From: Ilir Copja
What Do Gruevski and Ivanov Fear?

Last week, the Macedonian parliament passed a law allowing wider official use of the Albanian language. The voting process was peppered with verbal and physical threats, particularly toward Speaker Talat Xhaferi.

Nikola Gruevski, former VMRO leader and former Prime Minister of Macedonia, attacked Speaker Xhaferi during the law’s discussion seance.

The attack held ethnic, anti-Albanian connotations, seeing that Xhaferi is an ethnic Albanian and under discussion was a law granting constitutional rights to Macedonia’s Albanians.

What was the meaning behind this action?

Nikola Gruevski and his party were looking to, once again, reassert their strength. They have openly displayed violence and oppression towards their political opponents, especially toward the Albanian population. We only need mention the “Mostra” affair, when six Albanians received life sentences for the murder of a Macedonian. However, according to wire-taps published by current Macedonian PM, Zoran Zaev, the entire thing was a plot devised by former Interior Minister Gordana Jankuloska and the Slavic Macedonian police. Another example that comes to mind is that of Kumanova in 8-9 May 2015 where the Macedonian police forces used heavy artillery to attack a neighborhood of the city with no regard for civilian life. They proceeded to arrest three entire families, including elderly persons and 3-year-old infants.

Who stands behind Gruevski?

VMRO, headed by Nikola Gruevski, relies on Slavic Macedonian nationalism, that will not be deprived of its exclusive right to be the privileged ethnicity. From the beginning of the Republic of Macedonia, the power and economic resources have lied in the hands of the Slavic Macedonian ethnicity. It follows that the division of funding in education, healthcare, infrastructure, and sports would overwhelmingly favor that same ethnicity.

Their purpose was clear: removing Albanians from their ethnic lands in order to then colonize those territories with Slavic Macedonians. This policy was recognized in the Congress of Berlin in 1878 and was widely and visibly exercised after the creation of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, later known as Yugoslavia.

This plan was obstructed by the National Liberation Army, which compelled the Macedonian government to enter negotiations and sign the Ohrid Agreement (2001), that provided representation rights for Albanians in politics, education, local and central institutions, and culture.

Yet, a way to hinder the enforcement of the Ohrid Agreement was devised, via the silent compliance of Albanian parties that held offices only for personal profit.

What part did President Gjorge Ivanov play in these ethnic clashes?

President Gjorge Ivanov, of Slavic Macedonian ethnicity, has positioned himself in favor of Slavic Macedonians. He has excused Gruevski’s and VMRO’s expressly nationalistic actions as protective of the interests of the state in the face of “terrorist” and “destabilizing” Albanian activity.

In the face of Gruevski’s aggressive behavior towards his lawful superior, Speaker Xhaferi, Ivanov opted for silence, thus legitimating these actions, as, no doubt, protection of Macedonia’s Constitution and stability.

His stance has not changed after other affairs, like the Kumanova shootings, the wire tappings, and the election of Talat Xhaferi as Speaker of the Assembly of Macedonia.

Is this the best way to protect the Constitution? Is their objection based on the Constitution?

In a democratic country, it is not within either the opposition leader’s, nor the President’s jurisdictions to assess the constitutionality of a law. That responsibility falls exclusively to the Constitutional Court. The language law is not in contradiction with the Constitution, seeing as it is in compliance with the Ohrid Agreement of 2001. Furthermore, were Gruevski and Ivanov truly concerned about the law’s constitutionality, they would have had ample time to bring it in front of the Constitutional Court to block its approval.

Why does the Albanian language law frighten Ivanov and Gruevski?

Gruevski, Ivanov, and the Slavic Macedonian political and economical elites are afraid of the empowerment of Albanians. The law grants Albanians the right to communicate in Albanian in local and central state institutions.

This law is expected to have several positive consequences for Albanians, namely:

First, it will hinder the obliteration of the Albanian language from the younger generations of the Albanian population who have been the target of decades-long slavicizing and assimilation attempts.

Second, in many Macedonian cities, it will now be easier to speak and study the Albanian language.

Third, teaching in Albanian will no longer be overlooked in favor of teaching in Slavic Macedonian, as a result of threats and outside pressure.

Fourth, the seemingly favorable for Albanians wind that is blowing will make many Albanians that speak the language but have opted to “become” Macedonian or Turkish in order to protect their families and careers, will return to their ancestral surnames.

It will soon be time for the upcoming Macedonian census and the Albanian populations percentage may “increase.” In the upcoming local and parliamentary elections their voice may become crucial, rather than a mere afterthought.

What are the true fears of the Slavic Macedonian community?

As the influence of Albanians strengthens, they will not be able to continue their nationalistic project and will be forced to adjust to this new reality. Most importantly, they are afraid that Albanians will act towards them in the same way they behaved towards Albanians. It is an understandable fear, as humans tend to see their own flaws and hatred reflected on other people.

The Slavic Macedonian political elite, since the beginning of the Republic, have attempted to isolate, cast out, and keep Albanians from power. To achieve their final purpose, they used various instruments, such as police violence, state investments, and education. Police violence against Albanians become a fact of life in the Republic of Macedonia, whether it appeared in extraordinary incarnations, like in Kumanova, or more banal ones like small local altercations and conflicts.

Overwhelmingly arbitrary police activity favoring Slavic Macedonians were meant to oppress Albanians, in order to keep their heads down, keep them from demanding their rights, and, ultimately, drive them from their ethnic lands to make way for Slavic Macedonian colonization.

Investments, too, seem diametrically opposed when it comes to Slavic Macedonians vs. Albanians, be it in the cultural, or the economic aspect.

In leadership roles, as well, the lion’s share was held by Slavic Macedonians, with Albanians being considered an afterthought.

Are the above fears in any risk of becoming a reality?

Personally, I believe Albanians must not fall for provocation. They mustn’t entertain revanchist feelings. They must demand the enforcement of their legally given rights. For centuries, Albanians have been called war-loving, provocateurs unable to reach a compromise. It is time to change this international perception. As Fan Noli once said, it is no longer the time of the yataghan. The West has its eyes on the Albanians. Now we must be the ones to justify this attention by keeping our calm and increasing our influence and rights by legal means.

Gruevski and other nationalists are living in the past and are no longer scary. The Macedonian and Balkans status quo has not been resolved and will not be resolved with a rifle, but with negotiations, agreements and legal initiative. To conclude, dear Slavic Macedonians, do not fear. We are not like you, no matter how much you have tried to assimilate us. We are a global example of religious coexistence, hospitality, and loyalty.

Thanks and compliments go to Talat Xhaferi who kept his cool and did not stoop to Gruevski’s level. Thanks go to Gruevski, as his prehistorical behaviour in the eyes of the entire world is the biggest favor he could ever do to the Albanian cause. Keep up the good work!