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June 17, the date when the Macedonia’s main ruling party, VMRO DPMNE, was formed in 1990, was not the best date for its leaders to come out and celebrate.
The big anniversary unfortunately coincides with an event that will leave a bitter taste in the mouth of many Macedonians, namely the latest EU summit of ministers in Brussels. It is now certain the country will once again hit a Greek brick wall.
The EU this time chose to be cold. It wasn’t even trying to wrap up its bad news in nice wording, so it won’t hurt so much. The message was: solve your problem first and then we will see about your EU entry.
The summit marks the fruitless passage of yet another six months, as Macedonia stays put, caught in limbo between its Euro-Atlantic perspective, which is being blocked by Greece in the dispute over the country’s name. Indeed, the country faces possible utter demise if it continues to plunge ever deeper into nationalistic mythology and economic gridlock.
Since country’s Euro-Atlantic drive is now in tatters and there is nothing to celebrate about that, VMRO DPMNE decided to focus its anniversary celebration on the other aspect of the previously mentioned limbo equation, nationalistic mythology.
The party leadership decided to move the massive central celebration two days earlier, to June 15. This was done under the excuse that the Prime Minister and party head, Nikola Gruevski, could not make it on the 17th because he would be attending another event, a meeting of European right-wing parties.
Absurdly enough, the rally in Skopje last night saw people partying as if their country has just won the FIFA cup! The “most patriotic of all parties” put on a real show, with drums and dances, beer for some, champagne for others. All that was spiced with long patriotic speeches that people here can’t get enough of. Gruevski’s speech alone lasted over an hour.
To symbolize their grassroots origin, Gruevski and his suite took a walk-about among the crowds before climbing onto the stage. “VMRO is not a party of elites but of the people”, Gruevski noted.
His speech was very simple but effective, basically saying what the people wanted to hear, that he would continue to be their knight in shining armour, defending the county’s name and dignity.
You see, the EU ministers were far away and their cold tones were not heard at this heated celebration. No patriot present at the event bothered to ask why the country, led since 2006 by VMRO DPMNE, had lost its friends in the EU family. Instead, I heard cheerful farmers shouting that they were going to sell their grapes to Russia, “if the EU does not want us”. I worry to think what would happen if that same simple logic starts to preoccupy ranking party officials.
One comparison comes to mind when looking at Macedonia. I am not the first to make this comparison, borrowing the well-known joke about an old Jew who spent his days sitting on a bench in front of a synagogue, waiting for the Messiah.
“I admire your devotion”, one curious passerby says. “You must be well respected in your community and receiving many rewards for your troubles, sitting here out in the cold, day after day.”
“Nobody’s paying me anything and most people think I am crazy. From time to time someone throws me something to eat, so I won’t starve to death and that’s it”, the old man replies.
“That’s terrible”, the traveler exclaims. “Why are you doing it then, what kind of a job is this?”
“It’s a permanent job,” the old Jew replies.
Macedonia’s “permanent job” seems to involve waiting for divine intervention on the doorsteps of the EU. But, so far, that has meant only “permanent partying” for a ruling elite that has been able to harvest this situation to the full.
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