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Home arrow Political science arrow After Ethnic Conflict : Policy-making in Post-conflict Bosnia and Herzegovina and Macedonia

Macedonia 1991–2001: Simmering Ethnic Tensions


This chapter examines the institutional and political background in Macedonia before and after the Ohrid Framework agreement was signed in 2001. As in Chapter 3, the first section explores institutional legacies, this time in Macedonia, that persist from the institutional structures of the former socialist Yugoslav federation. Exploring these institutional legacies is central to understanding their impact on post-communist politics and post-conflict challenges. The second part focuses on the period after 1989 and the dissolution of the Yugoslav federation, which inaugurated a decade of democratic transition, before that was halted by the 2001 ethnic conflict. During this period political actors established the institutional and political structure of the new state, which then constrained their future choices and institutional alternatives. The final part of the chapter looks in greater detail at the institutional arrangements that the Ohrid Framework agreement introduced, focusing on the power-sharing nature of the post-2001 institutional set-up. The section elaborates on the performance and outlook of the post-conflict institutional system, with particular emphasis on policy-making implications.

This chapter makes a similar argument to that in the previous chapter – emphasising the input of the domestic political elites in designing the peace agreements at the end of confl The Ohrid Framework agreement set the fundamentals of the Macedonia's post-confl political and institutional dynamics. Domestic politicians were able to infl the contents of the peace agreement, which ensured that the outcome of the reforms would not be detrimental to their political interests. Moreover, the outcome they achieved suggested that there was continuity from the pre-confl institutions, and even the pre-independence institutions, through to those that were agreed in the Ohrid Framework. As in Bosnia, the post-confl institutional outlook in Macedonia in several respects closely resembles the federal power-sharing arrangements of Yugoslavia. Again this is partly because many of the features of the post-confl institutions refl the preferences of domestic politicians', formed through their earlier experiences.

Yugoslav Communism (1974–1990)

Yugoslav state communism is the political and institutional legacy with the strongest impact on current Macedonian politics. The historical proximity of Yugoslav communism means that many Macedonian politicians, those who started their careers before 1990, have had direct experience of the system. That direct exposure implies greater familiarity and often a stronger preference for similar solutions and mechanisms to address various political issues. Moreover, like Bosnia, Macedonia had no prior experience of independent statehood in modern history, which limited the available alternatives to which political elites could refer to in a time of political uncertainty. The Yugoslav federation of 1945 to 1991 had been Macedonia's first modern experience of a degree of selfgovernance and political sovereignty. Residues of previous institutional legacies from the Kingdom of Yugoslavia to 1941 and the Ottoman Empire until 1913 had been successfully eradicated during communism. They had anyway never been as inclusive of Macedonian political elites as Yugoslav communism was.

Constitutional reforms in Yugoslavia inevitably had a major impact on Macedonian politics. The 1974 constitution increased decentralisation in the Yugoslav federation: republics gained significant powers, which allowed them to exercise many state-like functions. That gradually increased the power of domestic politicians in Macedonia vis-à-vis their federal counterparts in Belgrade, giving them a greater degree of decision-making and policy-making freedom. Growing political power for local elites allowed them the political space to articulate distinctly Macedonian interests and issues, as they gradually carved out an independent political domain within the state federal system.

The decentralisation of political power formalised in the 1974 Constitution followed a trend of political reforms that favoured stronger federal units. In the thirty years between 1945 and 1974, Yugoslavia had evolved from a highly centralised communist state to an almost con-federal formation, with central powers limited to the army (JNA) and the league of communist parties (SKJ). Finally, by 1991, even those weak bonds dissolved, despite the explicit support of external actors' who tried to preserve Yugoslavia as a single state.

The trend towards decentralisation was prompted by several factors. Most importantly, the economic crisis that hit Yugoslavia in the 1960s had led to fierce intra-party debates between liberal and conservative Communists about the nature of the required reforms. Liberals demanded further economic liberalisation, while the conservative Communists argued that the central state should exert more control over the economy. The eventual outcome was a compromise: the economy was not liberalised but economic control was decentralised to republics, republican capitals rather than Belgrade came to exercise the same political powers over the economy.1 Some have argued that the empowering of republican capitals

1 Dennison Rusinow, 'Re-opening of the National Question in the 1960s', in State Collapse in SEE, ed. L. Cohen and J.D. Soso (Lafayette: Purdue University Press, 2007). enabled republican elites to revive nationalism, leading to demands for further concessions from Belgrade and initiating a decentralisation cycle.2 Others claim that national questions pre-dated the economic troubles and that the Yugoslav federal framework was unable to reconcile the different interests and visions of its nations, making separatist tendencies inevitable.3 Either way, the outcome was an escalating trend of decentralisation, which empowered republican institutions at the expense of federal ones. It reduced the prospect of elite unity and enabled elites to pursue divergent policies in their own republics. Thus decentralisation further reinforced the differences between the republics and emboldened the national (republican) lines that divided them. This trend was reflected in policy-making and elite interactions both within and between republics, as more and more policy areas were added to the remits of the republics, while federal institutions were weakened by the introduction of consensus rules and collective voting.

Unlike in Bosnia or other Yugoslav republics, there was little debate in Macedonian politics concerning republics' and nations' sovereignty within the Yugoslav federation. Although Macedonia was defined as the constituent republic of Macedonians, Albanians, and Turks, it was generally seen as the federal unit of Macedonians. Moreover, unlike Serbs and Croats, most Macedonians in Yugoslavia lived in the Macedonian republic.4 There were virtually no Macedonian minorities outside of its borders and none of the other Yugoslav republics had sizeable ethnic minorities in Macedonia – although there was a large Albanian minority. That ethnic make-up made the administrative border between Macedonia and Serbia uncontroversial and allowed a smooth secession of Macedonia from Yugoslavia in 1991. The border between Macedonia and Kosovo could have been more problematic, but because Kosovo had lost its status as an autonomous province in 1989, when Slobodan Milošević had taken over the leadership of the Serbian republic, Kosovo Albanian politicians were not in a position to dispute it. Unlike the Serbian political elites, who had supported the local Serb leaders in Croatia and Bosnia, Kosovo's leadership lacked the power and resources to support local Albanian demands in Macedonia. This enabled Macedonian political elites to secede from Yugoslavia in an uncontested process that avoided violence or protests.

Nonetheless, ideas of national self-determination and of nations as subjects of sovereignty were not entirely inconsequential. They served to shape the

2 Rusinow, Ibid. Dragomir Vojnić, 'Disparity and Disintegration', in Yugoslavia: the Former and Future, ed. P. Akhavan and R. Howse (Washington DC: The Brookings Institution, 1995).

3 Jill Irvine, 'The Croatian Spring', in State Collapse in SEE, ed. L. Cohen and

J.D. Soso (Lafayette: Purdue University Press, 2007). Dušan Nečak, 'Historical Elements for Understanding the “Yugoslav Question”', in Yugoslavia: the Former and Future, ed.

P. Akhavan and R. Howse (Washington DC: The Brookings Institution, 1995).

4 In 1989 about 95 per cent of all Macedonians in Yugoslavia lived in the Macedonian republic. See: Randy Hodson et al., 'National Tolerance in the former Yugoslavia', American Journal of Sociology, 99 (May 1994): 1534–58. views of Macedonian politicians about Macedonian minorities outside Yugoslav borders, ultimately leading to deteriorating relations with neighbouring states after independence. Indeed, nationalist rhetoric intensified in the period after 1974, alongside the increased political power of Macedonian political elites, initiating a trend that would shape and often adversely affect the country's domestic and foreign policy in subsequent years.

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