It’s about people but also about political calculations and cowardice

Ida Manton




The Macedonian OSCE Presidency slogan is "It's About People", so in that regard, it would be virtuous for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to ask for assistance and support to the national interests, integrity, sovereignty, language and identity. How does Osmani plan to guarantee the rights of other people in the OSCE territory if he cannot do that at home, literally in front of his door and under the "It's about people" slogan?

I saw on several television news last week how a group of people with flags and slogans, with names and indecent reminders of the past, walked and gave speeches in front of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, under the leadership of Mr. Djambaski, a Bulgarian MEP, who seems to me to be dreaming of finding a modern version of 19-century-style rebel leader as his next profession.

It is convenient to be a revolutionary while being part of the establishment – you have money, and if something is wrong, there is always someone else to blame. But it is inappropriate and certainly punishable to be a member of the European Parliament and to act contrary to the spirit and commitments of the European Union in a neighbouring country with which your country negotiates and signs agreements on good neighbourly relations.

I am not a lawyer, but if I were a Prime Minister or minister of foreign affairs, I would gather all the smart minds to consider all the options – national, bilateral and international. The Council of Ambassadors proved useless and only supported the Minister. With this Council, we don't need an enemy.

There are countless possibilities for communicating with Macedonian experts who work on international topics in and outside the country. The easiest thing would be to organise an expert meeting so that all who have been writing on the topic would be invited to apply. To call for consultations with all those who think differently – that's how every strategist thinks to hear what the other side's arguments are. They should have summoned all the High Representatives for minority issues, for human rights and discussed with them what we should do as a country and what the experiences are so far.

Our Prime Minister looked at these events very arrogantly, so he bypassed our criminal laws and the international recommendations of good conduct, which, obviously, do not apply to Bulgaria. He showed they were below his level and not worthy of attention.

Well, the Prime Minister is not from a royal lineage or chosen by God to be somewhere up there and to look down on MEP Dzambaski with despise. As the country’s leader, he should not be ABOVE the situations, but he needs to deal WITH the situations. And while I was reading the news on the website, I was annoyed that none of the news informed me exactly what was said and how long these provocateurs were walking around Skopje.

Some media gave more coverage of what a politician who was not even at the event thought about this issue. And then I watched some video footage. They had huge OSCE flags in the background, so I can't help but discuss a few key event elements.

It is unpleasant when someone comes to your house and recounts the family tragedy that spans centuries, explaining from his veins that your house is part of his vilayet and our division is a historical injustice, especially when we experience differently those episodes of our history which are a source of inspiration and national pride for our neighbours.

That obsession with the Macedonian question and with the assumption which of them has more right to claim today's state of the Republic of North Macedonia (which, due to the wishes of its neighbours, changed its name, flag, Constitution, and is very close to now changing the ethnic composition) is not only backward but also dangerous because the EU continues to keep silent. Its eyes are closed while Bulgaria spreads fascist narratives both on its own territory (and therefore the EU) and on territories outside the Union (in our country). It does not remind Bulgaria of the spread of fascist narratives neither in its territory nor by its citizens in territories outside the Union.

And if the EU begins to rewind back so that they regret the condemnation of the World War II crimes, only then will Putin win and destroy Schumann's Europe, which he envisioned as "an attempt that must try and succeed in reconciling the nations in a supranational association that will protect the diversity and aspirations of each nation...".

President Pendarovski, after the meeting of the Security Council, informs the public that "the Russian intelligence services" are behind the provocations of Djambaski.

While Macedonia takes over the Presidency of the OSCE and our Minister of Foreign Affairs, Bujar Osmani, is convincing the participating states in Vienna that his Presidency "will focus on the principles and commitments of the OSCE" in front of the Macedonian MFA, Dzambaski raves and celebrates Mara Buneva – who is a proto-model of Balkan terrorism from the 19th - 20th centuries. She does that in the company of other pranksters, sailors and untamed revolutionaries. Still, without a doubt, she is a criminal because she killed a man in the middle of the street, regardless of the motives and the hatred she felt.

But depending on whether the Serbs were here as administrators or occupiers! If they were occupiers, Mara is a freedom fighter. If they were administrators, she is a terrorist. If I were Djambaski, I would wonder if it was possible that the Serbs were the occupiers and the Bulgarians the administrators.

