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EU Security Think-Tank Proposes a Military Adventure in Macedonia- and Nobody Notices

By Chris Deliso

April 20, 2018

Will a shadowy cabal of Euro-federalists move one step closer towards their dream of an EU army through a military mission, aided by an acquiescent leftist government, in the experimental Republic of Macedonia? Balkanalysis.com investigates.

On 13 December 2017, the EU’s Paris-based Institute for Security Studies (EUISS) published a lengthy report on migration. Classified as ‘Chaillot Paper 143,’ it was titled “Nobody move! Myths of the EU migration crisis” (read in .PDF). It was written by in-house analyst Roderick Parkes.

This generally a comprehensive and accurate report offered a string of hypothetical policy actions the EU could take in various countries. Although the EUISS is classified as an independent body that does not make EU policy, it is funded by the EU and (as future reports will reveal) has a critical, but concealed role in EU policy formation. Authors’ views are officially theirs alone, so it is not really relevant who writes these papers; these analysts are essentially front men, intermediaries that create a wall of plausible deniability between policies and the EU institutions. Thus, if questions arise about EUISS findings, the institutions can simply claim that they do not reflect EU policy. Until they do.

This reflects the key aspect of Brussels’ stealth bureaucracy, as recorded by The Economist in a 2002 piece citing Jean-Claude Juncker. According to the magazine, the future European Commisar (then ruler of Luxembourg) had described EU policy-making thus:

“We decide on something, leave it lying around and wait and see what happens… If no one kicks up a fuss, because most people don’t understand what has been decided, we continue step by step until there is no turning back.”

The question that the present article raises, therefore, is whether “there is no turning back” for little Macedonia.

An Explosive Suggestion: Military Operations Macedonia for the EU

Hidden deep among the EUISS’ string of hypothetical suggestions is the following incendiary proposal:

“What about establishing a ‘migration crisis-management mission’ in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, where the EU’s military deployment might be welcomed by a government which is reluctant to manage migration but keen for reassurance that it will be protected from the Russian threat?”

Through mid-April 2018, we could find no one among Macedonian official-dom or migration NGOs who had ever heard of this EUISS paper, even five months after its publication. Still, the EUISS’ characterization of Macedonia is a blatant lie. In contrast to the depiction of Macedonia as ‘reluctant to manage migration,’ it was the regional lead in managing the migration crisis regionally from mid-2015. Unlike some other countries, Macedonia had a real strategy, robust and well-coordinated institutional response, and contingency plans. We directly observed and documented this entire process since then. Indeed, Macedonia’s management of the Balkan Route and leadership negotiations with Austria, V4 and Balkan countries, as well as the European Council, was vital to the orderly closure of the Balkan Route in March 2016.

This response was organized also through bilateral cooperative mechanisms between the Macedonian army and police, and border police contingents from interested European countries. This breakthrough in bilateral agreements allowed a non-EU state to retain sovereign control over its territorial defense. This is why the key issue is not about Macedonia– it concerns any country that wishes to preserve its sovereignty in national defense and border protection.

However, these agreements are set to expire in November 2018. A representative of a leading international migration organization told Balkanalysis.com in March 2018 that “the bilateral agreements will probably be renewed.”

However, as we shall see, this is not what Macedonian leaders under Brussels’ control are saying.

Does a New Government Mean New Possibilities for the Euro-Federalists?

So, what if the future proves the EUISS’ depiction of the country right? That would strongly insinuate pre-planned collusion between the EU/international organizations and the new Macedonian government that was formed, in very contentious fashion, just a few months before the report came out.

While the current security risk factor from migration is unclear, it has been played up by Defense Minister Radmila Sekerinska, as comments made at a media briefing on 15 April indicate.

Accompanied by Prime Minister Zoran Zaev and Deputy Minister for EU Integration Bujar Osmani, the new defense minister spoke about migration security just after the Trump Administration’s tactical decision to bomb alleged Syrian chemical weapons factories. At the briefing,  Sekerinska stated that the Syria strikes indicated:

“how vulnerable the security situation in the world is… This shows us, as a small country, how important it is to be part of systems for collective security… But, even excepting the attack on Syria, it is clear that pressure on the [Greek] border exists. It is not as visible as in 2015, but the fact that a short time ago we had hundreds of migrants illegally trying to cross the border, who luckily were caught, shows that Macedonia and the region should basically get used to this [as something that] is going to last, and that we must have a system that will be constantly active and not according to need.“

Nevertheless, the leader of NGO Legis (one of the most active such groups on the Greek border during the crisis), Jasmin Rexhepi, downplayed the threat. “Macedonia will not be faced with a new wave of migrants from Syria,” he commented for AlsatM. “This is because of the fact that our country is not on the list for migrants who are transiting through the Balkans.”

