Comment 20 Mar 17

EU’s Own Credibility is at Stake in Macedonia

In its approach to Macedonia, and the Balkans, the EU has neglected democratisation in the name of stability - and has so betrayed its own values and empowered local autocrats.

Toby Vogel
BIRN
Brussels
Macedonians organised by the 'Civil Initiative for United Macedonia' protest against a possible government between the opposition Social Democrats and the main Albanian party, Democratic Union for Integration, claiming that their coalition deal, that includes Albanian becoming an official language, will break up the country. Photo: EPA/Georgu Licovski

As an institution, the EU has had difficulty in acknowledging the systemic sources of political behavior in the Balkans and adjusting its responses accordingly. [Individual officials, especially those on the ground, tend to understand the situation a little better.]

These are countries with weak or non-existent accountability mechanisms: they lack the institutional checks and balances, strong parties or the vigilant civil societies and media that make up textbook liberal democracies.

Their politics are zero-sum and sometimes existential: one reason why former Macedonian Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski is clinging to power is his conviction – probably correct – that losing power would mean going to jail.

Forced into a choice between power or obtaining a symbolic reward from Brussels, he will unsurprisingly choose power and survival over foreign acclaim.

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