Macedonia has a new government, too

Back in January, I posted about how Macedonia’s young Prime Minister, Nikola Gruevski, was for some reason the most popular head of government in the Balkans.

Well, they had Parliamentary elections at the beginning of June, and Macedonia said: yes. Gruevski’s center-right coalition won a whopping 63 out of 120 seats, giving them an outright majority. That’s very rare in this part of the world, and it’s the first time it’s ever happened in Macedonia.

Unfortunately for Gruevski, the elections did not go smoothly. There was violence at or around the polls in several ethnic-Albanian regions of the country.
The violence seemed to be connected to tensions between the two rival Albanian parties. (Note: this is the Balkans, so of course it’s more complicated than that. This is the simple, blog-post version.) Several people were shot, and in a few places polls could not be conducted because of violence or threats. The upshot was, they had to hold repeat elections in about 7% of Macedonia’s precincts — all in ethnic Albanian areas.

This is definitely a black mark for Macedonia. It also goes to another point I made earlier this year, about the political immaturity of the Albanosphere.) Hm, maybe that bears repeating here:

Albanian politics still has trouble with the whole “loyal opposition” concept… More generally, Albanian politics tends to be fissiparous, and driven by personalities, clan ties, regional loyalties and cash rather than ideologies. This is common, even normal in post-Communist countries, but it doesn’t make it easy to form a government or run a modern state.

In this case, there’s an additional complication. Macedonia has two parties representing its large (25%-30%) ethnic Albanian minority. I’ve said before that this is probably a good thing. And it probably is — on balance. But there’s a price to be paid.

Anyway. The repeat elections were held, relatively peacefully, a couple of weeks ago.The new government will form next week. Gruevski’s list won enough seats to govern by itself, but they’re taking a coalition partner anyway: the larger of the two Albanian parties. This is an interesting switch, because for the last couple of years Gruevski was governing in coalition with the other Albanian party — the smaller one. At the time, this caused a certain amount of resentful muttering: a majority of Albanians weren’t being represented! In retrospect, though, it looks pretty clever on Gruevski’s part: he can now make swapping partners a convincing threat.

Anyway, Gruevski’s 63 plus the Albanians’ 18 gives the government 81 seats out of 120 — a two-thirds majority. Under the Macedonian constitution, that’s enough to do pretty much anything they want, including amending the constitution itself.

The smaller Albanian party, BTW, is boycotting the government. Not because of irregularities in the election (though there were plenty of those; in addition to the violence, the government pretty openly used state agencies to campaign). No, they say it’s because the other party has sold out the five-point nationalist agenda (recognition of Kosovo, pensions for Albanian guerrillas, etc. etc.) that all Albanians were supposed to agree upon.

So, watching with interest.

40 thoughts on “Macedonia has a new government, too

  1. How stable do you expect this 2/3 coalition to be? More importantly, will the smaller coalition partner be willing to challenge Gruevski should he attempt to usurp power?

  2. How stable? I’d expect it to be very stable, and to last for years. That’s a pretty huge majority — so big that Gruevski has the luxury of swapping out coalition partners, if he wants to.

    Also, Balkan politicians tend to be nervous about early elections. In Romania and Serbia, governments with much slimmer majorities have clung to power for years (the current Romanian government has even managed to stay in power for months after losing its majority entirely). So, I would not be surprised to see this one go the distance.

    I’m not sure what you mean by “usurp power”, though, so that one is hard to answer.

    Doug M.

  3. What interested me most was the extent to which a junior coalition partner will be willing to check Gruevski’s power. Judging from your reply, it seems that this willingness will be very small, because as you point out Gruevski will have “the luxury of swapping out coalition partners, if he wants to.” That’s too bad, a real political opposition is healthy for democracy.

  4. Rather shallow analysis of the situation in Macedonia. The landslide victory of Gruevski marks nothing else but a belated “Macedonian spring”, a revival of shallow populism and nationalism which ensured an easy win for VMRO-DPMNE and a hard defeat for Macedonia. Here is an example – the expected defeat of Macedonia at the NATO Summit in Bucarest (no invitation for the country to join NATO) proved most benefitial for Gruevski.

    Second, about the rivalry between Albanian pol-parties. This is simply not true. The present party in the new ruling coalition, the DUI, had been subjected to most open attacks and threats by the minor Albanian party DPA. A DUI lady MP was physically attacked in the parliament by DPA thugs. DUI leader Ahmeti survived an assasitantion attempt by DPA. More than 30 DUI offices were attacked by DPA. Before the election campaign started, the DPA leader Thaci openly threatened DUI that “on the election day there will be butchery”. On the election day, the DPA received open support from police and paramilitary units, with government blessing. Besides, one should pay attention to the Head of ODIHR Mission who publicly accused the (DPA) Deputy Minister of Interior and few HEads of Police Stations for orchestrating the election violence.

    There was no inter-Albanian violence. There was only an organized, government sponsored attempts to eliminate the DUI and intimidate the voters from voting for this party.

