The outbreak of violence in Macedonia in 2001 brought many scholars to reflect on whether the preventive diplomacy which was put in place in Macedonia from 1992 to 1998 was successful. According to most scholars today, Macedonia is considered as the first success of preventive action although it has its limitations. If one uses the definition given by Jentleson, preventive diplomacy follows a basic logic: “Act early to prevent disputes from escalating or problems from worsening.” The issue then is to know how long peace has to be sustained after the end of preventive action for it to be called a success . The question one has to ask is whether conflict prevention is a success if a war breaks out in the country where such prevention action was dispatched several years after all preventive organisms ceased working. This dilemma is particularly relevant in the case of Macedonia as conflict prevention took place from 1992 to 1998 and violence broke out in 2001 between the ethnic Albanians and the ethnic Macedonians. The question that one needs to answer is whether, retrospectively, preventive action in Macedonia from 1992 to 1998 was successful or if the outbreak of violence which occurred three years later qualifies it as a failure. In order to answer this question, the first part of the essay will focus on the successful but not flawless preventive action which helped Macedonia to remain peaceful during the years of turmoil in the rest of the Former Republic of Yugoslavia. In a second part, the emphasis will be put on the fact that the international community cannot be entirely held responsible for the outbreak of violence in 2001 because the reasons which led to this outbreak could not have been resolved by the latter in the short time of conflict prevention in Macedonia.
Looking at the success of preventive diplomacy, one has to look at it on two different and yet highly intertwined levels: external and internal . At the international level, Macedonia found itself in a very unstable position when it declared independence on the 17th November, 1991. It was indeed facing several threats to its security by neighbouring states. First of all, and this is the reason which pushed the newly Macedonian president Gligorov to ask the UN for a peacekeeping force to be dispatched on Macedonian territory , Macedonia feared Serbia would try to prohibit Macedonia's independence. Serbia considers Macedonia as an historical part of Serbia and calls it “South Serbia” . This claim was considered particularly important by politicians in the world at the time because Milosevic had whipped up Serb nationalism in other parts of Yugoslavia by instrumentalising such claims. In addition to historical claim on Macedonian territory, Serbia refused to recognize the new state and therefore the transformation of the administrative borders into international ones. However, by 1992, Serbia had already let Slovenia go, was trying to cling onto Bosnia and Herzegovina, needed all the military power at its disposal there and therefore, did not show any intention of attacking Macedonia in order to compel it to stay with Yugoslavia. Even if the threat was not self evident, it could not be dismissed . This threat was resolved mainly by two entities. The first of these, the UN responded to Gligorov's cry for help by dispatching first a peacekeeping force which was an extension of the UNPROFOR and then became the UNPREDEP (UN Preventive Deployment force) along the border between Macedonia and the Former republic of Yugoslavia. The peacekeeping force's mandate was to “deter such threats from any source, as well as help prevent clashes which could otherwise occur between external elements and Macedonian forces, thus helping to strengthen security and confidence in Macedonia” . The presence of UNPREDEP indeed helped dissuade Serbia from trying to reclaim Macedonia . The second actor in this issue is the United States who sent warnings to Serbia twice. It threatened to use force on Serbia if it tries to attack Macedonia , added troops to UNPREDEP and therefore contributed to successfully keeping Serbia out of Macedonian territory. Along with the UN, the US tried to mediate in order to normalise relations between the two states. Macedonia was not only facing threats from Serbia. Greece rapidly appeared as a potential enemy. Fighting over territorial claims and population, the Macedonian-Greek conflict rapidly escalated, Greece used its veto right several times in order to prevent Macedonia from being recognised by the EC and finally imposed on Macedonia a trade embargo in 1994 . This trade embargo had devastating consequences for Macedonia as a large part of its trade transited through Thessaloniki . The situation could have worsened if it was not for the efforts of the UN and the US to pressure both parties into negotiations. Holbrook conducted the negotiations and managed to get both parties to come to an agreement and sign an interim agreement in September 1995 . Greece agreed to end the embargo and to stop blocking Macedonia's membership and Macedonia, for its part, agreed to redesigned it's flag and remove all territorial claim on Greek territory from its constitution . The influence of the UN and the US was crucial in “reaching an eventual settlement, making further confidence building possible” . One point which needs to be emphasised here is the cooperation between the difference instances which undertook preventive diplomacy in Macedonia. Whether it is at the national or international level, coordination was a leitmotiv. At the international level, preventive action led to stable relations between Macedonia and Serbia and Greece and is therefore considered as a successful case of preventive action . Coordination of multiple actors happened also at the national level. At the national level, Macedonia had to deal with its diversity. At the time of independence, Macedonia was divided majoritarilly between ethnic Macedonians (65% of the population) and ethnic Albanians (23% of the population) . The Albanians felt discriminated against, wanted recognition of their group status as a constitutive group of Macedonia, they wanted recognition of their language, asked for educational rights and finally demanded that discrimination (in terms of job opportunities for example) be put to an end . On the other hand, ethnic Macedonians feared that ethnic Albanians would try to secede if they were given more territorial autonomy, as some Albanian nationalist leaders claimed . According to some scholars, the latent conflict between ethnic Albanians and ethnic Macedonians had “most of the prerequisites for extreme ethnic conflict leading to violence” . Preventive action was needed in order to cut short to the tensions which were becoming more and more visible through riots, demonstrations or even the very There, the mandate of the different international or national entities which decided to put into practice preventive action consisted of more than “containing and muffling violence, [rather] supporting power sharing, and even facilitating political dialogues. It must also modify the basic incentives driving popular politics by fostering new domestic social and economical interests and organised groups, creating broad stakes in participating in the international system and helping build self-regulating national dispute management processes” . The efforts of the international community to achieve this goal were immense. Coordination and cooperation were again the two key words to the work of the different agencies. Among the agencies which worked in Macedonia, one can separate them from the level at which they acted, whether it was at the national or more local, even individual level. Whether it was the UNPREDEP, the OSCE or NGOs, they all accomplished a huge amount of work. It should not be forgotten that this accomplishment was made possible largely by the willingness of the Macedonian government, the major political parties and most of the population, to make sure that their country would not slide into war as Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina did . As the purpose of this essay to evaluate the success of preventive action in Macedonia, emphasis should not be put on the means used by the actors to achieve their goal but rather on the results of their action. First of all, the military presence of the UNPREDEP had a calming affect on the country itself as it relieved tensions emanating from the fear of a Serbian invasion. It also limited the opportunities of terrorism and therefore reinforced “indigenous moderate elements” which means that it helped to strengthen moderate political leaders and consequently avoided violent politics and polarised political camps. With the help of the government, the international community, at the national level, tried to foster dialogue between the two ethnic groups and to direct all ethnic claims to legal and legitimate channels and managed to put pressure on the Macedonian government to respond to the ethnic issues . Such pressures turned out to be successful. One of the main entities to work on the ethnic issue at the state level is the High Commissioner on National Minorities from the OSCE. As High Commissioner on National Minorities, Max van der Stoel repeatedly travelled to Macedonia and was particularly successful in pressuring the government to speed up efforts to accommodate demands for Albanian-language teaching . The other important entity at the national level was the Working Group on Ethnic and National Communities and Minorities of the International Conference on Former Yugoslavia . Under the conduct of Geert Arhens, the Working Group managed to initiate negotiations between ethnic Albanians and the Macedonian government. Among its successes, one can point out increased number of Albanian-language schools and a draft legislation on local self-administration . In general, they managed to direct most people into moderate politics rather than extremist ones, as the successive elections demonstrate . At the local level, NGOs were more present than the above more overarching organisations. NGOs took care of humanitarian and development projects, work on democratisation and on the creation of inter-ethnic dialogue through education and training . NGOs tried to change habits, customs, ways of thinking rather than institutions, as we shall see in the second part of this essay, their job was probably the most difficult one. As the successes of the international actors should not be underestimated, one cannot idealise their action either. At the international level, the international community undeniably conducted successful preventive action in Macedonia. Some scholars however criticise the extent of this success because some preventive action could have been taken but were not. An example of such missed opportunity is the delay of the international community to grant recognition to Macedonia even though the Badinter commission had recommended its granting . It could have prevented anxiety and the rise of tension over the possibility of a Serbian attack for example. Indeed, Serbia would probably have reconsidered attacking a recognised state . On the other hand, the delay in recognition left a doubt on the opinion of the international community and therefore in the possible behaviour of Serbia. In the defence of the international community, its opinion was clearly expressed with the deployment of the UNPROFOR along the border between Serbia and Macedonia, making its intentions very clear. The same criticisms have been made about preventive action at the national level. The fact is that the UNPREDEP and the OSCE were unable to foster a “self-animating nonethnic domestic politics” . According to Lund, “The persisting underlying problem is that Macedonian public life and policy debate are too imbued with ethnicity.” The problem here is that preventive action did not manage to create a system which would be divided along lines other than ethnic ones and which would have its own dynamics. It did succeed however in channelling demands of ethnic Albanians through institutions ( but it did not lower their intensity or transform them into other issues) when preventive action was taking place in Macedonia, but there was already some doubt as to how long the Macedonian government could keep ethnic issues under its control . By not managing to address the roots of the problem, the international community allowed the underlying dynamics of the problem to survive and grow .
