YOUR Ideas for Peace in

Macedonia Wanted

TFF PressInfo 79

 October 31, 1999


"Read the farewell interview with Macedonian President Kirov Gligorov and the analysis by TFF's Macedonian adviser Dr. Biljana Vankovska on our site and you will understand how fragile Macedonia's stability and peace is. Why not try a citizens' 'early warning'? We invite you to send us your ideas on how we can help Macedonia avoid violence and move towards peace in spite of all the obstacles," says director Jan Oberg.

"After the Kosovo war, all citizens of Macedonia go through very difficult times; presidential elections take on October 31. If there is one lesson from Kosovo, it is this: the earlier we deal with the problems, the more options there are, and the easier it is to solve conflicts without resorting to violence.

It is a safe prediction that, unless various types of violence-preventive measures are taken and taken in time, Macedonia is likely to slide into chaos. If citizens around the world apply their experience from violence-prevention and peacebuilding and their creativity, we could produce a series of proposals for early action.

You can participate even if you do not have detailed knowledge about Macedonia. Lots of generally violence-preventive steps can be taken to prevent violence and solidify peace anywhere. Below we provide some ideas - just a beginning. Readers, their friends and colleagues, are invited to brainstorm and send us more and better proposals which we would be happy to publish in future PressInfo(s). And we would very much like to receive proposals FROM our readers and subscribers in Macedonia!


• Watch the Kosovo-Macedonia connection.
It is important that the international community does not make any final decision now about the future status of Kosovo. At this juncture, any final settlement will impact negatively on the fears, hopes and political strategies of both Macedonians and Albanians in Macedonia.

• Respect Macedonia's sovereignty.
The international community must respect that, however weak and small, Macedonia is a recognised, sovereign state having a right to expect that others respect its independent decisions and territorial integrity. It is ruthless and dangerous to keep on doing to Macedonia whatever NATO pleases and expect it to obey just because it wants membership of NATO and the EU.

• Compensate the country economically.
The country has suffered a lot economically - since 1991 because of the sanctions against their largest trade partner, Serbia; and recently because of NATOs presence, use of facilities, damage to the environment. The inflow of refugees diverted energy and already scarce resources away from the country itself. The costs of the Kosovo War to Macedonia is estimated at over US $ 1.5 billion, a huge sum for a country like Macedonia.

• Reestablish the UN as a civil mission and expand the OSCE mission.
The successful preventive UN mission (UNPREDEP) mission was sacrificed in an international diplomatic game that opened the country to NATO - which was not a success for Macedonia. A new UN mission, with predominantly civil affairs people, monitors and civil police and with a new type of unit for conflict-resolution and reconciliation training would suit the Macedonian reality well. The same applies to an expanded OSCE mission in Skopje. If the international community can do so much for the Kosovo province it would be foolish to ignore Macedonia's needs for an international presence to help it through the crisis.

• Bring peace and reconciliation education to citizens, with special focus on youth.
Competent NGOs from Christian and non-Christian countries should be invited by the government and local NGOs to help develop curricula and other educational activity in full cooperation with relevant ministries and local civil society organisations - building peace and tolerance into spheres of culture, education from primary to university level, into the media and - last but not least - into the economy.

• Invest in Macedonia.
Risk-willing investments are needed now. It is now regional and global business can contribute to peace. Big companies making small investments would mean a huge difference here. Given the costs the international has incurred on the region, the international Stability Pact is far too slow and limited in scope. There should be many sources - it is not a safe strategy to let one country more or less buy up the country, as is presently what Greece seems to do.

• Move from ethnic balancing to a state of democratic citizens.
Macedonia must be helped to move from the risky ethnic tightrope-walk it has practised since independence and toward an integrated democratic welfare state for all. It is not a matter of giving the Albanians a larger say in society's various spheres: what needs to be done is to rise above that division and create a future in which that division has much less relevance, where people will talk politics, values and visions and not quarrel about whether the Macedonians or the Albanians shall have this or that advantage, position, or proportional representation. Creating multiethnic parties and reduce the present influence of exclusively Albanian and Macedonian parties is essential.

