Mr Timothy Less, a former British diplomat and now a consultant, wrote in 2016 of the need for a possible redrawing of the borders in the Balkans along ethnic lines, which would mean Bosnia-Hercegovina and Macedonia losing territory to accommodate ethnic Serbs and ethnic Albanians respectively. see links here and here
The comment generated enormous heat, to say the least, amongst Bosnians and Macedonians.
TEAM UZUNOV blog spoke to Mr Less about his views, especially in light of recent developments in Macedonia, the possibility of the country changing its name and identity to satisfy Greek demands as a precursor to joining NATO and the European Union.
PREFACE: UKRAINIAN CLAIM.
A diplomat from the Serb Embassy in Macedonia and also the resident intelligence officer, openly known, Goran Zivaljevic, was photographed inside the parliament during the turmoil which saw SDSM politicians Radmila Sekerinska, a Serb and now Macedonia’s Defence Minister attacked and pulled by the hair by an angry elderly man; SDSM leader and now Prime Minister Zoran Zaev bloodied and Albanian extremist politician Ziadin Sega, who in 2012 threatened to burn down the Macedonian parliament if his demands were not met, knocked unconscious.
The Ukrainian Ambassador to Serbia, Mr Oleksandr Aleksandrovych wade into the controversy and made a statement in November 2017 in which he accused Russia of wanting to destroy Europe and of interfering in Macedonia through Serbia. see link here
But as hot heads and emotions cooled in Macedonia, the whole Russia interfering in Macedonia via Serbia scenario simply didn’t make any sense:
-many of the leading “anti nationalist” activists in Macedonia who are aligned with the US are themselves Serbs, such as Borjan Jovanovski, Pavle Bogoevski of the Colour Revolution fame, Sekerinska, Branimir Jovanovic of the Levica (Leftist) Movement, Sasa Bogdanovic, the Mayor of a crucial municipality in Skopje, the capital, and have been ferocious in their attacks on native ethnic Macedonian identity - in the process of doing so leaving themselves wide open to being accused of chauvinism aimed against native ethnic Macedonians.
Bogoevski (pictured below), now an elected Member of the Macedonian Parliament, became the face of the Colour Revolution in Macedonia which purported to be against nationalism but only focused on attacking Macedonian statues ignoring the World War II Albanian Nazi collaborator statues that have sprung up in recent times in Macedonia.
Bogoevski’s reaction to Dacic was to deliberately emphasize his Serb background and vehemently deny taking part in any protests in Belgrade. see link here
Ivana Jordanovska, a pundit who called for EU sanctions to be placed against Macedonia’s President George Ivanov for not doing as he was told by Brussels, told TEAM UZUNOV blog she would not call for sanctions against Vucic or Serbia over “interference” nor call for protests against Serb nationalism. Again, this was very puzzling “anti nationalist” behaviour.
I can offer a few comments in answer to your questions, but I'm not sufficiently well apprised of the details to comment on specific individuals and their particular motivations.
On the question of Russia, there is no question that Moscow is trying to shape Macedonia's politics to suit its own interests (whether you call that interference is a matter of semantics) but it's not clear that Russia is particularly effective, and one must keep in mind Ukraine's strong interest in exaggerating Russia's role and painting it as a malevolent influence.
As for Serbia, it has its own problems with Macedonia and is not simply acting as an cypher for Russia's interests. Belgrade sees Albanians gaining power in Macedonia - after being successfully unified by [Albanian Prime Minister] Edi Rama and entering into a government by an untrustworthy Zoran Zaev [now Macedonian Prime Minister]- and Belgrade worries what the Albanians will now do with that power.
Serbia's great fear, of course, is the emergence of a unified Albanian state which includes the territory of Kosovo plus the Preshevo Valley - in other words, a fear of losing Serbian territory and the having to confront a new regional competitor - and its interest is in preventing this development, starting in Macedonia.
On the question of racist statements, the context is that the West, and in particular the US, withdrew its support for Gruevski’s government after evidence emerged on tape of his gross corruption and criminality, followed by the Kumanovo incident [ed. note: terrorist attack by Albanian nationalists in 2015 on northern Macedonian border town- some suspicion over the veracity over it but US State Department deemed it genuine -see US State Department report link here].
Subsequently, the West has given its support to Zaev who says he wants to clean up the Macedonian state, improve the conditions of life for Albanians and integrate Macedonia with NATO and the EU - all things the West supports. The price the West must pay for these gains is to turn a blind eye to occasional misdeeds by its new clients because it's not worth falling out with them over small matters, although it may well express its displeasure in private.