Responding to Sekerinska’s claim that airstrikes on Syria might lead to a new migrant wave, Rexhepi stated that “this cannot happen because most of them will stop in Turkey.” However, another NGO leader, Rufi Serifi of Klasje na Dobrinata, was more amenable to Sekerinska’s interpretation. He stated at the same that “we are worried after many statements from Turkey and so on, that new migrants could come to us. If we consider past experience, this time we must be prepared and to eliminate all weaknesses that happened.”

The Follow-Up: Opportunities Missed for Addressing EUISS, NATO Reduplication Concerns and the Russia Issue

Minister Sekerinska’s unexpected statements at the briefing prompted Balkanalysis.com to follow up on a general information request that had been lodged two weeks earlier with the defense ministry’s new communications staff, but had gone unanswered.

On 17 April 2018, an MOD spokeswoman did respond to several official questions from Balkanalysis.com. These responses reiterated what was already known about the crisis border management system we have already discussed in various articles. But regarding the December 2017 EUISS report, the MOD responded that:

The Ministry of Defense did not collaborate with the author of the analytical paper of the EUISS nor did it in any way, shape or form contribute to the conclusions within it. Therefore, we abstain from commenting on аn analysis we did not partake in.”

While this is a sensible response, the blanket refusal to comment was unfortunate in that it prevented the ministry from addressing key questions that were additionally asked. This is particularly concerning since (as seen above), Sekerinska had been outspoken in Macedonian-language media very recently on migration, and is herself a long-time advocate of media freedom and government transparency.

Thus, when asked whether the minister agreed with the EUISS’ depiction of the Macedonian government as “reluctant” to manage migration, the MOD spokeswoman had no answer. Likewise, the MOD had no comment on whether the creation of an EU army would be problematic for NATO- the leader of which has condemned any ‘force reduplication’ in Europe that could happen through EU military adventurism. On 16 February 2018, NATO boss Jens Stoltenberg stated in Brussels that the EU “will really be the losers if they end up with two competing structures, with two competing capability targets and lists.” Over the decades, it has repeatedly been underscored that an EU army would be contrary to NATO and US interests. (It is even doubtful that the EU will still exist by the time Macedonia is invited to join it, if ever). Finally, the MOD could not say whether Sekerinska agreed with the EUISS that a ‘Russian threat’ exists in Macedonia and if so, what it constitutes.

This reticence is concerning not only because the new government had pledged to focus on transparency, but also because at time of writing, Minister Sekerinska was planning to meet US Defense Secretary Mattis very soon, on 1 May in Washington, where the issues of NATO and Russia would surely come up. If the minister was unprepared to reply to a simple media query by 17 April, what would she say to US officials and media about the government’s current position on these topics?

Is Frontex a Stealth Mechanism for an EU Military Deployment? Private Negotiations, Uncertain Outcomes

Similarly, the MOD spokeswoman would not comment when asked whether the minister would specifically assure that no EU military mission will be allowed to operate in Macedonia. Instead, the spokeswoman referred all further questions about migration to the Interior Ministry. This was quite amusing, considering that Sekerinska had literally spoken about migration policy rather authoritatively in the above-mentioned public briefing imediately before.

What caused this abrupt change in behavior from what was once a very open and engaged ministry? Possibly, it was an unexpected comment on the part of Sekerinska’s spokeswoman. When asked whether the bilateral police cooperation between Macedonia and other countries will be extended in November – as the above-cited international migration official had expected – the MOD spokeswoman was less certain, stating that:

The Government of the Republic of Macedonia has not requested the EU member states to continue the bilateral agreements since at the moment an agreement with Frontex is being negotiated. The outcome of these negotiations will determine whether the bilateral agreements for police assistance for securing the border will be renewed and continued.”

