Saturday, 16 December 2017 | News today: 0

Politicians who were obstructing the referendum, now claim to be most deserving for our independence

Before September 8 and at the very day of the referendum, the Alliance of Reformation Powers and part of SKM-PDP's leadership took part in the campaign against voting on the referendum and against casting vote for independent Macedonia, openly stating we cannot survive as an independent state without SFR Yugoslavia (Serbia)

Pavle Trajanov, President of the Democratic Alliance of Macedonia, who was also an undersecretary for public order and security in the time Macedonia was in the process of proclaiming its independence, claims some of the current Macedonian politicians, who present themselves as great patriots nowadays, were intensively working towards obstruction of the independence referendum at that time. In his interview with “Republika” he also speaks of the Serbian scenario for “replacement” of Skopje’s state and political caucasus, as well as security threats from the other neighbors, the conflict in 2001, criminal structures during the post-conflict period and the greatest current threat – global terrorism and Islamic radicalism.

Many have been claiming to be patriots and statesmen in the past few years. Is the truth of historic facts on the 1991 independence referendum being distorted?

TRAJANOV: Those who were obstructing Macedonia’s independence are now attempting to redefine or forger history through columns, books and public appearances, proclaiming themselves to be the key players in Macedonia’s independence gaining process. At the meeting with Ljubco Georgievski and Dosta Dimovska, for instance, in August 1991, part of “the eight” pointed out to the urgent need of a referendum for independence vote (we even made a threat with an “uprising”). Kiro Gligorov and Stojan Andov were fierce opponents of that idea. Before September 8 and at the very day of the referendum, the Alliance of Reformation Powers and part of SKM-PDP’s leadership took part in the campaign against voting on the referendum and against casting vote for independent Macedonia, openly stating we cannot survive as an independent state without SFR Yugoslavia (Serbia). Furthermore, many political establishment were closely related to YNA’s  (Yugoslavia National Army) generals and were putting MoI’s operation in danger.

During its 23 years of independence, Macedonia was faced with a few serious security challenges. The first one was at the very beginning, during the independence gaining process, when the bloody fall of Former Yugoslavia was evident. What was the greatest danger to Macedonia at that time and how did we manage to avoid bloodshed?

TRAJANOV: The greatest and most important role in the process of Macedonia’s fight for independence belonged to the Republic Secretariat for Internal Affairs, an institution which has armed units and fierce patriotic employees at its disposal, had the power to defy YNA and unmask the resistance of part of the pro-Yugoslav elite. But, I have to underline we had strong political support of VMRO-DPMNE.

That period was a historic chance for establishment of a sovereign and independent state of Macedonia.

Serbian military-security services were preparing a scenario for “replacement” of the state and political caucasus with pro-Yugoslav and pro-Serbian leadership, but Macedonian security services were successfully hindering those plans, collaborating with parties and individuals who were openly promoting and working towards realization of the idea for independent Macedonia. Police, among else, undertook a few complex operations: we have prepared a plan for blockage and takeover of the military barracks in which YNA units were lodged; we took YNA’s reservists list from Republic Secretariat for Internal Affairs branch offices; we located police units in ditches along the borders and we took large amounts of weapon (thanks to Macedonian officers in YNA) etc. We have also prepared the YNA Dislocation Agreement, which was signed by Gligorov and Adzic. There were also global threats of Macedonia’s affiliation to Bulgaria, division of Macedonia between Serbia and Greece, formation of great Albania with part of Macedonia’s territory etc.

Political caucasus, President Gligorov included, acted under pressure of the people, who was prepared to go all the way to not miss the historic chance. Therefore, the referendum of September 8, 1991 was successful and the centuries-long strives for Macedonian state were realized.

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Which security challenges was Macedonia faced with in the 90s? Did our neighbors pose a threat to us and which services were most active back in those days?

