Creating conditions for mutual trust between the ethnic groups in FYROM

Let me ask you about your plans for forming a government. Will you join forces with Ali Ahmeti (leader of the Democratic Union for Integration, or DUI) and under what conditions would you accept him in your government? It is absolutely clear now that our coalition won 60 of the 120 parliamentary seats. However, we are firm in our policy that it is good for the country if an Albanian party joins the government. The elections showed that Ahmeti’s party has great legitimacy and we believe this party should be invited to participate in the government, in order to respect the will of the electorate. At the same time, however, this government will not include people who were directly involved in last year’s violence. You have made it clear that talks are being held with Ahmeti’s party. Are you negotiating via foreign diplomats, as has been said? We have no contacts, not even via foreign diplomats. Personally, I do not believe that mediated talks can be successful. If we are going to work together in a future government, we have to talk to each other. Our intention is for to talks to begin right after Parliament convenes. Will you meet personally with Ahmeti as soon as you receive a mandate? No, but we will be talking to his party. What can you offer Ali Ahmeti’s Albanians in a coalition government? For example, could you give them important ministries such as the defense, foreign or interior ministries? Considering the general situation in the country, there are certainly some ministries that could not be given to anyone other than members of our own winning coalition. This does not mean that representatives of this party could not participate in the hierarchy of various ministries, but these would of course be headed by cadres of Together for Macedonia. Can one assume that these would be the Defense, Interior and Foreign ministries? Yes. There is a warrant for the arrest for Ali Ahmeti which the previous government tried to activate during the election campaign. What are you going to do about that? At the moment a decision is expected in The Hague as to whether specific cases could come under the jurisdiction of the (international) court there regarding war crimes in former Yugoslavia. My government will respect that decision. How will you restore the state’s authority in Tetovo and other western provinces where organized crime is rampant and the police are not able impose order? Crime is dangerous for the country irrespective of whether it occurs in the eastern or western regions. One of the new government’s priorities will be to root out crime. That is why a basic principle for cooperation with Ahmeti’s party will be a joint effort to fight crime. Both Albanians and Macedonians suffer because of criminal gangs. What is certain is that the overwhelming majority of the population wants order, security and peace. The final election result was due to the people’s desire for order and security. That is what the people who voted for us are expecting from us. Those who voted for Ahmeti’s party did so because one of the basic proclamations in his program was a guarantee of order and security. What do you think these groups are? Are they armed wings of the former NLA who are continuing their struggle to partition the country, or are they common criminal gangs? This is a complicated question. It is true that during last year’s crisis there was the idea of partitioning the country and an exchange of populations, but the interesting thing is that this idea was not furthered except by the Albanian extremists. However, it was an idea presented to the people by government officials, headed by the prime minister and the parliament speaker. The Ohrid accord scotched this idea, as it guaranteed the country’s territorial integrity. Fully implementing the accord is a patriotic action, because it is the way to protect the country with its current borders. So, I believe that extremist groups like these, with convictions such as theirs, will continue to exist on both sides. But it will be important if these groups are marginalized and derived of public support. The elections showed that neither the Macedonians or the Albanians want the country partitioned and secondly, they decided on an effective government in the struggle against extremist groups. Without doubt, the international community will have an important role to play here. It is a fact that in last year’s crisis all the major international organizations – NATO, the EU and our neighbors, especially Greece, were in favor of keeping the country intact. What will you do that the Georgievski goverment did not, to prevent clashes with the ethnic Albanians? I believe that we won’t have to do anything more but certainly something different. Georgievski’s policy was to share out sectors of interest between his party and Xhaferi’s. What kind of interests are you talking about – political, ethnic or economic? All kinds, and in fact between two parties, not two ethnic groups. In every part of the country, people knew what policy was being followed and who was imposing it, who was doing business and who these businesses belonged to. They even shared out the control of organized crime and smuggling routes. We had reached a bizarre state of affairs. Never before had relations between two party leaders been so harmonious. The leadership of both parties, both Georgievski’s and Xhaferi’s, were so close that they gave the impression that it was one and the same party. I think that was what created the conditions, the atmosphere, for last year’s crisis. What we have to do is to take steps to create conditions of mutual trust between the ethnic groups.