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Macedonia Looks For Support on Name Issue, as Top Leaders Spar

May 18, 2005

( Research Service)- MIA reported on Monday that Jelko Kacin, MP of the Slovene and European Parliaments, has called on the British Parliament to recognize Macedonia’s constitutional name.

He pointed to the opinion of the Slovene Parliamentary Committee on Foreign Policy that “…the recognition of Macedonia’s constitutional name by three of five permanent UN Security Council [members] should stimulate Britain to follow the suit.”

Kacin, a leading lobbyist for Macedonia in Brussels, was warmly thanked on Tuesday when he met both Macedonian Prime Minister Vlado Buckovski and Foreign Minister Ilinka Mitreva. However, the symbolic victory has been tarnished somewhat by the current chill in relations between these officials and President Branko Crvenkovski.

Meanwhile, the Liberal Democrats bragged that their own diplomatic advances would lead to national name recognition by “…at least one more European state, which has not established diplomatic relations with Macedonia” by the end of the week.

“…We have acquired support from top officials that they will back the initiative for international use of the country’s constitutional name”, said Emil Kirjaz, State Secretary with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and a member of the LDP Executive Board at a Monday press conference, according to MIA. The LDP is headed by Risto Penov, the belated mayor of Skopje whose shock decision to drop out of the second round of voting at the end of March handed the victory to his rival, businessman Trifun Kostovski.

While in Skopje, Kacin also took part a “round-table discussion” organized by the interventionist Institute for War and Peace Reporting and the Balkan Research Net, proving yet again that the allegedly “independent” news and analysis body fancies itself a player or at least facilitator in political processes.

The event posed the usual questions of progress, possibility of concessions, EU implications and the relative transparency of negotiations. Joining the Slovene MP were Kirjaz, former Minister of Foreign Affairs Aleksandar Dimitrov, and Saso Klekovski from the Macedonia Centre for International Cooperation. Rounding out the panelists were Macedonian reporter Borjan Jovanovski and Iso Rusi, the Albanian editor-in-chief of Lobi.

According to Dimitrov, the government’s current approach is both “sterile” and “frigid,” involving as it does the formula of dual names (by which Greece would call Macedonia whatever it wanted and Macedonia would be known as it is to the rest of the world). For the former minister, this prescription is now “outdated.” The other panelists criticized more directly UN Negotiator Matthew Nimitz’s first name suggestion and how even its mention as a viable option has helped Greece to regain its diplomatic footing following the initial shock of last November, when America (rather conditionally) recognized Macedonia’s constitutional name.

Most recently, Nimitz arrived in Skopje earlier today for consultations with the government- but was quick to state that he is bringing no new proposal for solving the name problem. MakFax quotes the American as saying, “…the main objective of my visit is to exchange opinions with the authorities, and to see if any progress could be achieved.”

Alluding to his disastrous first suggestion, Nimitz stated simply that “…I have no proposal whatsoever, and you are all familiar with some of my ideas that I have laid out in the past, and which caused reactions.” Finally, the negotiator “…refused to give any details on the negotiating process, saying that ‘it would not be of anyone’s benefit.’”

Despite the apparent impetus given to the negotiations by all these good-faith discourses and visitations, local critics have asked whether the current disharmony between the “big three” (President Branko Crvenkovski, PM Buckovski, and Foreign Minister Mitreva) is damaging Macedonia’s prestige at a time that clearly calls for unity.

Crvenkovski has been bickering with both of his disciples recently, with Buckovski over the new UNMIK passport entry rules for Kosovo and with Mitreva over two embarrassing gaffes: first, the president’s failure to attend the Auschwitz commemoration, and second, his failure to sign 3 important documents concerning terrorism and human trafficking at the recent Council of Europe summit in Warsaw.

Regarding the first, Crvenkovski’s complaint that his foreign minister had failed to impart on him how important the event was does not seem to hold water, since every world leader could have imagined the significance and solemnity of the event.

The situation with the second snafu, the COE documents, is more muddled. Crvenkovski spokesman Valentin Nikolovski argued that the documents needed to first be checked to ensure they did not contradict the constitution of Macedonia. The president also felt unhappy that the MFA had not briefed him adequately in advance of the trip, alleges A1 TV in detailing the war of words between the two sides.

According to this report, which documents the ’scandal,’ a new ‘cold war’ has been building since the Auschwitz event, which was attended by Mitreva, between herself and the president. Along with Vice Prime Minister Radmila Sekerinska, Mitreva has been one of Crvenkovski’s closest allies. This new discord could upset the careful balance of power kingmaker Crvenkovski had created after elevating himself to president and filling his vacated premiership with appointed protege Buckovski, formerly minister of defense. As Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mitreva is one of the few ministers to have continuously held the same position since the SDSM-DUI government came into power in September 2002.

Such disharmony does not bode well for unity at a time when pressure is increasing to find a solution with the Greeks, and when the West is increasing the tempo in regards to the Kosovo “final status” issue as well.

More generally, the infighting could prove damaging for the beleaguered government, which suffered a double blow in the loss of the Skopje mayoral seat to the opposition, and similarly with the loss of all major Macedonian-populated municipalities in the capital – including, unusually, the crucial Centar municipality.

Hovering in the back of everyone’s minds is next year’s parliamentary elections. The ruling party is in a vulnerable position in terms of popularity, but is counting on achieving some morale-boosting victories in the interim, such as NATO accession and positive signs from the EU, though these are questionable at best. Yet as of right now, the only party with a seemingly uncontested gain is the Albanian DUI, which cleaned up at the local elections, winning the mayoral races in all cities and town of importance to Albanians.

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