Nonviolent Change Newsletter, Spring 2001
Protest Against BBC Coverage on Macedonia-Kosovo
letter from Dr. Biljana Vankovska
In respect to the BBC's coverage of events on the
Macedonia- Kosovo border, I am signing the following protest: The continuing
misrepresentation of the events in Macedonia by the BBC is giving significant
support to the Albanian extremists' terrorist attacks on Macedonia. The
frequently repeated BBC report in which an Albanian woman living in the border
area to the Kosovo is quoted as saying, "The Macedonians are even worse
than the Serbs" is an example of propagandist and populist quasijournalism
in which the stability and future of one whole nation (Macedonia) is put at risk.
The BBC is constantly (intentionally!?) failing to give a complete, fair picture
of events in Macedonia, and especially on the issue of the extent of human
rights that the Albanian population in Macedonia already enjoys. The BBC has not
bothered a single time to mention the already achieved human/ minority rights of
the Albanians in Macedonia. During the last 10 years of Macedonian independence
it has become an inevitable practice that every government will have a coalition
with the Albanian minority political parties. In the current coalition
government, the political party of the Macedonian Albanians holds four key
minister offices and several deputy positions. There are 28 Albanian MPs in the
120 seat Macedonian Parliament. Minority rights are extended to the maximum
where education is concerned. The Albanian minority in the country has education
in its mother tongue up to and including university level (a brand new Albanian
language university is under construction at the moment). Many TV and radio
stations in Macedonia broadcast full programming in Albanian. Macedonia had
Albanian language TV programs much before even Albania had a TV station. There
are numerous Albanian daily newspapers, magazines, and literature printed in
Macedonia. Albanians in Macedonia hold high-ranking executive positions in
public enterprises, army, police, local government etc. The Macedonian Army and
Police have Albanian Generals and other high-ranking officers. In the
municipalities where Albanians are more than 20% of the
population the Albanian language is
an official language of communication. This is just a small fragment of the list
of rights that the Albanians in Macedonia have under the Macedonian constitution.
Minority rights in Macedonia have been uplifted to a level much higher than what
European conventions and juridical practice in EU countries prescribe. While
there was war in Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo due to basic minority rights
violations, Macedonian minority rights democracy was flourishing. Dear staff of
the BBC, is this what makes the Macedonians "worse than the Serbs"?!!
Were Macedonians really "worse than Serbs" when they were the only
ones who welcomed 400.000 Albanian refugees from Kosovo into Macedonia during
the NATO bombardment of Yugoslavia!?? Macedonia's stability in 1999 was
sacrificed in the name of humanity and the readiness to accept 400.000 Albanian
Kosovar refugees in the country while none of the NATO countries was willing to
take no more than few hundreds of refugees. Is this the way you are saying THANK
YOU for the political, strategic and logistic help which Macedonia gave to NATO
during the Kosovo crisis!? Furthermore, your portrayal of ethnic Macedonians as
"slavs", and not Macedonians, is insulting. When you report about
Poles, Czechs, Serbs, Russians, Croats, etc., BBC does not certainly label them
as "slavs". This letter appeals to your sense of responsibility,
fairness and logic reasoning to prevail in the BBC reporter's coverage on the
events in Macedonia. Macedonia and its 10 years of successful democratic
practice are endangered by the radical, unreasonable, barbaric acts of Albanian
guerrillas. Macedonia is the last country in Europe that deserves this type of
irresponsible treatment by BBC! STOP the quasi-reporting from Macedonia! Give
Macedonia fair treatment!
from an interview with Dr. Biljana Vankovska in the Belgrade paper, Politika
seems that Macedonia is rapidly transforming from 'oasis of peace' into a 'powder
keg'. How do you see the future of the Macedonian state?
'oasis of peace' has always been more a metaphor than reality, which brought
good image to Macedonian state in the international community especially during
the period of struggle for international recognition. On the other hand, it is
also true that for ten years there has been a process of building a multiethnic
society, a slow but persistent one. Regardless the fact that the achievements
were maybe modest, they deserved whole praise because of the opposite
developments in the other parts of the former Yugoslavia. In my view, Macedonia
is losing its 'virginity' and is again transforming into a powder keg (i.e.
re-gains its old historical attribute). However, today this powder keg is not
related to the rivalry of the neighboring Balkan states over the Macedonian
population and territory. The danger of implosion of Macedonian society is far
bigger. The Macedonian state can have a future only under peaceful framework.
Therefore the crucial question is whether the society has enough internal
strength to resolve problems by peaceful means. Certainly, this approach calls
for prevention of the negative external influences. It means that the violence
should be stopped where it has its origins (i.e. in Kosovo), but also to stop
wrong moves of the so-called international community.
spite of the condemnations that come from the international community and
especially NATO, the Albanian terrorists have not ceased armed attacks in
southern Serbia and northern Macedonia. The whole region is heavily destabilized.
