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The International Crisis Group Report
read in Macedonian


Our old “friend” the International Crisis Group (ICG) has recently published a report on Macedonia titled “Macedonia: Ten Years After the Conflict.” The ICG has issued reports on Macedonia several times in the past 16 years and this current report corresponds with the Ohrid Framework Agreement. 

Founded in 1995 and with an annual budget of $17 million US dollars, the ICG, according to its website, defines itself as “The International Crisis Group is an independent, non-profit, non-governmental organisation committed to preventing and resolving deadly conflict.”  Their website goes on to state that “The International Crisis Group is now generally recognised as the world’s leading independent, non-partisan, source of analysis and advice to governments, and intergovernmental bodies like the United Nations, European Union and World Bank, on the prevention and resolution of deadly conflict.” It also notes that 50% of its budget comes from governments, meaning it has some obligation to its donors which is often reflected in its reporting.  The group’s board of trustees is an all-star cast of individuals from around the world with a decidedly left-of-center worldview including George Soros, Gareth Evans, Martti Ahtisaari, Javier Solana and General Wesley Clark.  Those names alone should help any casual observer to understand where the organization’s thinking comes from. 

The current report is very critical of Macedonia and the current government citing “rising ethnic Macedonian nationalism, state capture by the prime minister and his party.”  As I read through the report the one area where I thought the ICG got it right is in calling Macedonia, Macedonia or the Republic of Macedonia.  That is, until I came to the part about the name. 

The ICG now calls for Macedonia to accept a name different from what the people of Macedonia have chosen for themselves.  In the Executive Summary, the report states that “Skopje should accept the UN mediator’s proposal for using ‘Republic of North Macedonia’ or a similar formula with a geographic qualifier as the name of the country for all international purposes; promptly after it does so, NATO should admit Macedonia, and the EU should begin membership negotiations.”  To its credit, the ICG also states that “Athens should acknowledge the national identity and language of its northern neighbour as ‘Macedonian’;” but then goes on to state that “Skopje should reverse its decision to rename its airport after Alexander the Great and desist from similar moves certain to provoke Athens, especially within the context of its Skopje 2014 project.” 

If that was not enough, however, the report goes far further than what most governments ask Macedonia to do when it comes to the Albanian minority, recommending that “The language law must be fully implemented, with use of Albanian further extended to state institutions; Skopje should be made a bilingual capital.”  In a single word, this is ridiculous.  And while the report does say some good things about Macedonia in general, the same word – ridiculous – could apply to it as a whole.   

The ICG – including those who write these reports, manage the organization, and make donations to it – appear to have no real idea of the situation on the ground.  The writers come into the country, interview people from the center, left and right, but then make their own determinations and recommendations based on the general left-of-center worldview of the collective organization.  They do not seem to think – or worse, care – what their recommendations could lead to if actually implemented and while it might be an interesting academic exercise to make such recommendations, they are a) impractical and b) immoral.   

As I sit and write this, I am in Estonia.  Like Macedonia, Estonia is a small country with a large ethnic minority, the Russians, who make up about 25% of the population of Estonia.  Speaking with my friends here, the same statements were made in the past by foreign governments and international groups, and are occasionally made today – that Estonian and Russian should be co-equal languages, that Russians are routinely discriminated against, etc.  My Estonian friends told me, “We simply ignored those statements, worked hard at building our country and our economy, and today, those statements are generally no longer made.”   My own personal recommendation to Macedonia is to take the advice of my Estonian friends – work hard at building your country and your economy, ignore the self-appointed high-priests of the elitists of this world and be successful.

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Jason Miko
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