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The British Helsinki Human Rights Group monitors human rights and democracy in the 57 OSCE member states from the United States to Central Asia.
* Monitoring the conduct of elections in OSCE member states.
* Examining issues relating to press freedom and freedom of speech
* Reporting on conditions in prisons and psychiatric institutions

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European Values versus Euro-Atlantic power structures
HITS: 2437 | 7-01-2005, 20:56 | Commentaire(s): (0) |
 (Votes #: 0)

The intervention of the Euro-Atlantic power structures on the side of the SDSM and DUI was hardly surprising since NATO and the EU had acted as godfathers to the political alliance between the two parties eighteen months earlier. However, critics of the re-districting plan could call European values in support of their stance. After all, had not the constitutional expert, Robert Badinter, who had endorsed Macedonia’s constitutional order as worthy of EU recognition thereby ratified the legitimacy of the referendum provisions contained in it. Why had the power-brokers in Brussels reneged on the constitutional order which had been worthy of independence from Yugoslavia then. Another problem was that as far back as 1985, the EU’s then member states had adopted a Charter on Local Government which explicitly endorsed referendums as one way in which ordinary people could express their views on proposed changes to administration in their regions. For instance, the Charter states,
“Local self-government… shall be exercised by councils or assemblies composed of members freely elected by secret ballot on the basis of direct, equal, universal suffrage, and which may possess executive organs responsible to them. This provision shall in no way affect recourse to assemblies of citizens, referendums or any other form of direct citizen participation where it is permitted by statute.” [emphasis added][1]
Oddly enough, the Council of Europe, which routinely intervenes in human rights and governance issues in member-states like Macedonia failed to assert the right to participate in referendums enshrined in its own charter! Its silence was a deafening taking of sides when other Euro-Atlantic institutions were trying to suppress participation.
Already before the referendum campaign got away the issue of external influence and even control over the Macedonian state’s decision-making process had become controversial, even among normally pro-Western NGOs. On 12th July RFE/RL reported:
“HUMAN RIGHTS WATCHDOG WARNS THAT MACEDONIA MIGHT 'LOSE INDEPENDENCE.'
The Macedonian Helsinki Committee has warned in its latest report that Macedonia might "lose its independence" if the political elite continues to rely on foreign diplomats in the decision-making process, "Utrinski vesnik" reported on 12 July. According to the report, decisions are being made within a small circle of political
oligarchs and with the help of foreign diplomatic representatives rather than in the democratically elected institutions. The committee called on politicians to return the decision-making process to the parliament and the other state institutions and to end the "unprecedented direct involvement of diplomatic representatives of foreign countries in the adoption of national legislation and implementation of laws."
NATO and EU officials from famous faces like Donald Rumsfeld to the New World Order’s lowliest bag-carriers chimed in demanding Macedonians did not exercise their franchise, even to vote against the referendum proposal! Passing through Skopje from Iraq, where he was promoting democracy in his inimitable way, the US Defence Secretary told Macedonians on 11th October that they faced a “clear choice” and that rejecting the referendum “certainly helps strengthen democracy here at the grass root level”![2]
As Christopher Deliso suggested Mr Rumsfeld’s encouragement to Macedonians to make the right choice held a scarcely veiled threat: “either [vote for] ‘…a future with NATO, in which stability and economic growth can flourish, or a return to the past.” In other words, ‘stick with the plan, or we’ll find a new war for you.’”[3]
