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Civil resistance: cohesion, growth, representation (part one)

This ad-hoc assembly engages different experiences of political organising and civil resistance against ruling regimes.

The call for this assembly is inspired by the mass protests in Macedonia that kicked off May 5, 2015. That day people rallied for justice and against police brutality. Protests persisted on each consecutive day and grew with demands for resignation of the entire government and criminal charges, building on a years of public outcry over the unjust and discriminating policies and actions by the Macedonian government. Citizens-activists and different organisations had already opened fronts of struggle demanding greater control by the people over institutions that politicians use to make decisions on their behalf. For years now, protests had been held against police brutality, urbanisation, pollution, in defense of students rights and for access to quality public education, demanding equality before public institutions, in the name of social justice and workers’ rights, against homophobia and heteronormative laws and for media freedom.

The contributions to this assembly engage experiences from different spaces to address questions about the growth of civil resistance, the cohesion and modes of representation (who speaks, on whose behalf and towards what were actions directed). In this way we hope to bring to light visions about the distribution of political power, frames of knowledge and actions. To do that, we ask for experiences about people’s struggle against ruling regimes across borders, and in Macedonia. We ask, what was civil resistance directed against and how did it build up, as it was in the making?

The first part of this assembly presents four international perspectives:

 

Assembly editors: Mila Shopova, Elena B. Stavrevska, and Anastas Vangeli

Photo: Vancho Dzambaski

Of struggles, protests and plenums in Bosnia and Herzegovina

Part of the ad-hoc assembly “Civil resistance: cohesion, growth, representation”. Authors: Zoran Vučkovac and Emin Eminagić

Blazing images of Bosnia and Herzegovina sent into the world from the February 2014 protests were only the tip of the iceberg that has been paralysing the country ever since the war. Protesters took to the streets and set the government buildings ablaze in a symbolic act that points to the gist of its numerous problems. The country’s institutions largely became a partycratic oligarchy backed by the Dayton Peace Accords, actively maintaining and reproducing ethnic divisions for twenty years now. Arising from the fire, plenums or public assemblies emerged not only from the need for more active citizenship and direct democracy, but also as an outcry to stop with the blatant robbery of public and natural resources through clientelism and criminal privatisations. At one point there were exclamations of fearless speech among the citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina, in an attempt to reclaim a political language they have been denied since the end of the war. For the first time after the war, in the media one could hear expressions like solidarity, social justice, and equality, instead of the usual ethno-nationalist identitarian rhetoric present in the public discourse in Bosnia and Herzegovina.[1]

The demands formulated during the protests and plenums did not arise from nothing; they come from a long line of exercising public dissent and calls for more solidarity. Protests and plenums were preceded by several events in which Bosnians and Herzegovinians transcended ethnic divisions in their struggle for the commons. Those are the Tuzla student plenum in 2009, the protests of Tuzla’s workers for the past 10 years, Banja Luka “Picin Park” protests in 2012 and Sarajevo “Babylution” the year after.

In the case of Picin Park, citizens clearly stated that the struggle for the park is a “metaphor for the communality that opens up spaces for communication and action” against the use of “force and control in everyday life, overbearing politicians, but for a just society.” The protest received support from both sides of entity lines, sidelining ethno-national issues to the unified cause – struggle for public space. Babylution or the JMBG protests came along a year later and again pointed out to the lack of a functional state, and the dehumanisation of citizens through ethno-national matrix. [2]

On the Tuzla protests and representation

Although Bosnia and Herzegovina is full of examples of solidarity in action, it becomes evident that every new protest has their ground zero. Little has been done to preserve the legacies of former struggles, and even less to create a platform for sharing experiences and capacities among the local activists. Protesters and activists are easily isolated and criminalised without proper legal or media support. Bosnia is lacking in physically liberated spaces as both the left and the NGO scene function guerilla-style, with no clear vision of change and reform, or systemic approach to the completely dysfunctional state. Case in point is the new Compact for Growth and Jobs, an EU package of reform measures for Bosnia, initiated by the British-German initiative. Pushing for economic instead of political reforms and allegedly addressing the people’s needs, the Compact literally hijacks Bosnian protests of 2014 in order to push for more austerity and labour market reforms, whilst offering more of the same neoliberal policies that have been at work since the end of the war. At the same time, the Republika Srpska entity is fast-tracking a number of laws about public space, and the right to protest that significantly reduce the window for voicing consent. Even though there are signs of allegiances made across entity borders and actions that surpass identitarian politics Bosnia and Herzegovina needs to preserve its memories of workers, anti-fascist and anti-nationalist struggles as well as urban (all of them very political of course) struggles. On top of this, there is a need for more regionally coordinated action so similar groups will not repeat the same mistakes.

[1] Arsenijevic, Damir (ed.) Unbribable Bosnia and Herzegovina – The Fight for the Commons, Nomos, 2014.

[2] Because of the lack of political consent on personal identity number (JMBG), newborns were unable to apply for passports and travel abroad. Berina Hamidovic, three months old baby died because she was unable to receive proper medical treatment abroad.

(Euro)Maidan is over, the Revolution of Dignity goes on

Part of the ad-hoc assembly “Civil resistance: cohesion, growth, representation”. Author: Olga Zelinska

In the winter of 2013/2014, Ukraine got into the headlines of international news. (Euro)Maidan was the second, after the 2004 ‘Orange Revolution’, all-national contention in the country’s short history. In both cases people were driven to the streets by the sense of growing injustice (disrespect of the authorities, ignorance to people’s needs and flourishing corruption), accompanied by a deepened socio-economic crisis.

Before the actual events, sociologists revealed high and stable levels of dissatisfaction and readiness to protest. These were ignored by Yanukovych. Earlier attempts of protests (against taxes, language policy, police cover-ups and judicial corruption) had no chances of expanding under his repressive regime. In the spring of 2013, the opposition failed in getting sufficient support for the ‘Raise Ukraine’ campaign. So, when people actually took to the streets of Kyiv, it came as a surprise to the government, the opposition, and the analysts.

The postponement of a EU-Ukraine deal was the trigger for the first ‘civic’ Maidan on the Independence Square, which brought together civic activists, students, and ordinary Kyivites. The reaction of the opposition was quick – it could not ignore such a promising element of a pre-electoral PR. Few days later, a ‘political’ Maidan emerged just 300 meters down the street, on European Square. For a week, the leaders of both Maidans discussed plans for joining the efforts. In the end, it was the brutal beating of the students which brought them together, as well as thousands of others, arriving from numerous protesting cities of both the East and the West.

As the regime hardened its grip with police attacks and legal repressions, protesters persistently arrived to Kyiv, took shifts, build barricades and learned self-defence. Surveys show that 70% of Kyiv Maidan participants came there on their own, 12% through NGOs, and only 12 to 13% (in different periods) through a political party. They were, thus, not inclined to obey any institution and, at the same time, bore the responsibility for own actions.