• Fight corruption.
Not only the economic one, but also that of the political system. The present government makes deals constantly about which party's people shall run which institutions, agencies and companies. This leads to overall moral decay and closes doors to democracy. Honest and morally principled people should not feel handicapped in the Macedonian society, as is the case today. Also, the mafia boom in Kosovo must not be allowed to spill-over (further) into Macedonia.

• Liberalise the media.
The de facto government control of media and its distribution system is only marginally smaller than that in Croatia and Serbia. Nationalistic, im- or explicitly hate- or prejudice-based reporting and debates should be arrested now. Media have contributed greatly before to wars in the Balkans. One creative idea would be for European media to "adopt" Macedonian sisters and let Macedonian journalists and editors work abroad for periods while European journalists work in Macedonian media.

• Give Macedonia a stake in the international initiatives.
People in Macedonia must be constantly consulted. We have seen enough of top-down approaches in Croatia, Bosnia and now Kosovo. They don't work. The international community must learn the lesson that violence-prevention and peacebuilding cannot be imposed. Democracy can only be "sold" by practising it, not by giving someone courses in it or by promising them money if they learn to say the right things. In addition, no country should remain a dependent client.

• Alternative defence and security.
Macedonia could be helped in developing a security and defence policy that is adapted to what the region and the country needs and fits its culture and economic abilities, NOT what NATO or the US think it needs. Modern high-tech defence is extremely expensive. If the country itself shall pay for that, it means a tremendous set-back for civil socioeconomic development for decades. It means loss of de facto sovereignty. Macedonia may need a military - but a defensive, dense, decentralised one suited to its environment. Solving the problems we list here is far more relevant for the country's long term security and stability than acquiring a fancy high-tech defence. A good civil defence and a people trained in non-violent resistance could work miracles, will cost a fraction and preserve real independence in contrast to militarisation and clientilisation. If it joins NATO, let Macedonia be the Iceland of the Balkans - having no military but being useful in other ways to its region and to the international community: something more like Switzerland.

• Establish innovative institutions there.
Macedonia could host a regional Centre for the Study and Practise of Reconciliation and Forgiveness, for example (see PressInfo 76). It could be offered the opportunity to host important European educational facilities related to, say, human rights and intercultural learning in various fields. What a learning experience it would be for privileged EU students if they could achieve not only professional competence but also learn what the Balkans is about while studying in, say, Bitola, Tetova or Skopje!

• Break the sanctions and co-operate with Yugoslavia.
It would be highly understandable if Macedonia openly broke the sanctions and started co-operating with the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia again. It would be a tremendous boost to the Macedonian economy and welfare and, given the sad human situation in Serbia and Montenegro, it would be a truly humanitarian act, too. Furthermore, it would contribute a little to prevent a breakdown in FRY and improve strained relations between the two countries.

• Start an OSCE-like process for all of the Balkans!
It is sad to see the international community deal with one issue at a time over 8 years (Croatia, Bosnia and now Kosovo) without recognising the interrelatedness of the problems as well as the solutions. It's time to start a multi-year process with all participants: international and regional governments and civil society organisations.

"The country has survived a series of challenges that observers like myself predicted would be fatal. One must not conclude that Macedonia is therefore resistant to every event and pressure. Macedonia is neither Kosovo nor Bosnia; its level of tolerance is higher, still. But take care! President Gligorov has been singularly effective in providing leadership, tolerance and stability; the candidates seeking to succeed him don't naturally match these qualities. Secondly, Macedonia was seriously destabilised by NATO's militant conversion of it into a combined military base and refugee camp.

I think we have a duty to make good for that - in Macedonia, in Yugoslavia and in Albania - and not put all the eggs now in the basket called Kosovo. Remember, whatever NATO, OSCE and the UN try to do in Kosovo will be meaningless if its neighbours fall apart, one after the other," concludes Jan Oberg. "So please send YOUR ideas and we will send them on to the thousands who receive TFF PressInfos. When it comes to learning how to avoid violence, even the smallest idea and initiative must be tried."  


© TFF 1999

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