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Is Macedonia a “Fully Fledged Mafia State”?

Rupert Wolfe Murray martie 23, 2015 Global / Europa
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A friend recently emailed me from Macedonia and said “we are witnessing a fully-fledged mafia state being endorsed for EU membership by some of the leading democracies on the planet.”

I groaned. I couldn’t be bothered. I was on the road, visiting Istanbul at the time and I didn’t have time for this. I’m fed up with stories of corrupt Balkan countries and surely this has already been covered by the international media?

You would be forgiven for not knowing where Macedonia is. It is one of the newest, smallest and most obscure countries in Europe and, from the perspective of a busy news editor, is probably irrelevant. Once a province of Yugoslavia, Macedonia declared independence in the early 1990s and managed to avoid getting invaded by the Serbs. It is located between Serbia, Kosovo, Greece, Bulgaria and Albania – and the capital city is called Skopje (pronounced “skop-yeah”). I visited Skopje in 1999, during the Kosovo crisis, and thought it was a dump.

My friend wouldn’t leave me in peace. He insisted that I “get the word out” via the British and Romanian media and told me the mainstream international media don’t give a damn. As I read his email and researched the story online I realised that political corruption in Macedonia is a hundred times worse than it is in Romania, the country I’m currently based in. How can a “mafia state” about to be granted EU membership?

Reuters published a news story on 6th March which stated that “Macedonia’s opposition leader released a fresh batch of wire-taps on Friday that he said proved the government rigged elections, pursuing a surveillance scandal that has rocked the Balkan country since January.”

The only mainstream British paper which seems to have covered the story is the Financial Times, which described how the Macedonian government (allegedly) carried out a massive phone tapping campaign over six years and then blamed it on the opposition party and foreign intelligence agencies. The FT said the incumbent Prime Minister, who has been in power for 9 years, is accused of “one of the worst election scandals in Europe in recent memory.”

Why is the international media not covering this story?

I can’t answer this question as I’m not plugged into media or diplomatic circles and I’m not in Macedonia (and not sure if they’d let me in after seeing this) but I can share some of the email that my old friend sent me:

“I would like to remain anonymous because I fear that I would quickly lose my business. The situation has been dire for quite a few years now.

The main opposition party have published evidence of the government’s mass wire-tapping policy along with leaked conversations of government Ministers discussing massive election fraud.

Since coming to power in 2006, Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski has led a campaign of ultra-nationalism and squandered the national budget on a ‘national culture’ plan. Unfortunately, the private sector has had to pay for this nationalistic madness through heavy fines from questionable inspections.

The tax inspectors arrive with pre-written decisions even though the correct legal process is that inspectors must first present their findings to an internal commission.  Bypassing the commission and any due process points to a policy of revenue generation rather than standards enforcement. Fines start at €3,000 for small infractions, such as a sign not being in cyrillic, and increase substantially for larger matters.

Macedonia promotes itself as the best destination for foreign investment with taxes of just 10%. Having invested in a company there I would argue that the taxes, including random fines, are closer to 40%.

Up until 2010 business people and foreign diplomats were glad to share their opinions in the media but this is no longer the case.  The government has spent years acquiring or closing all media outlets and only those praising the ruling party are allowed to broadcast or publish.

In Macedonia the critics are silenced, opponents are imprisoned, the budget is empty and ethnic tensions are reaching boiling point. What has led to this disaster?

The centrepiece of the Prime Minister’s policy is a so-called ‘cultural’ project called ‘Skopje 2014’. As much as 5% of Macedonia’s state budget – an estimated €300 million so far – has been allocated to this absurd project to build statues and monuments and reinforce Macedonia’s claim to exclusive ownership of Alexander the Great’s legacy. Even the current Minister of Finance said it was mad.

To put this into context, the average monthly salary of Macedonia’s two million citizens is one of the lowest in Europe, at less than €525.

This begs the question: if the constitution has been breached, the elections rigged and the national statistics (allegedly) falsified why does the European Union not suspend its dealings with the country?