The opposition had to ask Maidan for a ‘mandate’ to negotiate with the authorities. This was no easy job. 83% of the protesters were determined to stay on Maidan until all the demands were met. The claims were quite extensive, especially after the police opened fire on the demonstrators, and included the resignation of the President, the Parliament, the Government and a major ‘power reload’ through snap elections. Considering the authorities were ready for minor concessions only, the negotiators faced a ‘mission impossible’. So it happened.

After the opposition-presented ‘round table’ results were booed by the crowd, the leader of one of the Maidan units got on stage and announced an ultimatum to the President – ‘resign by tomorrow, 10 a.m’. Yanukovych did not need to be asked twice – he fled the country the same night.

It was no ‘happy end’, however. The Maidan is over, but the Revolution of Dignity goes on. The country went through presidential and parliamentary elections, and there have been struggles with the Crimea annexation and a sore conflict with Russia in the East. Reforms are going slowly, expectations border disillusionment. If the underlying reasons of protest keep being ignored, Maidan-3, the experts say, is possible.

Modes of resistance and Tahrir Square

Part of the ad-hoc assembly “Civil resistance: cohesion, growth, representation”. Author: Dina Fergani

Tahrir Square has a special place in contemporary political psyche. It became a dream icon for urban resistance throughout the world, and was also a place to examine the possible modes of resistance for the Egyptian people.

At the early phases of the Egyptian revolution, Tahrir square functioned as a unifying tool, making it a utopic blueprint where all political plans were charted. During that period it was relatively easy to organise various political factions and individuals, on one common cause, that of ousting Mubarak and the representations of his police state. Around such demands converged Islamists, Marxists, Nationalists, Liberals and everything in between, in addition to thinkers, workers, students, clerics and others. Tahrir Square, thus, converged a myriad of people and relations that were actively kept separate outside of it by the hegemonic forces of both capitalism and the state. However, as the revolution progressed the space became layered with certain contradictions.

As the events of the Egyptian revolution unfolded, the one-time square friends became foes, in a classical dialectic of power struggle. The temporal alliance between the Muslim Brotherhood and several revolutionary forces crumbled down as the brotherhood ascended to power and excluded those very factions that supported them in the elections. In return revolutionary forces had a strong presence in the June 30 protests that led to Sisi’s ascension to power. Also, several reports were revealed of violence directed towards females at the midst of revolutionary liberation and celebrations. These incidents do not in any way distill the potency of the square as a tool of resistance, but rather shed light on the complexity of urban resistance.

Tahrir square operated as an alternative city and was divided into three main areas: a battlefield, a buffer space and areas of social services (field hospitals, art corners, communal schools for street kids). People did not converge in these spaces in an egalitarian manner. Factors of class and gender were decisive in the distribution of people and power. The battlefield was at the outskirts of the square, where protestors clashed with either the police or army over controlling territory. This area was the backbone of Tahrir, since no sit-in would have been possible without actively fighting for the right of space. This space was the most violent and predominantly (but not exclusively) occupied by young working and middle class men. A gender divide was also visible around this area, as women were continuously discouraged from approaching the front lines. Women, however, congregated in large numbers on the outskirts applying medications, to mitigate the effect of tear gas, or bandages, on rubber bullet injuries. The second area of the square was the buffer space between the areas of clashing and the rest of the city. This area was the entrance point to the square, and was saturated by various citizen-run checkpoints. This zone acted as the visible representation of the political will of the people present, and was the most socially diverse. The last area was that of the field hospitals run by volunteer doctors and pharmacists. The health practitioners occupied street corners, but more often than not they occupied nearby mosques and churches since their enclosed architecture deemed them safer. It is interesting that these religious institutions also provided these services in the outer city, especially with the decay of state-run services. The square was thus a citizen-run city, with a rigid structure corresponding to familiar forms of organising space found in several urban spaces. Citizens became the providers of services, not in the individualistic neoliberal sense where access is only granted to consumers who can accumulate capital, but rather as a collective.

Thinking about the potency of the collective organising, it is useful to mention Gramsci, the Italian political theorist, who theorised the concept of hegemony and saw the constraints for political action in capitalist rule: an act of resistance within it will always recreate its power relations rather than change them. Gramsci alludes to two contradictory consciousnesses. One is formed by the collective in organising and transforming the world. The other is based upon uncritical absorption of old social relations. The dialectic between the two, creates political action leading to change. It can be said that Tahrir square provided the medium for this dialectic as the protestors experienced both consciousnesses. This dialectic made the square a blueprint for social progression. The square became a place of alteration of consciousness, and a place of examining the possible modes of resistance, which was the first step in a prolonged series of resistances.

 

Works cited:

  • Gramsci, Antonio, Quintin Hoare, and Geoffrey Nowell-Smith. Selections from The Prison Notebooks of Antonio Gramsci. New York: International Publishers, 1971.

 

Resistance in Thailand a year after the 2014 coup

Part of the ad-hoc assembly “Civil resistance: cohesion, growth, representation”. Author: Rangsiman Rome

Any writing about the state and forms of political organising and civil resistance in Thailand today is indelible from the conditions lived since the military coup from 22 May 2014. Yet, to understand Thailand’s latest coup detat, I share a few words about the present-day context, specifically some of the consequence of the former coup on 19 September 2006.

The 2006 coup was to eliminate then-prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra of the Thai Rak Thai Party. His policies, e.g. the “30 baht health care program” and “village fund,” made him highly popular among people from the impoverished North and Northeast region. Yet he was not favored by the upper middle class, mostly from the capital, as well as Thai elites, who are related to a higher political institution (which I cannot mention). These people strongly believe that Thaksin is anti-monarchy, a single claim, sufficient however, for many Thai people to hate someone. Democrat Party’s supporters also buy into this claim about Thaksin. They have used time and again the same accusation against opponents. Following the 2006 coup, the Red Shirts emerged — an anti-coup, pro-democracy civil movement supporting, and supported by, Shinawatra’s Thai Rak Thai Party.

Even after a major election victory of Pheu Thai Party in 2007 (then People’s Power party, the revival of the dissolved Thai Rak Thai), the conflict and political division between Royalists and pro-democracy remained. Over the years the Red Shirts held protests, as did the opposition civil movements, the Yellow shirt (supporting and also supported by elites and the higher political institution). Discord grew deeper as Democrat Party took over the Premier’s seat without elections. In 2010, over 70 civilians were killed in a violent army crackdown on a months-long Red Shirt sit-in in Bangkok’s financial and shopping district. No government official has yet been held accountable for the deaths, although Pheu Thai Party won an election victory in 2011.

The coup d’etat on 22 May 2014, with support from Thai elites, was one more attempt to wipe out the Red Shirts, Shinawatra’s supporters, and other pro-democracy citizen groups which are not affiliated with political parties. Yet, after the 2014 coup there was no sign of opposition neither from the Red Shirts nor from Shinawatra’s party. Both seemed to submit to the overthrown power. The anti-coup movement that has appeared since, is primarily organised by student activists and other citizens’s groups. For example, League of Liberal Thammasat for Democracy (LLTD) is a student activist group that questions the current political structure and fights against abuse of office by the government, opposes the coup detat and unjust laws. This and other movements are smaller in capacity when compared to the massive Red Shirts, but they are truly independent from political parties. Any affiliation of a movement to an existing political party can serve as grounds for attack regardless of the intention of the movement. Political parties may also refuse to stand for their supporters. For example, many Red Shirt members were blamed and charged with severe accusation just because they defended Pheu Thai Party in this period, yet the party did nothing to protect them.

