Good news from Macedonia!

Anthony Barnett
Anthony Barnett
17 September 2002

Peace breaks out in Macedonia! Misha Glenny’s article is not a lead story. Alas, as the world prepares for war, this weeks top articles in openDemocracy continue our post 9/11 debate and include a message from a Kenyan and a poem from an American.

We also engage with the extraordinary mobilisation of rural opinion against Britain’s Labour government, sparked by the threat to hunting foxes. However peculiar it might seem to non-British (and many British), never underestimate the cavalry. The UK’s Countryside Alliance amplifies the new forms which politics now takes everywhere – and which may prefigure the likely street response if America attacks without a credible UN mandate.

But I am struck by the good news from Macedonia. It’s complicated. It’s about a peaceful election with a good result. Without dramatic polarisation and violence, no media coverage at all.

The appalling conflicts triggered by the breakup of former Yugoslavia were always likely to be contained. The only route for a larger war was through Macedonia. Here was the danger. Ethnic mix and small size means no federal solution is possible. If minority and majority fail to coexist, a civil war will bring in all the surrounding countries.

When NATO launched its assault on Milosovic’s Serbia to reverse the ethnic cleansing of Albanians from Kosovo, I met a newly confident Albanian at a meeting. After it, asked him about Macedonia.

‘It should be like Switzerland, everyone should have the right to use their own language and fly their own flag’.

But, I responded, ‘In Switzerland, German, Italian and French speakers don’t fly their country’s flags, they fly the flag of Switzerland’.

‘You are a fascist?’, he asked.

‘No, I’m concerned that unless Albanians in Macedonia integrate with the majority, there will be a civil war. Then Greeks will be drawn in. Then the Bulgarians, not to speak of the Russians’, then everyone.

‘Then farewell Macedonia’, my new friend replied.

Instead, relatively farsighted support from western powers has helped the country hold last week’s peaceful and successful elections. Misha Glenny describes them in necessary detail. His warning should be well taken. Its achievement is not a permission to forget all about Macedonia once again. Let’s hear it for the good news and help ensure it is rewarded with all the help it needs. Otherwise war may only have been postponed.

Anthony Barnett

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