This was a stunning admission, not only because it has never been reported, and secondly because it indicates that the EUISS policy suggestion of an EU military occupation could be accomplished surreptitiously, through Frontex- thus fulfilling Commisar Juncker’s notorious quip about how the EU works under the assumption that people will never know and in any case, are incapable of understanding policies that affect them.

Since the MOD had referred all migration questions to the Ministry of Interior, it was fortunate that a statement emerged on 19 April 2018, during an Ohrid conference for regional police chiefs. Speaking during the event, Interior Minister Oliver Spasovski noted that Macedonia could handle all security threats on its southern border, but seemed to disagree with Minister Sekerinska in saying that no new migration wave was expected. However, regarding Frontex, he did make the following statement:

 

“We are in the final phase of reaching an agreement with Frontex which at the same time will help the protection of the border. Macedonia is ready for any kind of events developments. So far there is no information which should cause concern.”

Spasovski added that while Macedonia is not an EU member, it protects the outer borders of Europe, and that making a deal with Frontex will therefore mean direct assistance from the EU in securing the south border from any new migration wave.

An EU Military Mission, State Sovereignty and Local Leadership

Nevertheless, a deal with Frontex would be highly problematic for legal, ideological and operational reasons. It would also feed concerns over a blurring of the roles of NATO and EU in Macedonian defense. Finally, it is very disturbing that there has been a total lack of transparency on the part of both government and the EU, since these negotiations have not been reported until now.

First, potential legal issues pervade the one-size-fits-all official EU document that is the basis for Frontex negotiations with ‘third countries’ like Macedonia. Dated 22 November 2016, the document (available in .PDF here) has the deceptively dull title, ‘Model status agreement as referred to in Article 54(5) of Regulation (EU) 2016/1624 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 14 September 2016 on the European  Border and Coast Guard.’ It was written to reflect the added powers Frontex was granted after the creation of an official EU Coast Guard under it.

Specific legal problems derive from the document’s provisions. For example, Article 5 (which “contains rules on the suspension and termination of the action”) and Article 11 (on termination of the Agreement) leave it unclear as to which party controls the process; but common sense would indicate that the EU has much more power than does the ‘third-country’ and that getting Frontex to leave after being established might be hard.

A relevant example is the OSCE mission, which has not gone away yet; some 17 years after Macedonia’s brief civil war, this unaccountable international body retains its oversized influence in domestic politics, acting as a sort of non-state embassy. It is a diplomatic force multiplier and influence-peddler for general Western political interests, and also creates personal sinecures while wasting a ton of money. Examples like this indicate that another supranational agreement with the EU would be less amenable to sovereign interests than Macedonia now has with its bilateral police cooperation.

More problematic still is Article 6, which concerns “the privileges and immunities of members of the [Frontex] team, including civil and criminal liability.” By essentially demanding diplomatic immunity for unknown numbers of EU soldiers, the EU appears to be protecting itself against possible future criminal prosecution locally- an issue for peacekeeping missions everywhere on earth. One needn’t look far for examples: in neighboring Kosovo, the UNMIK peacekeepers participated in the occasional murder, while expanding the native drugs and prostitution business. UNMIK’s EU “law and order” successor, EULEX, has also helped maintain these lucrative industries, while being accused of corruption by its own people. By asking for Frontex “immunities,” the EU is acting like an imperial power, on a border front where various European imperial powers have waged war for centuries.

The second issue concerning a Frontex deployment is the ideological one, and this is where the issue becomes about far more than one small Balkan country. Rather, it concerns the lingering federalist desires for an EU army, an elusive dream cherished since the 1950s by Eurocrats, a proposal that was supposedly rendered moot with NATO’s creation. Yet the federalists work in devious but methodical ways, and the 2015 migration crisis – which Macedonia did so much to contain – provided an ideal pretext for expanding the military capabilities of what had started out as a rather humble EU border management agency. On the other side of the ideological spectrum, EU members and parties that support state sovereignty oppose increased centralization of military power under Brussels. This certainly was an issue for the British, even before Brexit.

Warsaw-based Frontex has expanded since 2011, when Balkanalysis.com interviewed then-operations director in Greece, Klaus Roesler. The 2015 migration crisis created ideal conditions for the expansion of EU powers over those of nation-states; following EUNAVFOR Operation Sophia in Italian waters, an official EU Coast Guard was approved by the EC in September 2016. It was created under the banner of Frontex. From there, it would be a natural and desirable step to expand its powers to territorial management; from there, a full-fledged army could arise. Such a visions has titillated the febrile imagination of Euro-federalists since at least the 1920s.

