Stabilizing Macedonia: Conflict Prevention, Development and Organized Crime: Organized Crime in Macedonia Will Not Be Reduced until Its Poor Are Provided with a Meaningful Legitimate Economic Alternative

By Gounev, Philip | Journal of International Affairs, Fall 2003 | Go to article overview

Stabilizing Macedonia: Conflict Prevention, Development and Organized Crime: Organized Crime in Macedonia Will Not Be Reduced until Its Poor Are Provided with a Meaningful Legitimate Economic Alternative


Gounev, Philip, Journal of International Affairs


Stability in the Balkans was a top foreign policy priority for the members of the European Union (EU) during most of the 1990s. EU policy makers pointed to nationalism, ethnic hatred, social inequalities, and human rights violations as the root causes for the Balkan conflicts. With this presumption in mind, the EU intervened in the Macedonian conflict in 2001 and implemented both conflict prevention and peace-building policies and measures. The European Union saw Macedonia's future EU membership as the ultimate guarantee of stability in the region. The April 2001 Stabilization and Association Agreement (SAA) between the EU and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (1) was incorporated in the Stabilization and Association Process (SAP). This process presented Macedonia (as well as other countries of the Western Balkans) with a framework that would reduce the threat of renewed conflict and ready them for EU membership.

This article argues that the development assistance under the SAP and the EU's peacebuilding efforts, although well-intentioned and successful in some aspects, are ill-advised because they have not recognized cross-border crime or the rebels' economic interests as one of the chief causes of the Macedonian conflict. Evidence of this is the continued lack of stability in Macedonia. Reports indicate continued ethnic tension, sporadic rebel violence, (2) rebel attempts to assert control over certain parts of the country and the persistent flourishing of cross-border crime. (3) These incidents are not the dying echoes of past conflicts, but rather compelling evidence that unrest persists because, for a core of militant rebels, the primary interest in mobilization was not to secure social and political reform for their communities. Some analysts have argued instead that the conflict in Macedonia was a criminalized "spillover" of the war in Kosovo and the conflict in the Presevo Valley (Southern Serbia); that it was inspired more by Albanian criminal networks, conducting illicit cross-border activities, especially trafficking in drugs and human beings, who sought to preserve or expand their interests by inciting ethnic conflict. (4)

The first section of this paper will review the EU's conflict prevention policies and its initiatives to fight organized crime, and explore the role of organized crime in the 2001 conflict in Macedonia. It will then analyze whether and how EU development initiatives undertaken within SAP contributed to stabilizing Macedonia.

THE EU AND CONFLICT PREVENTION

General Policies

The original mission of the EU as well as the motivation for the eastward enlargement process was stability in Europe and prevention of future wars. (5) Since the mid-1990s the EU has created various instruments to implement conflict prevention measures. New positions and bodies were created such as the High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy, the Special Representatives and the Policy Planning and Early Warning Unit. The defence links between the EU and the Western European Union (WEU) were strengthened, and the WEU was mandated to deal with peacekeeping, peacemaking and humanitarian crises. (6)

The EU's conflict management mechanisms were further shaped in April 2001 when the European Commission published Communication, in which it outlined the EU's strategy for conflict prevention and four main objectives in this area that the Commission noted. One of them was the EU's "duty to try to address the many cross-cutting issues that generate or contribute to conflict," (7) especially drugs and arms smuggling. The Commission praised the "noteworthy results" that the Phare program in the Balkans has achieved in setting up "filters" along the Afghan heroin road. (8) While the document clearly recognized that drugs in Colombia or diamonds in Africa are causes of conflicts, parallel conclusions were not reached for the Balkans (where drugs, arms and human trafficking have perpetuated and, arguably, even caused conflicts). …

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