The Republic of Macedonia's paradoxes in peacebuilding: being an object and/or an actor?
Since recently the debate has refocused on the issue of "national ownership"; it seems as if everybody is for it although few would know what it really means and how can one promote it into post-conflict or failing states. According to the (ex-)UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, "national ownership is the core principle of peace-building, and the restoration of national capacity to build peace must therefore be at the heart of the international efforts". (1) This statement actually encapsulates the essence of both the peace-building and state-building strategies i.e. it proves that the global actors do not really find great difference between them. Furthermore, national ownership seems to be a desired end of both processes; they are supposed to restore peace and (re)establish capable state institutions that would be sustainable in the sense that they would be able to persist without further international assistance.
The growing debate along with the increasing cases of state-building may be indicators that ultimate solutions are still far from the reach. One could also assume that the growing interest within the international community is due to its being overstretched across the globe with very few clearly successful and sustainable examples of post-conflict peace-building. About half of the peace agreements to end civil wars collapse within five years of signing. Of 18 countries that experienced a UN peacekeeping mission with a political institution-building component between 1988 and 2002, 13 were classified as authoritarian regimes in 2002. (2)
Peace-building process seems to be a long-term and also a reversible one. The paradox lies in the following fact: longer the international missions last, dependency syndrome is more likely. Furthermore, the roots and the essence of the initial violence/conflict tend to go through a mutation in the post-conflict environment. Therefore, the crucial aspect of external interventions is the one that concerns their successfulness. Yet the criteria for success or failure are difficult to be differentiated. The first question in the row is: who is to judge the existence of success or failure? What about objective and subjective aspects of security? Is success to be measured by absence of physical violence (even if it has been transformed into a criminal behaviour) or is presence of preconditions for positive peace necessary?
In a way, the notion of "national ownership" serves as another name for the badly needed "exit strategies" and disentanglement from regions that do not show clear signs of recovery. If it had not been the case, then "national ownership" would have been redundant, especially in the context of the so popular liberal democratic thesis. What would be more natural than to make citizens and other societal actors responsible for their own government and political system? At the same time, the national power-holders have to be accountable to the ones who elect them and give legitimacy to the government. The very insisting on "ownership issue" and empowerment of the local stakeholders implies that peace and democracy may not always go hand in hand in post-conflict societies. Peace, at least, the negative one may be reached through peace agreements and imposition of various institutional arrangements but democracy (or even a bare state apparatus) can hardly be built without a broad participation and inclusion of the local stakeholders in the process. In other words, at first sight it seems as if (negative) peace can be imposed on the conflict parties, while many theorists would agree that contemporary state-building is a contradiction in terms in so far as states cannot be built from the outside: they are derived from society itself. If accepted this line of thinking it would mean that peace is not derived from society itself (sic). The elaboration of the Macedonian case of peace-building/state-building is meant to prove that it is a false presumption.
In other words, both peace and democratic state have to grow from within, from society itself. The role of the international interventions is limited and its involvement may have dubious results despite the good intentions. The so-called international community may claim successful endeavours only if it limits itself on artificial and short-term results. In terms of peace, most it can achieve is negative peace--for transformation of negative into positive peace much more than a peace agreement is necessary. Unless state-building intervention is meant to create a soulless state (3) or an empty shell (4) it cannot be successful without local participative democracy that would not rely only on designated elites that internationals usually deal with.
It goes without saying that "ownership issue" was the best defined in democratic states, where the sovereignty locus is precisely with the people. The well-known definition of democracy reads: power from the people, for the people, by the people. But what happens with post-conflict and/ or weak states? The international community operates on the assumption that the national government speaks on behalf of the entire population and territory of the state. In a failed state, this assumption may be doubtful. The formal government has little authority and control--perhaps down to as little as daytime hours in the capital--and often its legitimacy is severely damaged. Who speaks on behalf of the people in such a situation? With whom should internationals engage? Where should national ownership rest?