    About the political immaturity of the Albanians. Do you also consider as “political immaturity” the fact that Albanians are the ONLY nation in the region (and ethnic Albanians in Macedonia especially) that recognize the complete identity of Slavic Macedonians? Are you telling us that Albanians will be considered “politicaly mature” if they follow the steps of Serbs in Bosnia and declare own entity?

    To what “loyal oposition” are you refering to? To their loyality to Macedonia, while Slavic Macedonians stand a/ in line to either obtain a Bulgarian passport, b/ celebrate the release of a criminal who killed innocent emigrees from India and Pakistan, c/ welcome the prince of an ancient tribe from Pakistan that originates from Alexander the Great?

    Albanian politics driven by personalities! This is a statement that only reveals the shalowness of your analysis, based on Macedonian version. Since 1991, the ethnic Albanians in Macedonia were led by Nevzat Halili (first Pres. of PDP) then Abdurahman Aliti (second Pres.of PDP), Arben Xhaferi (President of DPA), then Ali Ahmeti (Pres.of DUI)and Menduh Thaci (Pres.of DPA). That is in total 6 leaders. And who is the President of Macedonia now? Mr. Branko Crvenkovski, who has been twice a Prime Minister of the country since 1994. And who is Mr. Nikola Gruevski? Former Minister of Finance in the Georgievski government and a nephew of late Minister of Interior that dies in suspicious circumstances.

    Clan ties? Lack of knowledge or prejudice always gives an easy answer to complicated issues. To what clans are you refering to? Please name few? Are you refering to Zemun Klan that killed Zoran Gjingjic? Or to Vevcani Klan that supported the Arkan war criminal?

    Regional loyalties? This is such a desperately foolish argument that I will lose no time commenting it.

    Albanians are deeply aware of the present difficulties, but they already experienced similar circumstances with Milosevic. So they know that at this moment they are the first to be hit by Macedonian chauvinism, but that the real damages will be suffered by Slav Macedonians themselves.

    Two weeks after the 2006 elections and the decision by Gruevski to invite the losing Albanian party in his government, the DUI leader Ali Ahmeti warned Gruevski with the following words: “Young man, I won you with war, and I will win over you with politics as well”.

    Two years later, Ahmeti got invited to Government.

    Who is immature here?

  5. Pingback: Global Voices Online » Macedonia: Parliamentary Elections, Round 2

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  7. All I hear from the Albanian corner are more and more demands.
    Gruevski’s govt had no choice but to invite an Albanian party to the coalition.
    The Albanians enjoy more rights than any other minority in Europe.
    Wake up to yourselves, please!

  8. Pavlos, before you judge, try at least to inform on what are the demands of the Albanian corner. Do you consider as eccesive demands such as the one on having the right of using Albanian language in the country? Or the right to open Albanian language schools in areas with ethnic Albanian minority? The right to decide along Macedonians on what is the name of the country they live in?

    Gruevski certainly had a choice not to invite any Albanian party in the coalition. But there is a price to be paid for that, as Albanians will certainly not sit idle while others try to humiliate them.

    Albanians make more than 25% of the overall population of Macedonia. You consider that a “minority”? And let us compare the “amount” of rights Albanians enjoy in Macedonia to those enjoyed by Serbs in Kosovo or in Bosnia? Are you avocating here that Albanians in Macedonia should adopt an approach to their country that is similar to the one Serbs have towards Kosovo or Bosnia? Would that make you happy with the Albanian corner?

  9. WOW! Richelieu, way to go man!

    I love your argumentative style, direct and up to the point. In my humble opinion you completely debunked every counter argument you addressed. If we ever meet, I owe you a drink 🙂

    There is no point in repeating everything you wrote. I second every word you wrote.

    The bottom line is simple: the Macedonians will live to regret handing so much power to Gruevski. This is the person who miserably failed to get them to NATO and who is pouring oil to the fire that is the dispute with Greece. He was behind the violence in the ethnic Albanian areas by supporting one side through the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the ‘Alpha’ police units. There was very clear criticism of the Macedonian government by the electoral observers.

    Whether it’s fair or not, whether it’s right or not, Macedonia cannot win over Greece regarding the name dispute. Instead of trying the smooth the Greek position Gruevski is doing the opposite. The ethnic Albanians of Macedonia are an excellent target if the ‘fight’ with the Greeks is not going too well. And by not recognizing the independence of Kosovo they are also harming the relations with one of their main trade partners. The delay in recognition will cause long term damage in trade and other areas of cooperation.

  10. Um. Kosovo is not one of Macedonia’s “main trade partners”.

    Doug M.

  11. Douglas,

    a serious commentator should pay attention to politics, but in a thorough analysis must stick to the facts.

    Politicaly, Kosovo is not one of Macedonia’s main trade partners. Serbia is. Because Macedonia has not yet recognised Kosovo.