TRAJANOV: Serbia posed most serious threat at that time, whose political elite believed that Macedonia is either with them, or is an easy catch and that it would only take one media campaign for them to be able to appoint a government which would proclaim that Macedonia remains within SFR Yugoslavia. At the same time, the idea of annexation of Kosovo and Western Macedonia and their affiliation to Albania was being promoted at large, thus beginning the process of formation of Albanian paramilitary forces and proclamation of “Ilirida” etc. Part of the political elite controlled by Belgrade, was also causing major problems and it fought till the last breath for Yugoslavia to continue to live (whether whole or partial). We were also faced with serious security problems, primarily caused by Serbia’s military-intelligence service, but also the Bulgarian and Greek services, who were working on possible scenarios in case the concept of independent Macedonia fails. The assassination attempt of Kiro Gligorov was the last move to prevent Macedonia’s journey down independence lane.

How well were the various smuggling criminal structures organized?

TRAJANOV: Greece’s embargo for Macedonia, as well as UN Security Council ‘s embargo of SFR Yugoslavia, has hit the country really hard and it was blocked and exhausted in terms of economy. The Government has decided to breach the embargo in order to survive, but the monopolies of several companies caused problems. Later on, many companies and individuals became part of the “business” with Serbia, thus acquiring large amounts of money. One company has earned up to 600 million German marks from the embargo breach. Everything was being imported from and exported to Serbia – oil, electricity, coal, cigarettes, copper, explosives, weapons etc.

Than, criminal structures and the business-political elite have established firm relations.

Two to three years later, are there still external structures and services which work towards undermining of the state sovereignty and how does Macedonia nowadays, unlike the 90s, handles those challenges?

TRAJANOV: Blockage of Macedonia’s integration in EU and fully-fledged NATO membership, is the foundation of preparations of new scenarios for disruption of Macedonia’s unity and the Macedonian state. Nothing has changed in terms of policies of the neighboring countries, but there is one big difference now: Macedonia has established itself with its state capacity which can guarantee sovereignty and territorial integrity. Ethnic and religious conflicts, emigration process, decreased birth rate etc. can pose serious threat.

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The most serious threat to the security of the state, of course, was the conflict in 2001. To what extent was the conflict provoked by the need to improve the rights of the Albanians, and to what extent by the external factors in order to destabilize the country?

TRAJANOV: After the NATO attack on FRY (Serbia) and the promotion of Kosovo as a state, the conflict shifted in Macedonia, with territorial claims and pretensions. The disunity of the top officials and their reluctance contributed to accept the “capitulation”. There was a lack of prevention and policy dialogue, and the military option was obstructed by the President of the state, as well as the Prime Minister, who expected implementation of the agreement reached with Arben Xhaferi on the division of Macedonia. In this crucial period, the project on exchange of territories and populations between Macedonia and Albania by some of the MANU academics also did tremendous damage, an idea which was the basis for the agreement between Georgievski and Xhaferi on controlled conflict and division of Macedonia.

After NATO’s military intervention in Serbia, the Albanians have become strategic partners of NATO, the EU and the US. Supporting the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) in Kosovo was one of the main reasons for the spread of the armed conflict in 2001 in Macedonia, as well as the loss of Xhaferi’s positions within the Albanian electorate.

Is there a possibility for a new clash between the two largest ethnic groups, or is there a strong reason to trigger something like that?

TRAJANOV: Macedonia is a stable country with a huge experience. An inter-ethnic conflict would be fatal for everyone. The common citizens are up for coexistence, but whether the political leadership and the religious leaders support that, it is an open question. The idea of a Greater Albania is present. Radical Islam (Islamic state) can be the basis for confrontation and destabilization, but can not threaten the survival of the state.

We can only prevent conflicts with economic development, democracy, fully respecting diversity and the rights of every person. We are forced to live together, the better we understand it, the better it will be for us all.

At the beginning of the 21st century, Macedonia had to deal with the recurrences of the conflict, i.e. with smaller and larger criminal groups that held hostage certain places and acted as local sheriffs for a long time. Were these groups so strong because of support of the local population, the support of the political parties or a third thing, and did we finally managed to completely get rid of this phenomenon?

TRAJANOV: After the military conflict it is a normal phenomenon when “fighters” are seeking benefits (place in state institutions, business, etc..) Some of them, supported by political elites, took up arms once again. But the repetition of 2001 was not possible. Patience and political maturity enabled to minimize and eradicate this phenomenon. We are now facing a virus of radical Islam through which our citizens go to paramilitary formations in Syria and Iraq, and they can be a serious security threat, especially if we take into account the spread of radical structures, where the key roles are played by some imams and politicians.

