Heavy gunfire between Macedonian police and armed intruders - allegedly led by five Albanians from Kosovo - left eight policemen dead and some 30 injured in the northern town of Kumanovo, near the Serbian-Kosovan border at the weekend. Fourteen ‘intruders’ were also killed and many wounded, writes Prince Michael of Liechtenstein.
It is not known on whose behalf the ‘intruders’ were operating and all Albanian political parties in Macedonia, Kosovo and Albania have distanced themselves from the attack. All the Albanian political parties are known to be interested in stable conditions in Macedonia.
About 40 ethnic Albanians from Kosovo briefly took over a Macedonian police station in the village of Gosince near the border in April 2015, demanding the creation of an Albanian state within Macedonia
Macedonia is geopolitically important, sitting strategically at the crossroads between Russia and the Mediterranean. It is crucial for Russia’s proposed gas pipeline from Russia through Turkey to Europe.
Macedonia's wishes to join Nato and the European Union have been blocked by Greece, which feels unable to accept - for nationalistic reasons - the name of ‘Macedonia’. This is not an isolated case of Greece trying to stamp its feet to the detriment of European progress.
Macedonia, with a population of more than two million, functions as a mono-ethnic country although about a third of the population is Albanian. The Albanians are denied proper representation in government as should be the case in such a multi-ethnic country.
Greek intervention to hamper Macedonia’s EU accession and the present government’s doubtful politics and organisation of elections, is allowing Russian and Serbian influence to become established. In this context, Professor Reka warned that Serbia, close to Russia, might use the ethnic problems to influence Macedonia's politics. Frustration about Greece blocking Macedonia’s moves could see Russia’s sphere of influence growing stronger.
He also warned that Europe may face destabilisation in Macedonia and its neighbours. The security of the Western Balkans could be challenged.
It is hard to believe that this destabilisation is in Albania’s interest as it risks causing an anti-Albanian backlash. But this incident shows that the EU has to play an active role in this area to avoid Ukraine-like problems.