Macedonia: Refugees return, politicians speak, people fear

The situation in Macedonia tonight is summed up in the title. While it is true that the Albanian extremists are being pushed out of northern Macedonia by the security forces, and refugees are returning, the lack of deaths among the terrorists worries those who suspect that this is the beginning of a long, highly tactical, conflict, as mobile groups of NATO-armed and NATO-trained extremists wreak havoc and withdraw, only to surface again somewhere else. Certainly the security forces in Skopje have increased their operational activities, with public places (squares, shopping centres, stations, post offices, hospitals, schools) and public transport interfaces such as bridges and motorways, are being cordoned off by security forces, who fear bomb attacks by Albanian terrorists. German soldiers in northern Macedonia have arrested 30 Albanians, believed to be members of several gangs, intent on violence and subversion. Meanwhile in Skopje, the diplomats start to talk. Javier Solana, the EU Security Commissioner, met Albanian leaders in Tetovo yesterday and pledged that “I wanted to be here to show the solidarity of the European Union for the people and the authorities”. The leader of the Albanian Democratic Party (in the Macedonian coalition government) Arben Xaferi, stated that he felt “very concerned and very humiliated” and that the solution to his people’s problems was through dialogue and negotiation and not firearms. While Robin Cook, the British Foreign Secretary, was urging the Macedonian authorities to follow the path of dialogue (which they have been doing since the problem started), Javier Solana declared that “The European Union will continue to support politically and economically a united, multiethnic and prosperous Macedonia”. Most of the people who fled from Tetovo after the conflicts began have started to come back to their homes. Calm returns for the time being to northern Macedonia. Everything indicates it is there to stay, but local residents fear that worse is to come. Proof again that only those in the field are left to suffer and that it is they who understand the questions in hand, and nobody else. Interfering, meddling foreign powers only served to exacerbate the Balkans situation. TIMOTHY BANCROFT-HINCHEY, PRAVDA.RU, LISBON

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