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Exclusive: NATO Internal Investigation to End with Staff Transfer in Skopje

January 16, 2009

(Balkanalysis.com Research Service)- On Monday, 19 January, a NATO general will be dispatched to Skopje from the Allied Joint Force Command in Naples, Italy, to look into complaints made against a military official currently employed in a senior position in the alliance’s Macedonia liaison office.

It is likely that this visit will result in an important personnel change in the short to medium-term future. However, it is also likely that due to desires for discretion and preserving harmony within the alliance, the real reasons for the move will never be announced.

Speaking on the condition of anonymity for Balkanalysis.com, one high-ranking NATO official stated that this extraordinary visit from above is coming after a lengthy internal investigation wrapped up in December 2008.

The investigation apparently revolved around a single senior official who has reportedly engaged in chronic abuses of power, minor smuggling and some controversial decisions over the past year.

According to the alliance source, there was no single event or vast scandal that prompted the investigation; rather, it was “several small things that when added up, equaled a big enough problem.”

The likeliest scenario, according to the source, is that the pertinent allied government will announce that the presence of the official under scrutiny is ‘urgently required’ elsewhere, or has sudden ‘health problems,’ to prevent themselves from having to endure the embarrassment of a corruption scandal. A quick and neat staff replacement is thus likely to be carried out, and the whole affair will soon be forgotten.

Such a course of action is unlikely to run counter to any entrenched interests, in Macedonia anyway. The NATO official’s alleged misdeeds were apparently conducted personally and with a minimum of partners.

It is not believed that this figure had the support of any politicians or interests in Macedonia; however, the same does not hold true for this official’s country of origin, where public disclosure could be managed in various ways, depending on how gracefully the termination is carried out. Given the specifics of the case, it is not impossible that the whole issue could be reappropriated – baselessly – by nationalist critics.

Whatever may happen in the current case, the Skopje mission is generally slowly winding down, despite Macedonia’s continued exclusion from NATO due to the unresolved name dispute with Greece. By this time next year it is slated to have fewer foreign personnel than it does now.

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