RealNews

As Neighbors Find U.S. Favor, Macedonia Languishes in Ethnic Disarray

Split by bloodshed and distrust, Macedonia’s two ethnic groups share little except their country’s miseries – the struggle for survival on Europe’s periphery and the knowledge that things won’t get better anytime soon. Strategic ports and forward locations are making some Balkan nations attractive to the West in its war on terrorism. That means investment and commitment from Brussels and Washington to pull them into the U.S. and European Union orbit. Even Albania, southern Europe’s traditional black hole, is riding high on U.S. good will as Washington searches for post-Iraq allies in Europe. But there is less focus on landlocked, Vermont-sized Macedonia 12 years after it split from Yugoslavia, and no fast fix for the 50 percent unemployment, ethnic tensions, turf wars and terrorist bombs that kill innocents regardless of ethnicity. Even the country’s name, with its proud associations to Alexander the Great, is contested. Greece says the real Macedonia lies within its borders. So Macedonia has to live with the cumbrous official name of Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. The tough neighborhood doesn’t help. Next door is Kosovo, nominally part of Serbia but predominantly ethnic Albanian and pushing for independence after a 1999 rebellion that fed insurrection in Macedonia, too. Macedonia’s 2 million people badly need strong government. But the art of governing the Macedonian majority and a 23 percent ethnic Albanian minority is still being learned. In a country that continues to be defined by centuries of Ottoman then Yugoslav rule, there’s a tendency to blame all problems – poverty, corruption, inefficiency – on someone else in a faraway capital. Full Story

OODA Analyst

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