Part of the answer is often found in peace agreements. Studies show that the nature and quality of the peace agreements are important for the peacebuilding results. (5) Studies also show that often the agreements are inconsistent, partly because the international actors--which were instrumental in negotiating the agreements--were unclear on whether the primary aim was to achieve peace or to create legitimate democratic institutions. (6) Reaching peace agreements often involves giving the leaders of warring factions a central role in the future state or regional constellation. It is believed that such arrangements would provide them with incentives to mutate from warlords into peacelords. (7) Eventually, the facade of national ownership is usually preserved carefully but it is the international community that formulates the strategies--more or less coordinated, and with more or less input from 'local voices'. Ownership is defined "pragmatically" and there is application of something called a "principle of dynamic ownership" that allegedly "increasingly broadens the circle of participation in, and support for, the reform agenda". (8)
For the current debate, however, another issue is of central importance. Namely, the question reads: is ownership issue significant (only) as a principal aspect of successful peace-building or it is made topical because of the obvious urge for an exit strategy for the international community? The time constraint is evident in the tension between the desire to withdraw international troops as soon as possible and the desire to leave in place stable national structures capable of providing security and upholding law and order. This means strengthening the police, the army, the judiciary--i.e. the branches of the state, which often have been involved in repression and violence in the previous regime. Instead of leaving behind democratic and peaceful structures, the internationals usually rely on constitutions and embedded institutions as well as on the allegedly reformed 'security sector'. The problem here is that genuine security sector reform is usually a costly and time-demanding process, i.e. something that fragile societies do not have at hand. Thus the post-conflict states are made up quickly to look like 'real states' with all prerogatives despite the obvious need to create a peaceful and demilitarized community that should learn how to heal the wounds and traumas inherited from the violent phase.
Interestingly, having been enforced to deal with each other for more than a decade in the Balkan region, it seems that both sides ('locals' and 'internationals') are equally eager to divorce but there is still the open issue of one's success and credibility. The international community perceives itself as a principle stakeholder in the region, i.e. to be the actor who invested the most (both in human and material terms) for the peace and stability of the turbulent region. On the other hand, 'locals' are often tired and unmotivated by the tutorial role of the internationals; yet the population is not very trustful into its own embedded political elites and is therefore hesitant in waving goodbye to the internationals. Chandler rightly raises another important aspect: what would happen if the invested peace-building and state-building processes fail as soon as the internationals leave the scene? Who is going to be responsible for the failure and who is going to take care of the new (possible) mess? He actually gives an explicit answer with the following argumentation: the international state-builders institutionalize weak states which have little relationship with their societies. The sterile governance is liberated from 'normal' democratic politics. It pictures the international community as unbiased and disinterested in anything but peace and stability. The 'empire in denial' (in Chandler's words) tries to avoid any investigation in its self-interest, while the justification for the interventions is easily found in the cry of their democratic public and moral imperatives. But as soon as the international actors undertake an action in a failing state the main concern is to shift responsibility and accountability on the recipient state itself. It is usually just repackaging of external coercion in the warm and fuzzy language of 'empowerment', 'partnership' and 'capacity-building'. The result is what Chandler calls a 'virtuous circle' for Western states: 'The more intervention there is, the more the target state is held to be responsible and accountable for the consequences of those practices.' (9) The end logic of this redefinition of sovereignty is bizarre: 'Governments which resisted this external assistance could, in the Orwellian language of international state-builders, be accused of undermining their [own] sovereignty.' (10)
The usual refrain of the proponents of the liberal peace from the international community is: "there is a need for local communities to acknowledge their ownership of the peace process and the democracy-building". Having in mind that the driving force of many conflicts (for which ex-Yugoslavia can serve as a good example) is the ethno-political mobilization, then a logical question arises: who are the stakeholders in a post-conflict society? If the society is expected to heal through the liberal democratic remedies then most of the ethnic elites will have to lose their privileged positions. The internationals are wary with regard to the local crooks but they are also seen as more reliable and controllable than the 'masses' and grass-root movements that may ask for more and better than ethnically divided societies and power-sharing institutional arrangements.