Protest against the 2014 coup started the day after. Already on 23 May, students from many universities and citizen activists came to the streets to join the resistance. For around three weeks, the anti-coup movement was intense and widely supported by the people. The number of protesters had reached thousands at its peak.

Social media has been the major factor in the current anti-coup movement. In the first two weeks after the coup, this proved to be a successful method. Students and activists could reach out to many to join the resistance. Publicising, however, through social media inadvertently led the Junta to the appointed destination, cracking down on protesters, sometimes even by force. Leaders of the anti-coup groups were summoned to report to the Junta, arrested, or threatened, and resistance has since been much harder to organise. Some members from different groups continue to be regularly visited in their homes by military personal for disciplining conversations. Others are prosecuted for defying the junta orders, an act often interpreted by the ad-hoc junta-led tribunals as violation of lèse majestè, an offence that can lead to a lifetime imprisonment. As a result, many from resistance groups have fled the country.

Today, resistance is difficult to voice. Any political public gathering of more than a few people is considered violation of the junta orders. Any event that opposes the coup is interrupted or forced to cancel. For example, in May 2015 at the one-year anniversary of the last coup, students and citizens intending to join a peaceful, symbolic event, were injured and arrested by police officers. Most recently, the junta forced the cancellation of a talk on human rights at a journalists’ club in Bangkok. Overall, resistance now appears subtly, in events that are not straightforwardly against the coup. Events like eating sandwich or watching the Hunger Games were to show those who think the Coup has no effect on their lives that even normal activity can be disrupted under the dictatorship. The most blatant act might be the Thammasat University’s annual political parade. Thammasat has a leading role in Thai political history, so there was an expectation of students to speak up against the government. Yet, organising is becoming more and more difficult due to surveillance and direct threats to activists. For example, although the junta stated that no charges will be made against the students after the crackdown on the May 2015 gathering bemoaning the coup, few students are now summoned and likely to have charges raised against them. Moreover, people are afraid and discouraged to join or support the resistance as the movement is slandered through mass media and social network. Wrong accusations are that the anti-coup movement is backed by Thaksin Shinawatra, or the movement is another form of the Red Shirts, a movement rejected by the middle and upper class in the country capital Bangkok. A smear campaign has been launched to discredit students and citizens activists, mostly on the Internet as a kind of a witch hunt.

Student activist with a pro democracy academic, who is known to be homosexual, is used with a homophobic slur in Thai that read “faggot gang”, 2014
Student activist with a pro democracy academic, who is known to be homosexual, is used with a homophobic slur in Thai that read “faggot gang”, 2014

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shortly after the 22 May incident, a photo of student activist and police fighting went on the front covers. A Facebook page uses it in comparison with a photo of somebody else, trying to mislead people that students activist is a person who beats a Buddhist monk. May 2015
Shortly after the 22 May incident, a photo of student activist and police fighting went on the front covers. A Facebook page uses it in comparison with a photo of somebody else, trying to mislead people that students activist is a person who beats a Buddhist monk. May 2015

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Students and citizens are working hard to defend and counter the smear campaign, yet it seems insufficient. Lies, smearing, and defamation are our major obstacle to grow the resistance among the people. Thai society will tune out what we are trying to say if they are led to believe that political parties and our cause is not purely people’s. That is why, our movement, in my view, must remain faithful to its cause and persist. We want to speak to our sympathizers, but also to those who oppose us.

People in Thailand continue to face absurdities from the Junta daily.

We will continue fighting!

Borjan

Macedonia’s empty democracy

This article originally and integrally appeared on New Eastern Europe on June 2. Author: Borjan Gjuzelov

Back in 1997 Fareed Zakaria in his famous article “The Rise of Illiberal Democracy” raised legitimate concerns over the development of democracies established after the fall of communism. He claimed that free and fair elections do not necessarily bring the desired outcome of Western-like liberal democracy. On the contrary, he outlined the possibility that multi-party elections in some of the emerging democracies could legitimise a new generation of autocratic and corrupt politicians who do not respect the essential liberal democratic values of a constitutional division of powers (checks and balances), the rule of law, and respect for human rights, but to name a few.

Today, Macedonia is a model example of a hybrid, illiberal or constrained democracy: First elected in 2006, Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski with the reformed party VMRO-DPMNE (The Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization – Democratic Party for Macedonian National Unity) offered an enthusiastic program for reforms called “Prerodba”, or “Revival”. However, in the following years the new technocratic approach that was supposed to bring economic revival for Macedonia has created a political leviathan where once again, as in socialism, the state was equated with the party: decisions on public employment and subsidies were directly controlled by party officials, oversight bodies and the judiciary were used against political enemies, while the media were put under strict control by the ruling Party.

Despite this, in the last nine years Gruevski and his party have managed to win several elections with ease and to establish a stable base of public support. Apart from some legitimate democratic reasons which have made Gruevski a likeable politician in the Macedonian public discourse, his support was largely dependent on several authoritarian and illiberal elements.

Since the beginning of Gruevski’s time in power, the micromanagement of public institutions and resources and their abuse for party interests has generated widespread clientelism. Citizens have often been pressured to vote and mobilise other voters to vote in favor of the VMRO-DPMNE as a condition to keep their job or to benefit from public services (to which they are entitled by law). Similarly, businesses that were not affiliated with the party have often faced unfair competition: the public procurement market was largely managed by the party, while inspection checks were hostile for any ‘unfriendly firms’.

Moreover, almost the entire media market came under strict control of the government party because their owners, transition oligarchs, were attracted by the government’s public advertising money and the other business privileges offered by the government. For instance, mainstream media did not report on corruption scandals involving the government, but on the contrary have always been very hostile towards the opposition or anyone who is critical of the government, portraying them as national enemies or foreign mercenaries. Critical media and journalists have faced huge amounts of political pressure that often force them into self-censorship.

Finally, symbolic nationalism has flourished with the redefining of Macedonian history and the controversial project Skopje 2014, which has changed the landscape of the Macedonian capital.

In the meantime, in the nine years that VMRO-DMPNE has been developing its illiberal democracy, the opposition has been weak, providing no real alternative or effective plan for how to win back citizens’ support and how to curb Gruevski’s power. Three months ago the opposition revealed a mass wiretapping scandal in which, according to its leader Zoran Zaev, the intelligence service has illegally wire-tapped conversations of more than 20,000 citizens. Among the many wire-tapped calls of citizens were also conversations of some top government officials and ministers. All of this has given credence to the previous allegations of misuse of public resources and institutions for party interests. So far in the 35 rounds of published material there have been serious allegations of what was already described: Gruevski and his closest allies have frequently abused all branches of executive, parliamentary and judicial power.

