The Balkan people like to produce conspiracy theories about their plight and economic woes. It is usually about some external agent who organized a plot to break a Balkan country apart. (For example, there are still Serbs who believe that the breakup of former Yugoslavia was concocted and organized by the CIA and the Vatican.) This is usually not true. The Balkan people bring it to themselves.
Yet, external agents do have some involvement in the Balkans’s troubles. If there is any external agent (except for the champions of a greater Albania) who is partly responsible for yesterday’s conflict in Macedonia, it is the EU commission which for the past ten years supported an autocrat in office in Macedonia. Since 2006, the Gruevski cabinet was given full support of the EU, although it stood against almost all European core values: rule of law, separation of powers, media freedom, fight against corruption, free and fair elections, relatively free and competitive market etc.
Despite this blatant disrespect, the EU commission has turned the blind eye for a 10-year long rule of Nikola Gruevski with the argument that he maintains the stability in the country. The EU commission currently applies the same argument to other Western Balkan countries. Yet, what we see over the past 12 months are just the opposite. As pointed out in a BiEPAG policy brief, ‘the result has been the rise of a regional “stabilitocracy”, weak democracies with autocratically minded leaders, who govern through informal, patronage networks and claim to provide pro-Western stability in the region.’ In fact, instability and street protests became a regular practice before or after elections in Montenegro, Serbia, Albania, and Macedonia.
It is time for the EU to understand that the support for the Balkan autocrats can produce stability only in the short run. In the long run, it is a Potemkin village that sooner or later turns into its opposite. Democracy is in decline in all Balkan countries, and this is what makes them unstable. The Balkans countries lost some ten years they could use to build and strengthen democratic institutions. By supporting autocrats, the EU did a great disservice to these countries because it did not help them build institutions that peacefully handle precisely this kind of situations in which the government change has to happen.
Autocrats are known for not willing to leave the office by respecting the legal procedure for the change. (This is why we call them autocrats—they respect no law before they have to go, so why would they do it when they have to go.) They are prepared to engage in or produce a violent conflict in order to remain in charge. This is what basically happened yesterday in Macedonia. The main responsible for the conflict is Gruevski’s clique that reject to step down even if it controls no majority in Sobranje to put together a new cabinet.
There is only one way to insure stability in the Balkans: the EU commission has to demand from the Western Balkans governments to stick to the principles of rule of law, separation of powers, media freedom, free and fair elections, and unrelenting fight against corruption.
Enough Is Enough, Vice-President