Forging peace is supposed to go beyond the signing of agreements between rebel groups and government. It involves the crafting of policies and programs that will respond to the decades old problems of inequity, distrust, discrimination, or ethno-political manipulation. Stakeholders are those who have an interest in the outcome of a particular process. They are those affected by the problem and affected by the solution. Therefore it is of utmost importance to identify them during the peacebuilding process and to create new peace structures that are going to replace the old forms of structural violence. The new peace structures and actors inevitably meet a paramount challenge of desecuritizing the ethnicity, i.e. dismantling the ethnic security dilemma and maybe challenging the externally imposed consensual democracy. The crucial goal in this process is to identify who benefited the most from the violent conflict and its aftermath--and who is the loser? On the list of stakeholders, one usually finds enumerated political parties, civil society organisations, societal groups, youth, etc. Some authors also include the international actors--both political and non-governmental ones. Actually, they are often considered to be 'thieves of the conflict' during the process of conflict resolution. It seems like a rather complex picture of actors who have interests in the currents and reforms. Quite expectedly, some of them may have contradictory interests, viewpoints and strategies. Thus at the end of the day it is a power game that defines who is indeed an 'owner' of the peace and democracy-building processes.
1. Macedonia's path from conflict prevention to post-conflict peace-building
The violent dissolution of Yugoslavia in 1991 bypassed only one of the republics--the Republic of Macedonia. Indeed in the following ten years the country had been pictured a successful case of conflict prevention in the Balkans. Eventually it collapsed under the pressure of accumulated and unresolved regional conflicts, without ever having a real chance to benefit from the negative peace (i.e. absence of direct physical violence). The roots of the problem had already been within the country but everybody seemed to be happy there was no overt violence. The international community failed to figure out that Macedonia had been a small but yet a significant part of the three conflict triangles on the territory of former Yugoslavia. The most common and influential analyses advocated the simplification and vivisection of problems into small pieces ('salami tactics'), thereby obscuring the complexity of a picture that had never been black and white. The illusion of peace was thus grounded in a misconception that the impact of regional problems could have been prevented from spilling across the Macedonian state's borders. Having avoided being drawn into the violent dissolution of Yugoslavia, yet at the same time in the direct vicinity of the region torn apart by ethnic conflict, Macedonia received no special international attention in the first months and years of its independence. Whatever international attention Macedonia received appears to have resulted from two factors: (1) the horrific situation in Bosnia and the consequent CNN effect and (2) the vociferous Greek ethno-nationalist reaction to the appearance of a new state whose name was viewed as an undeniable part of Greek national history. The first factor enabled President Gligorov's call for the preventive deployment of international forces to be heard. (11) Thus, the image of an "oasis of peace" was created for the benefit of both domestic and international audiences. Local elites could claim de facto international recognition, while internationals provided a face-saving mission to compensate for all missed opportunities and mistakes in Croatia and Bosnia. The UNPREDEP mission became a paradigmatic case of preventive peacekeeping and a source of great pride for the internationals (let alone numberless scholarly works, PhD theses, political careers, etc.).
The reality was a bit different. Macedonia had been far from an 'oasis of peace'. An almost endless list of problems has accompanied Macedonia's state-building efforts since 1991. These included, to mention just a few, an extremely weak economy, almost non-existent state and democratic traditions, underdeveloped political culture and a turbulent and not always friendly neighborhood. The strong impact of ethno-nationalist violent conflicts in the region played an important role in determining the conflict prevention efforts in Macedonia. These paid overwhelming attention to the country's ethnic mix, which was frequently referred to as an "explosive Macedonian salad." In sum, for a period of ten years, Macedonia witnessed and hosted an array of international organizations whose projects focused on conflict prevention and resolution, inter-ethnic dialogue and tolerance, etc., yet these projects paid far more attention to the classic cliche of inter-ethnic relations and largely neglected more fundamental conflict. (12)
In late 1992, the country welcomed a unique UN mission of preventive peacekeeping (first as a part of UNPRPOFOR mission, and later as a separate UNPREDEP--UN Preventive Deployment mission). It served as an early-warning source for the UN Security Council. At the beginning the emphasis was on troop deployment (military component), which was supposed to serve as a minimal but psychologically significant deterrent force. Soon the accent of the mission was changed in accordance with the recommendation of the UN Secretary-General: "It should, however, be stressed that UNPROFOR has no mandate in relation to the internal situation in the Republic of Macedonia, which could prove to be more detrimental to the stability of the country than external aggression. Although UNPROFOR stands ready to lend its good offices in appropriate circumstances, it has no mandate to intervene in the event that internal stability results in some form of civil conflict (...) It is UNPROFOR's view that the more likely sources of violence and instability are internal and thus beyond the mandate of the Force". (13) Consequently, the UN Security Council extended the repertoire of prevention techniques, so the mission focused more on other tasks such as assistance in strengthening mutual dialogue among political parties and helping in monitoring human rights as well as inter-ethnic relations in the country. Thus, three main pillars of UNPREDEP's mandate were the following: political action and good offices (political dimension), troop deployment (military dimension), and the human (socio-economic) dimension. This is why some analysts began to pose the question "whether the operation had turned into an internal mediative, peacebuilding/development role, rather than a defensive hedge against spillover effects from neighboring states." (14)
As said, UNPREDEP was supposed to assist the country's social and economic development along with other agencies and organizations of the UN system. But the chief of the mission, Sokalski rightly pointed out that "one of the causes for the precarious state of Macedonia's economy as a source of internal tensions was the cost of the mandatory sanctions against the former Yugoslavia and the unilateral economic blockade by Greece. While part of history now, they nevertheless cost the economy some $4 billions US." (15) In this respect one can say that the UN "protected" and "punished" the Macedonian society at the same time. Consequently, it was unable to contribute significantly in alleviating internal conflict potential.
