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The 'ohrid process': a long-lasting challenge.

In the beginning of 2001, the Republic of Macedonia, from an international relations aspect, was not such an interesting country. It was one of the successors of Former Yugoslavia and a state that managed to stay outside crises that had spillover effect from Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and finally to Kosovo. It seemed that the nationalisms 'represented' by some federal republics had devastating influence and sprinkled ethnic conflicts all over the former federation--except for Macedonia. When the Kosovo conflict was resolved in 1999, everybody thought that the Macedonian state will progress as soon as the state leaders manage to fulfill the criteria asked from Brussels and Washington. Macedonia was a country that had moderate approach towards the minorities, in theory more known as socio-cultural model--unitary in public, diverse in private. The state has recognized most of its smaller communities and consequently had pursued many elements from this socio-cultural approach in its realistic forms. Not perfect but much more than other countries from our surrounding. On the political agenda Albanians were the only ones who were in the position to appoint ministers and other officials in the Government cabinets and state bodies. Of course, the power of these appointees had limited influence. Generally, Macedonia was perceived as a state that fulfils minority rights and was a positive example in the region.

But suddenly (many of the colleagues from abroad were asking why we did not inform them beforehand), as early as February 2001, some events on the Macedonian-Kosovo border, showed that the Albanian guerilla had no plans to disarm its paramilitary that confronted the Serbian security forces. The spill-over effect was about to be confirmed as the last in a row. Exactly on the areas nearby the border, where the Kosovo immigrants live, on the Macedonian side, occasional clashes between Macedonian security forces and Albanian guerilla occurred. The rebels were consisted of Kosovo paramilitary, strengthened with the Albanians from Macedonia at first instance--the exact ratio was never confirmed. It must be stressed that many Albanians from Macedonia that joined the rebel forces, ideologically are and were close to Kosovo politics and were involved in Kosovo clashes, too. How many, it was never confirmed. The whole conflict lasted couple of months and when some of the rebels reached physically the settlement of Arachinovo, nearby Skopje, the international community insisted on negotiation and peace solution in order to stop the conflict from becoming a bloody civil war and second Bosnia. Finally, with full support from USA and the EU, the agreement was reached on 13 August and the conflict was over and the solution was politically canalized.

The Framework Agreement, more known as the 'Ohrid Framework Agreement' (OFA) was implemented through complex processes that had couple of phases. As long as the arm problems were resolved and the 16 Amendments were enacted to the Constitution that should allow implementation of the most important elements of the agreement, the conflict was under control and the Republic of Macedonia went into the normal politics. So, looking from today's point of view, it is interesting to elaborate what were the main achievements and under achievements following the implementation of the Ohrid Framework Agreement?

1. What was achieved?

The first important goal was that the OFA did succeed to stop the escalation of the ethnic conflict (many refuse to label it as an ethnic or even a conflict), or whatever it was, and opened the possibilities for bigger and better integration of the smaller ethnic communities into the mainstream of the society. Understandingly, the Albanians used it the most. Majority of Macedonians were not enthusiastic and did not freely embrace the Agreement's provisions. It seemed that many concessions were overriding the unitary and national concept of the state that was already established. Albanians were satisfied but it was not the fulfillment of their more radical demands that were publicly announced in the first days of the conflict. It was a loose-win situation for both.

Second, the Albanians as a community strengthened their position in the socio-political structures within the state on higher level. In many areas, as the OFA elaborated, Albanians were now 'armed' with political means to proceed and fulfill their legitimate demands and needs as well. These processes were sometimes intertwined with more tensions sometimes went more smoothly, but they became an integral part of our political brand. It is functioning, it gets slow occasionally but it reaches the goal that was envisioned. Mostly in the areas of culture, identity, language, education, decentralization, political representation, personal documents and the more complex one as the Badinter majority mechanisms. The frustrations were more present in the issues such as the Law on territorial division of the municipalities, official usage of the Albanian language as the second language and the state symbols that represent 'only one community'. Anyhow, new possibilities for institutional discrimination towards Albanians and other communities were significantly decreased.

Third, the door towards the full integration of Macedonia in NATO and in the EU was widely open. With the Ohrid Agreement provisions Macedonia was classified among the states that have full-fledged democratic solutions concerning smaller communities which is not the case in many Balkan states and EU members. This was realized through the political transformation of the former rebels into political party which became an election winner in 2002 on Albanian side and together with the Social-Democratic Alliance formed a Government. The Coalition government managed to stabilize Macedonia very fast and begun a long-run with the EU requirements. The crown of this process was a candidate status that Macedonia earned in December 2005. That meant goodbye Macedonia 19912001 and welcome Macedonia 2001-2005. The former rebels (now Democratic Union for Integration, led by the same leader) proved that can be good Coalition partner also with the right-wing VMRO-DPMNE in 2008-2010. Still, in 2011 we have not yet started the negotiation process because of the objections of Greece and the name issue.

