Saturday, July 26, 2008

Albania Can Learn From Macedonia's "Bravado" Towards Greece

In this corner of southeastern Europe, the letter that Macedonia's Prime Minister Gruevski addressed to his Greek counterpart Karamanlis a few days ago, came for many as a bolt from the blue, especially considering Macedonia's problems over its name with Greece which, by its veto, has excluded it from NATO membership and threatened to do the same with Macedonia's EU membership unless an agreement is reached over this problem on Athens' conditions.?

However, there is logic to Gruevski's apparent bravado? Following Macedonia's early election which returned Gruevski in triumph to the head of the government with a solid majority, which was mainly due to a populist and nationalist electoral platform, he needed this tactical move for two reasons:? He needs both to give further guarantees to his Macedonian Slav electorate that brought him back to power and to test the international waters to see the extent of backing that he can claim from the US Big Brother [two preceding words in English], who has been the constant and consistent supporter of the tiny Balkan state.

Couched in half-threatening terms, his letter to Karamanlis was intended to defend, as he says, the interests of the ethnic Macedonian minority in Greece, calling for the opening of Macedonian- language schools for emigrants from this country in Greece and the recognition of dual citizenship for a minority which the Greek state does not recognize.

At the same time Macedonia's President Crvenkovski was having a one-on-one meeting with Albania's President Topi.? This was no mere coincidence if one reads the press release issued thereafter, in which Albania again voices its readiness to put the facilities of the port of Durres at Macedonia's disposal, a measure that insures Macedonia against any eventual economic blockade on the part of Greece, which closed the port of Thessaloniki to Macedonia a few years ago.

Despite the strained relations between Macedonia's prime minister and president, which, only a few days ago, led to the latter's declaring that he would not run again for president precisely because of these differences, there is an admirable solidarity between them when it is a question of major national interests or the coordination of their state's moves with regard to a third party.

This should serve as a lesson for the Albanian Government which, in its official pronouncements, at best, deals with Albanians' property in Greece, or the rights of the ethnic Albanian minority there, as technical problems, if it does not ignore these problems altogether, which it does for the sake of certain petty personal interests of the moment.?

The same childish behaviour is seen in its relations with the Macedonians, who, only a little time ago, well nigh closed the door in our face by imposing high visa tariffs for Albanians going to Macedonia, although they knew that they would be the losers in this absurd move.

Reverting to Gruevski's letter and the response to it, the immediate answer from Greece's Prime Minister Karamanlis is worth mentioning? Not only did he reject the allegations of the Macedonian side as unsubstantiated but, moreover, he accused his Macedonian counterpart of letting himself be carried away by his emotions, which would be fatal for Macedonia's course toward NATO and the European Union, while at the same time referring to the European Court of Justice and the Strasbourg Tribunal of Human Rights as institutions of arbitration that the Macedonian side might resort to over its juridical claims.

The fallout from this tactical move of Gruevski's, the benefits that may or may not, accrue from it as compared to their cost, would require an extensive and substantial analysis, as would Greece's official reply, which expresses a certain political and diplomatic stance.

Albanian diplomacy should carefully study these moves which, if taken into consideration, may ensure that Albania plays an important role in this area of the Balkans, a role which would be incompatible with the petty interests of its political parties.

National interests are expressed through tactical moves in bilateral and multilateral relations, with every tactical move being made as a function of strategies that are worked out following preliminary consultations with experts, so as not to be taken unawares by international contingencies.

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