(Kathimerini, English edition, March 16, 2001)
Recent developments in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) seem to signal the beginning of the final count-down. The separatist National Liberation Army has shifted its activity to the environs of Tetovo, thus directly questioning the official government in Skopje. The army and security forces of this next-door neighbor seem unable to crackdown on the rebels. But even if they were capable of conducting mopping-up operations, an attempt to solve the problem by military means would trigger a general conflict.
The central demand of the rebels, who are continuously gaining ground inside the Albanian community, is the transfiguration of FYROM into a federation. At the societal level, national separation has already taken place. Only those who find comfort in delusions fail to perceive this. Albanian irredentism in the neighboring country is making a qualitative leap in terms of goals and forms of action. Even the Democratic Albanian Party led by Arben Xhaferi, a member of FYROMs ruling coalition, demands FYROMs transformation into a partnership state, even though it has not yet raised the issue of a federation.
Slav-Macedonians were relaxed believing that NATO would act as a shield to protect their state. Now that things have come to a head however, the West confines itself to diplomatic interventions. These interventions have persuaded Tirana and official Albanian leaders to distance themselves from the insurgents, but the armed movement has acquired its own momentum. If they fail to suppress it, it will, sooner or later, force all sides to abandon their present positions.
Even if there were no guerrillas, in 10 or 15 years the great demographic growth would render the Albanians a majority and hence they would transform FYROM into their own state. But it seems that we will not have to wait until then. Slav-Macedonians are in a difficult position in any case, but from a political and psychological perspective they were inclined to suppress this and continue to tread toward this tragic finale with outstanding fatalism.
The only hope would be the quick incorporation of the state into the Euro-Atlantic bodies, namely NATO and the EU. The most likely scenario however is the division of the state into cantons which is already on the agenda. Even now, Athens has to become more flexible. Once again, Greek foreign policy is one-sided and not as balanced as international conditions and national interests demand.