On borders, to be precise, I did not call for the partition of Macedonia or Bosnia. I warned that minorities in these countries will eventually try to break away from their titular states because they do not enjoy the basics of life in their current circumstances - security, rights, economic opportunity, and so on - and have no expectation that this will change.
The Bosnian Serbs are explicit about their plans to secede from Bosnia and have an obvious alternative option - unification with Serbia, a state to which they were joined until 1992. The Albanians in Macedonia are weaker and do not have another state which they can join because Albania is currently a state comprised of two parts - Albania proper and Kosovo - the latter of which is weak and contested. The 2001 conflict was a pretty clear statement that Macedonia's Albanians do not want to be part of Macedonia but, for the moment, they must stay put and make the best of it.
My argument is that the geopolitics of the Balkans are in a state of flux and the West's hegemonic position in the region is untenable, because the US is not interested in the Balkans and the EU's unresolvable internal crises means it cannot integrate the region (or even sustain itself: the EU is in a state of slow-motion disintegration).
The inevitable consequence is an emerging power vacuum in the Balkans which malcontent minorities will exploit to resolve their unfinished business from the 1990s and 2000s, starting with the Bosnian Serbs, followed by the Kosovo Albanians whose only viable long-term option is unification of their territory with Albania, and followed after that by the Macedonian Albanians.
So the question for Western policy makers is whether to risk an uncontrolled conflict in the Balkans against a probable backdrop of political crisis in the rest of Europe. Or to recognise where the region is heading - towards the emergence of nation states - and take pre-emptive action while Europe is still stable and united, and the West has some leverage to make sure this transition happens peacefully rather than violently.
This suggestion was never going to go down well with Macedonians and Bosnian Muslims because they believe their respective minorities have no right to leave and take their territory with them. Nor was it ever going to be popular with the Liberal internationalists in Brussels who believe that nation states are the source of all evil and cannot see that the EU - the embodiment of all their hopes and dreams - is failing.
However, this is largely irrelevant to those people on the ground who deeply desire their sovereignty and self-determination and who will ultimately take risks to achieve it. Where Brits, Catalans and Kurds (and, perhaps also Lombards, Venetians and Corsicans) are now leading, minorities in the Balkans will eventually follow.
Timothy Less’s comments about border changes have met with fierce criticism from Macedonians and Muslim Bosnians alike.
MARK BRANOV, a Canadian-Macedonian activist, formerly Media Director of the advocacy group United Macedonian Diaspora and now with civic group SNS-Makedonium, which sprung up in the Republic of Macedonia as a reaction to dissatisfaction with the two major Macedonian political parties, VMRO-DPMNE and SDSM:
"The public commentary from Tim Less attempts to portray border adjustments in the Balkans as if they were little more than rearranging the furniture. He is whitewashing the deadly serious issue of western-backed UCK [Kosovo Liberation Army] terrorism and irredentism; it is not only irresponsible and out of touch, but it is also utterly amoral and unprincipled. Despite a long history of compromise and acquiescence to foreign demands and the demands of foreign agents within the state, the Macedonian government has been hijacked by foreign powers. It is currently in the process of being reduced to a second Kosovo-style protectorate, and voices like Less are determined to distract attention away from the perpetrators of this aggression.”
ZHIVAN RENDEV- an Australian Macedonian human rights activist
Mr Rendev says he doesn’t buy the whole Russia scare campaign.
"I see it as a smokescreen to force Macedonia to give up its name and identity over a fear that is not existent," he said.
"It's an excellent pretext to satisfy Greek, Bulgar and Albanian demands at Macedonia's expense with some of the crumbs from the table maybe given to Belgrade," he said.
"Since 1991 post independence Macedonia has fallen within the pro Western camp. The pity is that loyalty has been a one way street. Macedonia's internal stability was threatened by assisting the US and NATO in Kosovo in 1999 and as a buffer state against the Milosevic regime in Serbia. As a "reward" the KLA invaded Macedonia in 2001 to take territory. We all know the KLA was created by the US."
Mr Rendev also cited the 2003 El Masri rendition torture scandal to demonstrate the very close cooperation of the US and Macedonia. [see link here for more on El Masri scandal]
"However," he added "the whole instigator has been Greece in the attack on Macedonia's existence. Greece desperately needs to whitewash its ethnic genocide of the native Macedonian population since the partition of Macedonia in 1912-13."
“It's interesting to note that Greece can be simultaneously pro US or flirt with the so called Russian Orthodox alliance and no one panics in Washington or Brussels but if Macedonians stand up for themselves then all hell breaks loose. The hypocrisy is foul smelling to tell you the truth."
