With the elections drawing closer, there are divisions in the Government on the issue of foreign policy. Foreign Minister Bujar Osmani from DUI, who is the first ethnic Albanian to hold this position, and who hasn’t shied away from using the office to undermine the national identity of ethnic Macedonians, finally managed to antagonize even DUI’s partner – SDSM.

In an attempt to curry favor with the Albanian nationalist vote, as DUI faces serious pressure from the VLEN bloc of opposition Albanian parties, Osmani said that he will consider the option to leave the Oen Balkan initiative. VLEN is supported by Kosovan Prime Minister Albin Kurti, who is highly critical of the initiative, warning that it will allow Serbia to again dominate the Balkans.
DUI and SDSM, along with their supporter, Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama, promoted the initiative, which was supposed to also include Bosnia, Montenegro and Kosovo, but these three countries are keeping away, also afraid that the economic and freedom of movement group will be led by Albania and Serbia. Macedonia is the only smaller Balkan country to get involved in this initiative, that is also supported by the Soros foundation. The initiative is in serious crisis after a clash between Serbian militants and Kosovo police officers last September left several killed on both sides.

After the Banjska attack in Kosovo I said that, if direct Serbian involvement in the attack is confirmed, we should re-examine our participation in Open Balkan. Since then I’ve received more information and I intend to inform the Government at a closed session, and let the Government decide, Osmani said, apparently facing heat from the VLEN movement, which is more outspoken in its criticism of the Open Balkan plan.

First Deputy Prime Minister Bojan Maricic pushed back against this idea and said that “we should participate in this initative and focus on specific benefits that can come of it, without raising broader political themes”. Maricic added that the country should participate in all similar initiatives, including the Germany backed Berlin Process, but remain in the Open Balkan.

Osmani used his pulpit for another move that resonates well with his base – he added Macedonia to the list of countries who co-sponsored the Srebrenica genocide resolution at the United Nations. Maricic, who has Serbian and Montenegrin origin, said that Macedonia supports the position that genocide was carried out in Srebrenica, but that |the blame should not fall on the entire Serbian people or the country of Serbia, responsibility should be individualised, and it is the role of the international courts to name the perpetrators, so that, in no way, we will put forward an entire nation or state”, Maricic said.

Osmani was also criticised for his move in the wider Macedonian public, where it is seen as driven by Albanian pre-election considerations, and not by the interests of Macedonia – Macedonians and Albanians view Serbia very differently, and Serbia has made a point to support Macedonia, with deliveries of food and vaccines during the Covid and Ukraine crises. Osmani made a point to declare to the public, and the Albanian voters whose votes he’s asking in his presidential run, that he personally ordered that Macedonia is co-sponsor of the Srebrenica genocide resolution.

Serbian officials strongly condemned the move and expressed the opinion that the foreign policy of Macedonia is led by Albanian national interests.

‘Northmacedonians’ know that their voice counts for nothing, even when it comes to their own name or language, let alone when it comes to Serbia. So they could’ve at least abstained from the vote, if they couldn’t support Serbia. Macedonia should accept the Bulgarian demands to change its language, after it changed its name and history, if that language doesn’t have words for honor, gratitude, friendship, freedom, shame”, said Serbian nationalist politician from the ruling SNS party, Aleksandar Vulin.

And Serbia’s Foreign Minister Ivica Dacic added that he’s not sure if the position is supported by the country of Macedonia or just the Albanians from Macedonia, because he would often hear excuses from Macedonia that such moves are only made because the Foreign Minister is an ethnic Albanian.

Serbia is the only country that respected Skopje as Republic of Macedonia, polls show that Serbia is the country viewed most favorably by the people there. I ask Osmani whether he will join the resolution about genocide against the Serbs in Jasenovac? Will he co-sponsor this resolution as well, a resolution against the Germans, against the Turks? Of course he won’t, they were their allies in the genocide!, Dacic railed, speaking about the Albanians.