NATO General Secretary Jaap de Hoop Scheffer was unpleasantly surprised when the Macedonians rejected his offer to go to
Skopje and explain ‘the essence’ of the Bucharest decision not to invite Macedonia to become a NATO member, and to reassure the public that it meant ‘nothing terribly dreadful’. The country’s shock and disappointment because Macedonia – thanks to the Greek veto – has for the foreseeable future fallen from the train of Euro-Atlantic integration, and also because of the humiliating treatment its officials received at the NATO summit, were the main reason why for the time being ‘Scheffer is not wanted’.
This move has sent a clear signal that matters surrounding Macedonia have taken a downturn. The worst possible scenario has occurred: Macedonia feels itself punished and victimised. While being ready to compromise, it could not but reject Greece ’s extreme blackmail over its name. Now it is being obliged to pay the price. It feels this particularly badly because of the impression given by the leading European leaders that it is largely Macedonia ’s own fault that it does not find itself in company with Albania and Croatia . The first consequence arrived promptly: the country is in a state of complete depression, communications with
Brussels are (temporarily?) severed. and to crown it all the Macedonian political class has responded in the worst possible manner by dissolving parliament and accepting the resignation of Nikola Gruevski’s government.
This cold shower has come from Skopje despite the fact that US President Bush – who tried hard to win an invitation for Macedonia too – has in the past few days been pressing through his officials for negotiations with Greece to be resumed speedily, and completed within weeks, so that Macedonia may join NATO; and in spite of Javier Solana’s appeal for decisions to be made with ‘cool heads’. Macedonia , in short, has done what Greece in particular was hoping for. Post-Bucharest Europe has thus acquired yet another hot spot in the Balkans. Macedonia faces a period of considerable instability, in which some commentators discern fertile ground for the revival of old, mutually antagonistic, Balkan aspirations towards its territory on the part of its neighbours.
Bucharest was a theatre of the absurd. While Bush took the side of Skopje , the European leaders succumbed to the Greek demands without considering the likely repercussions of such a stance for stability in the Balkans. At the same time, these politicians competed among themselves over who would give more compliments to Serbia, stating that the door to NATO stood open to it if only Koštunica and Tadić would suspend their decision in favour of Serbian ‘military neutrality’. Fuelled by Kosovo, and by the fear that political currents derived from Miloševic’s regime – backed by Koštunica’s strengthened party – could once again take charge of Serbia after 11 May, the policy of double standards has once again triumphed.
Despite Mladić, and despite its daily confrontations with the EU and the USA, Serbia is being offered (albeit unofficially) the chance to sign a Stabilisation and Association Agreement. A state that has caused a decade of nightmares to one and all, and which right now is engulfed by noisy anti-Western propaganda, is being rewarded; while a state that cooperated with NATO during the bombing of Serbia, which took in hundreds of thousands of Albanian refugees and deportees from Kosovo, and which has been trying to establish bridges with its neighbours, is being punished. As one popular and reputable Serbian blogger has asked: does Europe have any idea what it is doing? and is it aware that the logic of its policies is that crime ultimately does indeed pay.
No one in Bucharest apart from the stubborn Slovene Jelko Kacin, who did not hide his bitterness that Europe was so lightly sacrificing Macedonia, appeared bothered by the fact that Greece – a clerical and nationalist state that is in conflict with all its neighbours (Bulgaria, Turkey, Albania and Macedonia),and that sees itself as the exclusive owner and interpreter of Hellenic civilisation and culture – is being allowed to behave in such a destructive manner. Apart from anything else, by refusing, under a cloak of European standards, to admit the existence of national groups other than Greeks upon its own territory. And that at the same time it is being allowed to use the threat of veto to decide on the name, language and history of other peoples. Driven by its irrational obsession that the neighbouring country has pretensions to its territory, Greece has raised its long-standing conflict with Macedonia to the level of supreme national interest, taking it to the point where it will become difficult, if not impossible, to solve.
Athens ’s triumph in Bucharest has encouraged it to assume an even harder position, threatening Macedonia that unless it succumbs to Greek blackmail over its name, Athens will block its further progress towards the EU:, from its visa regime, via fixing a date for the start of negotiations, to entry itself.
The inability of the European bureaucracy to deal with crisis situations, and to rein in Greek nationalist arrogance and swagger, has only strengthened Greece ’s potential for blackmail. It will be interesting to see how the EU will behave if and when Macedonia, through no fault of its own, regains its old position as the Balkan powder keg and the apple of European discord.
Translation from Bosnian Institute