Share this story
Close X
Switch to Desktop Site

The Threat of a Southward Serbian Advance

KIRO GLIGOROV of Macedonia is a former Communist of an older generation, and from the 1970s was an increasingly forthright advocate of the liberalization process begun under former Yugoslav leader Josep Broz Tito.

Mr. Gligorov came out of retirement to take up Macedonia's presidency. He is a moderate pragmatist who helped secure recognition of his country's independence by the United Nations and the stationing of UN protection troops in Macedonia.

About these ads

Gligorov also has established a dialogue with the country's large Albanian minority.

After the dispute with Greece over a name, what does Macedonia call itself?

We follow our Constitution, which means we call ourselves the `Republic of Macedonia.' The provisional name forced on us - `The Former Yugoslav Republic is a name for use in the United Nations only. But we have common interests with Greece, which go beyond the war in Bosnia and conflict in the Balkans. We are both democratic states, and these fights over flags and names are of an emotional nature.

Does Macedonia feel threatened by Serbia?

Serbia still has not recognized us. I met Milosevic at Ohrid [Macedonia] May 31, and asked him why. He said he did not wish to offend Greece, his `only friend,' the only one to support him.

But as long as the war goes on in Bosnia it can spread, and so long as the situation in Kosovo remains as bad as it is, that can be dangerous for us.

Any open conflict in Kosovo will automatically produce a flood of refugees, which would destabilize our own situation. It would obviously affect our Albanians - we have 400,000 - who would expect us to do something about it, and Albania proper would be under similar pressure.

About these ads

At Ohrid, Milosevic told me he knows we are a separate state and that he wished to cooperate. I told him, `Yes, cooperate. But why not recognize?'

One should continue to watch him carefully, because he's changed tactics many times.

How responsible is the West for this continued war?

Initially, the responsibility must lie with ourselves - the six republics [of former Yugoslavia] who would have found a solution in a new union of sovereign states combining democracy and a common free market.

When at last the West thought to mediate, it had already lost so much time the de facto position had been established with guns, creating a situation difficult indeed to undo.

The West now faces a dilemma: to use military means or rely on sanctions. But these [measures] will not roll back ethnic cleansing; they will but perpetuate the present situation. That will set grave precedents because of its implication that violence is a permissible way of solving disputes. It is especially dangerous for the Balkans, for, if the Serbs can get away with the idea that all Serbs should be united in a single state, then it is only logical for Croats and Albanians to claim the same.

That way lies permanent conflict. That is why we Macedonians are trying to demonstrate that different nations can live together in a single state in an atmosphere of tolerance.

Follow Stories Like This
Get the Monitor stories you care about delivered to your inbox.