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News 31 Jan 14

US Intelligence Deems Macedonia, Bosnia, ‘Volatile’

For the first time in recent years, US National Intelligence has bracketed Macedonia in the same 'volatile' category as Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Sinisa Jakov Marusic
BIRN
Skopje
The Director of US National Intelligence, James R. Clapper

The head of US National Intelligence, James R. Clapper, named Bosnia and Maceodnia as countries of concern at a Wednesday hearing of the Senate Intelligence Committee, on the most significant security threats for 2014.

“The situation in Bosnia-Herzegovina and ethnic cleavages in Macedonia are particularly volatile,” he said, speaking about the Western Balkans.

Regarding Macedonia, he blamed problems partly on the Macedonian authorities.
“The Macedonian Government continues to push programs geared to promote ethnic Macedonia nationalism at the expense of the country’s Euro-Atlantic integration,” he said.

Clapper added: “The longer that Macedonia’s EU and NATO membership paths remain stalled over the country’s constitutional name dispute with Greece and poor bilateral relations with Bulgaria, the greater the risk that ethnic tensions will increase”.

Despite repeated recommendations by the European Commission, the EU has not started membership talks with Macedonia, nor has it been invited to join NATO, owing to the dispute with Greece over its name.

Greece insists that Macedonia’s name implies territorial claims to its own northern province, also called Macedonia.

Last year, Bulgaria joined Greece in blocking Macedonia's path to the EU, complaining that Skopje had failed to nurture neighbourly relations.

This is the first time in more of a decade that US intelligence, in its annual report on security threats, has described Macedonia as volatile.

Last year, the report warned that disputes between the ethnic Albanian and Macedonian communities might become more polarized, and mentioned the name dispute with Greece and chilled relations with Bulgaria as points of concern.

However, in 2013, US Intelligence stressed that it did “not expect a return to the civil war violence of a decade ago”.

In 2001, Macedonia experienced a short armed conflict between ethnic Albanian rebels and state security forces. The conflict ended that year with a peace accord that granted greater rights to Albanians who make up a quarter of the population of 2.1 million.

In return, ethnic Albanian paramilitaries disbanded and several commanders became politicians who are now part of the junior coalition party, the Democratic Union for Integration, DUI.

Speaking about Bosnia, the only other country from the region named in the report, Clapper’s remarks reflected those from last year.

“In Bosnia-Herzegovina, different interpretations of the political framework, based on the 1995 Dayton Accords, as well as efforts by Bosniak, Croat, and Serb leaders to maintain control over their political and ethnic fiefdoms will continue to undermine BiH’s central state institutions,” he noted.

On a pessimistic note, Clapper said that general elections set for 2014 “will not likely bridge these differences, diminishing hopes for BiH’s Euro-Atlantic integration that its neighbors have achieved”.

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