And considering the disastrous state of public services – and that the public administration is bloated, bankrupt and unaccountable – should the IMF (International Monetary Fund) keep paying off Macedonia’s national debt?

This article was also published on my new travel blog: www.wolfemurray.com

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Currently there are "5 comments" on this Article:

  1. Razvan A spune:

    Please: FYROM, not Macedonia. Slavs not “Macedonians”. Same habits as our “beloved” Russian brothers.

  2. eu****** spune:

    Macedonia is such a small country, therefore who cares so much about it?

    When accession to EU is near by, all VIP are prepared for the biggest hit from their whole life – see case Nastase & friends from Romania.

    So it is a repeated story, nothing is new and all the news are old…

  3. Andrei A. spune:

    I’m not quite sure if Macedonia (or FYROM) is a fully fledged state, let alone a “fully fledged Mafia” one. But then again, one need only take a second look at Kossovo as well as established nations in the area, to conclude that all is not quite well :)- and we won’t “name names”, to shield a certain touchiness.
    A little bit over 100 years ago, Greeks, Bulgarians and Serbs were tearing at each other or all together against the Turks, Albanians and Macedo-Romanians, in the fight for this prized Ottoman possession (the last in Europe after Albania), which they sensed was “ripe” and ready for picking. Some of the worst ethnic cleansing of those years was recorded in Macedonia by a host of Western newspaper correspondents, who got free access to the site of the massacres, which each side tried to popularize for its own benefit. As a rule, the worst of it fell to the Turks (and I mean civilians, not the Ottoman troops), that were forced to leave. Second maybe to the Turks were the Albanians, literally orphaned in the European context- the Greeks and their Orthodox Church did the utmost to prove that these were Greek speaking descendants of the old Macedonians, in order to bolster their claim. In short, no crime or subterfuge was spared for acquiring this area with a result that displeased many of the “participants”- Salonika, which for millennia had been Macedonia’s natural harbor fell to the Greeks, whereas the hinterland was sort of divided among the neighbors.
    The French say “macedoine” for a vegetable stew (that we call “ghiveci”) which is supposed to have in it a little bit of everything from the garden produce. The mix of nationalities, races, languages and religions represents a microcosm of the Balkans or an Ottoman relic. The area is steeped in history, in breath-taking landscapes, and in violence. If there is “business on the side”, it should surprise no one, given the past. Macedonia had one identity up to 1913, another between 1919-1940, another during the SWW years (when ethnic cleansing reappeared), another during the existence of Yugoslavia (insofar as the territory of the current republic is concerned), and another after 1993. This being a multi-cultural and multi-ethnic area, it should not be a surprise that forging a “national” identity in the short span of time that elapsed since de-imperialization, and under the strain of massive poverty and lack of economic prospects, produced some “faults”.
    I highly recommend Milcho Manchevski’s Before the Rain- for the beauty of the landscape, the churches and the tragic and seemingly intractable ethnic tensions, that were kept under a lid by the Turks, the Karageorgevics and Tito.

  4. Bogdan Brebenel spune:

    This begs the question: if the constitution has been breached, the elections rigged and the national statistics (allegedly) falsified why does the European Union not suspend its dealings with the country?

    Because there would be no future for that country. Suspention means no hope for people that have liberal views, it means civilized world gives up on that part of Europe, it means instability, decay and possible future conflict. I guess the author has heard that Balkans are renowned as being Europe’s powder keg.

    Similarly, Romania was accepted in EU even then at that time corruption was in full swing (and still is at large extent these days). How would have looked Romania today not being part of EU? Would have been smart for EU not accepting Romania and Bulgaria in 2007?

  5. Dobrotescu spune:

    Then why not accept Albania, Bosnia, Montenegro, Kosovo and Serbia at the same moment with FYROM???


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Rupert Wolfe Murray

Rupert Wolfe Murray

Rupert Wolfe Murray este consultant independent pe probleme de comunicare. Scotian cu resedinta la Bucuresti Citeste mai departe

E randul tau

Multumesc pentru ambele interventii. Tot ce spuneti este corect, intemeiat. Adaug cateva accente ca...

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