According to your opinion are we facing one more war in the Balkans or can we
expect elimination of the tensions?
of all, something like "international community" does not exist. It is
euphemism and the real question is who has legitimacy to represent the states
and nations in the world. The role of this so-called international community in
regard to the current crisis in the Balkans is just declaratory and symbolic. It
is quite absurd that the UN Security Council who once authorized the unique
mission of UNPREDEP in Macedonia (i.e. deployed its forces BEFORE the outbreak
of any violence), now when that violence is reality, it has nothing to say, but
looks towards Brussels and waits for a decision to come from there. Your
observation that we are coping with a regional problem here is very accurate, I
do think that both governments (of former Yugoslavia and Macedonia) should
undertake a joint action before the international forums and ask for coordinated
measures. During the 1999 NATO intervention in Yugoslavia I was repeatedly
speaking that Macedonia had become one of NATO's 'collateral damages'. I was
also warning that soon one could expect spilling over effect in Macedonia (known
as an 'oasis of peace'). Certainly, the international community is 'surprised' (once
again!) with the developments. Macedonia has always had its internal conflict
structure and potential, so it was enough something bad to happen and to take a
role of a catalyst (in negative sense of the word) of the conflict cycle. I wish
I could believe that the situation would be stabilized soon, especially having
in mind the newly signed ceasefire agreement in southern Serbia. However, I am
not so sure about the developments in Macedonia. The basic preconditions for
peaceful solutions are wisdom, knowledge and courage to abstinence violent
responses. Unfortunately, at the time being I am simply not able to identify
internal actors who would be willing and able to promote the culture of
nonviolence. The tensions are growing with incredible speed, and any reluctance
to undertake resolute actions just worsens the situation.
Macedonian security forces capable to control the conflict points in a long run,
or even the predominantly Albanianpopulated areas?
crucial security problem is not the border one, in spite of the whole
seriousness of the situation (i.e. swift spreading of the clashes from one
village into several others, killed people, etc.). The problem is not of a
military nature and cannot be perceived through the prism of human and technical
capabilities of the Macedonian security forces. The prolonged crisis on the
border has had a strong echo in society, which is splitting from inside and
becomes paranoiac in terms of the distrust between the ethnic groups, the loud
cries for discrimination, state terror, more rights for Albanian minority etc.
Counter-reaction on the Macedonian side is as expected: there are lot of talks
about 'granted enormous rights', that there must not be any other steps on
expense of the Macedonians, that Macedonians have no other state in reserve etc.
In media there is a lot of hate speech, and people are more concerned not about
the things that are said but about the things that are not said explicitly. The
state apparatus can keep certain control over the situation for some time, but
under such conditions there cannot be any talk about human rights, democracy,
and peace. I would not like Macedonia to pay such a high price for its existence.
is really going on within the Albanian ethnic community in Macedonia right now?
Some are engaged in military resistance, others stage peace marches, while the
rest calls for federalization of Macedonia.
is very true that something is going on within the Albanian community. Therefore
the leader of the Albanian party (DPA) that is a partner in the governing
coalition, Mr. Arabian Hxaferi has evaluated this current problem as internal
problem of the Albanians, which should be resolved among them alone. There is a
lot of rivalry, both in political and paramilitary terms, and what makes things
very dramatic is that each faction blames the others for copying its own
political agenda, which has been promoted since long ago. That agenda includes,
certainly, more collective rights for Albanians, change of the constitution and
federalization of the state, bi-lingual official communication etc.
Unfortunately, none of the political parties claims to be a citizen-based party,
because it is probably seen as a political suicide. DPA, the member of the
governing coalition, is in an enviable situation between a hammer and an anvil:
on one hand, it faces open accusations by the armed rebels that they have not
achieved anything in terms of declared Albanian cause (the story that reminds a
bit on the rise of Kosovo UCK and Ibrahim Rugova), while on the other side with
similar accusations stand their political opposition and the Albanian part of
'civil society'. Because of its weird position DPA staged a peace march with
dubious motto "For peace and justice". In other words, it was
balancing between promoting peaceful solutions for the problems and keeping the
integrity of the Macedonian state (which behaviour the international community
expects from them), and from the other hand - it was flirting with the demands
for 'justice' (which implied that there were injustices against Albanians in
Macedonia). The most absurd aspect of the current situation in misuse of the
concepts of human rights, justice and democracy as a mask behind which there are
down-to-earth interests and agendas.
P.O. Box, CH-8031