This issue brings us to the second part of the essay. To say that the preventive action failed in changing the ways of thinking and the underlying dynamics of the Macedonian society does not necessarily mean that preventive action failed. It can mean that this particular issue could not be addressed by preventive action. The question here is to know when preventive action is successful. Following Jentleson's reasoning, one has to adopt a “counterfactual” logic, that is to conclude that preventive action was a success if its absence would have triggered a conflict and that failure means that the conflict which emerged could have been avoided if preventive diplomacy had been different . In the light of this definition of success and failure of preventive diplomacy, preventive action is not necessarily responsible for the “failure” to change the dynamics of ethnic relations in Macedonia. The main idea here is that, according to Stefanova, old and recent history of conflict in Macedonia “reinforced negative imagery construction between ethnic groups” , relying on Posen's theory , Stefanova argues that ethnic Albanians and ethnic Macedonians are trapped in a security dilemma which makes violence likely to erupt if the “underlying negative misperceptions of one another have not changed” . Using Galtung's theory, the “underlying negative misperceptions” from each group can be the “cultural violence” which he talks about when explaining his “violence triangle” . It is the cultural violence which makes “direct violence” (actual use or threat of the use of force) acceptable in society and which therefore fuels the conflict . According to Galtung, the problem with cultural violence is that it is the hardest form of violence to eradicate . Institutional (the other angle of the triangle) and direct violence can be stopped relatively easily but cultural violence turns out to be extremely difficult to change because it implies modifying deeply embedded ways of thinking. Such a process would take an extremely long time. Acting at the root of the problem is probably the best option but it means acting at the local, even individual level, working on several generations which according to their age are more or less likely to respond to preventive action. This type of preventive action would look at the problem from a bottom-up perspective. At the national level, the action of the UN and of the OSCE set up a framework which have made the Macedonian state less likely to discriminate its Albanian powerful minority and has given the latter the means to contest the Macedonian government regarding ethnic issues . This top-down approach was the most feasible and has granted some results as seen above even if not a total success, and yet, the effects of this policy need more than be few years to be seen. The argument that preventive action could not have prevented some issues from arising is the main argument for the second part of this essay. This is not to take a primordialist point of view regarding ethnicity; otherwise, preventive action would be useless and doomed to fail . Two issues need attention in order to explain the outbreak of violence in 2001 and at the same time the success of preventive action in Macedonia. The first of these issues is bad economic performance. The first problem to arise was the embargo imposed by the UN on Yugoslavia in order to compel Milosevic into obeying the international community. It is true that the international community failed to provide economic compensation for the losses due to the UN sanctions against Serbia and Montenegro even tough it promised it would . On the hand, what made the situation even worse was the fact that Macedonia had limited access to international loans from the World Bank (WB) or the International Monetary Fund (IMF) because it was not a member state of any of these organisations as Greece used its influence to stop Macedonia from acquiring membership . This, along with the Greek embargo was effectively dealt with by the UN and the US. The situation should have ameliorated but it did not really. In 1996, one year after the Greek embargo was lifted, Macedonia had received USD 85 million from the WB but its economy did not take off, surviving with an unemployment rate as high as 40% . One event drastically worsened the situation from 1998 onwards: the Kosovo crisis. As we will analyse later, the Kosovo crisis had more than economic consequences. For now, only the economic cost of the crisis is to be studied. As Kosovar Albanian refugees flowed in Macedonia, the government had to set up and finance refugee camps. Macedonia obtained aid from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) but not enough . According to a report from the OSCE Spillover Monitor Mission to Skopje in 1999, the “optimistic forecasts of 6.5% of GDP growth, growing trade and foreign direct investment have been rendered obsolete by the events.” In addition to the cost of refugees, Macedonia had to suffer from the cost of interruption of trade with the Former Republic of Yugoslavia. The Macedonian Chamber of Commerce has estimated that at least 70% of the exports contracts with former Yugoslavia were cancelled . Those costs had major consequences on society because the number of unemployed for the first time rise above the number of employed . As the Kosovo crisis put a strain on the economy, it also put a strain on society