(Kathimerini, English edition, April 11, 2001)
The stabilization and association agreement signed between the EU and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) in Luxembourg on Monday has fostered expectations that it will force the two ethnic entities, namely the Slav-Macedonians and Albanians, into a dialogue that will eventually resolve the present crisis.
Apart from the political naivete of such a view, a mere glance at recent developments shows that the positions of the two sides have solidified and the divide between them is greater than ever. Speaking to the UNs Human Rights Committee in Geneva, FYROM President Boris Trajkovski described his state as a multicultural democracy in which the ethnic Albanian parties take part in all government and parliamentary bodies, implying the Slav-Macedonian elements intention to safeguard the present status quo. Arben Xhaferi, the moderate leader of the Democratic Albanian Party (DPA), part of the ruling coalition, holds the opposite view: The crisis is generated by the incompatibility between the position of a centralized and single-ethnic state and the reality of a multiethnic society, he said, clearly hinting that ethnic Albanians will not allow the present situation in FYROM to continue. The DPA has asked for the immediate mediation of EU, NATO and OSCE representatives in talks between the two groups so as to recognize FYROM Albanians as a constitutive ethnic group of the country and not merely as a minority. FYROM will in no way evolve into a federal state said Trajkovski last week, essentially refusing to award Albanians and Slav-Macedonians the same constitutional status, in the manner the former understand it.
The differences are unbridgeable, and the current lull should not foster the delusion that the worst is behind us. To the contrary, ongoing fermentation seems to be preparing the ground for a fresh, deeper crisis. Slav-Macedonians, now strengthened by international support, are trying to secure a Slav-dominated state as a safety valve. Meanwhile, ethnic Albanian extremism is growing, and Albanians feel they are in a state of internal occupation in a country where they are citizens. Polarization is strengthened by the streams of blood dividing the two ethnic groups. This also multiplies the mistakes and prejudices on both sides. The eruption of a new crisis is only a matter of time.