Macedonia

1. Euroscepticism and European Parliament elections

Ljup­cho Petkovs­ki

European elections in the shadow of the Macedonian elections

The elec­toral cam­paigns for Euro­pean elec­tions over­lapped with the cam­paign for nation­al par­lia­men­tary elec­tions in Mace­do­nia, and the deci­sion of the oppo­si­tion not to rec­og­nize the results of nation­al elec­tions describ­ing them as rigged. Being pre­oc­cu­pied with the nation­al polit­i­cal cri­sis, the elec­tions for the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment received no atten­tion from either the Gov­ern­ment or the oppo­si­tion. More impor­tant­ly, the prospect of EU mem­ber­ship was not dis­cussed in the nation­al elec­toral cam­paign, which came as no sur­prise but rather as a trend that com­menced in 2008.

The elec­toral cam­paigns for the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment elec­tions received some atten­tion in the media. How­ev­er, the reports were super­fi­cial and did not touch upon the polit­i­cal pro­grams of main can­di­dates and polit­i­cal par­ties. The media were exten­sive­ly report­ing on the opin­ion polls that pre­dict­ed a strong rise of euroscep­tic and pop­ulist par­ties espe­cial­ly in France and the Unit­ed King­dom. Media com­men­ta­tors point­ed out that nation­al, not Euro­pean issues dom­i­nat­ed the cam­paign in all major mem­ber-states, which is a symp­tom of ambiva­lence of young Euro­pean vot­ers towards Euro­pean pol­i­tics.

Hidden euroscepticism surfaces in a time of crisis!

No overt euroscep­ti­cism exists amongst Mace­don­ian polit­i­cal elites. On the con­trary, and despite the fact that there is no real prospect of mem­ber­ship unless the bilat­er­al nam­ing dis­pute with Greece is solved, there is a strong declar­a­tive con­sen­sus around the state­ment “there is no alter­na­tive to EU mem­ber­ship”. How­ev­er, the Gov­ern­ment is often crit­i­cized by the oppo­si­tion, civ­il soci­ety and some media for insti­gat­ing anti-Euro­pean and anti-west­ern sen­ti­ment.

In most of the cas­es this crit­i­cism seems jus­ti­fied. Some media pro­fes­sion­als, ana­lysts and intel­lec­tu­als, who are seen as mes­sen­gers of offi­cial pol­i­cy in Macedonia’s high­ly polar­ized and con­trolled media land­scape, often advo­cate that Mace­do­nia should recon­sid­er its rela­tions with the ‘ever-intrud­ing EU’. In the con­text of the Ukrain­ian cri­sis, these voic­es became even more vis­i­ble. The EU is often blamed for hav­ing dou­ble stan­dards towards Mace­do­nia, and for being too sup­port­ive of Greece’s posi­tion in the name dis­pute.

Gov­ern­ment-spon­sored or not, this dis­course appears to have paid off in decreas­ing the oth­er­wise con­sen­su­al pop­u­lar sup­port to EU mem­ber­ship. Accord­ing to the EUROSTAT’s Euro­barom­e­ter, in autumn 2013 only 50 per­cent of respon­dents in Mace­do­nia report­ed that mem­ber­ship in the EU would be a good thing for the coun­try. Although the fig­ure seems rel­a­tive­ly high and absolute­ly high­est in can­di­date coun­tries, back in 2007 it was much high­er (80 per­cent) and there is a wor­ri­some, sta­ble dimin­ish­ing trend. A sur­vey con­duct­ed recent­ly by the Mace­don­ian Cen­tre for Euro­pean Train­ing only reaf­firms this trend in the polit­i­cal dis­ap­point­ment. This sur­vey demon­strat­ed that near­ly half of the respon­dents (47 per­cent) thought that Mace­don­ian polit­i­cal elites should seek for an alter­na­tive devel­op­ment mod­el out­side of the EU, where­as 42 per­cent report­ed that EU is the best alter­na­tive for Mace­do­nia. These fig­ures are sig­nif­i­cant if one keeps in mind the strong divi­sion between eth­nic Mace­do­nians (55 per­cent) and eth­nic Alba­ni­ans (only 17 per­cent) in favour of alter­na­tive devel­op­ment mod­el out­side the EU with­out spec­i­fy­ing what such an “alter­na­tive mod­el” entails.