"Talking about hypocrisy, there is massive corruption in Bulgaria, Greece and Kosovo and no Colour Revolution. There are Albanian Nazi collaborator statues that have been built in Macedonia and a rise in neo-Albanian fascism but silence from the West.”
Mr Rendev said he wanted to break this wall of silence and was one of the organisers of a Macedonian rally to be held in Melbourne, Australia on 4 March this year.
Southeast Europe Coalition Strongly Rejects Warmongering and Violence-inciting Speech
The Southeast European Coalition (SEE Coalition) is an informal partnership of Diaspora organizations in the U.S. that formed in response to the U.S Department of State’s Global Diaspora Forum in May 2011. SEE Coalition contributes to an enhanced American foreign policy that reflects the common goals of ethnic communities from Southeast Europe, and advocates for a Europe that is whole, free and at peace. SEE Coalition works within the context of shared American values towards a democratic, multicultural and peaceful Southeast Europe, and together with our partners, we advocate for these principles and advise on policies that would bring about positive change in this vulnerable region. This statement is a response to recent articles that have surfaced suggesting that the only way forward for the Southeast European region is a re-drawing of the borders along ethnic lines.
In an article by Timothy Less published by Foreign Affairs magazine, he suggests that the current multi-ethnic composition of most states in the Western Balkans has failed, and that the best solution would be to fragment Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia and Kosovo along ethnic lines and a massive realignment of the region. In a published response to Less’ article, Dr. Jasmin Mujanovic, a scholar of Southeast Europe, noted that the Western Balkans has always been multicultural in form, and that it would be next to impossible to create purely ethnic states. According to Dr. Mujanovic, the only people in the region who want more partition are “extremists and reactionaries” and those connected to the demagogues that helped lead the region into a decade of war during the 1990s. Dr. Mujanovic wisely notes that “the most previous element of the formula” for a free and peaceful Southeast Europe is peace.
TEAM UZUNOV original questions to Mr Timothy Less
Mr Less, the Ukrainian Ambassador to Serbia Aleksandrovych made a statement in November 2017 in which he accused Russia of interfering in Macedonia through Serbia.
I wanted to bring to your attention that no protests have ever been held outside the Serbian Embassy in Skopje, Macedonia over this interference.
Pro US and NATO supporters in Macedonia, who also include leading Macedonian politicians and journalists of Serb background, such as Defence Minister Radmila Sekerinska, media commentator and activist Borjan Jovanovski have remained inactive over this interference.
For example, Mr Jovanovski and many others like him, who strongly support NATO and the US in Macedonia, have stubbornly refused to protest against Serbian-Russian interference in Macedonia and have offered contradictory statements - one minute saying there is no Serb-Russian interference, next minute saying there is.
Q1. Are you puzzled by this behaviour which goes against the Ukrainian Ambassador's statement? This behaviour of the aforementioned people strikes me of bias and chauvinism towards native ethnic Macedonians.
Furthermore, Colour Revolution Leader and now Macedonian MP, Pavle Bogoevski revealed he was of Serb background and also admitted he doesn't protest against Serbian nationalism, a supporter of Russia.
Q2. Isn't this odd for someone claiming to be pro US, EU and NATO?
Q3. Why does the US support Serb chauvinists who pretend to be Macedonian "anti nationalists?" Is it because they cynically support the US?
I don't recall such people being given a platform when the US needed Macedonia in 1999 as a buffer state against the Slobodan Milosevic regime in Macedonia.
Q4. Why has there been silence from the West over the building of Albanian Nazi collaborator statues in Macedonia? and silence over some of the racist statements made by Albanian politicians towards Macedonians?
Q5. Are you aware that in 2007 the US Embassy in Macedonia advised against bi-lingualism (adding Albanian as an official language) in Macedonia because of the dangers it posed to Macedonia's stability? Do you wish to comment on the issue?
Q6. You have controversially called for Macedonia and Bosnia to be partitioned - in Macedonia's case handing a large chunk in the West to Kosovo or Albania. Why does Macedonia's border need to change if there is a move for a borderless Europe as part of the utopian EU project? Large numbers of Albanians have arrived in Macedonia or more precisely were pushed out of Kosovo into Macedonia. There has been no proper census undertaken in over a decade. Furthermore, the US is using Serb chauvinists posing as "Macedonian anti nationalists", "human rights activists" to attack native ethnic Macedonian identity. That suggests the US State Department has a deliberate agenda to destabilise Macedonia.