The event, the flags, and the names after the flags - provoke and irritate. And Kovachevski told him, from above, that Djambaski was a marginal person, but not from a position of fear and ignorance.

Myself, from a position of a "hardcore" marginalised person (mother of a who is child marginalised by the system because it has special needs), I was offended that he put me in the same pot with Dzambaski. I was additionally shaken because I thought we live in democracies... we live in democracies in which there are no important and marginalised people, governmental and non-governmental people, yours and ours?

Source: nezavisen.mk

However, Hristijan happened, and everything was turned upside down. It turned out that everything was a mess, that the judicial authority equals Bujar Osmani, that "it doesn't matter what the investigation will say", and that all crimes are forgotten as if our police and court have no authority on their territory.

And even if Dzambaski were not a member of the European Parliament, if he were like me, a marginal person, it would be inappropriate for the Prime Minister and the Minister of Foreign Affairs to tell him that he is a marginal person. One of the basic rules in conflict resolution is that the final solution should satisfy the winner but not offend the loser.

When they say that they will not fulfil Dzambaski's wish to become a popular person and when they place him in the group of political losers in his country (because he failed to enter the Bulgarian Parliament) is probably insulting Dzambaski slightly but more importantly, they do not reach a solution that is satisfactory for their country.

That is why such statements do not elevate Kovachevski to the position of a leader who controls the situation, so he can afford to watch from above. On the contrary - it made room for Djambaski, in his video address, to continue similarly to attack Kovachevski, the Macedonian language and the country.

Those who have reached for leadership positions should be aware that the words we use say more about us than about the person we think we have offended. Marginalist. Really? And he could have told him that he is not welcomed in Macedonia until he shows a European spirit and respect for the country, the language and the manner in which we, as a country, read the Macedonian history.

Trust is built by hard work, not empty slogans

I do not understand how no one asked the OSCE and especially the Presidency why, having had the mission in the country for 30 years (and even if we did not have one), they have not been involved in any way in what are the core working principles of this organisation from Helsinki - monitoring for discrimination (of minorities, for example, followed by the publishing of report that there IS a Bulgarian minority in Macedonia and that their rights are violated or to explain how the Macedonian state is depriving them of their ethnic identity), building trust, preventing conflicts, cooperation between countries, meeting the obligations arising from international law, peaceful settlement of disputes and non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries... If not for the people who are ‘hurt’ by the inability of the Government to protect them at home, at least because of the big OSCE flags whose principles and principles are violated under their banner.

And how does Osmani plan to guarantee the rights of other people in the territory where the OSCE operates if he cannot do it at home, literally in front of his doorstep and under the "It's about the people" slogan?

Instead of the MFA sending a note to Sofia, the peace-loving minister who (while Dzambaski is waving flags with Vancho Mihailov's face in his yard and imputes a Bulgarian ethnic affiliation to Mara Buneva) convinced Zelenski that the OSCE "will engage and use the OSCE Toolbox to actively seek a way to restore peace and the full respect of our principles and commitments."

Recommendations and a monitoring system for implementing the recommendations are needed

It would be nice to analyse the OSCE’s role (in particular, its Center for Conflict Prevention and the High Commissioner on National Minorities (HCNM)) and how they can help ensure that such orchestrated provocations by political entities do not continue.

Especially not from a neighbouring country that insists on good neighbourly relations, because of which it does not allow us to enter the European Union.

OSCE can also help with explanations of this absurd dispute and analysis through the lens of the documents adopted so far, including dispute resolution scenarios and comparison with similar cases from Vancouver to Vladivostok. Who else opens up the Constitution to insert a non-existent minority?

Let us read an expert opinion on this continuous provocative behaviour from (not marginal but rather political) representatives of the Bulgarian state and EU institution, which should at least be condemned. A short list of OSCE commitments, charters, documents, and bodies (institutions) that regulate relations can be attached in a document to Sofia.

Here is an opportunity for Kovachevski to demonstrate his leadership skills and heed the calls for this portfolio to be managed by an expert diplomatic staff directly under the Prime Minister.