“Eurosceptic earthquake” and effects on enlargement

Rep­re­sen­ta­tives of gov­ern­ment and oppo­si­tion have not made sig­nif­i­cant com­ments on the out­come and turnout of Euro­pean Par­lia­ment elec­tions. The only high-lev­el politi­cian who reflect­ed on the out­come of the elec­tions is Fat­mir Bes­i­mi, the Deputy Prime Min­is­ter in charge of Euro­pean Inte­gra­tion. In a round table dis­cussing the out­come of the elec­tions and its impact on the Enlarge­ment Pol­i­cy, Bes­i­mi inter­pret­ed the suc­cess of euroscep­tic par­ties as a reflec­tion of the deep polit­i­cal, eco­nom­ic and secu­ri­ty cri­sis in Europe. Acknowl­edg­ing the fact that anti-enlarge­ment forces have gained momen­tum in the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment, he assured nev­er­the­less that EU mem­ber­ship will remain the top pri­or­i­ty of the Mace­don­ian gov­ern­ment.

Media report­ing and com­ments inten­si­fied after the elec­tions. The results of the elec­tions and the rise of euroscep­ti­cism, i.e. the “euroscep­tic earth­quake” were inter­pret­ed as a pun­ish­ment by the Euro­pean vot­ers imposed on the alien­at­ed politi­cians that have unsuc­cess­ful­ly dealt with the cri­sis. It was also account­ed for as a clear sign that changes are about to hap­pen in the way the Euro­pean Union func­tions. On the oth­er hand, jour­nal­ists com­ing from the small, but increas­ing­ly vocal anti-Euro­pean camp in Mace­do­nia cyn­i­cal­ly noticed that the elec­tion results are a clear sign that Euro-enthu­si­asm only exists among Macedonia’s lib­er­al elite, despite the fact that “fas­cists have occu­pied Europe”.

NGO rep­re­sen­ta­tives and experts com­ment­ed on the results of the elec­tions main­ly with a view to pos­si­ble changes in EU Enlarge­ment pol­i­cy. In gen­er­al, com­men­ta­tors pre­dict­ed an inevitable change in the way the Euro­pean Union deals with can­di­date coun­tries in terms of increased con­di­tion­al­i­ty and a stricter focus on acces­sion cri­te­ria.

2. The EU’s Neighbourhood

Andre­ja Sto­jkovs­ki

Pale Slavic Sentiment for Russia but…

Mace­do­nia does not tra­di­tion­al­ly have strong feel­ings about Rus­sia; nev­er­the­less, there are still some who sym­pa­thize with the sim­i­lar lan­guage, cul­ture and joint “Slav­ic” her­itage although this is not part of offi­cial gov­ern­men­tal pol­i­cy.

In his inau­gur­al speech deliv­ered on May 12th 2014, Pres­i­dent Gjorge Ivanov, speak­ing on the Inter­na­tion­al Com­mu­ni­ty and its role, said: “…any vio­la­tion of the inter­na­tion­al law today means under­min­ing of the project of nations unit­ed for the good of all” (Ivanov). Lat­er on, in the same speech, speak­ing on Macedonia’s rela­tions with the inter­na­tion­al com­mu­ni­ty he said: “The Repub­lic of Mace­do­nia will not be lim­it­ed to the region and Europe only.” In spite of his dimin­ished influ­ence in the inter­na­tion­al posi­tion­ing of the coun­try and in the rela­tions with oth­er coun­tries and organ­i­sa­tions, these two sen­tences depict the cur­rent sit­u­a­tion in the coun­try. The country’s lead­er­ship can­not depart from its strate­gic objec­tive to even­tu­al­ly join NATO and the Euro­pean Union. How­ev­er, the “Greek veto” is the per­fect excuse for its firm grip on the free­dom of expres­sion, civ­il lib­er­ties and crit­i­cal­ly
This report is part of the EU-28 Watch No. 10. For cita­tion please use the full report avail­able at: http://www.eu-28watch.org/.
think­ing civ­il soci­ety orga­ni­za­tions, so any crit­i­cism is treat­ed as pres­sure over the “name issue”. These short­com­ings to democ­ra­cy and rule of law have recent­ly been iden­ti­fied by the for­eign media as “small” dic­ta­tor­ship. Prime Min­is­ter Gruevs­ki has nev­er open­ly backed the Pro-Russ­ian sen­ti­ment, but that is under­stand­able as he can­not “defect from” the strate­gic part­ner­ship with NATO and the spe­cial coop­er­a­tion agree­ment with the Unit­ed States.