Macedonia's peacefulness until 2001 was a result of a constellation of some internal and external factors: 1) the country was not a part of the core conflict structure in ex-Yugoslavia; 2) it had a wise state leadership that preferred negotiated settlement with the YPA; 3) the conflicts in Croatia and Bosnia got more complicated than expected by the Serbian side, so Macedonia was not worth military efforts; at the same time, Ibrahim Rugova's peaceful resistance in Kosovo provided some regional stability, at least until the Dayton Agreement was signed in 1995; 4) the UNPREDEP mission managed to mitigate the conflict in and around Macedonia to some extent, and 5) there was a tradition of non-violence between the dominant ethnic groups in Macedonia (65% ethnic Macedonians, 25 % ethnic Albanians and 10% members of other ethnicities). They had always been living as separate worlds, but a deep trauma had not been a part of their common history.
On the other hand, Macedonia had been doomed to a violent conflict because of the effect of some factors, such as: 1) ethnic security dilemma (ethnic Macedonians got their first ever nation-state, while Albanians sought for an all-Albanian state to be build in the region; 2) structural and inherited elements of inequality among the members of the various ethnic and social groups and intrinsically weak state; 3) lack of internal peaceful conflict management mechanisms or early warning system; 4) huge availability of arms, especially after the collapse of Albania in 1997, which discouraged delicate political negotiations among ethnic leaderships; 5) the spilling over effect from other Yugoslav conflicts, and particularly the 1999 NATO intervention that shaken the inter-ethnic relations and hampered the economic and social development; and 6) the impact of the organized crime and corruption on the state-building process.
The NATO intervention gave impetus to the negative factors, especially since UNPREDEP had been terminated in February 1999. The economic situation deteriorated, while the international community had never compensated the country for its losses due to the regional conflicts. The identity divisions got embedded more than ever, especially among Albanians in Macedonia who got stronger sense of solidarity with their ethnic brethren thanks to their joining the battles against Serbian forces in Kosovo. In 2001 this military experience would prove 'useful' for the battles in Macedonia. The use of force was legitimized and got a heroic aura, while Kosovo's prospects for gaining independence affected Albanians in Macedonia to become even more sensitive to the developments in the region.