    However, thorough analysis of flows of economic cooperation shows that it is actually Kosovo that is in fact a leading trade partners, as most of the goods exported to “Serbia” are actually ending up in Kosovo. So far, the devastation caused to Kosovo was most benefitial for the Macedonian companies and service providers. One stroll down Skopje on Friday afternoon and Saturday morning shows that Skopje shops and restaurants are packed with visitors from Kosovo.

    Um, I am sad to realize that with your last comment you demonstrated such a flawed approach to regional realities. As international observers, we must try to present a realistic overview of realities on the field and keep a sanitary distance from local propaganda. We owe it that much to the people in the region, not to succumb to nationalistic propaganda.

    We may like, hate, sympathise or despise certain ethnic, political or regional factors, but then we should not scream bloody hell when someone just tell us straight in the face: “you are biased and corrupt!”

  12. Richelieu,

    Yes, Skopje is full of Kosovars every weekend. (And of expats from Prishtina going to catch the bright lights — I’ve been one.) But that’s not the same as “major trading partner”.

    Kosovo exports basically nothing to Macedonia — the official value in 2007 was just 9 million euros, less than 0.1% of Macedonia’s total imports. Kosovo receives about 20% of its imports from Macedonia, which is significant for Kosovo but less so for Macedonia.

    Macedonian exports to Kosovo in 2007 amounted to about 220 million euros. The total volume of Macedonian exports for that same year was about $2.34 billion euros. (Which for a small, landlocked, mostly agricultural economy is pretty good, but that’s another story.)

    Doing the math, we see that exports to Kosovo account for about 9% of Macedonia’s exports. That’s nice — especially since it’s paid in euros — but 9% of exports and less than 0.1% of imports is not what I’d call a “major trading partner”. Your definition may vary.

    N.B., a drastic expansion of trade is unlikely until (1) Kosovo’s economy improves, and (2) the transport links between the two countries improve. At the moment there are just two good paved roads, both two-lane, and one rail line, which is in miserable condition.

    Prishtina to Skopje is just 125 km, but it still takes around two hours by car — or sometimes much more, in winter. The passenger train (a single car, just one round trip per day) takes about three hours… though the last time I checked, it was just 4 Euros, which is a pretty good deal: the route is scenic, and a taxi would cost 50 euros or more.

    Anyway. Point (1), economic growth, is unkowable, though it’s probably worth a post or two at some point. Point (2), well, there are great plans for running a European corridor through there, but not much has happened, nor is likely to in the near future. Tariffs and formal barriers to trade are already low — Kosovo has a trade agreement with Macedonia, and is an observer country in CEFTA — so there’s not much room for improvement there.

    Coming back to Fidel’s point on “damaging relations with a major trade partner”. Up to quite recently, Kosovo’s largest trade partner has been… Serbia. And goods are going to flow across the border with Macedonia whether relations are warm or cool. So, I don’t really think this is a strong argument.

    FWIW, I do think Gruevski cares about recognizing Kosovo. I don’t think he’s enthusiastic about it, but he’s paying close attention. And I believe he’s going to recognize… but because of political considerations, not economic links. And I think he’ll do it when he thinks it will be most to his advantage. I’d guess sometime in the next six months to a year, but that’s just a guess.

    Doug M.

  13. Hello Doug,
    Gruevski thanked his victory mainly to nationalism. That isn’t exactly a recommendation.

    But even more important is the question what Gruevski is going to do with his majority. Will it just be years of stagnation and more nationalism? Or does he have a real agenda?

    I would like hear your opinion on those issues.

    Wim R.

  14. Pingback: Macedonia discussion at “afoe” « The 8th Circle

  15. Kosovo’s two neighboring states, Serbia and Macedonia (FYROM), were its main trade partners in 2007.

    “Central European Free Trade Agreement states – mostly Macedonia (FYROM), Serbia and Albania represent 38.9% of Kosovo’s total exports and 41.3% of total imports. Exports to the European Union were 42.6% and imports at 28.9%,” is stated at the 2007 annual report of Kosovo Central Bank.

    Three states dominate imports to Kosovo: Macedonia (FYROM), Serbia, and Germany. Imports from Macedonia (FYROM) are mainly mineral products (62.1% of the total imports from this country) whereas imports from Serbia are mainly foodstuff, drinks and cigarettes (30.7% of the total imports from this country).
    Imports from Germany are cars and other transportation products (48.1% of the total imports from Germany) and machinery and electrical appliances (16.5% of total imports from Germany).

    Imports from China have continued to grow since 2004, reaching 6.6% of all imports in 2007.

  16. I’m sorry, Richelieu, but that does nothing to prove your point.

    All those figures are about how Macedonia is a major trading partner for Kosovo. Nobody disputes that. The question is whether /Kosovo/ is a “major trading partner” for /Macedonia/. Macedonia’s economy is about five times the sie of Kosovo’s, so you can’t just reverse the figures. (Just because the United States is a very important trading partner for El Salvador does not mean the opposite is also true.)