Nev­er­the­less, there are many who share Russia’s views on democ­ra­cy. One of the promi­nent pro-gov­ern­men­tal euroscep­tic jour­nal­ist, Mir­ka Veli­novs­ka, asked in her columns: “What have the EU and the USA ever done for us!?” (Nova Make­doni­ja dai­ly news­pa­per). The sit­u­a­tion could best be described through the words of anoth­er ana­lyst, Zoran Dim­itro­vs­ki: “His [Prime Min­is­ter Gruevski’s] polit­i­cal habi­tus is that of a per­son suf­fer­ing mul­ti­ple per­son­al­i­ty dis­or­der – he has his heart with Putin, and his rea­son, at least for now until they dis­solve, with NATO and the EU” [FOKUS week­ly polit­i­cal mag­a­zine].

Ukrainian crisis as a litmus test

The “war” in Ukraine became an ide­o­log­i­cal and geostrate­gic lit­mus test for Macedonia’s future posi­tion regard­ing its rela­tions with Rus­sia, but also regard­ing the EU’s rela­tions with the East­ern Part­ner­ship coun­tries. Mace­do­nia could not evade offi­cial­ly posi­tion­ing itself in the UN as oppos­ing the annex­a­tion of the Crimea by Rus­sia, but it failed to fol­low suit with the EU on the sanc­tions imposed to Moscow.

This schiz­o­phrenic sit­u­a­tion is due to many rea­sons, but most­ly to the fact that the peo­ple have, for a long time now, been served with news on the eco­nom­ic renais­sance of Rus­sia and the steady growth of its pow­er on the inter­na­tion­al stage. While Russ­ian busi­ness has not mas­sive­ly invest­ed in Mace­do­nia, its cap­i­tal is main­ly dis­trib­uted in the min­ing, ener­gy and oil sec­tors; how­ev­er some of the Putin-affil­i­at­ed oli­garchs com­ing with their “Russ­ian” under­stand­ing of democ­ra­cy are get­ting ever clos­er to Prime Min­is­ter Gruevs­ki and serve his regime. There­fore, it was to be expect­ed that the rul­ing party’s pro­pa­gan­da would crit­i­cize the ambiva­lence of the Euro­pean Union towards Ukraine, present it as yet anoth­er proof for the Union’s inevitable dis­so­lu­tion and the birth of a new world order, and advo­cate “the replace­ment of the Euro-Atlantic inte­gra­tion”.

Our hearts are with Prime Minister Erdogan!

Replace­ment of Euro-Atlantic inte­gra­tion is being advo­cat­ed through anoth­er “suc­cess sto­ry”: Turkey of Prime Min­is­ter Recep Tayyip Erdo­gan. Main­stream media and the rul­ing par­ty pro­pa­gan­da are con­stant­ly depict­ing Turkey as the eco­nom­ic giant and the sym­bol of suc­cess with­out EU inte­gra­tion. In their columns and TV shows, promi­nent pro-gov­ern­men­tal euroscep­tic jour­nal­ist have nev­er failed to praise the eco­nom­ic mod­el of Turkey and indi­cate that it has been achieved with the coun­try being far from acced­ing to the EU.

