Pravda.Ru examines quotes from the main players in the latest Balkans crisis. Firstly, the situation: Vladko Popovski (Liberal party): The Albanians “are trying to infiltrate into urban areas to link up with criminal groups, controlling lines of communications and get rid of the security forces”. This quote says all, and the reason why we start with it is because it sums up the situation perfectly. The main force behind these Albanian Liberation Armies is not a notion of nationalism or freedom from oppression…instead, these movements are geared to drugs running, prostitution rings, extortion and any other criminal activity which gives high yields. It is at the frontier crossings where the money is made, since someone has to control traffic of goods and people and it is better for the criminal Albanian groups if it is they and not the authorities who control this area. Dosta Dimovska, Macedonian Interior Minister: “They are ex-KLA and their goal is to occupy Macedonian territories and to capture the Macedonian border”. Again, the frontier but this time, Ms. Dimovska mentions the KLA (Kosovo Liberation Army, Ushtria Clirimtare e Kosoves in Albanian). Curiously, the faction fighting in Macedonia is also called KLA. Evidently, the Kosovo KLA did not simply melt into oblivion when NATO asked it to sign peace agreements. Ljubco Georgievski, Prime Minister of Macedonia: “Many things indicate that the forces attacking us have no intention of just pulling out of Macedonia”. A sign that this is a problem to stay, unless something is done. It is simply a question of political will, a question of determination. The Balkans does not have to flare up uncontrollably. The main players in the region (and not those from outside) have intrinsic duties and responsibilities, whatever these cost. NATO, however, does seem to have a continuous problem with its hearing and maybe needs to visit the optician…”There isn’t a civil war going on in Macedonia right now” “The Macedonian government has the situation in hand”, said a senior NATO official in Brussels, who, wisely, asked to remain unnamed. Other reactions were more astute. European Union President Sweden issued an official statement which said that “Any claims these (Albanian) groups have, should be put forward in a peaceful manner, in a political context and according to democratic principles”. The United States Balkans envoy, James Pardew, went further. “This is a small group of extremists who are simply trying to use intimidation and violence to pursue their own political agenda…These people are seriously damaging the relationship between the international community, regional neighbours and Kosovars, particularly the Albanian population of Kosovo”. It is nice to hear an American issuing an intelligent statement on the Balkans situation. It is a pity Mr. Pardew was not nearer the front line of political decision when NATO decided to “go in”. Mr. Pardew’s compatriot, the US Ambassador to Tirana, goes even further in a blistering attack on the Albanian separatist groups. In a statement issued in Tirana, Joseph Limprecht said : “I would call on everybody to focus principally on the central issue…which is providing support to the Government of Macedonia and to those elements of the Albanian political community…to isolate and put down the people of violence, the extremists, as soon as possible”. The situation is serious and everyone knows it. The Albanians have to be stopped, now, otherwise the situation will certainly escalate. United Nations Envoy Carl Bildt expressed his concern : “I am very alarmed. This is one of the worst pieces of news to come out of the Balkans for many years”. What about the future?? “Unfortunately, we have information that new flashpoints might appear throughout the country”, said Macedonian Interior Ministry spokesman, Stevo Pendarovski. Last but not least, the voice of the innocent bystanders, the local population. The opinion of the man in the street usually matters least and is normally heard last but in an article, it is the closing statement which makes more impact. We choose the words of two Macedonians, the first a citizen of Tetovo and the second, Skopje, the capital. “Several families have left, the women and children have left the town…the situation is really bad” “I am afraid for the first time in my life. I had thought about alerting the world’s press but now I do not feel anything any more”. Those of us who know the Balkans still have feelings and it is totally unacceptable that Slav populations are subjected to ethnic cleansing practices by savages, and the protectors of savages.
TIMOTHY BANCROFT-HINCHEY, PRAVDA.RU, LISBON