183. Post-Kosovo War Reconstruction of Southeastern Europe: The View From Macedonia

By
Ljubica Acevska

"The Balkans create more history then they can endure. Unfortunately," Ambassador Acevska asserts, "this is true." The region's long history of uprising and violence dates back to the 15th century and is rooted in a tradition of cultural, religious and territorial misunderstanding and mistrust. To date, the region's most immediate and ominous threat is that of border changes. Ambassador Acevska views this as a direct threat to the international security of the entire European continent.

Ambassador Acevska attests that Macedonia, lying at the crossroads of the Balkans and displaying a proven commitment to democracy, human rights and peaceful resolution of conflicts, is often suggested as a model for peace and stability in the region's "sea of violence." Macedonia is rooted in principles of equality and respect. It is a state where the protection and promotion of national minorities and emphasis on preserving rather than destroying inter-ethnic relations are carried out in true democratic fashion - in open dialogue and with full participation of all national populations. The focus, Ambassador Acevska states, should be on creating a greater Europe not a greater country of a specific nationality. In this sense, the tragedy of Kosovo should be viewed as the result of a failed minority policy.

Due to the proximity of the Kosovo war Macedonia, like other neighboring states, experienced great economic setbacks and needs immediate economic assistance to help jumpstart its economy. During the war, Macedonia accommodated approximately 650,000 refugees (nearly 1/3 of its total population) and faced a complete cessation of trade with its long-time trading partner, Yugoslavia. Most direct foreign investment in the country ended with the outbreak of the war. Before the outbreak of the war, Macedonia had predicted a 6% growth of its economy; after the war the hard reality was a -4% deficit.

According to the Ambassador, despite these setbacks, Macedonia once again proved to be a vital ally of the NATO alliance by allowing 30,000 troops to be stationed on its territory. In 1993, in an effort to prevent destabilization due to a possible spillover of the Bosnian war, the President of Macedonia, Kiro Gligorov, asked for and was granted a UN peacekeeping force of about 1000 soldiers, most from the U.S. and the Nordic countries. Now with the end of the Kosovo war several thousand NATO-led troops remain in Macedonia to help safeguard the country and the whole region.

Echoing the statement released by Macedonian President, Kiro Gligorov, on September 16, Ambassador Acevska emphasized that the time has come for the West to keep its promises made to Macedonia and provide the much needed economic assistance necessary for the reconstruction of this nation's strained economy. Both Ambassador Acevska and President Gligorov point out that the international community "did little to help with Macedonia's huge refugee burden during the war." To date, less than 40% of the economic assistance which was promised actually has been delivered. Ambassador Acevska asks if now, with most of the Kosovo Albanian refugees returned to Kosovo but with more than 20,000 new Roma refugees (also from Kosovo) will the rest of the promised assistance ever materialize?

According to Ambassador Acevska, the international community needs to take a stronger stand and play a more active role in the reconstruction of the region if any hopes for a stable Southeastern Europe are to be realized. The Stability Pact is viewed as an excellent starting point but it needs implementation. Inclusion of Southeast Europe in greater European integration efforts, including NATO, is viewed as the only solution to the regional conflicts plaguing this area and the only feasible means to integrate the region into a democratic and prosperous united Europe. In this context, Ambassador Acevska stressed, the international community, especially the U.S. to whom the world looks for political, military and economic leadership, needs to work on two parallel tracks: providing both long-range peacekeeping troops (NATO) as well as economic assistance to rebuild the war-torn region.

Helping economically rebuild Southeastern Europe while promoting adherence to democratic values such as respect for human and minority rights as well conflict prevention and political dialogue are definite and concrete steps towards realizing peace and stability in the region.

On September 16, Ambassador Acevska addressed the security and economic concerns of Macedonia in the post-Kosovo war era.

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