Stability Pact as a chanceValentin NESOVSKI
MON, 21 FEB 2000
Skopje, February 17, 2000 - Back in 1600 Giordano Bruno cried: "Eppur si muove" (It moves just the same). He thought of the earth and thus demonstrated an incredible optimism while the Inquisition was about to burn him at stake. This historic determinant can be easily applied to the Balkan reality and Giordano Bruno's motto be revived if the Stability Pact achieves its goal and revamps the Balkan economic and social development.
The Second Working Table on Economy of the Stability Pact, a conference that was held last week in Skoplje, meant, and by the looks of it, was experienced as precisely the sentence: "Eppur si muove". Namely, the general depression among the Macedonian population, their exhaustion by the war atmosphere and uncertainty, the economic inflatory spiral of unsuccessful attempts to do something with the economy and the monotony of hopelessness have created a conviction that someone must help Macedonia. Therefore, the integration into Euro-Atlantic structures is seen as an imperative and solution for all local problems.
A two-day conference of the Second Working Table on Economic Issues of the Stability Pact brought to the surface an urgent need for dispelling scepticism that the Pact is only loose talk and would amount
to nothing. Even Prime Minister Ljubco Georgijevski said that in his speech at the opening session, emphasising that such scepticism was also
observed at the informal meeting of Prime Ministers of the neighbouring countries of Yugoslavia, held in Hisar. "Macedonia sees the Pact as a process in which we are expected to give much, but from which it can also expect much", said Georgijevski. He also said that in assessing the
work of the Pact it can be said that it has not yet produced specific projects. Nevertheless, he also said that all countries of the region showed unprecedented readiness to work on projects of common interest and that they are all determined to accept Europe's helping hand. The conviction that only economic prosperity of the Balkans could neutralise
this powder keg in the bosom of Europe, was reiterated many times and prevailed at the two-day session.
Foreign Minister of Macedonia, Aleksandar Dimitrov, was explicit in his explanation that there could be no stable Europe without stable Balkans.
It seems that doubts that the Pact would amount to nothing were dispelled, so that some Macedonian media published optimistic comments about the Pact. It seems that Chief of Macedonian Diplomacy, Aleksandar Dimitrov, supplied the strongest arguments against the prevailing disbelief, when he said that Macedonia had submitted 38 projects, mostly
in infrastructure sector, and that as many as 31 had passed the first test.
It is important that as many as one half of these projects relate to the entire region, more precisely to infrastructure projects that would benefit Macedonia, Bulgaria, as well as Albania. The session expressed the hope that these projects will get a "green light" already at the meeting of the seven most developed countries scheduled for February 27.
However, foreign partners also raised the following question at the session: what do the countries that have applied for Pact's assistance, intend to do with their reforms, how will they deal with corruption and crime, insisting on a complementary connection that existed between projects, their financing and realisation of the announced reforms.
Prime Minister Georgijevski said that the Balkan countries were aware that they have to initiate reforms, remove trade barriers and establish cooperation on regional level. It is in this context that, later on, at the Bucharest Summit of six Balkan Prime Ministers, Bode Hombah warned that at the forthcoming financial conference scheduled for late March in
Brussels, donors would not just squander money on the Pact, but that countries would have to present their plans for the future as well as regarding reforms.
Actually, after the second working table Macedonia is eagerly awaiting for and guessing at the outcome of the Brussels Financial Conference where the Pact's budget will be defined or, to put it more precisely, it
will become known how much money the developed countries intend to give
to the Pact. Some commentators think that all actually depends on the G-7 meeting which is to be held on February 27.
As far as the political part of the Stability Pact is concerned, which insists on regional cooperation, the public is mostly divided because they think that Macedonia deserves a better position than other, so called West Balkan countries, and that Europe must have a special approach to Macedonia. Arguments used to corroborate this claim are that
the country has managed to peacefully stay out of all conflicts in the Balkans, that it has developed democratic institutions, that it did not violate minority rights, that it actively cooperated with Europe in the resolution of the Kosovo crisis allowing the presence of NATO troops in its territory, humanely accepting over 300 thousand refugees from Kosovo
and, finally, that it has taken a reform course in its economy.
The previous Government, led by Social Democratic Alliance and Kiro Gligorov, as President, were strongly opposed to any regional treatment of Macedonia persistently insisting on the inclusion of an evolutive clause in European integration documents, which would stipulate that each country of the region would have to be assessed separately and that
Macedonia should not wait for the region's integration with Europe. The new Government, which includes VMRO-DPMNE, the Democratic Alternative and the Democratic Party of the Albanians promised, and Prime Minister Georgijevski was even sure, that Macedonia would manage to get included into the Agenda 2000.
But, the disappointment came with first signs that Macedonia will be placed in the "West Balkan" group of countries, which is a brand-new geographic and historic term for these parts. In practice, a part of the
public are still unable to accept the fact that the country has found itself in the same group with Albania, Yugoslavia, Bosnia and Croatia. An even greater shock was the tightening of the visa circle, so that the
media have started making a list of countries for which Macedonians still do not need a visa. According to some, there only remained: Bulgaria, Turkey, surprisingly Japan and some African and South American
Nevertheless, the new Government had to accept the fact that the Agenda 2000 was lost for ever, and that it was all an illusion, that the country must cooperate within the region no matter how much the people and their leadership wanted to be special and considered separately from
the region. Naturally, the popular resentment is now turned towards the Government which the opposition media have accused of being totally incompetent and linked to criminal elements.
Last week, Thomas Pickering, Undersecretary in the US State Department, added fuel to the flames regarding suspicions about crime connections of
the ruling party when he said to the Prime Minister that the States were
worried because the mob was controlling Governments in the region. This statement was perhaps the most commented one last week and is, probably with reason, considered as justification for the question "What Macedonia and the region represent for the developed and democratic world?" The Macedonian media often speak of the region using epithets like "a powder keg" and the "black hole of crime" or just a sentence "That's the Balkans", in an extremely negative sense.
This also explains the dissatisfaction of the citizens of Macedonia who think of themselves and their state as being an exception in the Balkans, and that it is just by accident that the country found itself in the company of states which have been waging wars for the last ten years or have undergone institutional disintegration or have violently toppled the previous regime. Moreover, they consider their peaceful secession from Yugoslavia as a successful result of their peaceful and wise diplomacy, while the ability to maintain peace in explosive surroundings and ensure the participation of Albanian parties in all governments till now, (i.e. institutional mutual understanding) reflect a virtue worthy of respect and desire to promote a spirit of democracy.
But, it should be mentioned here that trench division into entities and lack of any civic concept mean that there is much to be done in order for Macedonia to get a chance to participate in the Pact and join the company within some future Agenda. Macedonia has already received signals in this respect and must, therefore, try to survive in the Balkans. The DPA leader, Arben Dzaferi recently said: "We must not destabilise the country, for the sake of Macedonians, as well as for the sake of Albanians", adding "The Albanians do not want federalisation, despite ideas on the secession of some parts of Macedonia and their integration with Kosovo and Albania". This self-confidence seems in place and new, but some analysts interpret the very mention of secession as a test what could be possible reactions to such attempts.
All in all, the Stability Pact is the last chance for Macedonia to turn to economy and prosperity. But, unfortunately, in regional terms. Everyone is aware that for the time being Europe is far. Giordano Bruno and his optimism are Macedonia's allies.