Although many expected that the revealed scandal would provoke a huge civic reaction and government’s resignation, neither of the two has happened. However, the scandal has had an important impact on the overall political landscape and has mobilised the opposition and civil society against the government.

As a result of numerous protests and mostly under pressure from the international community, three of Gruevski’s key personnel have resigned: his cousin and director of the state intelligence service, Sasho Mijalkov; the Minister of Internal Affairs, Gordana Jankuloska; and the Minister of Transport and Communications, Mile Janakieski.

Moreover, Gruevski and Zaev have started negotiations which are supported by the international community, and many believe that a solution to the crisis is on the horizon. Although no one really knows what is being discussed behind closed doors, it seems that the only solution that can release the institutions from capture by the ruling party and would enable minimum conditions for free and fair early elections is the establishment of a special interim or technical government.

Specifically the lack of information about any legal action against the actors involved shows that despite the obvious allegation for abuse of public office, institutions are unable to act against members of the governing  party. If the judiciary and prosecutors are still controlled by Gruevski and his inner circle, they will remain unable to investigate the allegations. For however long he is in power, institutions will remain part of the problem and will be unable to become a part of the solution.

Consequently, Gruevski and VMRO-DPMNE are still holding the strings very tight. They organise counter-protests against the opposition in order to officially defend ‘their democracy’ and the electoral will of the majority. At the same time pro-government media are disseminating aggressive propaganda against the opposition, while the opposition leader Zaev is still facing criminal charges for corruption and orchestrating a coup against the government.

This concentration of power in VMRO-DMPNE makes the real solution to the problem far-reaching. Wire-tapped conversations have additionally raised concerns about the minimum level of integrity of public institutions. For instance, even the electoral support and legitimacy of VMRO-DMPNE is now doubtful because the elections were organised by state institutions whose credibility, after the wire-tapped conversations, now appears questionable. Needless to say, any further elections organised in such conditions would have no credibility.

Therefore, even the term illiberal democracy as defined by Zakaria now seems to be questionable because even free and fair elections organised by the current captured institutions are rightly disputed by the opposition. What we have now in Macedonia is democracy without basic democratic values—good and accountable government, checks and balances, the rule of law, and freedom of speech. These values provide the core meaning and the substance of democracy. Without its substance, such a democracy is an empty democracy: although elected, its legitimacy is questionable and unsustainable.

 

Photo: Radovan Vujovic

photo: Nebojša Gelevski

Macedonia: Anatomy of a crisis

This article originally and integrally appeared on openDemocracy on June 12. Author: Elena B. Stavrevska

From Putin’s Russia, to Erdogan’s Turkey, Orban’s Hungary, Vučić’s Serbia and Gruevski’s Macedonia, new authoritarian regimes have been faking democracy by organising multi-party elections, mimicking democratic institutions and adopting democratic language. Unlike the old authoritarian regimes, these rulers do not need to resort to violence to hold on to power. Rather, they remain in power through the control of information and the manipulation of beliefs, as well as developing neo-patrimonial and neo-prebendal economic systems. A recent study on such regimes identifies four resilience tactics that are usually employed: co-optation, censorship, propaganda, and repression. Importantly, it shows that the regime only uses repression, or violence against the public when mass beliefs cannot be manipulated through the first three tactics. An indication of such a move was witnessed recently in Macedonia.

A mass wiretapping scandal has been unfolding in the country since early February, when the biggest opposition party started broadcasting tapes that point to complete state capture. On May 5, a new set of wiretapped materials provided evidence about a case of fatal police brutality that sparked a mass anti-police brutality protests in 2011. As the anti-police brutality movement was reignited in response to the revelations, thousands gathered to demand resignations and responsibility in front of the Government building. The peaceful protest eventually turned violent, with a number of protesters detained and injured. In addition to using brute force against the protesters, the police also raided a public library harassing students.

The repressive police response backfired, with the protests growing every consecutive day, and spreading throughout the country and the diaspora. They were only interrupted for a few days during the Kumanovo security crisis. This, however, allowed the protesters to crystallise their demands and to unite their actions around a new informal social movement, known as #Protestiram (#IProtest). The protests continued every day until May 17.

The display of citizen dissatisfaction culminated on May 17, when tens of thousands Macedonian citizens demanded resignations from Gruevski and his closest team. Following the protest, which was organised by the coalition called ‘Citizens for Macedonia’, coordinated by the biggest opposition party and a number of NGOs, the coalition set up a protest camp in front of the Government headquarters. On May 18, on the other hand, a large pro-government rally was organised in Skopje, resulting in a government supporters’ camp set up in front of the Parliament building. In reality, both protests were a way for the biggest party leaders, the Prime Minister Gruevski and the opposition leader Zaev, to legitimise themselves and their demands prior to the forthcoming negotiation process.

The negotiations, unfolding mainly in Skopje and Brussels, involve the leaders of the four biggest political parties (two seen as predominantly ethnically Macedonian and the other two as predominantly ethnically Albanian) and is mediated by EU representatives. With the negotiations completely hidden from the public eye and with very little information available to the citizens, the political has been hollowed out of the public domain. Consequently, the protest movement appears to have lost its raison d’être and the camps are on the verge of becoming mere theatrics.

What seems clear is that the negotiations will result in a lose/lose outcome both for the government and the opposition. The opposition has raised the expectations, whereby any outcome that allows Gruevski and his team to keep their offices during the transitional government will be considered unacceptable by those critical of the government. The part of the public that still supports Gruevski, however, would see his leaving as a removing of a legitimately elected country leader.

The EU’s involvement in the process is very important. Beyond any delusional perception of the Union as the Good Samaritan, in this case, it is also EU’s foreign policy actorness that is at stake. The Balkans has always been not only the birthplace of EU’s foreign policy, but also the testing ground for all its instruments in this domain. Many remember the infamous 1991 claim by Jacques Poos, then Luxembourg’s Foreign Minister speaking on behalf of the European Community, that “the hour of Europe has dawn”, shortly before the Yugoslav wars fiasco. The EU foreign policy has come a long way since then, among other things, by contributing to the efforts which prevented an escalation of the 2001 ethnic conflict in Macedonia. In the following years, the EU was a key actor in the process of Macedonian state-building. That said, getting their ‘success story’ in the Balkans back on track to EU membership is paramount for EU’s actorness in foreign matters not being destroyed to ashes. At the same time, wary of opening a can of worms in an unstable neighbourhood and setting precedents, the EU appears mindful of the extent to which it intervenes.

All of this leaves the Union once again giving priority to stabilisation over democratisation, as if the two were not intimately interrelated and could successfully take place in succession. This is an approach of which one can find countless examples in the Balkans. In Macedonia in particular the international community has long been perceiving Gruevski as the ‘stabiliser’, thus turning a blind eye to the democratic backsliding that the country has been experiencing in the last several years. To that end, there are at least three problems with the way the negotiations are carried out at present.