2. What was not achieved?

The first, basic acute problem between Macedonians and Albanians is the problem with the lack of confidence and the mistrust between the two ethnic communities, that not even the Ohrid Agreement resolved. Macedonians are prone to thinking that Albanians got 'more than they deserve as minority' and that their final goal is the creation of 'Greater Albania'. Albanians think that 'they are not equal as the Macedonians' and that the Macedonians are to blame for their economic situation. Neither are the Albanians classical minority because of their size and number, nor are the Macedonians angels towards Albanians as smaller community. What could help for the sake of both is the equality of opportunities and open communication that should be strategic goals in this context. Open communication means higher political culture that shed more light on procedures and implementation of the legal provisions regarding overall citizen's status. More important, through the educational process an individual approach (individualization) should be supported and build upon, which then would sustain liberal and democratic values in the society. The collectivistic approach does not sustain liberal values but it enhances paternalistic and obedient relations. The 'ethnic knots theory' (Macedonians and Albanians answer completely different on important questions for the country) explains the difficulties in communications and the obstacles to build common civic public sphere and civic culture without using the ethnic lenses. Equality of opportunity is also a principle to fulfill if you don't want to loose loyalty of the members of the citizens from different social groups. The Ohrid Agreement aim at this ideal but it will take much more efforts and policies to reach this goal.

The second major non-achievement is the failure to produce necessary common values and common vision that should bind together both ethnic communities within the society. This should have been one of the achievements of the Framework Agreement and maybe its cornerstone. For instance, the vocabulary of Albanian ethnic community leaders is totally ignorant of 'the others'. They speak only of their ethnic dreams. On the other side, the Macedonians generally speak of Macedonian nation and national state i.e. the Macedonian nation-state. Albanians are too often trying to remind their own ethnic members that the battle for the 'new political arrangements' is under way and is one of their political goals. Neither all leaders of the Macedonians are drowned into national ideology, nor are all the Albanians against greater social integration of their fellow citizens within Macedonian state. Main obstacles for better communication of two communities are the language and the religion. Even bigger states than our own cannot always produce quality solutions for social integration. Ethnic identification as a process is on the rise. Albanians, but Turks also, are identifying themselves first of all as ethnic groups. The citizens besides their ethnic identification, as their second choice, are relying on their religious belonging. Intermarriages across religious lines are rarities. In one word, the politicization of ethnicity is a good business and it is not likely to disappear. The only solution is building a true multicultural society but with no violations of existing political order and social fabric. This goal requires honest dedication of the partners and participants. It does not always require changes in the political structures but mainly interventions in the civil sector, media, culture and education. This does not require a huge amount of finances too.

The third problem is connected with the democratic processes that should eventually decrease various divisions in the state, something that is necessary for the social cohesion in any liberal society. The Agreement did not breed higher level of political unity among main political factors. Political, economic, cultural and social processes too often suffer from internal divisions within the society. As more divisions are emphasized, the bigger energy is needed that should overcome the problems. Macedonia is full of divisions: ethnic divide, digital divide, urban/rural divide, rich/poor divide, gender divide, and most recently the rude political divide was added which is used to disqualify your political competitor. The divisions that are irreconcilable can be analytically thought of as vertical and horizontal stratification. From the vertical divisions, the most visible is the ideological one, namely, the 'partization' of the state institutions (massive employment of the party members). That is the inner struggle for the redistribution of the power among the groups that compete for the political power. Because the conditions are deteriorating, the system produces less but more rich people and more poor people with less resource. The conflict (animosity) between the right and the left wing parties weakens the state from inside because a lot of negative energy is present between political competitors. The most obvious horizontal division is the ethnic divide, but for that we spoke earlier. Ethnicity and nationalism are powerful tools for exclusionary policies, especially in developing democracies. Macedonia as a small state should learn that the best domestic policy towards cultural diversity is democracy and the best foreign policy is good wrapped nationalism, not the other way around.

3. What is the model?

Multiculturalism in Macedonia prescribed in the Ohrid Agreement is trying to be normative. It is also institutionalized. There is no other way towards prosperity than through respect and obedience to the provisions of the Constitution and the Laws regarding the Macedonian multicultural model. Today's model that is already in practice, also, resembles the theory of integrated multiculturalism. It means that the ethno-cultural and the socioeconomic aspects have to be resolved together and holistically. The cultural aspects must be linked to the economic sphere. They cannot be decoupled. It means that it is not enough to recognize some cultural group or different identities, you must support them financially in all aspects of their living. But there is a danger that more and more cultural groups will apply for such a status. And it is the case. This status provides that ethnicity pays off. If you are a member of a vibrant and politically active ethnic minority, you would have greater chances to find a proper job, to get more resources for development and to be part of a government coalition which can provide some of your major activists with many privileges.

One of the characteristics of our model is surely the presence of ethnic pragmatism and much less multicultural richness. Multiculturalism as a theory is kind of political philosophy that should find more space for different cultures. On the contrary, the ethnicity is an instrumental principle and the struggle for more for us than them and something that 'sell' exclusionary politics. The multiculturalism as a project must be strongly supported by the state and should be implemented through many policies and projects. Multiculturalism as a strategy is a state business. Not even the biggest group alone can produce it and nourish it. But multiculturalism in its essence is an integrative and inclusive practice. Elements of our multicultural model can be implanted in any of the Balkan states as examples of integrative policy towards ethnic and cultural minorities. Their implementation is also a matter of state will to do more in this direction. But the European states are egoistic and national by definition, no matter where they are from, west or east.