NATO’s Italian deputy secretary-general, Alessandro Minuto Rizzo, chose Bulgaria’s capital, Sofia, to warn neighbouring Macedonians, -"The decentralisation is a cornerstone of the Ohrid accord and an essential element to ensure the integration of the former Yugoslav republic of Macedonia into Euro-Atlantic institutions."
Rizzo was backed up by the British Minister for Europe Denis MacShane who called on Macedonians to boycott the vote, saying an expected 'No' vote would be anti-Europe even though on the same trip to the Balkans he had condemned Kosovo’s Serbs for ---- boycotting the province’s parliamentary elections on 23rd October![4]
Even by recent standards of foreign intervention in the Balkans, the Macedonian referendum campaign was distinguished by the level and intensity of Western interference. Diplomats from EU and NATO embassies were engaged in open campaigning for a boycott of the vote. This taking of sides by signatories of the Vienna Convention was unprecedented in its scale and had consequences for the election observation effort. The key OSCE coordinator, Gerald Mitchell, admitted in conversation with an observer from this Group that he had had difficulty in mobilising enough observers for the OSCE mission because so many diplomats from EU and NATO countries had disqualified themselves by making published or broadcast statements taking the government’s side in the referendum campaign!
The EU’s Special Representative in Skopje, Michael Sahlin, wrote on the EU/NATO government-funded Institute of War and Peace Reporting’s website on 1st October, 2004, expressing the impatience of Brussels that a small Balkan country should presume to ask its citizens what was in their best interests. In the Orwellian Newspeak that comes so naturally to Eurocrats, Mr Sahlin blamed Macedonia’s decay and implosion after it loyally followed every nostrum emanating from Brussels on the long-suffering Macedonians: “It is clear the 1990s were not effectively used to make Macedonia a real security provider. Reforms of the economy and judiciary – to mention a few important areas – were unfortunately not implemented. And, in many ways, Macedonia slowly declined. In 1996, with the creation of 124 small, unsustainable and powerless municipalities, it became one of Europe’s most centralised states. The constitutional rights of minorities declined compared with the old Yugoslav constitution. And privatisation, rather than bringing new investments, stripped the state of its assets. In 2001, Macedonia’s positive image really cracked. It became obvious to everyone that the country’s ethnic problems had not been solved, but had merely been kept under a lid and had been fuelled by the general decline of the country.” It was not Macedonia’s interests but the West’s which were uppermost in his mind: “the referendum, if successful, may result in a serious setback for Macedonia’s Euro-Atlantic ambitions. All capitals in the Euro-Atlantic area will have to wonder whether Macedonia can and will move towards modernity and Europeanisation.” [5]
Leaving aside the lower reaches of Big Brother-speak, whereby reducing 124 municipalities to 60 would decrease the country’s centralisation, Sahlin’s central point is that “Implemented decentralisation, including municipal reorganisation, is a necessary ingredient for EU and NATO accession.” Although he insists that the EU and NATO back Macedonia’s territorial integrity and oppose a Greater Albania, since the whole manner of his discourse is so suffused with Newspeak Macedonians may be forgiven for presuming Brussels-man speak with forked-tongue. Maybe no single Greater Albanian state is on the cards, but then Euro-Atlantic structures don’t promote state sovereignty but shared sovereignty. What seems to be on the cards is a decentralisation of Macedonia which will further facilitate mafia domination of key localities and transit routes. Statehood is rarely the ambition of pirates. Plunder and protection money are their preferred game.