The OSCE mission in Skopje cannot be in a situation in which it does not have a standpoint and not explain how it allows events that are in complete contrast to the spirit of the OSCE.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs should, instead of writing inappropriate notes to Sofia, make a request to the OSCE for help with expertise and/or to establish a special office or to vest a mandate to the existing Mission (in cooperation with the Helsinki Committee, perhaps) to open a department that will monitor hate speech, violations of the OSCE principles by all (marginal or not) GOVERNMENT entities, violations of the Good Neighbor Agreement, passing it through the sieve of commitments and obligations that both countries as OSCE members already have to comply with, so maybe there will be no need to bilaterally agree that we will be good neighbours if we have already agreed on that and signed it.

That is why it is nice to add an extra-budgetary project to the request to educate the Governments and the Parliaments (OSCE also has a Parliamentary Assembly) in both countries about the COMMITMENTS they have as OSCE members at least once a week in a JOINT TRAINING!

They may conclude, as some of us have long urged, that the relations between the member states of the OSCE, the UN and the Council of Europe are already regulated so that bilateral, poorly made scriptures are neither necessary nor constructive.

What is missing is the implementation of what has already been agreed upon, especially of court decisions from the ECHR in Strasbourg. This is a topic on which additional training can be organised, but perhaps more importantly, as a Chairman of OSCE, to devise a way to strengthen the role of international judgments and verdicts for the following of the Human Dimension Implementation Conference.

In any case, it will be important that they do not allow this congregation of governments, non-governmental organisations, activists and activists for human rights to die off, which, although there are obstacles from some OSCE members - Turkey, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and many other blocked topics as well (mostly democratic elections and their observation) is still "a unique forum for addressing human rights issues".

Democracy is not anarchy

We should all expect civil society organizations, human rights activists (including minority ones) to organize public debates, discussions, scientific events, in order to report on this to all UN, OSCE and CE forums and conferences where NGOs report on human rights violations, hate speech, escalation, disinformation.

We need a coordinated and more persistent consolidation of some intellectually more capable and educated group that will offer to act as an expert body in the system in which decisions cannot be made only by political representatives.

Perhaps the time has come to use modern technologies and replace election campaigns taking place in the countryside centres with informative websites, which will have a place for parties, but also for non-party candidates, to whom we will provide a quota like one intended for endangered species because otherwise, it turns out that we have left the state to the political parties. Just as women should be included in everything that happens in society without being discriminated against and without quotas (this is obviously not achieved), non-party well-wishers should also have access to participation in the government and decision-making.

The point is not to be part of volunteer boards and advisory bodies that the Ministers use to adorn themselves with the epithet "democratic" by convening founding sessions and then forgetting about them.

I ask the Government to refrain from ill-conceived announcements and statements that they should be ashamed to write and publish because when they do it from the position they have been given, they speak in our name - we are the demos, we are the people they put on the flag, and indeed, it's about us, about our identity, about our history, and above all, about our future, it's about us, about our identity, about our history, and above all, about our future.

Democracy implies dialogue, many meetings, many opinions, and the power to consolidate that in a consistent national strategy and approach. Democracy is a very complex process in which there must be room for constructive and regular dialogue with all who are part of the society. Everyone, not only the political parties.


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Ida Manton

Ida Manton is a trainer and scholar in the field of negotiations, mediation and conflict resolution currently living between Skopje and Prague and teaching International Negotiations, Diplomacy and Contemporary practice at various Diplomatic Academies, Institutes, Organizations and Universities throughout Europe (EU, OSCE, NATO Defense College, VSE in Prague, College of Europe etc.). Her previous professional engagement includes mainly work in International Organizations (Peace Corps, NATO, OSCE) in the fields of democratization, minority rights, public relations and good governance. She has published articles, presented at international conferences and is invited as a judge in negotiation competitions globally. She is a member of the Programme of International Negotiation Training– POINT, associated with the Negotiation expert’s network PIN (Processes of International Negotiations). She is also Diplomacy Dialogue’s (Geneva based think tank) Representative at the OSCE Academic Network, In 2018 she became Senior Advisor to PACE Global Strategies, based in the USA. Mrs. Manton has a Bachelor’s degree in Comparative Literature with second major in English Language and Literature from Ss. Cyril and Methodius University in Skopje, as well as a Master degree in Diplomacy and International Relations from Leiden University and Clingendael in The Netherlands. She is both American and Macedonian citizen, with permanent residence in the Czech Republic.