Yet the EU has no enemies to fight. All security risks are internal and stem from organized crime and terrorism which, ironically enough, the migration crisis has contributed to increasing across Western Europe. Countries that did not accept mass migration, predictably enough, have not been similarly afflicted with migrant-related crime and violence, and thus bristle at any thought of imposing further restrictive EU security measures against problems they do not have. Macedonia is one of the states that has remained peaceful and unaffected because it understood the security risks accompanying mass migration from the beginning.

Unsurprisingly, the rise in crime and public and media hysteria which accompanied it also achieved another federalist victory, with the expansion of Europol’s mandate across Europe, as of 1 May 2017. Frontex and Europol are just two examples of a simple but effective strategy of depicting ‘created crises’ as problems for which only the ‘internationalists’ in Brussels have the solutions. Supporters of this strategy include sympathetic media, globalist and some leftist NGOs, and official-yet-independent EU think-tanks like the EUISS.

Lacking any external enemies, and with NATO there to deal with conventional warfare threats, not to mention its member states all possessing armies, the EU’s options are limited. Brussels could only possibly launch military deployments to ‘third countries’ like Macedonia, and failed states like Libya (as with the previous EUBAM mission). It is somewhat easier (if more dangerous for ground operators) to convince failed states to accept EU military ‘assistance.’

However, for countries like Macedonia, which are functional, relatively modern, peaceful, and lacking in military threats, Brussels would need the right kind of government to gain entry. What the EU banks on, firstly, is the country’s relative obscurity; citizens of better-known European countries do not realize that life is fairly modern, and much safer, than in many other parts of Europe. In short, there is no justification for an EU military mission on security grounds: only ideological, financial or strategic expansionist goals could explain the concentrated push for an EU military deployment.

And so, with Macedonia’s current leftist government, has the EU finally found the right actors to fulfill its undying military fantasies? Unless they’re part of a well-played deception, the statements of the MOD and Interior Minister Spasovski cited above clearly indicate that the present government plans to replace its existing sovereign, bilateral cooperation agreements with other states, in favor of a vague EU military deployment against threats that may not even exist. Such a deployment would then be used by Euro-federalists as a precedent for EU relations with other countries.

The Frontex agreement could be stopped by certain legal mechanisms, but it would require considerable courage for Macedonian leaders to go against EU demands. With a compliant government, weak opposition, and lame-duck president entering his final year in office, it seems unlikely that any such leader will emerge.

Further, the Frontex deal could be explained away as a sort of ‘consolation prize’ if (as expected), Greece vetoes Macedonia’s NATO accession this summer. If denied NATO membership yet again, Macedonia could either do nothing, work to develop its existing bilateral defense pacts with the US and Turkey, or satiate the desires of Euro-federalists for ‘collective security’ via Frontex.

The last of these appears to be the government’s desired approach, if the comments of Defense Minister Sekerinska cited above after the Syrian missile strikes are anything to go by. However, we are concerned that leaders in many parts of Europe (Macedonia included) are incapable of understanding President Trump’s unconventional foreign policy strategy, and how it ties into domestic American political issues. Any broader national strategy in Macedonia (and other countries) that relies on flawed or incomplete assessments of American policy would be very detrimental to the options of the country in question.

Frontex’s Past Failures: a Further Reason for Concern

The third problem with a Frontex deployment to Macedonia involves operational shortcomings. Frontex operations in past have been counter-productive at best and incompetent at worst. For example, at the time of the above-stated 2011 interview with Mr. Roesler, Frontex was helping Greek authorities seal the land border with Turkey from illegal migrants. So the latter simply shifted to maritime routes to the south, a lengthy and treacherous stretch of territory that (as was well-attested in 2015) is both hard to police and more dangerous for the migrants themselves.

In the more recent 2015 crisis, the incompetence, or disinterest, of Frontex in Greece would have been swept under the rug had it not been for Macedonian complaints. Frontex’s operational failure was proven to Donald Tusk and the agency’s director, Fabrice Leggeri, during a December 2015 meeting with a Macedonian delegation led by President Ivanov. As recorded in the present author’s book, Migration Terrorism and the Future of a Divided Europe (p. 67), the event went down thus:

“The Macedonian delegation unceremoniously poured out a large bag over the conference table, filling it with Greek-stamped refugee registration cards and forged passports–just a small portion of the 9,000 false documents that their police had seized, since early November, from migrants attempting to transit Macedonia from Greek territory.