What’s in a name?

Like so many other post-Communist societies, Macedonia is an “other-directed” statelet. Lacking self-confidence, suffering economic implosion and with a political class which sees foreign sponsorship as the substitute for patriotic statesmanship, Skopje has craved approval. At every stage when foreign powers have abused the trust and other services displayed towards them by Macedonians, the ruling elite has demanded more humiliation and self-abasement. This cringe-making procedure reached its climax on 6th November. President George W. Bush’s spokesman had just announced Washington’s intention of changing the United States’ designation of the country from “the Former Yugoslav republic of Macedonia” (FYROM) henceforth to Macedonia. President Cvernkovski’s government immediately staged a media blitz declaring the equivalent of “mission accomplished” climaxing with a concert in central Skopje to say “thank you” to President Bush and other named US statesmen, including Ambassador Butler. All the elements of post-modern bogus statehood were on hand, black leather jacketed heavies guarded the President and his ministers even from other dignitaries on the podium while Euro-Atlantic rock music alternated with Communist-era folk dancing to simulate the unanimous joy of a people who had discovered the world’s only superpower knew who they were at last.
The Prague-based web-site Transitions online (ToL) reported, “ On 4 November, the United States officially announced that it will recognize Macedonia’s constitutional name, the Republic of Macedonia. The announcement, which many analysts will be tempted to describe as historic, triggered street celebrations in Skopje.” ToL frequently reflects the thinking of US diplomats and intelligence circles commented, “Whatever else they might crave, Macedonians have first and foremost been hungry for recognition, starting with recognition of their right to be and call themselves as they wish. That hunger was last week on its way to being satisfied, as Macedonians felt they had suddenly gained what these days counts as being close to the ultimate recognition.
Washington’s move told Macedonians explicitly that the United States accepts their state as permanent. It also implied that the fears promoted by the SMK and the rightwing opposition were unfounded. In other words, ethnic Macedonians were to understand the message as saying that, yes, Washington supports greater rights for Macedonia’s Albanians, but it sees Macedonia as a single state; and to make that reassuring point, the Americans are even ready to annoy a NATO ally, Greece.”
Transitions – online insisted that it “made… good sense to keep the inevitable recognition of Macedonia’s constitutional name as a trump card to be played at a turning point. If this was indeed the case, that would suggest that the picture of the Bush administration as lacking interest in the region has been incorrect. What's more, it may have showed that the State Department is capable of strategic thinking in the Balkans.” But Transitions-online was prepared to share the glory for Macedonians’ apathy on 7th November, adding “Along with the United States’ power to change the political mood, the failure of the referendum also demonstrated the magnetic power of the European Union in the Balkans.” [6]
After the United States decision to recognise Macedonia by its name, the local Soros operation plastered the press and the country’s walls and billboards with posters proclaiming “Goodbye FYROM, good morning Europe.” Earlier Soros’s Open Society had used slogans in a widespread advertising campaign with the sinister one-line, “There are some questions you shouldn’t answer.”[7]
On the morning of the referendum, the government extended bar opening times to 6a.m. ostensibly to celebrate the U.S. State Department’s decision to use the name “Macedonia” for Macedonia in its official documents.[8] Whether many Macedonians drank themselves insensible into the early hours of Sunday morning by downing too many toasts to George W. Bush or took the opportunity to drown their sorrows in an unemployment ravaged land is unclear. Yet a government which clearly preferred drunks to sober citizens is apparently one endorsed in Washington and Brussels as a preferred partner in NATO and the EU. Macedonia is also, of course, a major trans-shipment centre for heroin from the Middle East to Western Europe but that status too worries none of those Western politicians and diplomats who hurried to bask in the reflected glory of Macedonians’ Euro-Atlantic apathy.
At the same time, Macedonia’s Albanian parties were unanimous in supporting a petition drive – just not one for their own country. The unanimity with which Macedonia’s Albanian political elite backed the demand for “Independence for Kosovo Now!” by the US-based American-Albanian Civic League suggested how far the Albanians of Macedonia and Kosovo form a single politico-military (and business) entity. US State Department claims that it won’t recognise any change to Macedonia’s borders could be challenged if Kosovo’s final status is independence and the Albanians on both sides of the Kosovo-Macedonian border decide to challenge its continued existence. More likely , however, is that the smuggling groups who dominate the region will simply ignore the border more ostentatiously than they do now. With de-centralisation in Macedonia and “final status” in Kosovo offering countless chances for legal and policing limbo clear-cut solutions are the last things that the mafia groups who steer so much of politics in the region want to deal with. Clarity complicates their sort of business.


[1] See Article 3, I-ii @ http://conventions.coe.int/Treaty/en/Treaties/Html/122.htm,
[2] AFP @
http://www.keepmedia.com/ShowItemDetails.do?itemID=601799&extID=10030&oliID=226,
[3] See Christopher Deliso, “Referendum Drive Begins Amidst Veiled Threats” @
http://balkanalysis.com/modules.php?name=News&file=categories&op=newindex&catid=1,
[4] [As reported by Agence France Presse (29th October, 2004) ] [5] See
http://www.iwpr.net/index.pl?archive/bcr3/bcr3_200410_518_7_eng.txt,
[6] See Transitions-online’s Our Take, “Macedonia: When the Best Choice is Not Choosing” (8 November 2004) @
http://www.tol.cz/ which quotes the Soros Foundation’s local slogan,
[7] For the poster, see
http://www.soros.org.mk/default.asp?lang=eng&menuid=10,
[8] November was Macedonia’s “Fight Against Alcoholism Month”! See
http://www.mia.com.mk/ang/Vest.asp?vest=\1\FIGHT%20AGAINST%20ALCOHOLISM%20MONTH.htm.

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