    As I said, the most recent figures are that Kosovo provides less than 0.1% of Macedonia’s imports and accepts around 9% of its exports. Whether that’s “major” is a question of definition. I wouldn’t say so, but perhaps you disagree.

    Doug M.

  17. Doug, you sound enthusiastic about the Gruevski’s victory. I would rather put it so:
    Gruevski won by putting nationalism above everything else. This was a gamble but it paid off hugely when Condoleeza Rice enthusiastically supported him in his nationalist fervor. It is the question whether Macedonia and the rest of the world should be glad with the result.

  18. I think this /could be/ a good outcome for Macedonia, yes. Certainly it’s better than a weak coalition government. And Gruevski’s record in his first term has not been bad — economic growth, rapid expansion of trade, cooperation with the Albanians. There have even been modest improvements in things like transparency and human rights.

    There’s the Greece name dispute, but that’s hardly Gruevski’s fault — it’s a mess he inherited, and the Greeks are being really stupid. [Greek commentors, hands away from the keyboard. I’ll do another Macedonia post soon, and then you can all tell me — again — how wrong I am. ‘kay?] There’s a huge problem with corruption, and that’s a real concern, but by regional standards Gruevski has done pretty well.

    As for “appealing to nationalism”: I’m not even sure what you mean by that, Wim.

    Doug M.

  19. The Greek make so much about a name because they see the vivid nationalism behind it: the maps, the claims for Solun, the claims on Alexander Veliki, etc. Until recently this was combined with claims about human rights violations for the Slav minority. But as it became more and more clear that these violations aren’t a big issue inside Greece (the Rainbow part gets only 3000 votes) Gruevski has switched track and is now making claims for the exiles from the Greek civil war. However, it is very doubtful that his maximalist claims will help those people more than silent diplomacy would.

    It looks like Gruevski is applying the bad diplomatic skills that he showed at NATO now in his own country: he has antagonized most of the opposition so much that they boycott parliament.

  20. Wim, I’m sorry, but this comment doesn’t make a lot of sense. Gruevski’s diplomatic skills are so bad that his party… won a clear majority of the votes in Parliament. Also, the Albanian party that’s boycotting? Gruevski’s former allies, who are in a Homeric sulk because he threw them overboard after they misbehaved badly — vote rigging, violence — and still managed to lose. I’m not sure where “diplomacy” enters into that; what would you propose as an alternative?

    Greece: no, but that’s a story for another thread. (“Silent diplomacy”?)

    I’m still not clear on how “Gruevski won by putting nationalism above everything else”. I have to ask, do you know anything about Gruevski’s re-electoin campaign, or are you just stating your assumptions?

    Doug M.

  21. Doug, I get the impression that you recognize a nationalist only when you see a Kostunica shouting “Kosovo is Serbia”. Yet I consider that the less dangerous form of nationalism because it is the nationalism of the powerless and there is at least a chance that they will be reasonable when their goal comes within reach. The other form simply says “these are our rights and they are nonnegotiable”: it is the nationalism of those who believe that they are powerful enough to get what they want.

    Milosevic’s 1989 speech in Kosovo Polje was quite moderate. He didn’t need rethorics there because at that point him standing there with a million Serbs was a signal enough in itself.

    Similarly Gruevski doesn’t need to shout about his nationalist credentials and can safely pose as a statesman. What he did at the NATO summit speaks for itself. And the support from Rice makes it clear to anyone that they shouldn’t see him as someone who asked too much and lost – as the opposition would like to put it.

    The only thing Gruevski needs is to keep the issue alive. And for that subtle hints are enough and even these can be delegated to others. The recent letters to Greece and the EU certainly do the job. And they do clearly nothing to help him solve the naming issue.

    BTW: don’t forget history in your coming Greece thread. The assimilation policies came after World War II (including the violent annexation of some territory by Bulgaria) and a civil war left the country very divided.

    Wim R

  22. Douglass,

    we alreade witness the “good outcome” of the new/old Government.

    Economic growth was best described by the visiting deleagtion of the World Bank to Macedonia, stating that “unemployment in Macedonia is still high and the poverty has expanded”. Sure enough, the public will soon be flooded by Government data according to which the Gov. revival programme continues, investors are pouring in from all sides and new employments (in state administration) will fill in the gaps. Yes, nothing a good old government sponsored (tax payers money) media campaign can’t heal. Not to mention the already announced construction of a monumental orthodox church in the heart of Skopje, the erection of 40 statues of antic-Macedonian historical figures. That will surely boost the economic growth.

    Cooperation with the Albanians? Well, if we consider as a progress that Albanians have just been denied the right to use their own language in the Parliament, the rampant anti-Albanian sentiment that dominates the VMRO-DPMNE party and the generall dislike for all that is non-Macedonian. Question for you: do you trully believe that ethnic Albanians will simply roll-over and accept the discriminatory policy towards them, or just wait for the moment to come back with (this time) much larger and more profound demands?