The only prob­lem with this nar­ra­tive is that it fails to men­tion the clear gaps in the region­al devel­op­ment in Turkey, and the fact that there obvi­ous­ly are big dif­fer­ences between Turkey and Mace­do­nia. How­ev­er, it will be more than dif­fi­cult to get that mes­sage through to the ordi­nary cit­i­zen, as Turk­ish invest­ments in the coun­try are very strong and rather well pro­mot­ed. In addi­tion, accord­ing to view­ers’ rat­ings, the Turk­ish-pro­duced “soap operas” are the most pop­u­lar shows and are tak­ing up much of the time on all TV sta­tions, thus wield­ing immense cul­tur­al influ­ence.

The strength or the close­ness of this rela­tion is per­haps best explained through the words of Prime Min­is­ter Erdo­gan that the Turks and the Mace­do­nians are broth­ers or through the sym­pa­thy that Macedonia’s Pres­i­dent Ivanov feels for Prime Min­is­ter Erdo­gan in his deal­ings with exter­nal­ly
This report is part of the EU-28 Watch No. 10. For cita­tion please use the full report avail­able at: http://www.eu-28watch.org/.
sup­port­ed pro­test­ers at Istanbul’s Gezi Park. Such pub­lic state­ments go com­plete­ly in con­trast with the impres­sions and pub­lic posi­tions of all the demo­c­ra­t­ic and lib­er­al struc­tures in the EU. How­ev­er, in Mace­do­nia, Erdogan’s regime is quite often referred to, direct­ly or indi­rect­ly, as a suc­cess­ful mod­el of “eco­nom­ic devel­op­ment” with­out democ­ra­cy or with­out EU.

Links:

3. Power relations in the EU

Bojan Marichikj

Germany — the leader and ruler of Europe

Ever since the per­son­al and polit­i­cal role of the Ger­man Chan­cel­lor Angela Merkel has grown in Euro­pean pol­i­tics, the pub­lic dis­course in Mace­do­nia per­ceives Ger­many as a key play­er on the EU polit­i­cal and eco­nom­ic court. This could be eas­i­ly rec­og­nized in the man­ner the pro-gov­ern­men­tal media cov­ered the three main events in the last sev­er­al months: Merkel being elect­ed to her third term in the Ger­man fed­er­al elec­tions in Sep­tem­ber 2013; Ger­many’s spe­cif­ic role in the Ukrain­ian cri­sis and the role of Ger­man polit­i­cal actors in the after­math of the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment elec­tions.

As for the third elec­toral vic­to­ry of the Chris­t­ian-Demo­c­ra­t­ic Union in Sep­tem­ber 2013, con­ser­v­a­tive cir­cles in the coun­try, which account for most of the pub­lic dis­course, inter­pret this as a firm pro-right-wing affil­i­a­tion in Europe. Hence, in their view, the strong posi­tion of the rul­ing VMRO-DPMNE only indi­cates that Mace­do­nia polit­i­cal­ly aligns with the right-wing wave in Europe. On the oth­er hand, the oppo­si­tion Social-demo­c­ra­t­ic Union of Mace­do­nia and the left-wing media expressed their plea­sure and hope stem­ming from the “Grand coali­tion” of Merkel’s polit­i­cal par­ty with the Ger­man Social Democ­rats. They have actu­al­ly placed their hope in the new Ger­man For­eign Min­is­ter Frank-Wal­ter Stein­meier – expe­ri­enced Social Demo­c­rat and for­mer leader of the Ger­man SPD. This sit­u­a­tion caused opti­mism in Mace­do­nia that the EU will not be so strict towards Mace­do­nia regard­ing the name issue res­o­lu­tion as a pre-con­di­tion for open­ing the acces­sion talks. Nonethe­less, as time goes by, all the actors real­ize that such opti­mism should not be addi­tion­al­ly fuelled.