2. The Characteristics of the 2001 "Little War" and the Peace Settlement
Despite the long experience in conflict prevention, the 2001 crisis took by surprise many international observers. It went through a few stages: what at first looked as a clash of a limited scope with a basically criminal background (cutting off the smuggling routes near a village on the Macedonia-Kosovo border), rapidly escalated into a violent conflict. The KFOR troops failed to protect the intrusion of armed groups from Kosovo, while the Macedonian security forces fell short of using the right tactics against initially small groups. The inappropriate response provoked more mass mobilization of the ethnic Albanians, which was hijacked by the already established but rather secretive army led by a Swiss emigre, Ali Ahmeti. The hostilities lasted no more than six months, while the conflict appeared to have a surprisingly low death-toll, at least, seen through the official statistics (it was estimated that each side lost approximately 100 people, military and/ or civilians). The geographic scope of the clashes was also limited to the mainly Albanian-populated areas and there was almost no inter-communal violent incidents that would involve the civilian population. Having seen the incapacity of the Macedonian authorities and security structures to quickly stop the violence, the international community quickly shifted its attitude: from the initial condemnation of the "armed thugs who prefer bullets to ballots" (in the words of then NATO Secretary General), it started appealing for a peace settlement between the government and the NLA "rebels" and "freedom fighters". Prior to that, under the auspices of the international community, the four dominant political parties (two from the each ethnic block) formed a government of national unity. It manifested an alleged national consensus and unity but also blurred the responsibilities and created conditions for unprincipled policy-making and implementation. The peace negotiations involved the representatives of the four political parties, a small group of experts and two international (EU and US) facilitators. The paradox was that the peace agreement was to be settled among actors that comprised the legal government and never claimed to be in war with each other. The NLA's leadership was consulted but more importantly its political agenda had already been agreed among the Albanian negotiators. The Framework Agreement (FA) was signed on 13 August 2001 under a veil of secrecy and only later presented to the public. The FA outlined a package of political reforms to expand the rights of the Albanian minority while rebel forces were to be disarmed and disbanded under NATO supervision.
In context of the Macedonian case one can talk about the so-called 'banality of the ethnic war' (16) or to paraphrase Mary Kaldor--in its haste to fix the problem the international community fell into the trap of the local conflicting parties and rushed to embrace the thesis of ancient ethnic hatred between the ethnic groups and even impossibility for them to live together. (17) Thus, the simplest solution was to 'separate' the 'hostile' ethnic groups, to impose political power-sharing and territorial arrangements that would guarantee a sort of a negative peace (based on ethnicitisation of politics and ghettoisation of the citizens of different ethnic backgrounds). The simplest solution is not always the best solution, but it fulfils the criteria of a quick fix, at least, on a short-run. A quick fix is precisely what the international community is able to provide and what local elites are interested to preserve in order to govern the country as long as possible. The post-Ohrid Macedonia is already on a track very different from the one that was envisaged by the Framework Agreement. Obviously, the 'founding fathers' did not have a clear idea when drafting the document full of compromises, controversies and double-speak. Today there is almost nothing left from the idea of the 'civic approach' declared in the document; multi-ethnicity has been sacrificed and replaced by bi-nationality, while the power-sharing arrangement makes democracy a pipedream.
3. The Macedonia's Paradox: Dealing with a Success Story or with a Security Problem?
Macedonia's case is unique in terms of its being considered a "success story" both prior to the 2001 conflict and in its aftermath. Such evaluations by default come from the international and national elites. Even ten years later the expert/academic community is suspiciously silent and politically correct, while the public opinion polls display a different picture. The last decade has witnessed much more compliments for the 'miracle' of the peace agreement known as Framework Agreement (FA) than cool-headed reality-check of its practical implementation. The wishful thinking that surrounds this case makes it impossible to draw a conclusion about the state-building and peace-building process, while the issue of national ownership has not been even tackled. For a long time (i.e. till the NATO Bucharest summit in 2008) Macedonia seemed to be doomed to be a success story no matter how imperfect it was/is. (18) Prior to the 2001 armed conflict it had been known as an 'oasis of peace', mostly because everybody needed at least one peaceful actor and alleged success in the regional nightmare, especially since the Bosnian war's horrors became widely broadcasted. The very fact that there was no overt violence and hostility was highly praised--only because this 'achievement' was so self-evident in comparison to all other cases in the region. And again, in 2001 there was no time to 'cry over the spilled milk' or to analyze why the so much praised conflict prevention failed. Instead the focus swiftly moved onto other priorities: containment of the violence, imposition of a 'solution' and affirmation of a renewed Macedonian 'success story'--this time in terms of post-conflict peace-building.
But since 2008, despite all alleged achievements, the Republic of Macedonia has been living in a rather dubious situation. On one hand she proved to be a successful story in post-conflict peace-building but given the Greek veto and the unresolved name dispute many speaks about the country's being in a precarious limbo. The 2008 NATO Summit confirmed that Macedonia had fulfilled all necessary criteria for admission, yet there was no extension of an invitation. This was also true with regard to the EU integration: by the end of 2009, both the European Commission and the European Parliament agreed that the country met the Copenhagen (political) criteria and recommended setting a date for a start of the negotiation process. In both cases the main obstacle was the so-called "name dispute". Thus, being stuck and with no clear prospects for the future, Macedonia resembles a modern Tantalus.