Another characteristic of our model is the policy of 'final internal separation'. This is the way of creation of ethnic spaces and parallel life--ethnic municipalities, exclusive languages of education, etc. Multiculturalism as a model requires public sphere and equal participation of different cultural groups. The groups should freely use their cultural arsenal especially language and other cultural markers. In the public sphere there should be communication strategy that shows to members of different cultures how much they are respected and appreciated in the society. The closest to this is the statement that multiculturalism is richness for the state. Civil sector can make up some of the gaps but cannot substitute the whole public sphere. Even for the economy it is sometimes difficult to overcome cultural barriers but somehow there are good examples of it. Cross-cultural projects should be encouraged and implemented. In Macedonia there are not enough activities in this direction. Anyway, the model of Switzerland and Belgium are regional multicultural models (more in multinational sense) where everything is separated and everybody lives happily in 'their' cultural spaces--cantons, municipalities, cities, schools, etc. What is the goal of the Macedonian model, the integrative or the exclusive one? This is the missing point by the international community when they intervene in our political and cultural management. Now, it seems that we are approaching the Belgium model (Macedonians would prefer the Canadian one), that is probably direct outcome of the Ohrid Agreement. We cannot value which model is better. But, the first paradigm it opens toward multiculturalism and the second one it is closing it down.

Not being member of NATO and the EU thus far creates more spaces for some new and some old ideas backed up from the nationalist campuses on both sides--the political mainstream is clear and the smaller communities have no political weight to impose ideas for changes in the model. Macedonian nationalists still speak of Macedonian state (nation-state), Macedonian nation (in which you can be accommodated as Macedonian citizen and enjoy your cultural rights) and Macedonian soil and deep-rooted ethno genesis. The Albanians speak of autochthonous Albanian lands, about federalization of Macedonia, new Ohrid Agreement, changes in the state symbols, and implementation of full consociation democracy as it was define in theory ('Badinter' double majority voting for every Law, which means ethnic veto for any decision, not just for certain areas and questions). Each political agenda is a legitimate one but not everyone is a realistic. Even worse, some nationalist ideas can simply harm the fragile Macedonian multicultural model in progress and not enhance it like some of the proponents of these ideas promise.

4. What are the lessons learnt?

The model that we have seen in the last 10 years is functional but also strokes up tensions when the two ethnic 'blocs' (mostly Macedonians and Albanians) are confronted in the ethnic argument dialogue on any level, in the school courtyards, in the squares where new monuments are erected, in the strategy for the integrated education, in delivering of official positions after and between elections, in separated public discussions, and in many more occasions. The encounters are mostly verbal but sometimes physical violence occurs between children. Not that the cross-cultural events do not happened or that there are no intercultural happenings at all. It is simple not enough for building it into a model.

Macedonia as a cultural context has no problem with diversities. People here on the Balkans are used to have neighbor of different cultural material. Cultures here have co-existed for centuries. Nevertheless, it is strange to ask Macedonia to build 'functional multiethnic democracy' when at the same time our neighbors are strengthening their nation-states, when the borders are made according to the ethnic composition of the population, when two of our neighbors blatantly negate and attack our identity, language origin and our cultural heritage. At the same time Bosnia, as the only multicultural state in surrounding, is facing bleak future and the European giants as Germany, France and Britain are claiming that multiculturalism in their countries is dead. Moreover, we can add many other big and small pieces that reflex the ambiguities of multicultural theories that do not offer stable categories and insights.

As a conclusion one can stand for multicultural ideals in the Framework Agreement but one cannot support ethnicization of the state. The Ohrid Agreement stopped the war but also created ethnic divide and parallelism in the society and the education process. Macedonian from one became two, and can soon become more. Multiculturalism is about plurality but to a certain limit. The best support role in the Macedonian model can play if we create more democracy and less ethnicity. And the analysis will always be unclear if you ask different questions and the answers depend on who the respondents are--Macedonians or Albanians. The model will be fully implemented when the answers do not differ. And it will take a while for this to happen. Still, the Ohrid Framework Agreement did well for Macedonia and it is more like guidance than final status. And it is still a challenge because the political power re-balancing is always far more heavy demand than cultural issues. At the end I would like to add one important suggestion. The reconciliation in Macedonia never happened among the communities and ordinary people, not just among political actors. We all went straightforward silently. But it would help and relax current and the future political partners. It is never too late for justice, on both sides. And better late than never.

Dr. Petar Atanasov, Professor of Sociology and Communications, University 'Ss Cyril and Methodius'--Skopje.
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Title Annotation:From Independence to Ohrid Framework Agreement and After: Macedonian Conflict Management Experience
Author:Atanasov, Petar
Publication:Crossroads Foreign Policy Journal
Geographic Code:4EXMA
Date:Jan 1, 2011
Previous Article:Consociationalism, centripetalism and Macedonia.
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