First, there is hardly any transparency in the process. The brief non-informative, often contradictory statements of those involved, including EU representatives, are the only pieces of information the public has. In a society that has been living in a nearly total media blackout for years, the lack of information makes the negotiations and relatedly, the fate of the country, even more distant from the citizens. Needless to say, it also contributes to the perpetuation of the feeling of uncertainty.

Second, there appears to be an assumption that the current authoritarian tendencies, even if never called so explicitly by international representatives, are in a direct opposition to democracy. As if the two constituted a dichotomy and when the current illiberal system collapses, democracy would somehow naturally arise. Like putting a plaster on a wound that has not been cleaned, a deal is being negotiated without much guarantee of its implementation. The failure of the EU-mediated March 2014 agreement, for instance, to bring about any substantial changes or even fully resolve the crisis ought to be a stark reminder of the limits of this approach.

Final and foremost is the problem of representation. The negotiation process postulates the current political crisis as a conflict between political parties rather than a crisis of legitimacy of the institutions. What Macedonia is experiencing is a conflict between the citizenry and the power-holders. There are three important things that the leaders of the political parties perhaps conveniently forget, but the EU representatives must not. First is the fact that the May outburst of public dissatisfaction did not happen in a vacuum and it was not solely a result of the leaked materials. In actuality, the most recent protests come at the heels of months of large protests, starting with the protests of the students at the end of 2014, the contract workers, the media employees, the protests against the Minister of Health following the tragic death of a young girl, the high school students and their parents, etc. The second important fact is that the average election turnout in Macedonia is 57.49%, with a large portion of the country qualified voters deciding not to vote, thereby not being represented by any political party, much less the four biggest. Both of these relate to the third important reality and that is the existence of the genuine grassroots, autonomous, self-organised local agency that the #Protestiram movement is. Up until May 17, the daily protests of #Protestiram had managed to engage a part of the population that is dissatisfied not just with the current government, but with the way politics is done in the country altogether. Believing that the citizens ought to be able to act politically even beyond the political parties, the protesters have demanded accountability to the citizens, not solely to the party members. Through marches and plenums, this local agency, even if unsustainable and with uncertain future, has managed to give a platform for the unrepresented citizens to voice their opinions. Thus, the capacity thereof is something that must be recognised and utilised in the democratisation of the country.

Overall, this is a rare occasion for a ‘restart’ of the system. It is an occasion to rewrite the social contract between the institutions, the government and the citizens. It is an occasion that only occurs after tectonic ruptures, such as wars or massive crises. In Macedonia, this is an opportunity to finally set the foundations of a democratic society and accountable institutions, which will inevitably be a lengthy and laborious process, but it is a process that will help the country move forward at last.

Photo: Nebojša Gelevski

3

Call for Solidarity with Macedonia’s Protesters

Addendum to the Call for Solidarity with Macedonia’s Protesters

Macedonia  is currently in the spotlight of media attention. Last weekend (9-10th May) over 20 people, including police officers, were killed in violent clashes  in Kumanovo, a city 20 km to the north of the capital Skopje. We, the citizens, activists, and scholars who initiated this call, join the national mourning and express heartfelt condolences for the deceased and injured officers, their families and loved ones, and stand in solidarity with all citizens of Kumanovo. Yet, many uncertainties that surround the incident have led citizens to suspect the validity of the official  government rendition of the events.

We reject offhand speculations that frame the incident as interethnic and we invite the public to refrain from doing so and instead to systematically analyse  the motives. We also remind here that the incident in Kumanovo happened in the midst of citizens’ protests calling for the resignation of the government. These calls have followed after years of protests and activism against discriminatory law reforms, almost total media control and continuous privatisation of all segments of living . In the past, we have protested for the freedom of the press, in support of media employees, and demanded  the hijacked public broadcasting service returns to servicing the interests of the  citizens. We demanded accountability for the ruined public health system. We have persistently fought for life with dignity and labour rights and we protest against the theft, impoverishment, and humiliation of the people.

At the forefront against any injustice, the protests have been gaining momentum after a series of leaked wiretapped phone calls were publicly broadcast by the largest opposition political party. The leaked phone calls allege unlawful and anti-constitutional dealings by top officials at a mass scale and abuse of state power for personal gains. In the wiretapping scandal, over 20.000 citizens were being wiretapped, all allegedly ordered by top government officials that used surveillance equipment purchased from Israel in 2008. The state control does not end here. Macedonia is one of 36 countries worldwide using software to surveil internet-based communication, according to a list published by University of Toronto.

Moreover, in this addendum we remind of the alarms we raised in our call for solidarity about possible violence. The government will continue to resist calls for resignation even now, when amidst all dilemmas about its ability to safeguard the security of its citizens and despite the large-scale surveillance it has unleashed,  it is firm in its resolution to maintain grip of state power and avoid responsibilities.

We urge the global public, kindred movements, and people across the globe to support this Call for Solidarity as we fear a violent institutional repression of citizens’ resistance in Macedonia. In the past couple of years, the government has been purchasing equipment for mass control, including rubber bullets and water cannons, the former very likely via a Turkish company, producer of TOMA vehicles, that lists Macedonia’s government as its customer, among those of Kenya, Sudan and Mali. Macedonian citizens’ can only defend themselves with the number of supporters they have on their side. As those protesting in Macedonia are now uniting in a broad movement for justice and peace, clear demands and under the name #Протестирам (#Protestiram – meaning “I protest!”), YOUR solidarity is paramount!

 

Call for Solidarity with Macedonia’s Protesters (originally written on 6 May)

The call is also available in FrenchItalian, German, TurkishPolishDutch, and Bulgarian.

On Tuesday night (05.05.2015) thousands of citizens of Macedonia protested outside of the government headquarters calling for resignation of the Prime Minister Gruevski and his cabinet. Audio tapes of wiretapped conversations between government officials, which were aired hours before, revealed direct involvement of the Prime Minister and the Minister of Internal Affairs in concealing the truth regarding the murder of a 22-year-old man beaten to death by a police officer while on duty in June 2011.

What started off as a peaceful protest against police brutality soon escalated as the protesters broke the police cordon and moved right in front of the government building. In a couple of hours, hundreds of fully armed special police forces cracked down on the protest using brute force, shock bombs and tear1 gas to disperse the crowds, and also threatened to use, but eventually refrained from using water cannons. By the end of the police action, dozens of citizens were detained – some of them after being chased far into downtown Skopje. In the hunt of protesters, the special police forces even raided a public university library, harassing the students who happened to be there at the time.As a result of the violent crackdown, a small number of police officers and passers-by, and a higher number of protesters were seriously injured. An estimated number of 40 activists have been detained. Protests have been scheduled to resume every day at 18:00.

Alarmed by Tuesday night’s indiscriminate use of force by the police forces in Skopje, we fear that the confrontations are likely to escalate further. We have no doubts that Gruevski will resist the calls for resignation and is prepared to push the police forces to tragic extremes in an attempt to maintain his grip on state power and resources.