    Let me correct you on one thing – this time the Parliament is boycotted by the entire opposition, Macedonian and Albanian.
    Modest improvements in transparency? Only few days ago the new Parliament adopted in a blindingly fast procedure (it took not more than 15 minutes) a new Assembly set of rules, without even consulting the opposition? Here is a breaking news for you: the opposition (SDSM, LDP) is boycotting the Parliament, now demanding an agreement in writting with the ruling coalition. Already there is an uproar in the DUI that VMRO-DPMNE wants to discredit the new ethnic Albanian partner, just as it did with the old one.

    On Gruevski’s election campaign. The very fact that DPMNE used the national defeat at NATO Summit in Bucharest to boost own “patriotic defense” explains it all (to those who want to understand).

    I have said before, and I will say it again. Gruevski’s attitude is a lame copying of Milosevic regime, a policy based on manipulating history, antagonising neighbors, creating a feeling of world-wide conspiracy against Macedonia, denying rights of minorities.

    We must never forget that the benevolence of EU and western states encouraged the appearance of Slobodan Milosevic on the political scene. Cooncidences between Mr. Milosevic and Mr. Gruevski are striking and very worrying: both suffered trauma of family tragedies; both came from families of refugees (Milosevic from Montenegro, Gruevski from Aegean Macedonia in Greece), both launched their careers by promissing dignity to their people, both had ‘magical’ recepies for quick economic recovery, both used the fear of Albanians (Great Albania, Great Kosovo, next: Great Preshevo Valley?) as rallying motive for their people, both played on the card of divisions between EU and USA.

  23. Um. Serbian nationalism is “nationalism of the powerless”, while Macedonian nationalism — a country with a quarter the population, a sixth the GDP, and zero military potential — is a threat. Okay.

    Richelieu, I said “could be” a good outcome. Let’s wait a bit and see.

    I will note, though, that you’re wrong on some facts again. Economic growth in Macedonia was around 4% in 2006, 5% in 2007, and is expected to be between 5% and 6% in 2008. Denar-dominated average wages rose by 12% in 2007-8. Tax revenues went up 20%, while both imports and exports grew very rapidly. Foreign investment is growing fast, though belatedly and from a small base. The budget is running a small surplus.

    Poverty and unemployment are indeed problems. Poverty has stayed constant under Gruevski at around 30%. Official unemployment is also very high, though this statistic is very slippery because of the large grey economy.

    Overall the picture is of very uneven growth. Some regions and some sectors are doing well, rich people are doing very well, the small middle class is doing okay. The poor are being left behind.

    But while the numbers are mixed, they’ve been much better in the last two years than they were under the previous Kostov and Buckovski administrations. (Gruevski hasn’t cut the number of unemployed, but he hasn’t increased them either. Under K&B, unemployment increased almost 50%.) So, yeah, I’m willing to cut Gruevski some slack.

    Similarities between Gruevski and Milosevic: I missed the part where Slobo invited the Kosovo Albanians into government and gave them several ministerial posts.

    Doug M.

  24. You are missing many parts, dear Doug. Such as on the “exemplary” figure of Sejdo Bajramovic, member of the Presidency of SFRY under Milosevic’s regime. Or the role of Rahman Morina, Minister of Interior of Kosovo under the same regime.

    You also missed the part in explaining that most of the (very few) foreign investments that landed in Macedonia in the last two years were actually agreed during the SDSM government.

  25. Um. Bajramovic was Roma, and IMS Morina was a Kosovar Turk.

    — Are you seriously comparing the situation of Albanians in Macedonia today to that of Albanians in Kosovo in the early 1990s? Because that’s, you know, insane.

    Doug M.

  26. Doug, I miss your point. Serbia is not in a position to do much about Kosovo’s independence declaration. Not because Kosovo is so strong but because of NATO. Serbia’s strategy is now one of legal procedures and international majorities. It is a rather invisible strategy and as no country has been in a similar position before the outcome is uncertain and so there are quite a few Serbs who tend to give up. That is the public of Kostunica.

    Macedonia would have reached a compromise with Greece long ago if it was just a small poor landlocked country against a big rich neighbour. It is the support from the US and some EU countries that gives this Macedonian nationalism its strength.

    You didn’t react yet to Gruevski’s recent letters about the civil war refugees. You will have to admit that they don’t help with finding a compromise on the name and that as such they put into doubt that Gruevski really wants a solution (other than a Greek surrender that gives him the freedom to continue with his nationalist crusade).

  27. “Macedonia would have reached a compromise with Greece long ago if it was just a small poor landlocked country against a big rich neighbour.”

    That was exactly the situation for the first 10 years of the dispute. So, no.

    — I agree that Gruevski has been doing some rather silly posturing. The letter was pretty much calculated to offend.

    But that doesn’t affect the underlying nature of the dispute — viz., Greece is wrong.

    But, as I said before, there’ll be a thread for this by and by.

