The recent murders in Macedonia have sparked fears that inter-ethnic tensions will worsen.
By Aleksandar Pavlevski for Southeast European Times in Skopje -- 18/04/12
Riot police clashed on Monday (April 16th) with the stone-throwing youth angry over the murder of five men near the capital, Skopje. [Tomislav Georgiev/SETimes]
The public's state of shock is beginning to recede following the murder of five Macedonians near Skopje on April 12th, but the government and state institutions are making every effort to preserve the country's stability.
Macedonia's leading security analysts say there is no danger of further worsening inter-ethnic relations, nor of any sort of conflict developing, as per international media speculation.
"Nobody expects the situation to escalate. There are no conditions on the ground for such a development, nor will the citizens of Albanian or Macedonian ethnicity support such a conflict," Blagoja Markovski, president of the Balkan Security Forum, told SETimes.
Macedonia has the full institutional capacity to deal with the situation, Metodi Hadzi-Janev, professor at Macedonia's Military Academy, told SETimes.
The popularity the ruling parties enjoy gives them extra leeway to influence and control the masses," Hazdi-Janev said.
"There is high-level co-operation between regional governments and among the security services," he added.
Petar Shkrbina, a military-security analyst and retired Yugoslav army colonel, said there is agreement now the murders were planned and, he asserted, carried out by trained terrorists.
"There are indications the killers purposely chose Easter to kill youths and cause the Macedonian population to react, leading into a greater inter-ethnic conflict," Shkrbina said.
Analysts say two unrelated events since the murders caused wide speculation in the international media, but while important, they do not represent a fundamental security threat.
First, Macedonian police prevented protests in Skopje's centre by about 1,000 football fans, mostly teenage youths, in reaction to the massacre.
The citizen movement Awake (Razbudi se!) renounced all tendencies to assign collective blame for the criminal and potentially terrorist act, and appealed to the authorities to prevent any gathering of groups that exploit extremist ideologies, such as football hooligans.
Last month, there were similar protests in Gostivar, when Albanian football fans demolished shops and vehicles owned by Macedonians, but there was no condemnation by the Albanian political leaders.
In a statement, the group said Macedonia "survives thanks to the healthy inter-ethnic relations between the two peoples who comprise the absolute majority. That is why Macedonia's enemies are constantly trying to undo and make more difficult those relations, in the hope they will realise their national-chauvinist agendas."
Second, the paramilitary Army for Liberation of Occupied Albanian Lands in Mitrovica, Kosovo, issued an ultimatum to the Macedonian government, demanding that it "retreat from occupied Albanian lands or there will be attacks on Slavomacedonian police and military forces."
Shkrbina argued that while the warning should not be ignored, nor does it deserve too much attention because most likely it is a marginalised group from Kosovo that is trying to gain importance.
"Still, that will not prevent them from making problems in the region," Shkrbina said.
"The fact the warning is not directly linked to claiming responsibility for the murders and comes several days later suggests [the group is trying] to abuse the tragic event in order to give them an ethnic dimension. It is ... a threat within a regional political context against many governments, not just the Macedonian one," Frosina Tashevska-Remenski, professor at the Skopje Security Faculty, told SETimes.