they set an ultimatum of organising huge demonstrations all over the country if talks for the great coalition did not start in a week. I accepted this. Although I think that they had relatively high ratings at that time, their behavior during the crisis was not the thing they announced when they had been in opposition. While they were in opposition, they criticized us of weak and slow defense, which was the fact due to all these factors that I have talked so far, but the facts show that we defended it. Since SDSM entered the Government, we stopped defending Macedonia and all state structures stopped defending Macedonia. That is a fact that can be confirmed. If we make a simple analysis what was the amount of territory won before and after SDSM's participation in the Government, the difference is clear. Slow operations were going on previously, but they showed results. For me, Tetovo operation was a historic battle for the Republic of Macedonia, which can be subjected to simple analyses. Kumanovo operation did not end successfully before SDSM's entrance in the Government, but there were operations. With their entrance, operations became a rarity, with thousands of pressures needed to implement an operation, for example Radusha battle. We had to plea some SDSM members over the TV to assist their own soldiers and their own police officers that were trapped. If not for those pleas, we might have had 150-200 victims and entrance in Skopje. That policy is still vague for me even now. In any case, every political party has its own strategy and its own vision how to behave and make steps according to its plan.
While they were in the Government, the international community often called them cooperative, while you were the radicals, and that they were the ones with global views for swift and right solution of the Albanian issue. Where does this change of positions come from?
Firstly, I do not know where does this change of positions of SDSM come from, as well as the change of positions of the international community. Since 1998, SDSM has based its entire platform of anti-Albanian propaganda in Macedonia. In that direction, I would only like to remind the presidential elections, when their motto was "We don not need Albanian votes". We also remember the time when NATO attacked Yugoslavia, when SDSM had a complete anti-NATO policy in Macedonia. But, it is clear that this phase finished and now they enter into a new one. As far as the international community is concerned, the situation is more clear- we are brought in a situation when the international community is the criterion of how good or bad a political party in Macedonia is. The main criterion is not whether it is a reform one, but what is its policy towards the Albanian situation, even if it is an extremist one. VMRO-DPMNE had good remarks in the previous phase because of our policy towards the Albanian factor. The problem is that later it turned into the main criterion of the international community.
Was the entrance in the great coalition needed due to the necessity for national unity of Macedonian political parties and their platform?
The issue of the Macedonian national unity in Macedonia has been treated since the decay of former Yugoslavia. The latest crisis in Macedonia passed without the proof that main Macedonian political subjects will create a national unity. This crisis showed that we couldn't come to a rational consensus for even one basic essential issue. If your country is attacked, there is only one national unity- all forces are mobilized in the defense of the country. There is no unity, and am not referring only to SDSM. That national non-unity was shown in the institutions, but the fact is that Macedonian political parties did not reach national unity on the main issue- to defend our own country. It is obvious that we as a state, political parties, institutions, do not function according to the principle of mutual interest of both political parties or state institutions, but according to the principle "if VMRO-DPMNE says something, the other party is by definition against it, even if it is a good solution". I think that this is a great problem, which should be solved in the future.
How do you estimate the security situation now and why your estimations differ from those of the international community?
"The international community now claims that the things were moving in a positive direction. I supported that to a certain degree. Unfortunately, there are some things on which our opinions differ. The constant entry of the police forces is controlled, unfortunately, not by our security forces, but by the terrorists. So we are entering to a level permitted by the other side. Neither Macedonian police, nor the Army, are not yet present in great number of villages. The largest problem at this moment is that the ethnic Macedonians still cannot return to their homes in the regions impacted by the crisis. The situation is critical in Tetovo. At this moment, we can conclude that the Macedonian side has done a lot, but the other side did nothing. If this situation continues, it will lead Macedonia to ethnic cleansing by the extremists.
What is your vision about the co-existence of the Macedonians and Albanians?
By transferring the responsibility about what happened from one to another, we forget one thing - that Macedonia and the Macedonian people have done a lot for that co-existence. Even in the Communism, which by definition means totalitarism, that co-living was maintained on maximum level by the Macedonian side. I think that the SDSM continued maintaining that type of living, which we vastly criticized. Largest evidence for this is when citizenship was given to 160-170,000 Albanians who came in this country from Kosovo and South Serbia, and who are now equal citizens of the Republic of Macedonia. And finally, our coalition with DPA was the pick of our generosity. I think that this year many things collapsed, like the belief that there is tradition of co-existence between the Albanians and Macedonians in Macedonia. We must be honest and to admit that the Macedonians and the Albanians have always been in conflict - even from the days of the Turkish empire as well as during the Second World War. We must realize that we are different by religion, language and civilization values, and to live in a same country, but in two different worlds. Simply said, we must understand that we must live in this country, but without to insult each other. Fate of the Macedonians in regard to the Albanians is defined by the future status of Kosovo, and the Albanian birthrate.
Your New Year's message to the citizens of Macedonia?
I really think that a New Year's greetings should be comprised of beautiful things, despite the fact that in this interview we have talked about ugly, and in some sense even shocking matters. This is really a great opportunity to send greetings to all citizens of Macedonia, regarding all religious Holidays - Orthodox and Catholic Christmas, and Bayram, with a hope that tolerance will be the main pillar of the future happiness of each citizen of Macedonia. Therefore, I believe that the New Year and the snowfalls will bring a lot of happiness and welfare to all citizens of Macedonia. I wish a lot of happiness, success and joy to each family in the country.
Macedonia: Albanian section of state TV faces broadcasting difficulties.
Fakti e-mail service
The Albanian section of TVM [Macedonian State Television] might stop broadcasting newscasts and programmes in Albanian, following the termination of cooperation between the Slovene production company TME and Macedonian television.
For the last couple of months, the Albanian short news and the main newscast at 1900 [1800 gmt] were broadcast from the TME studio on the seventh floor of the TVM building. However, the managers of the TME have decided to stop their cooperation with TVM as a result of unfulfilled obligations by the government towards the TME. The section most damaged by the boycott was the Albanian section of TVM.
The day before yesterday [27 December], the newscast in Albanian was broadcast outside the TME studio. Albanian reporters preparing Wednesday's newscasts told us that the broadcast had many technical difficulties...
The position of the editorial staff and other employees in the Albanian section of TVM is to avoid all problems of this nature and not abandon the studio, as this could bring quality to a rather low level. Ymer Ismaili, the deputy general manager of TVM, described the recent situation at TVM as classic sabotage, which is part of a long-term strategy of a number of Macedonians inside the government and TVM to boycott programmes in Albanian. He then added: "The TME is right when it asks for the obligations to be met by the government of Macedonia. Thanks to the fairness of the leaders of the TME, we were able to resume broadcasting from their studio until after the New Year holidays. After the holidays, we expect a new round of talks between the TME managers and the government of Macedonia on the future of the work of the TME"...
"Even though we have asked the managers of TVM and the government to purchase the TME studio, until now, we have not met with any understanding on their side. According to experts, the TME studio costs anywhere between 1.6 and 3.5 million German marks [DM]. Still, the government does not find it reasonable to grant this amount of money for a project which is for the benefit of the Albanians, even though the contract signed by the government foresees that the government will pay DM100,000 to the TME every month," he said...
Ymer Ismaili also sought assistance by Albanian political parties in the process of resolving the problems that the Albanian section of TVM is facing. He has received assurances by the leaders of the Albanian political parties participating in the government.