    Doug M.

  28. Doug, Macedonia against Greece was not the David against Goliath as you put it. The Macedonians could read the international newspapers and could see that how the Western politicians and journalists thought about the issue. It was just a long wait for them before Western politicians found the issue urgent enough to do something to help them (it looks like Bucharest did the job).

    When Greece became a member of the EU it initially regularly blocked proposals in order to get more than what others thought was their share. Nowadays they are much better teamplayers but a bit of the “enfant terrible” image has stuck. You can find it back in many newspaper articles that find it incomprehensible why those irrational Greeks make such a noise about a name.

    On the other hand you will hardly ever find a critical word about Macedonia. Even when it is mentioned that they had to adapt their constitution it is only done to suggest that Macedonia has done its part and Greece should no longer whine. If you just read Western newspapers you could easily end up believing that there is no nationalism in Macedonia at all – so completely is it ignored. The only kind of nationalism that the Western newspapers find worthwile reporting is “justified anger” as when Macedonia Airways is no longer welcome or some Macedonian truckdrivers had problems in Greece.

  29. Doug, thank you for the link. It is good to see some international press paying attention to Macedonian nationalism. But at the same time you should see the limits of the article. The only concrete examples of nationalism that it offers are of the rather folkloristic Hunza visits and the “buy Macedonian” campaign.

    But – other than some general remarks about the dangers of nationalism – is doesn’t get concrete on the ugly ethnic side of nationalism. The nazified Greek flags for example aren’t mentioned.

    Also, the article blames the Greek veto in Bucharest for the rising nationalism. This is exactly what I earlier called the “justified anger” model. I believe this nationalism is much older and has its own roots that date back to independence and its exclusion of the Albanians.

  30. Looks like Doug is the only one who does not
    find Gruevski nationalistic.

    The argument that if a country is small and powerless, it has the right to be nationalistic and brainwash its population to demonize and hate the bigger neighbor is rather silly. Hezbullah in Lebanon did just the same, to name just a recent example-and Hezbullah is not even the official government.
    And, Nazralla is also quite popular for playing this game, just like Gruevski is and others were in history who followed the same suit.

    I think “macedonia”‘s position is extremely stupid and Greece is absolutely right-at least in its present position because there is no explanation that makes any sense why “Macedonia” cannot agree to a composite name that will be acceptable to both and accurately describe that it does not represent all macedonians. On the contrary, if there is a slav-macedonian minority in Greece, which only Gruevski and Doug can see-election results do not show such a thing,
    so I guess Doug and Gruevski know best what the greek macedonians really are-, it is to their interest to disambiguate themselves, as there are more greek macedonians in greek macedonians than slav macedonians in “Macedonia”.
    I mean how stupid can you be? Gruevski can talk about macedonians in greece and the greek prime minister will tell hm “yes, I’m one of them along with another 2,5 mil and we are represented by our elected MPs’ not a foreign country”
    Sorry, but I cannot place my sympathies with an ultranationalist that wants to revise history and is behaving as stupidly as possible.
    BTW, I do not see Greece whining. I see Gruevski whining while sabotaging the talk names by adding new stupid issues and refusing to negotiate seriously. I think Greece has stopped taking Gruevski seriously and so has the EU.

  31. Gruevski won on bases of hard work, not nationalism.

    Basically, both major macedonian parties have similar number of party members, but on last election, Gruevski won almost all of the nonmembers of the voters(the albanians ofc voted for albanian parties).
    Most of his support is based on diligent work. I don`t agree with lots of his(his party agenda), but I, as lots of others, cant dispute his and his cabinet workaholic habits, which is nice change from his predecessors, both from his party as from the opposition.
    Rise of nationalistic hysteria is evident, but I must say, it is fueled by greek politics and hysteria. I guess nobody is surprised that craziness generates craziness.
    Btw, last week or two, some newspapers found that Gruevski(his grandfather and father) is also from aegian macedonia, where “there are no macedonians”. So, he has something in common with Caramanlis 🙂
    The recent letters about the legal land issues of macedonian fugitives are rather welcomed change also. There are thousands of ppl over here that are directly concerned and are supporting the raising of those questions.
    Btw, most of the people in macedonia think that those legal land issues are the real problem behind the name, since greek assimilation in last 100 years was that good in changing the ethnic structure in aegian macedonia, that any notion of territorial pretensions are found as nonsense today.
    question for werner: are you greek, or you haven`t ever been close to macedonian soil? If you are greek, I can at least understand your blindness and bias.
    Let me quote you: “I think “macedonia”’s position is extremely stupid and Greece is absolutely right-at least in its present position because there is no explanation that makes any sense why “Macedonia” cannot agree to a composite name that will be acceptable to both and accurately describe that it does not represent all macedonians.”
    Since greece has problem with name, and not us, why doesn`t greece change the name of its province, and its ppl? Which, btw, declare as greeks, as far as I know. Not that anyone here ever objected on them calling themselfs macedonians. Afterall, they also live in part of macedonia. The maps all greeks are so eager to mention, are historical maps of the region under turkish occupation. The national heroes that died for independent macedonia during that time (late 19th and early 20th century) fought for that map in mind, and it is kind of natural to be in history books by their name 😉
    Those maps were valid until 1913-1919, balkan wars and first world war. With different major powers constellation at the time, we could had that whole region of macedonia under same state. It was a legitimate idea, that was under considerations in some talks, like treaty of Bucharest from 1913. So, shell we erase those maps from history books, so we can appease greece hysteria? Should we forget the history of the region so greece can claim 2000 years of continuity 🙂 Someone would think we have china as neighbor…