The audiotape which sparked the protest is only the most recent one in a series of leaked wiretaps, which the main opposition party, the Social Democrats, has been broadcasting to the Macedonian public. What began with evidence of the surveillance of over 20,000 citizens orchestrated by the Prime Minister and his cousin, the Director of the Security and Counterintelligence Agency2, Sasho Mijalkov, continued with ever more scandalous revelations. In over 30 sets of leaked wiretaps the conversations revealed election fraud, complete control over the judiciary and media, actions of direct pressures and threats towards non-supporters, embezzlement of vast quantities of public money and public property for private gain, corruption on a massive scale. They have demonstrated how over a period of 9 years, since Gruevski has been in power, the state has been turned into a criminal network fully dedicated to defending the personal interests of the governing elite, their families and friends, and to maintaining a complete system of control of the public through the incessant use of propaganda. The nearly total control over the media has resulted in limited information available to the Macedonian public regarding the wiretapped materials, the protests and the brutality of the police. Social media and a few media portals have been the only sources of information.

This letter, coming from citizens, activists and academics concerned by the recent developments in Macedonia, is an attempt to draw attention to the events in the country. It is also a plea for your solidarity with the citizens who are seeking justice and freedom. We, the undersigned, support the protesters’ requests for the resignation of the Government. Moreover, we urge the Macedonian Police Forces to demonstrate solidarity with their citizens, to restrain from the disproportionate use of violence and to refuse any orders that are against the Constitution and in violation of the rights and liberties of the protesters. Finally, we call for an unbiased and professional reporting by national and international media on the ongoing events.

If you would like your name and/or that of your organization to be added to the list of supporters, please write to prekugranicenkomitet@gmail.com, with the following as the subject line: SOLIDARITY WITH MACEDONIA’S PROTESTERS.

Signed by:

