OPINION

Unrest in FYROM

A resurgence of armed conflict between ethnic Albanians and Slav-Macedonians, which brought the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) to the brink of dissolution two years ago, is looming on the horizon again. While international attention is focused on the Middle East, the situation in FYROM is rapidly worsening, and in the far more worrying context of the growing dispute between Serbia and Albania over Kosovo. Last Tuesday, the Albanian Parliament unanimously condemned a decision by the Parliament in Belgrade, according to which Kosovo is an integral part of Serbia. The day before yesterday, hundreds of Slav-Macedonian police officers and soldiers invaded two villages inhabited by ethnic Albanians on the Kosovo border, and killed «quite a few» Albanian rebels, according to the FYROM government. Last week, hundreds of Slav-Macedonian police officers encircled and besieged another two villages near Kumanovo for three days, sparking the appearance of groups of armed ethnic Albanian residents determined to defend their homes. The Slav-Macedonian forces supposedly attacked in order to arrest the leader of the so-called Albanian National Army, Avdil Jakupi, who had not only abducted two police officers but had also declared on a Bulgarian television network that «Macedonia cannot be a state,» and «it must become a protectorate under the aegis of the United Nations and the European Union.» Superficial analyses of the supposedly insignificant influence of this group on the ethnic Albanian population of FYROM, or of the attempt to present its members merely as criminals, may contain a grain of truth, but they in no way go to the heart of the problem. The EU, the USA and NATO have other priorities and often consider their mission to be accomplished when they have put an end to armed hostilities. Greece, which knows the region far better, and which has a vital interest in its pacification and stability, must act. The government must inform, warn and mobilize its EU partners, so as to activate mechanisms for averting crises. It must also promote the incorporation of the Balkan countries into European institutions. Meanwhile, the international community must deal with the consequences of the distorted and essentially unviable solutions it imposed on the relations between ethnic groups in Bosnia, Kosovo and FYROM, before they assume an explosive character again.