  32. Btw, the issue was never between greece and macedonia, per se. If Stalin and Tito didn`t had fallout in 1948/1949, outcome of greek civil war could be very different. The papers for pirin macedonia(part in bulgaria) were ready for signing, and if usa/british airplanes backing royalist in greece were opposed by soviet airplanes, greek/macedonian communists would probably won. And there was some kind of agreement for autonomy/independence of that part also…
    Point here, greece, and macedonia wishes were just that, wishes, major players draw the maps, and are still doing that.

    Question here… wouldn`t EU and its integration process squash local nationalism if given time? Isn`t greece working against stable neighborhood by blocking Nato and Eu admission for macedonia? Btw, someone mentioned the 1995 agreement between macedonia and greece. Under that agreement, we changed constitution to explicitly deny territorial pretensions, changed the flag, and used “reference” of “former yugoslav republic of macedonia” for UN membership, until name dispute is resolved. The greek part of the agreement was NOT TO BLOCK nato and eu membership, as far as I remember 😉

  33. G-le, according to Wikipedia Gruevski’s father is from Greek Macedonia – but he is a real Greek with the name Grouios who had to flee in the Civil War.

    History is for historians. When politicians start to talk history my question is: what do you want. Greece thought that it was finished with Macedonian nationalism in 1995. Yet since then they have already received two Macedonian demands: minority rights for Macedonians in Greece and more rights for Civil War refugees. My feeling is that this is not the end and that more demands will follow.

    These kind of demands can be very destabilizing and my feeling is that the Greeks are right to demand clarity and an end to it.

  34. Wim, you’re accepting wikipedia as a cite without bothering to look at the primary sources. In this case, it’s Zougla — a popular Greek television show. Zougla has actually done some good work (they broke a major scandal involving PASOK and the Orthodox Church a few years back) but on the Macedonia issue they’re just as nationalistic as most other Greek media outlets.

    A “real Greek” — well, that’s a question of information (incomplete) and definitions (slippery). Up until 1949, these descriptions were a lot more fluid than they are today. Both sides of the border had people who were ethnically mixed and spoke multiple languages, and identities were much less fixed. Go back another couple of generations into Ottoman times and things get even worse… but anyway: it’s probably a moot question.

    Doug M.

  35. G-le, I am not greek, but I can understand the greek position. The real issue is do you want to solve the name issue or perpetuate a silly conflict forever? If you actually want a solution-and Gruevski has given every indication he does NOT want a solution- you sit down with the other party, note their concerns and try to accomodate at least the part that is valid. As I see it your view is that you want to be called “macedonians”. The greek side could go on arguing that you are really Bulgarians and yes, they still have memories of the failed attempt by ethnic cleansing by the VMRO and Bulgarian comitadji(which partly explains why in the post Balkan wars period there could have been a distrust of slav macedonians) -they just don’t raise them because it
    has no bearing on the name issue. I may say in contrast to your side which keeps raising irrelevant and stupid issues, like you hail from Alexander and so on.
    Anyway, to focus on the name issue, your side wants to be called Macedonian and the current greek position is to find a name that will
    accomodate that. At the same time the greeks want the name to make clear that you are NOT THE ONLY macedonians. This a) is something you also seem to accept, so it is true and I see no reason why anyone should have a problem declaring something that is true and b) is something that is reasonable particularly in
    view of some of your compatriots denying the
    greekness of ancient Macedonia or trying to show that greeks come from subsaharan africa and are really blacks. A real statesman would come out and condemn such folly -and Gligorof had the courage to do so, though perhaps not as strongly as he should-. Or, talking about “Macedonian minority in Greece”, when one quarter of the population identify themselves as macedonians, but did not appoint Gruevski as their spokesperson.
    Your suggestion to change the name of Greek Macedonians to “greek” means in their eyes giving up their regional identity. If there was ever any possibility of that happening, it is gone for good because of the behavior of your side. Your side has given EVERY IMPRESSION that you are more eager to keep playing the blame game than working to a solution. I see a lot of whining about Greece breaking the interim accord in Bucharest. To its credit Greece has not entered this blame game, though it could easily say that renaming the airport “Alexander the Great” was a first violation. But the biggest violation is that the interim accord was designed to be just that: a temporary name that can be used so that you can communicate WHILE you work towards a mutually agreed solution.
    “This is our name and it does not change” does not constitute working towards a mutually agreed solution IMHO.