  • Cross-border Committee, Macedonia
  • LD Solidarnost, Macedonia
  • LeftEast
  • MARKS21
  • Pokret Occupy Croatia
  • European Alternatives
  • Levi Front Srbija
  • Centar za politike emancipacije, Serbia
  • ODRAZ- Organizacija za demokratsku reakciju i asocijacija udruzenja
  • Macedonian Centre for European Training
  • MJAFT! Movement – Albania
  • Civic Initiatives, Belgrade, Serbia
  • Kappa Delta Rho National Fraternity
  • Open University Sarajevo
  • LadiC — LadilnicA Macedonia
  • Project 2020, Cardiff, Wales
  • Validebag Volunteers, Istanbul, Turkey
  • Taksim Gezi Park Association
  • Urban Movements Istanbul
  • Türk Mimar ve Mühendis Odaları Birliği İl Koordinasyon Kurulu (TMMOB IKK)
  • Initiative for Democratic Socialism (member of The United Left coalition)
  • Zelena omladina Srbije (Serbian Green Youth)
  • Socijaldemokratska omadina Srbije
  • Life After Capitalism, Bulgaria
  • AnarresBooks, Bulgaria
  • Adela Gjorgjioska, LeftEast
  • Elena B. Stavrevska, Central European University, Hungary
  • Anastas Vangeli, Polish Academy of Sciences, Poland
  • Goran Lazarevski, Columbia University
  • Ljubica Spaskovska, University of Exeter, UK
  • Mila Shopova, Anthropologist, Thailand
  • Trajce Panov, European University Institute, Italy
  • Leonora Grcheva, Macedonia
  • Ana Aceska, Humboldt University, Germany
  • Marjan Ajevski, NYU
  • Tomce Runcevski, Max Planck Society and University of California Berkeley
  • Ognen Vangelov, Queen’s University, Canada
  • Rory Archer, University of Graz, Austria
  • Ana Tomicic, Croatia
  • Emin Eminagic, Lijevi BiH
  • Sanne van den Heuvel, The Netherlands
  • Mina Baginova
  • Philippe Bertinchamps, Le Courrier des Balkans
  • Teresa Forte, Portugal
  • Mariya Ivancheva, LeftEast, Bulgaria
  • Katerina Anastasiou, transform!europe, change4all.eu
  • Sava Jokić, Marks21, Belgrade
  • Maja Savevska, Harvard Law School
  • Olimpija Hristova Zaevska, Institute for Social Innovation and Research – Impact, Macedonia
  • Tanja Milevska, journalist, Belgium
  • Alexis Cukier, Ensemble-Front de gauche, France
  • Dr. Rudolf Gabriel, physician, Austria
  • Jana Gajic, student, Belgrade, Serbia
  • Elena Veljanovska, Curator, Berlin
  • Jose Reis Santos, Contemporary History Institute, New University of Lisboa
  • Alexander Lambevski, Sextures Institute, Sydney, Australia
  • Josipa Rizankoska, University of Siena, Italy
  • Neda Genova, cultural theorist, Bulgaria
  • Gareth Davies, MPhil candidate in Sociology, Trinity College Dublin
  • Borjan Gjuzelov, University of Flensburg, Germany
  • Alen Zekovic, PhD student of Laws, Serbia
  • Anna Chung, PhD in Political Science
  • Roska Vrgova, Poland
  • Biljana Kotevska, Human Rights researcher and activist, Alumna of the Universities of Essex, Bologna, Sarajevo and UKIM
  • Zoran Gjorgievski, London, UK
  • Alfredo Sasso, Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona, Spain
  • Radomir Trajkovic
  • Marija Radoman
  • Vesna Milosavljević, SEEcult.org
  • Erka Kosta
  • Ron Salaj – Human Rights activist & campaigner – Italy
  • Ana Marija Najdova , Macedonia
  • Drivalda Delia, Student, LMU, Munich
  • Martin Naunov, Middlebury College
  • Paula Jojart; gender expert and activist, Slovakia
  • Neda Tozija
  • Aleksej Demjanski, Elliott School of International Affairs
  • Biljana Vuchovska-Vörös, University of Fribourg, Switzerland
  • Slobodan Tomic, PhD Candidate, London School of Economics and Political Science, UK
  • Vladimir Bogoeski, German Trade Unions Confederation (DGB), Berlin, Germany
  • Wendy Lyon, Human Rights Lawyer, Dublin
  • Tanya Kimova, Belgium
  • Elena Presilska, EU Info Centre, Podgorica, Montenegro
  • Srdjan Djurić, Socijalistička Narodna Partija Nove Jugoslavije
  • Deni Sanxhaku, Organizata Politike, Albania
  • Miguel Rodríguez Andreu, writer, Spain
  • Miguel Alonso Ortega, Spain
  • Zsófia Lóránd, CEU, NANE, Hungary
  • Osama Salem, PhD Candidate, Europa Universität Flensburg, Germany
  • Evgeny Belyakov, human rights activist, Moscow, Russia
  • Helena Lopes Braga, CESEM, FCSH, New University of Lisbon
  • Natasha Wilson, University College London
  • Yulia Karpova, Central European University, Hungary
  • Zoltan Gluck, Department of Anthropology, City University of New York, Graduate Center
  • Ana Margarida Esteves, Center for International Studies, ISCTE – University Institute of Lisbon
  • Gabriel Richard-Molard, European Secretary from the French Socialist Party abroad
  • Luke Kelly, Central European University, Hungary
  • Adriana Qubaiova, Central European University, Hungary
  • Piotr Wcislik, Central European University, Hungary
  • Dr. Naum Panovski, Professor of Humanities
  • Zsuzsa Selyem, writer, Romania
  • Sandra Mardin, UK
  • Nikola Dimitrov, Distinguished Fellow, The Hague Institute for Global Justice
  • Elena Marchevska, London South Bank University
  • Nikola Kjurchiski, Russian Presidential Academy, Moscow, Russia
  • Mirjana Milenkovic
  • Kire Vasilev, Political Scientist
  • Eva Duchkovska, Université Charles de Gaulle, Lille, France
  • Tijana Katushevska, Harvard University
  • Tanja Hafner Ademi, Balkan Civil Society Development Network
  • Gaetan Homerin, Valenciennes, France
  • Dan Collier
  • Natalia Telepneva, London School of Economics, UK
  • Corina Mavrodin, London School of Economics, UK
  • Marko Milošević, Radnička fronta (Workers’ front), Zagreb, Croatia
  • Elma Demir, researcher
  • Lela Rekhviashvili, Central European University
  • Rebeka Veljanovska, student, The Netherlands
  • Andreas Hummler, Germany
  • Julia Lechler, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München & Universität Regensburg
  • Jelena Zhivkovikj, Sweden
  • Tina Tanurovska
  • Ana Bojadjievska, Berlin
  • Elena Micajkova, Utrecht University
  • Predrag Terzioski, Eurocontrol, Brussels
  • Bojan Marichikj
  • Monika Stadnicka
  • Ana Todorovska, Central European University, Hungary
  • Martin Galevski, MPhil (Cantab), MSc (MaRIHE), DPhil Student, Faculty of Education, Green Templeton College, University of Oxford
  • Ana Bobić, MJur (Oxon), DPhil Candidate, Faculty of Law, St Cross College, University of Oxford
  • Sasa Stankovic
  • Robert Alagjozovski
  • Dimitar Minovski, University of Helsinki, Finland
  • Ermira Kamberi, Utrecht University
  • Iskra Duchkovska, King’s College London
  • Fabio Mattioli, PhD Candidate, CUNY Graduate Center
  • Angela Kochoska, PhD student, University of Ljubljana, Slovenia
  • Kalia Dimitrova, student, Krakow, Poland
  • Darja Stoeva, Maastricht University
  • Andrew Graan, Center for International Studies, University of Chicago, USA
  • Lisa Gross
  • Jessica Greenberg, Assistant Professor, Anthropology, University of Illinois
  • Rojhat Turk, Well Engineer, Diyarbekir, Turkey
  • Maja Stojanovska, Stockholm, Sweden
  • Maja Djundeva, University of Groningen
  • Djoshkun Shengjuler, Pennsylvania State University
  • Loran Bajrami, Anadolu University, Turkey
  • Milena Crnogorčević, Middlebury College
  • Benjamin Kinney Harris, President, Alpha Society of Kappa Delta Rho
  • Dave Wilson, PhD Candidate, University of California, Los Angeles
  • Catherine Samary, economist, Paris
  • Maggie Nazer, Middlebury College
  • Maya Panova, USA
  • Anastasija Siljanoska, Faculty of Arts, Charles University, Prague, Czech Republic
  • Marija Sidorenko, Fakultete za arhitekturo, Univerza v Ljubljani
  • Mitre Georgiev, Centre for Peace Studies, Zagreb
  • Cagdas Özbakan, Journalist, Berlin
  • Alma Krantic, Bosnia and Herzegovina
  • Abraham Fuentes Gomez, Primary Education student, Spain
  • Zorica Matkovic, Belgrade, Serbia
  • Igor Stiks, University of Edinburgh, Scotland
  • Andrew Graan, Center for International Studies, University of Chicago, USA
  • Waqas Mirza
  • Paul Stubbs, The Institute of Economics, Zagreb
  • Tijana Radeska, University of Cambridge, UK
  • Ersin Şenel, Journalist, Istanbul
  • Dimitris Dalakoglou, Senior Lecturer in Anthropology, University of Sussex
  • Liliana Sousa, New School for Social Research
  • Rossen Petrov, New Bulgarian Unversity, Sofia
  • Salman Hussain, PhD Candidate, Department of Anthropology, City University of New York, New York, NY
  • Anja Šerc, Msc, Ljubljana, Slovenia
  • Duygu Parmaksizoglu, PhD Candidate, Department of Anthropology, City University of New York, New York, NY
  • Gligor Micajkov, Utrecht University
  • Dimitri Barbera
  • Ana Kotevska, Harvard University
  • Katerina Dimovska, IED Milano
  • Thomas Schad, PhD candidate, Humboldt University Berlin
  • Karin Golaski
  • James J. A. Blair, The Graduate Center, City University of New York
  • Mevhibe Gozcelioglu
  • Iris Kronauer, Cologne, Germany
  • Luisa Chiodi, Osservatorio Balcani Caucaso
  • Jasmine Elezi
  • Ayten Alkan, Assoc. Prof. PhD., Istanbul University
  • Irena Šentevska, Belgrad
  • Nihat Ucukoglu
  • Michele Vianello, Italy
  • Luca Manunza, University of Naples
  • Imre Azem, Director, Ekumenopolis
  • Ivan Stefanovski, Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa (sede di Firenze), Institute for Social Sciences and Humanities, Florence, italy
  • Pola Cebulak, Global Studies Institute, University of Geneva
  • Ersoy Tan
  • Marta Maja Lipińska, Youth Worker, Poland
  • Filip Lech
  • Bartosz Mindewicz, cultural activist from Warsaw/Poland
  • Michał Grosz, University of Warsaw, Poland
  • Marek Nalikowski, Poland
  • Robert Statkiewicz, University of Warsaw
  • Aida Bagić, Zagreb, Croatia
  • Catherine Samary, Economist, France
  • Matias Janvin, University of Oxford
  • Andrea Varriale, Bauhaus University of Weimar, Germany
  • Luka Z. Božović, potpredsednik Socijaldemokratske omadine Srbije
  • Filiz Mut
  • Pelin Demireli
  • Daniela Gavrilova
  • Afirdita Zeynep Kuka Bak
  • Zvonko Dimoski, Adam Mickiewicz University of Poznań, Poland
  • Francesca Valsecchi, Italy, China
  • Noa Espino
  • Mirjana Kosić, TransConflict, Serbia
  • Dan Collier
  • Katinka Lansink Dodero, activist, Food Frontiers, the Netherlands
  • Spyros A. Sofos, Center for Middle Eastern Studies, Lund University
  • Vanja Savic, PhD candidate, Faculty of Political Sciences, University of Belgrade, Serbia
  • Gentiana Cani
  • Martin Petrov
  • Goran Janev, Sts Cyril and Methodius University,  Skopje
  • Safet Ahmeti, Center for Visual Studies Skopje
  • Keith Brown, Watson Institute for International Studies, Brown University, USA
  • Bernard Green
  • Natasha Russo, Psychologist, London

 

Photos: Kire Galevski and Vancho Dzambaski

Why is the premise that the conflict in Macedonia was initiated to prevent the construction of the Turkish Stream wrong?