As regards the Ukrain­ian cri­sis, the Ger­mans’ firm eco­nom­ic pres­sure towards Rus­sia (exclud­ing Rus­sia of this year’s G8 sum­mit) and the efforts for peace­ful res­o­lu­tion of the con­flict makes Ger­many one of the most rea­son­able play­ers of the game. How­ev­er, the rather inde­pen­dent posi­tion of Ger­many in com­par­i­son to the oth­er West­ern Euro­pean coun­tries, cou­pled with the ambiva­lent posi­tion of the EU insti­tu­tions, gives the impres­sion that the EU does not speak with one voice and that the Ger­man voice dom­i­nates the Euro­pean choir.

Final­ly, there was a strong echo in Mace­do­nia in the after­math of the Euro­pean elec­tions. Name­ly, the con­ser­v­a­tive incum­bent cir­cles have stressed the rise of the pop­ulist right-wing par­ties such as Front Nation­al in France or Gold­en Dawn in Greece. In the same tone, the left-wing struc­tures empha­sized the suc­cess of Syriza in Greece but simul­ta­ne­ous­ly the argu­ment popped up that the pro-EU polit­i­cal groups (Euro­pean Peo­ple’s Par­ty, Par­ty of Euro­pean Social­ists, Alliance of Lib­er­als and Democ­rats for
This report is part of the EU-28 Watch No. 10. For cita­tion please use the full report avail­able at: http://www.eu-28watch.org/.
Europe and Greens) make up the vast major­i­ty of the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment. Either way, both main polit­i­cal, media and ana­lyt­ic blocs agreed that Angela Merkel is the indis­putable win­ner of the Euro­pean elec­tions. Hence, con­sid­er­ing her key role in the debate on the can­di­date for the post of Euro­pean Com­mis­sion Pres­i­dent as well as her suc­cess­ful reme­di­al role in the Euro­pean eco­nom­ic cri­sis, she com­plete­ly deserves the epi­thet “Queen of Europe” (Mak­faks Inde­pen­dent Agency). Such dis­course received addi­tion­al tail­wind when the major Mace­don­ian media pub­lished the sto­ry that Forbes Mag­a­zine ranked Angela Merkel the most pow­er­ful woman in the World.

Austerity? What is that?

The issue of pub­lic spend­ing in Mace­do­nia has risen to the top of the polit­i­cal agen­da. Since 2006, while the incum­bent Gov­ern­ment has been in pow­er, the pub­lic bud­get has increased by 130 per­cent and most of the bud­get items con­cern insti­tu­tion­al costs, social trans­ac­tions and pub­lic invest­ments in less pro­duc­tive pur­pos­es con­sid­ered by the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion in 2011 as a “beau­ti­fi­ca­tion of the cap­i­tal.” This project, a land­mark of the incum­bent Gov­ern­ment, took sev­er­al years of inten­sive invest­ments in new venues for pub­lic insti­tu­tions, cul­tur­al insti­tu­tions (muse­ums and the­atres), mon­u­ments and church­es. Its total cost was nev­er deter­mined although the oppo­si­tion polit­i­cal par­ties ini­ti­at­ed par­lia­men­tary hear­ings and crit­i­cal NGOs sub­mit­ted numer­ous requests for free access to pub­lic infor­ma­tion. In this light, the Gov­ern­men­tal pol­i­cy pro­mot­ed increased pub­lic invest­ments for stim­u­lat­ing growth as a pre­ferred pol­i­cy where­as the oppo­si­tion pro­posed inten­sive aus­ter­i­ty mea­sures and redi­rect­ing pub­lic funds to social trans­ac­tions for tar­get­ing pover­ty.