A retrospective look at the developments displays a clear paradox: the closer Macedonia gets to the desired strategic goals, i.e. the membership of NATO and EU, the higher insecurity and risks of destabilization grow. It looks as if the NATO and Euro-integration has transformed a stimulating factor into a securitization tool, especially in the light of the ethnic Albanian claims that they will "join NATO and EU with or without the ethnic Macedonians". Similarly, recently the international representatives have changed their rhetoric, speaking about an eventual need of bulldozer-like diplomacy, while the 'name issue" and the deadlock in the negotiations seems to have transformed the Macedonian "success story" into a "European security problem".
(1) UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan's remarks on the launch of the Peace-building Fund in New York, 11 October 2006, www.un.org/News/Press/docs/2006/sgsm10677.doc.htm
(2) Charles T. Call and Susan E Cook, "On Democratization and Peacebuilding", Global Governance, vol. 9, no. 2, 2003.
(3) Christopher J. Bickerton, "States without Souls. Contradictions of state-building in the 21st century", Paper Prepared for SAID Conference 'Sovereignty in the 21st Century', Oxford, 29 October 2005, http://www.said-workshop.org/bickerton.oxford.paper.doc.
(4) David Chandler, "How 'state-building' weakens states", Spiked Essays, 24 October 2005, http://www.spiked-online. com/Printable/0000000CADDB.htm.
(5) Stephen J. Stedman, "Implementing Peace Agreements in Civil Wars: Lessons and Recommendations for Policy Makers", IPA Policy Paper Series on Peace Implementation, International Peace Academy, New York(2001).
(6) The Future of UN State-Building: Strategic and Operational Challenges and the Legacy of Iraq, Policy Report. International Peace Academy, New York, 2003, p. 7.
(7) Gordon Peake et al., "From Warlords to Peacelords: Local Leadership Capacity in Peace Processes", INCORE Report, 2004, University of Ulster, Londonderry.
(8) An Operational Note on Transitional Results Matrices. Using results-based frameworks infragile states, United Nations and the World Bank, New York/Washington, 2005.
(9) David Chandler, Empire in Denial: The Politics of State-Building, (London: Pluto Press, 2006): 36.
(10) Ibidem, p. 37.
(11) Biljana Vankovska, "UNPREDEP in Macedonia: Diplomacy-Security Nexus in the Balkans", Romanian Journal of International Affairs, Vol. 4, No. 2, 1998, pp. 146-158.
(12) A fine analysis of the real essence of the inter-ethnic tensions in Macedonia can be found in: "Ahmeti's Village. Political Economy of Interethnic Relations in Macedonia", ESI Macedonia Project, http://www.esiweb.org/docs/printdocument.php?document_ID=36.
(13) Secretary-General's Report S/1994/300 of 16 March 1994.
(14) For instance, Shashi Tharoor, "The Concept of Preventive Deployment in the 1990's", paper presented at the Workshop on An Agenda for Preventive Diplomacy: Theory and Practice, Skopje, October 16, 1996, p. 12.
(15) Henryk J. Sokalski, "Preventive Diplomacy: the Need for a Comprehensive Approach", Balkan Forum, No. 1, March 1997, p. 46.
(16) John Mueller, "Banality of "Ethnic War"", International Security, vol. 25, no. 1, Summer 2000, pp. 42-70.
(17) Mary Kaldor, New and Old Wars. Organized Violence in a Global Era, Stanford University Press, Stanford, 1999).
(18) Biljana Vankovska, "Current Perspectives on Macedonia: The Struggle for Peace, Democracy and Security", series I-IV, (Berlin: Hainrich Boell Stiftung, 2002), http://www.boell.de/en/05_world/1733. html.
Biljana Vankovska, Full Professor, Faculty of Philosophy, Institute for Security, Defence and Peace Studies. Head of MA program in Peace and Development.
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|Title Annotation:||From Independence to Ohrid Framework Agreement and After: Macedonian Conflict Management Experience|
|Publication:||Crossroads Foreign Policy Journal|
|Date:||Jan 1, 2011|
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