“They were shocked,” recalled President Ivanov, in his first extended comments on what was perhaps the key security meeting for EU security policy during the crisis. “We had registration forms on which dozens of migrants had, for example, all identical birthdates entered. In registering all migrants, our police calculated that Frontex staff in Greece had been processing only eight percent of all people sent through to us. Some also had false Syrian passports purchased from organized crime networks, especially located in Athens. There were even Africans with Syrian passports! They couldn’t believe it.”

The severity of this failure cannot be overestimated, as subsequent terrorist attacks in Europe involving migrants transiting the Balkan Route have proven. Greek authorities have frequently complained, and quite rightly, that the maritime conditions and sheer volume of migrants dumped on them from Turkey made it impossible to properly process all incoming migrants. However, the fact that Frontex repeatedly failed or was disinterested in fulfilling its mandate to oversee this process should set off alarm bells for any state security body considering accepting EU “assistance” in this form. In short, if Frontex failed within the borders of an existing EU country with significant power and visibility at the Brussels level, why should it be expected to do any better (operationally speaking) in a small, non-member state lacking similar clout?

Finally, another legal/operation issue of possible concern for accepting any Frontex mission is indicated by Article 4 of the above-cited EC document. While it states that Frontex operators “can only perform tasks and exercise powers under instructions from and in the presence of border guards of the third country,” the body of the agreement states that any operational plan must be made with the approval of the EU member state bordering the ‘third country’- in Macedonia’s case, Greece. The mutual mistrust between these countries, poor past experience in working with Frontex on the Greek side and potential for foggy mandates increase the likelihood of operational failure and dispute-resolution problems for an EU mission literally caught “in the middle.”

All in all, the controversy over an EU military mission to Macedonia typifies the conflicting visions in Europe, and elsewhere. On the one side are the supporters of state sovereignty; on the other are the supporters of supranational solutions to complex issues like migration. In Europe, this issue is uniquely complicated by the existence of not only sovereign states with their own militaries, but also NATO and the EU. Small countries like Macedonia that are outside of these bodies provide ideal territory for experiments that can quickly turn nefarious, with no punishment for bad behavior. In the big picture, they can also be used as ‘precedents’ for Euro-federalists longing to expand their powers ever further.

Final Thoughts: Prelude to a Deeper Investigation of the EUISS

In preparing this analysis, we went to great lengths to get information where necessary from various sides over a five-month period. The EU, unfortunately, failed to respond to our requests for information about the deal that is (according to cited Macedonian sources) in the ‘final stage’ of negotiations. Frontex’ press office in Warsaw did not answer the phone. These negotiations have occurred entirely in the dark, with little or no media coverage, and zero public awareness- which is just the way Eurocrats such as Juncker like it.

Further, five months have passed since the EUISS article appeared, with very little information provided by this official EU body regarding the article or its general activities. EUISS staff’s total disdain for public accountability, and their demonstrated contempt for transparency – two of the EU’s alleged great values – are abundantly clear in written communications with Balkanalysis.com.

Future articles will discuss this specific failure – and the institute’s penchant for secrecy, as witnessed by relevant sources – in more depth. For now, it is sufficient to state that this investigation began with a December 2017 email to the author, Roderick Parkes, which elicited no response. We followed up with an official request to the EU Delegation in Skopje, which referred us to the EUISS headquarters.

There, we engaged by telephone and then email with Sinead Gillen, a spokeswoman. The case was turned over to another spokesman, John-Joseph Wilkins. Owing to the failure of these persons to provide adequate information, we emailed them together with Commissar Mogherini and her spokespersons, so that the EU’s highest leadership would be aware of the EUISS’ unprofessional behavior.

While there was (unsurprisingly) no reaction, at very least, if asked by others, these people cannot say that they were never asked about the EUISS in general and about the provocative EUISS report that started this whole investigation. Readers should feel empowered to contact any and all of the persons mentioned in this article to freely voice their opinion about decisions that may affect them- but which, all too often, are negotiated in secret, without public knowledge.

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