This nation­al debate reflect­ed the Euro­pean debate on “aus­ter­i­ty vs. growth”. The anti-EU con­ser­v­a­tive cir­cles usu­al­ly use the Euro­pean Fed­er­a­tion of Unions’ protests in Brus­sels and the bit­ter effects of the eco­nom­ic cri­sis and aus­ter­i­ty mea­sures in Greece as an illus­tra­tion of what detri­men­tal effects the aus­ter­i­ty mea­sures might have. Some of the pro-gov­ern­men­tal euroscep­tic jour­nal­ists (such as Mir­ka Veli­novs­ka or Ivi­ca Bocevs­ki, “Nova Make­doni­ja” dai­ly mag­a­zine) sug­gest that the EU will nev­er ful­ly recov­er from the cri­sis, which means that in a mul­ti-polar world Mace­do­nia must not stop search­ing for options. On the oth­er hand, some of the pro-Euro­pean jour­nal­ists (such as Erol Riza­ov or Ljup­co Popovs­ki, “Utrin­s­ki ves­nik” dai­ly mag­a­zine) claim that the EU must go back to its roots of com­mon val­ues (democ­ra­cy, rule of law, human rights etc.) in order to over­come the cri­sis and find a new impe­tus for devel­op­ment.

UK out, EU down!

The pos­si­bil­i­ty of a UK exit from the EU is only the last piece of the mosa­ic called “EU in cri­sis”. Giv­en the fact that Mace­do­nia is at a dead-end regard­ing EU acces­sion, most­ly due to the name issue with Greece, any exam­ple that reveals the inter­nal polit­i­cal and eco­nom­ic cri­sis in the EU is wel­comed by the major­i­ty for sev­er­al rea­sons. First, this proves that Mace­do­nia is not the only “ill” part­ner of the EU. On the con­trary, Mace­do­nia appears to be one of the least prob­lem­at­ic espe­cial­ly when com­pared to the UK, Greece or Hun­gary. Sec­ond, accord­ing to the right-wing euroscep­tics this cri­sis indi­cates that the EU is not a homo­ge­neous struc­ture speak­ing with a sin­gle voice and embrac­ing col­lec­tive val­ues. In con­trast, the EU rep­re­sents a myr­i­ad of cul­tures, socio-polit­i­cal and eco­nom­ic sys­tems that are not nec­es­sar­i­ly uni­fied. There­fore, euroscep­tic prime min­is­ters such as Cameron or Orban are per­ceived as cham­pi­ons of the ‘new Europe’. More­over, the immense suc­cess of Nigel Farage’s UK Inde­pen­dence Par­ty (UKIP) in the Euro­pean elec­tions was depict­ed as addi­tion­al­ly under­min­ing the EU and strength­en­ing the euroscep­tic camp.

Some intel­lec­tu­als pre­dict the end of the EU if the UK suc­ceeds in seced­ing. How­ev­er, some left-wing ana­lysts make clear the rela­tion between the UK’s threat to leave EU and the Scot­tish threat to leave UK. In their words, most like­ly none of these things will hap­pen and the UK will be once again marked
This report is partxx of the EU-28 Watch No. 10. For cita­tion please use the full report avail­able at: http://www.eu-28watch.org/.
as the “awk­ward part­ner” of the EU. In this line, some media rep­re­sen­ta­tives quote the analy­sis of Euro­pean Com­mis­sion Vice-Pres­i­dent Viviane Red­ing for the Brus­sels-based Euro­pean Polit­i­cal News­pa­per “New Europe” that the “UK would lose influ­ence out­side EU” (Red­ing) because it would stay linked with the EU sin­gle mar­ket and con­tin­ue to be bound by its rules just with­out influ­ence in their draft­ing.

Links:

This sur­vey was con­duct­ed on the basis of a ques­tion­naire that has been elab­o­rat­ed in March 2014. Most of the reports were deliv­ered in June 2014. This issue and all pre­vi­ous issues are avail­able on the EU-28 Watch web­site: www.eu-28watch.org.

The EU-28 Watch No. 10 receives sig­nif­i­cant fund­ing from the Otto Wolff-Foun­da­tion, Cologne, in the frame­work of the ‘Dia­log Europa der Otto Wolff-Stiftung’, and finan­cial sup­port from the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion. The Euro­pean Com­mis­sion is not respon­si­ble for any use that may be made of the infor­ma­tion con­tained there­in.