The Macedonian Hawk

Macedonia's peacemaking premier has turned into a dangerous hawk.

The Macedonian Hawk

Macedonia's peacemaking premier has turned into a dangerous hawk.

Perhaps the greatest political casualty of the Albanian insurrection is prime minister Ljubco Georgievski.

Only a month or two ago, it seemed Georgievski, the leader of one of Macedonia's largest political parties, VMRO-DPMNE, would emerge as the saviour of his country.

He was insisting that the current crisis could be solved by improving the civil and political rights of the Albanian community. But recently, the premier's approach has changed radically.

The peacemaker and unifier of Macedonia's disparate ethnic groups is now an out and out hawk.

Now he believes that the only way of resolving the crisis is by declaring war on Albanian militants. His public statements are inflaming tensions, just as the conflict seems set to escalate into a full-scale war.

NLA fighters are now on the outskirts of Skopje and threatening to shell the city. Tens of thousands of Macedonians and Albanians are fleeing in panic.

But in pressing for a military solution, Georgievski has provoked a hostile response from all sides of the political spectrum and the international community.

From being part of the solution, he is now widely considered part of the problem. As a result, his popularity and that of his party has droppped significantly.

Georgievski's transformation is remarkable. Not so long ago, Macedonians accused him of being too close to the DPA, the largest Albanian party. Now he demands that its members either clearly condemn the NLA or join them.

An avowed Macedonian nationalist at the beginning of the Nineties,

this former poet pursued a policy of cooperating with the DPA after he came to power in 1998, bringing the party into government. Foreign analysts were pleasantly surprised by the tolerant political culture spawned by "the new Ljubco".

After two years of unprecedented partnership with the DPA, the last thing Georgievski expected was an Albanian rebellion.

The premier's newly acquired hardline stance was cemented by recent NLA attacks on the security forces. The first occurred in Vejce in

early May, claiming the lives of eight policemen. Five more were

killed in a second raid near Tetovo a few days ago.

According to his former close associate, Boris Zmejkovski, now a member of a small party opposing the VMRO-DPMNE, the incidents have turned Georgievski into a "crazy general".

His actions in the last two weeks go some way to confirming this


He has pushed for the state to declare war on the Albanian rebels, in the face of stiff opposition from not only Albanians but his Macedonian political rivals, the media and the international community.

He favours a military solution to the conflict, even though it is widely recognised that the country's armed forces are incapable

of decisive victory against a force of mountain partisans.

And finally, Georgievski's hand could be detected in the leaking to the

press recently of a plan to divide the country along ethnic lines - a proposal prepared by the Macedonian Academy for Sciences and Arts, the country's intellectual elite.

The opposition has claimed for a long time that the premier and the

VMRO-DPMNE were seeking both the partition of Macedonia along ethnic lines and closer ties with Bulgaria.

Under the plan - which enraged Macedonians - cities with majority

Albanian populations, such as Tetovo and Gostivar, would be 'traded' with Albania or Kosovo.

Perhaps the greatest puzzle is whether Georgevski's new intransigence is the natural reaction of a politician who feels betrayed by his former friends, the Albanians, or a more subtle tactical move?

Georgievski's refusal to either negotiate with the rebels, or to press ahead with granting the Albanians greater rights, may be an attempt to head off such allegations in the run-up to elections, scheduled for January.

Whatever his other limitations, Georgievski has highly developed political instincts that have served him well in the past.

He may be concerned that come election day voters might see him as being too soft on ethnic Albanian representatives.

What's clear, however, is that Georgievski's position is looking increasingly untenable.

The creation of a large anti-VMRO-DPMNE coalition is being openly discussed in Skopje, allegedly with the support of some Western ambassadors.

In the immediate term, though, it looks as though the unpredictable Ljubco Georgievski will continue to determine Macedonia's fate.

Vladimir Jovanovski is an analyst and journalist with the Skopje bi-weekly Forum

Macedonia, Albania, Kosovo
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