Radical Islam is coordinated by powerful centers and services, so we should be careful and make efforts to eradicate them from these areas.

This period has also been marked by numerous mafia calculations and liquidation. From that time to this day remained many unresolved murders. Why did the police fail to deal with this security problem back then?

TRAJANOV: After the conflict, the fight for supremacy began, whereby there were conflicts in various wings of the Albanian bloc, as well as within the Macedonians. Police became ineffective because of the party staff, disrespect of professionalism and party influences . The parties made lists of everyone that should be employed in the Ministry of Interior. We still can not get rid of the thesis that MoI must be under complete party control, without respect and enforcement of the laws. The process of lustration negatively affected the security services as well.

The “Rashtanski Vineyards” case, the liquidation of several well-known criminals from the underworld, the “Smilkovsko Lake” case are sufficient grounds to be much more careful, responsible and committed to the rule of law.

In recent years the world has problems with radical Islamists and terrorist organizations. Not only Macedonia is not immune to this trend, but it also faces a real threat of terrorist attacks. What problems can the radicals in the country cause?

TRAJANOV: A strategy (Balkan’s strategy) is needed in order to take preventive action that will include religious communities, NGOs, the media, families, educational institutions and others to discourage young people from involving in paramilitary formations.

Political parties and state institutions in general should make important decisions in regard to eradication of Islamic radicalism.

If the estimations are accurate  that over 6,000 citizens of the Balkan countries are involved in military conflicts in Syria and Iraq, it is a serious security challenge and risk. We need to be careful and do not trust politicians who claim that everything is under control, and the security services should be more efficient and to undertake activities in cooperation with neighboring countries and powerful intelligence services.

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Is it possible that some new event, such as Smilkovo Lake massacre, could cause more serious inter-ethnic and inter-religious conflicts?

TRAJANOV: Nobody wants or expects such monstrous events. We all share responsibility for the stability of the country, but the responsibility for neutralization of the laws of this kind is primarily the job of security services. I do not believe that one event can radicalize inter-ethnic relations if it is not the result of a political platform aimed at destabilizing the country in the Balkans and beyond.

I believe that Macedonia is a country that can deal with serious security challenges.

What is the security risk of Macedonia because it is still not a member of NATO?

TRAJANOV: The Republic of Macedonia must rely on its own capabilities. The guarantee for our stability, sovereignty and territorial integrity is all of us, our entire defense and security system. We are a state with all the landmarks: territory, people, language and sovereign rule. NATO is an association or a security umbrella which means a lot for the security, but does not guarantee that it will eliminate all security risks and threats. Our strategic goal is membership in NATO, but we also have to rely on our resources.

The relations between the United States, the EU and Russia are increasingly becoming tighter due to the developments in Ukraine. Can their fight for dominance expand in the Balkans and how would it affect the security of Macedonia?

TRAJANOV: In regard to strategy, the interests of NATO, the EU, the U.S. and Turkey, Russia, and China are intertwined. Because of its geostrategic position, Macedonia (and the Balkans in general) is always at the center of global strategies and interests, and it is of interests to more powerful centers. Perhaps it is our advantage. You have to endure our long-term, strategic, national and vital interests, and that is membership in the EU and NATO, the alternatives are without perspective, not to say fatal for Macedonia.

The conflict in eastern Ukraine is likely to freeze and I do not expect a quick resolution. The relations between the U.S. and the EU, on one hand, and Russia, on the other hand, will have to relax because of the economic interests. I do not not expect a large-scale war, at least between NATO and Russia.

What are the greatest dangers that Macedonia is facing in the medium and in the long term, and are we able to deal with them alone?

TRAJANOV: As I mentioned, the possible inter-ethnic and religious conflicts, as well as the threats from the Islamic radicalism, are serious challenges, but the economic migration and the declining birth rate are no less worrisome.

A serious problem may be internal disunity, divisions on political basis and the lack of national and state interests, as well as the social situation (unemployment, etc..).

Macedonia needs unity when it comes to national goals and interests. We as Macedonians and as citizens of this country must not allow others to decide on Macedonian matters.

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By: Nenad Mircevski

Photo: Gjorgji Licovski