as group mobilisation along ethnic lines was magnified. Ethnic groups had to compete over the allocation of resources and the divisions became more visible as the ethnic Macedonians blamed the Kosovar Albanians for draining the economy . Economy and society were highly inter-connected during the Kosovo crisis. In her article, Stefanova argues that the Kosovo crisis and the lack of progress towards and internationally recognised status for Kosovo triggered the crisis in Macedonia in 2001 because of the declining economic situation and the strong communal and family links between Albanians in Kosovo and Albanians in Macedonia . The main problem of Kosovo is that the refugees, first of all, were Albanians and the strong family links meant that they did not all go into the refugee camps but that some of them went to their relatives'. The greatest fear of the ethnic Macedonians was that the percentage of Albanians in Macedonia would rise up to 40% and consequently destabilise its fragile ethnic balance . This fear led to the re-emergence of group mobilisation along ethnic lines and is partly why Macedonia witnessed violence in 2001. According to a study led by Daadler and O'Hanlon, Kosovo Albanians had a “high propensity to resort to violence to attract international attention to their cause” . In Stefanova's view, the Macedonian case should be seen in the same light. Ethnic Albanians took arms against the Macedonian government because of increased ethnic resentment and negative perceptions in order to attract attention to their struggle which was previously peaceful and legitimate but which did not result in giving them what they considered as basic rights for themselves . This opinion however is challenged by Beska who states that the ethnic Albanians became more loyal to the Macedonian state with the Kosovo crisis (Therefore, one can assume that conflict prevention had a relative impact on the negative images of each group toward the other.) but that the Macedonian state widened the gap between them by sending the refugees to third countries hence cutting the family ties . Some scholars blame the Kosovo crisis on the international community and the failure of conflict prevention regarding Macedonia. The international community understood very early the role Kosovo could play in Macedonia's future but, according to some scholars, allowed it to “become more inflamed than it ever had been.” On the other hand, the status of Kosovo is extremely difficult to determine today because some principles and international rules such as territorial integrity cannot simply be ignored for the sake of peace in another state. The negative images, the economic situations and the Kosovo crisis are all factors preventive action tried to address but could not, not just because of a lack of political will but also because of obstacles which rendered its efforts vain, such as, the fact that changing negative images take time, Greece's determination to pressure the Macedonian government, or international law which makes Kosovo's status almost impossible to be determined.
In the light of the definition given by Jentleson on the success and failure of preventive diplomacy, preventive action in Macedonia can be seen as a relative success for two reasons. First, it did conduct successful policies which helped Macedonia to be the only former republic of Yugoslavia to achieve independence peacefully and second of all because the problems which arose and led to the outbreak of violence in 2001 could not all be controlled by the international community. Since the Kosovo crisis, the three issues discussed in the second part have tried to be addressed by the international community as part of preventive action such as providing Macedonia with financial help, integrating it into a regional network of free trade agreement and security cooperation (the Stability Pact) and making Macedonia sign a Stabilization and Association Agreement as a promise of EU membership . Hopefully, those measures will be able to prevent another outbreak of violence even though the main issue of the status of Kosovo remains unresolved.
Ackerman, A., “The Former Republic of Macedonia: A Relatively Successful Case of Conflict Prevention in Europe”, in Security Dialogue, Vol. 27, No. 4, pp. 409-424.
Ackerman, A. 2000. Making Peace Prevail: Preventing Violent Conflict in Macedonia. Syracuse, N.Y.: Syracuse University Press. 217p.
In Galtung, J., “Cultural Violence”, Journal of Peace Research, Vol. 27, No. 3 (1990), pp. 291-305.
Jentleson, B., “Preventive Diplomacy and Ethnic Conflict: Possible, Difficult, Necessary” in Lake, D. and Rothchild, D. (eds). 1998. The International Spread of Ethnic Conflict. Princeton: Princeton University Press. 392p., pp. 293-316.
In Kauffman, S., “Preventive Peacekeeping, Ethnic Violence and Macedonia”, Studies in Conflict and Terrorism, Vol. 19 (1996), pp.226-246.
In Lund, M., S., “ Preventive Diplomacy for Macedonia, 1992-1998: From Containment to Nation Building”, in Jentleson, B. (ed.). 2000. Opportunities Missed, Opportunities Seized: Preventive Diplomacy in the post-Cold War World. Lanham, Md./Oxford: Rowan and Littlefield, 431p., pp. 173-210.
Panduveric, N., “Security Aspects of Stability Pact for South Eastern Europe”, in Security Dialogue, pp. 311-324.
Stefanova, R., “New Security Challenges in the Balkans”, Security Dialogue, Vol. 34, No. 2 (June, 2003), pp. 169-182.