Saturday, November 17, 2007

Foreign Policy Blunders

Macedonia's international position has been seriously jeopardized. On one side we face intensive Greek pressure, on the second is Kosovo, whose unresolved status threatens to bring about a new explosion in the Balkans, and on the third, are the unfulfilled obligations toward NATO and the European Union, which may torpedo Macedonia's 15-year-old foreign policy plans.

In view of this, the Macedonian leadership has the right to be concerned about the country's future and its Euro-Atlantic prospects. U.S. Ambassador to NATO Victoria Nuland has voiced the United States' concern about the stalled reforms in Macedonia and the absence of political dialogue. She clearly pointed to the criteria that Macedonia needed to meet if it wanted to shift matters to its benefit. She asked Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski to implement the May agreement that he made with Ali Ahmeti and resolve the status of the former ONA [National Liberation Army, UCK in Albanian] fighters. She asked the state leadership to develop a clear strategy regarding the country's future actions, adding that she expected [President Branko] Crvenkovski to use his authority and restart the stalled political dialogue.

However, a number of issues remain unclear. Did the U.S. ambassador to NATO come on a mission to prepare [Macedonia] for a compromise with Greece regarding our country's constitutional name? A senior official from the ruling coalition and leader of one of the parties participating in the government has said this on two occasions, and no refutation has yet come from the other participants in the talks. The party leader claims that the sole objective of Nuland's visit to the country was to advise its political leaders to start preparing the ground for a compromise with the Greeks.

If this is true, the state leadership should not keep silent. It should make public all the details regarding Nuland's visit. Nuland's post is important for Macedonia's Euro- Atlantic prospects and this gives an even greater weight to her assessments and positions about the situation in our country. If there were any warnings in this respect, it would be better to make them public sooner rather than later, because the price of the country's foreign-policy defeat can only increase afterward.

Therefore, it is disgusting and uncouth of the state leadership to clash over the interpretations of Nuland's criticism. The heated arguments exchanged last weekend [10-11 November] suggest that the distress was not so much due to the guest's slaps as it was due to the slaps to be received in public. Will somebody's popularity decrease or increase after confronting truth? What is the price of regaining consciousness and accepting reality?

It is surprising that even after the unpleasant meeting with the U.S. ambassador, the political leaders in the country have not taken any action to show that they got the message. The direct and unambiguous recommendations have failed to mobilize the country's leadership toward sprinting until April next year. Instead, a pause and a thunderous silence have ensued, with Gruevski's denials of any criticism and Crvenkovski's insistence on the opposite being the only audible sound.

Nevertheless, the public has no doubts about the collision in the country's foreign policy. Kosovo is preparing to declare unilateral independence and Macedonia lacks a strategy on how to defend itself from internal pressure and recognize the former Serbian province as an independent state. [Greek Foreign Minister] Dora Bakoyianni has been touring the European political centers and seeking (and receiving) support for her demand that Macedonia change its name if it wants to avoid Greece's veto on its NATO accession.

On top of all, the country has received negative assessments in the European Commission's report regarding its progress toward the European Union, along with a strong message that the political criteria for NATO accession are not being met either.

Urgent solutions are needed for these issues before it is too late.

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