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The Ohrid Framework Agreement and Interethnic Relations
read in Macedonian


Author’s note: this is the first of a 2-part series

A recent article about the Dayton Accords caught my eye.  The author, William Stuebner, is former US diplomat and former Special Adviser to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia.  He wrote this:

“The Dayton Agreement always contained within it a toxin that would ultimately guarantee the destruction of the dream of a democratic, multi-ethnic Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Whenever I said this to late US diplomat Richard Holbrooke, he became angry and defensive. He was an intelligent man who recognized that almost any agreement has inherent flaws, but he rejected the notion that he had negotiated a peace with a fatal flaw. The lethal error was the legitimization of ethnic politics.”

The late President Boris Trajkovski recognized this fact about agreements.  In his address to parliament on August 31, 2001, when he urged members of parliament to ratify laws and amendments required by the Ohrid Framework Agreement (OFA), he stated what all diplomats know but will few will admit about agreements stating “The Agreement is not perfect, but no agreement ever is.” And in 2001, shortly after the agreement was signed, Eleanor Nagy, the Deputy Chief of Mission at the US Embassy in Skopje at the time, told me this regarding the Ohrid Framework Agreement and I quote: “Basically, we made a deal with the Devil.”

But the deal was made, nonetheless, and we are here and it is now.

A couple of points before proceeding further: first, the main point of the OFA was to put an end to the conflict. The foreign authors wanted an end to the fighting and that was their primary purpose in drafting it.  All other thoughts were secondary.  Second, those foreign authors also knew that they would be long gone when it was implemented (in other words, they would have moved on to other positions in their governments and would not have to be responsible for the consequences of what they wrote).

Third, Macedonia, as a modern-day nation-state, has always had “ethnic politics,” as defined by parties that cater to one ethnic group or the other.  But just because it has ethnic politics does not mean that the parties that represent ethnic groups cannot deal with the issues that matter most to the entire country, namely security/defense, the economy, foreign relations and education.  Those are the issues which matter most to all of Macedonia’s people, regardless of ethnicity, and for the success of all of Macedonia’s people, those issues must be addressed (and I will explain later in this two-part series why and how the OFA legitimizes “ethnic politics.”)

Recently, there have been calls from both sides of the aisle to revisit the OFA.  After Minister Besimi’s visit to a NLA monument and the fall-out from it several voices called to revisit the OFA.  More recently, the United Macedonian Diaspora has called for a “comprehensive review” of the OFA stating “UMD believes that the Macedonian government and its citizens need to undertake a full comprehensive review of the OFA, in light of the reality of its impact.  If Macedonian citizens, especially other minorities, such as the Roma, Vlachs, and Turks, can pledge their allegiance to Macedonia, as proud citizens of Macedonia, why can’t the Albanian minority do the same?”

The late American Senator Edward Kennedy once famously said that “Violence is an admission that one’s ideas and goals cannot prevail on their own merits.” Unfortunately, in the case of Macedonia, violence prevailed, NATO and the internationals went back on their word and failed Macedonia and now we have this faulty agreement.  But there are things which can be done to turn this around and make the best of what we have.  Here are my suggestions:

First up: “Positive discrimination.”  In America, we call this “affirmative action” and there are numerous problems with it in America and in Macedonia.  The main problem with this is that one is trying to end discrimination with more discrimination which is never a good start.  In the end, someone will be discriminated against.  There is something tasteless, improper and downright ugly about hiring people based on the blood that run’s in their veins.

Section 1.3 of the Ohrid Framework Agreement states “The multi-ethnic character of Macedonia’s society must be preserved and reflected in public life.”  Making ethnicity a central part of the governing documents of your country absolutely legitimizes “ethnic politics” in a way that the natural cohesion of ethnic groups to ethnic parties does not.

Positive discrimination may address some bureaucrat’s need for numbers: making sure a certain number of ethnic Albanians are working in the Ministry of Economy, for instance, but it does nothing good for the state, nothing good for the people of Macedonia and nothing good for that individual.  If that individual is under qualified, then he or she is going to suffer in a variety of ways, not least of which is through feelings of inferiority, frustration and worthlessness. (And Section 4.1. of the OFA is at odds with the idea of positive discrimination stating “The principle of non-discrimination and equal treatment of all under the law will be respected completely.”)

And what about Macedonia’s other minorities?  At what point does one draw the line on discriminating against them by promoting Albanians into state institutions?

Regardless.  We have positive discrimination in Macedonia as a result of the OFA and the numbers required have been achieved.  Now, I call for an end of positive discrimination.  Meritocracy should be the rule.  Positive discrimination should be phased out and individuals should be hired in city, municipal and state institutions based on their education and abilities.  Nothing more, nothing less.

Next week: Part 2 on territorial division, special voting rights, and alternatives to EU and NATO membership

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Jason Miko
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