    “we could had that whole region of macedonia under same state. It was a legitimate idea, that was under considerations in some talks, like treaty of Bucharest from 1913.”
    Any idea is legitimate, the problem is that
    the population did not really want it: Greek Macedonians preferred to live with their greek compatriots, Bulgarians with their bulgarian compatriots and so on for Serbs and Turks. You can look up Macedonian Struggle in Wikipedia where it is clear in the words of the VMRO founders that the original VMRO was founded
    with the maximalist goal of uniting Macedonia with Bulgaria(against the wishes of the greek, serb and turkish macedonians) and if this fails to have an indedpendent Macedonia. In any case I fail to see why the wisdom of Comintern should take precedence over the people’s wishes.

    “greek/macedonian communists would probably won”.
    Funny, I thought the ELAS and later Democratic Army partisans never identified themselves as “greek/macedonian” but as greek. In fact they had a presence throughout Greece and Macedonia was their last stand.

    As for “greek assimilation tactics”, I’ll give you two examples. How many greek or italian-americans changed their name? How many “papadopoulos” changed their name to “Pappas”?
    But if we want to concentrate on the region, because of the practice of jennisaries by the ottomans(taking the fittest christian boys, converting them to islam, making them into an elite army unit and sending them against their parents and brothers), Balkan countries can argue that a part of the current turkish population is actually “macedonian”, greek, bulgarian, serb, albanian or whatever, yet nobody in his right mind thought of asking to
    undo the ethnic structure change there -which among other things involved real genocides-.
    So even if there has been assimilation(which btw happens in the US and most EU countries all the time), what exactly is your point about what must be done NOW?

    Also, whether Gruevski
    “had to flee” is at best debatable.
    Certainly after 1949 there were still left wing people left in Greece.
    It is not like the 1922 Asia Minor cleansing of greeks by the turkish army(or even Cyprus) where those that stayed behind got slaughtered. At the time the UN and the US made a big deal about some 28000 children abducted (that is the term used by the US and UN) by the guerillas, whose rights are probably being referred to and whose return was denied at the time not by Greece, but by Tito and Stalin.

  36. Doug, I would preferred a reaction to the other part of my last post – as I considered that much closer to the core of the issue. But anyway…

    G-le stated that “Btw, last week or two, some newspapers found that Gruevski(his grandfather and father) is also from aegian macedonia, where “there are no macedonians”.” I got the impression that G-le was not aware that some people disagree on this subject and for that reason I challenged him by pointing to a source with a different opinion.

    It is my impression that the Greek with their statement that there are no Macedonians don’t want to say that there are no Slavic speakers or people with Slavic ancestors. They just deny Macedonia the right to speak for those people. For that reason I don’t consider the issue important.

    As for Wikipedia: you are right that some more research in the source might have been helpful. On the other hand it wouldn’t have made much difference. Wikipedia has a discussion page for the subject and there you can’t find any Macedonian nationalist challenging the present version. Given that Macedonian nationalists are not too shy elsewhere to voice their opinion this might indicate a lack of arguments.

  37. I have never seen any greek argue that “there are no macedonians” in greek Macedonia. They may argue that there “are no Macedonians as used by FYROM”,
    but they do not use the term “macedonian” to refer to FYROM nationals. Which is another reason to diambiguate and spare some confusion, of course. If FYROM can refer to a part of Macedonia as “Aegean macedonia”, why couldn’t one refer to another part of macedonia as “northwest” or “vardar macedonia”?
    From my discussions with greeks, nobody would have a problem if there were a slav-macedonian minority. If there is one, it seems-based on election results- to be extremely small( less than 3-5000). It’s just that a) FYROM cannot speak for them just like african countries cannot speak for african-americans and b) they cannot claim to represent “macedonians”, because greek macedonians are no less macedonian and
    only authorize their elected MPs to represent them.

    Although Gruevski’s origins is not really relevant, Doug’s comment just showcases his bias: First, because what matters in a report is whether it is true or not and not whether
    the reporter is a “nationalist” or not.
    Second, of course there is no proof that the given reporter is a nationalist, but “he must be, because all greeks are”. Interesting thinking. Actually I am told that the specific
    show has on a number of issues taken a stance that can only be viewed as anti-nationalistic.
    Anyway, “nationalism” is nowadays more often than not used to discredit somebody we don’t like. I am not sure what greek “nationalism” consists of(Greece occupies no foreign country as far as I know, it is not revising history and there is no “insulting greekness” law ) and it might be worthwhile comparing it with neighboring countries or even other western countries.

  38. Only one detail about mr Gruevski’s grandfather .
    His grandfather, Nikos Gruios, died during the greek-italian war, 1940, fighting for Greece. If someone goes to the village Achlada in Florina, will find his name inscribed to the village monument for those who perished in the war.

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