'Political Agreement Won't End Macedonia Violence'

  • Share
  • Read Later

Ethnic Albanian refugees from Kumanovo arrive on foot

TIME.com: Macedonia's main ethnic-Albanian political party has joined a unity government created to resolve the country's political crisis. Why have they taken this step?

Dejan Anastasijevic: All of Macedonia's political parties really had no choice but to go into a unity government, because it really is the last chance to save the country from being split along ethnic lines. This government will be authorized to make the necessary changes in the constitution to accommodate Albanian grievances, and as long as there is a multiethnic government, it's still possible to talk of Macedonia as a state.

If Arber Xhaferi (leader of the largest Albanian group, the Democratic Party of Albanians) had refused to join the government, that would have been the end of Macedonia as a state. And it would be the end of Xhaferi, too, because then the guys currently fighting in the hills would take over the political leadership of Macedonia's Albanians. So it was in the mutual interest of Xhaferi and the parties representing the Slav majority to reach a compromise. It's in everyone's interests, except the guerrillas.

Presumably Western pressure adds to the impetus towards a unity government…

Definitely. In fact the West has probably played an important role in brokering the agreement, and making it clear that there is no politically acceptable alternative. NATO Secretary General Lord Robertson this week issued the harshest condemnation by a Western official of the National Liberation Army (the Albanian separatist guerrilla group), calling them criminals and thugs. On the other hand, he also leaned heavily on the government to avoid declaring a state of war, which could inflame the conflict. The West has clearly been raising the pressure on the NLA in Kosovo, too, which remains the key logistical support base for the guerrillas in Macedonia.

Will the unity government bring an end to the violence?

Unfortunately, no. There will be a cease-fire declared, but not respected. A unity government, a cease-fire and even constitutional changes won't be enough to stop the fighting and the general deterioration the situation. That's because the violence has already picked up a momentum of its own, and purely political and diplomatic measures can't stop it. Now that the mainstream Albanian parties have joined the government, the only way for the NLA to remain relevant is to continue to mount attacks. So while a unity government would mean the Macedonian state will survive, the situation on the ground is probably going to get worse despite the political breakthrough.