Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Move Fast to Help Macedonia

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Move Fast to Help Macedonia

Article excerpt

Yugoslavia's former province of Macedonia seems to be on a slippery slope toward a full-scale ethnic war that could involve Balkan neighbors. And it might require the kind of massive intervention by the West, including the United States, that we saw in 1999, when the US led NATO in driving Serbia out of Kosovo.

Macedonia needs serious help for peace right now in reaching first an armistice, then permanent peace signed by the majority Slavic and minority Albanian parties. Indecisive European Union envoys, backed by wishy-washy policies in Brussels and their home capitals, and President Bush's determination to reduce US commitments in the Balkans, have kept Europe's peace efforts weak.

Meanwhile, Macedonia's 2.5 million people are suffering. A new Balkan refugee tide is beginning, with close to 50,000 Macedonians pouring into neighboring states.

To change this, two steps are needed: first, a decisive EU political effort to help President Boris Trajkovski's little Macedonian state reach the peace it admits it cannot achieve alone; second, a small NATO military force to protect Albanian-Slav peace talks and to buffer that process against the violence and counter- violence that have been slowly immobilizing a near-democracy that seemed to work since Macedonia's creation as an independent state in 1991.

Happily, the main Western actors have already made a start toward taking both steps.

To reinforce the ineffectual political Band-Aids applied during brief visits by EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana, the European Union has now sent a permanent envoy to the Macedonian capital of Skopje. That envoy, former French Defense Minister Francois Leotard, has made a simple but, it would seem, quite logical proposal: The Slav-dominated Macedonian government should talk directly with the ethnic-Albanian guerrilla leaders, instead of relying on a seemingly sterile dialogue between the Albanian minority and Slav majority parties inside the parliament and government. …

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