This premise is completely wrong, and I see the propaganda is trying to place, and impose it as relevant, so it can serve as an excuse to transfer the guilt to somebody else for the conflict that is taking place in our country. While working at the Center for Resource Economy at the Russian Presidential Academy, my colleagues and I did the calculations for the economic profitability of the Turkish Stream project.

The Turkish Stream is a very unprofitable project. The NPV (Net Present Value) of the project is measured in negative of billion dollars, and by no economic logic should such a project take place. The only thing that keeps this project alive is the potential political gain, since Gazprom is not managed as a corporation, but it rather serves as a political tool of Russia.

Turkey does not want to participate with the percent that Gazprom requires for it from it, i.e. Turkey does not want to pay as much money as Gazprom requires, whereas in the case of Greece, even if the country wanted to take part, at the moment they do not have the money. The West knows this, and they are aware that the prospects for a failure of this project are quite high. An additional burden to the project implementation is the fact that Gazprom diversified its export towards China. Europe, as well, wants to become less dependent on the Russian gas, and each year they buy less Russian gas.

Due to this, Russia has no real need to construct new infrastructure for gas transmission towards Europe. Even the existing capacities of the North/Nord Stream Gas Pipeline are not fully utilised. The EU regulation of gas transportation is another difficult issue that the EU and Russia need to resolve, and a compromise is not likely in the near future. All efforts are directed to the Power of Siberia project, through which China will be purchasing gas from Russia. This project, for the most part is financed by China, so the country can buy cheaper gas from Russia in the future. With this project Russia enters the market of the biggest gas consumer in the world, which reduces its need to sell gas to Europe.

Additional reason that reduces Russia’s interest to invest in a foreign project, especially projects which are economically unprofitable, is the decline of the Russian Ruble. The conclusion is that the story of the Turkish Stream is very uncertain, and it is only a matter of time when will this be officially announced.

 

Nikola Kjurchiski

Center for Resource Economy
Russian Presidential Academy for National Economy and Public Administration

 

References:

  1. Stern, Jonathan, Simon Pirani, and Katja Yafimava, Does the Cancellation of South Stream Signal a Fundamental Reorientation of Russian Gas Export Policy?, Oxford Institute for Energy Studies (2015).
  2. Russia’s New Turkish Stream Gas Strategy More Bark Than Bite. The Moscow Times (2015)
  3. EU energy chief voices concern over Russia’s Turkish pipeline plan. Reuters (2015)
3

Oproep voor solidariteit met de Macedonische protesterende burgers

Addendum bij de Oproep voor Solidariteit met Demonstranten van Macedonië

Macedonie staat op dit moment in het spotlicht van de media. Vorig weekend (9-10 mei) zijn meer dan 20 mensen vermoord, inclusief politieagenten, tijdens geweldadige botsingen in Kumanovo, een stad 20 km ten noorden van de hoofdstad Skopje. Wij, burgers, activisten, en wetenschappers die deze oproep initiëren, sluiten ons aan bij de nationale rouw en willen onze oprechte deelname uitspreken voor de overleden en gewonde agenten, hun families en geliefden en zijn solidair met alle inwoners van Kumanovo. Toch, veel onzekerheden die het incident omringen hebben er toe geleid te twijfelen aan de oprechtheid van de verklaring van de officiële regering wat betreft de gebeurtenissen.

Wij verwerpen prompt deze speculaties die het incident omlijsten als interetnisch en we nodigen het publiek uit zich hier van te onthouden en in plaats daarvan systematisch de motieven te analyseren. We willen er hier op wijzen dat het incident in Kumanovo gebeurden temidden van burgerdemonstraties met de roep om het opstappen van de regering. Deze roep is het gevolg van jaren van protest en activisme tegen discriminerende wetsaanpassingen, bijna complete mediacontrole en voortdurende privatisering van alle segmenten van het dagelijks leven. In het verleden hebben wij gedemonstreerd voor persvrijheid, als steunbetuiging voor mensen in de media en eisen de gekaapte publieke zender terug keert naar behartigen van de belangen omwille van de burgers. Wij eisten verantwoordelijkheid voor het verpeste zorgsysteem. We hebben herhaaldelijk gevochten voor leven met waardigheid en arbeidsvoorwaarden en we demonstreren tegen de diefstal, verpaupering en vernedering van de bevolking.

Op de frontlinie tegen elke vorm van onrecht, winnen de demonstraties daadkracht na een serie van gelekte telefoongesprekken die publiek werden uitgezonden door de grootste oppositie partij. De gelekte telefoongesprekken bevatten illegale en buiten grondwettelijke handelingen door top ambtenaren en misbruik van staatsmacht voor eigen belang. In het aluisterschandaal, werden meer dan 20.000 burgers afgeluisterd, allen, zogezegd, in opdracht van top regeringsambtenaren die surveillance-aparatuur kochten vanuit Isreal in 2008. De greep van de staat eindigt niet hier. Macedonië is een van de 36 landen die wereldwijd software gebruikt om internet gebaseerde communicatie te monitoren, volgens een lijst gepubliceerd door de universiteit van Toronto.

Bovendien willen we in dit addendum herinneren aan de waarschuwingen voor mogelijk geweld die we hebben opgeworpen in onze roep voor solidariteit. De overheid zal doorgaan onze roep voor aftreden te weerstaan. Zelfs nu, temidden van alle dillema’s over de capaciteit van de overheid om de veiligheid van haar burgers te waarborgen. En ondanks de grootschalige bewaking die ze heeft ontketent, is de overheid resoluut om haar greep op de macht op de staat te handhaven en weg te lopen voor verantwoordelijkheden.

We dringen er op aan bij aanverwante bewegingen, en mensen over de hele wereld om deze Roep voor Solidariteit te ondersteunen. Omdat we bang zijn voor een geweldadige institutionele onderdrukking van de burgerlijke opstand in Macedonië. In de laatste paar jaren heeft de overheid hulpmiddelen voor massa-onderdrukking aangeschaft, inclusief rubberen kogels en waterkanonnen. De kogels zijn zeer waarschijnlijk aangeschaft via een Turks bedrijf, producent van Toma voertuigen, die de overheid van Macedonië opgeeft als een van hun klanten, naast Kenia, Sudan en Mali. Macedonische burgers kunnen zich alleen verdedigen door het aantal medestanders dat ze hebben. Aangezien alle demonstranten in Macedonië nu bij elkaar komen tot een grote beweging voor rechtvaardigheid en vrede, zijn duidelijke eisen en JOUW solidariteit, onder de naam #Protestirma (wat betekent “Ik protesteer”), van het allergrootste belang! Alle medestanders van het protest in Macedonië kunnen de vreedzame samenkomst bijwonen in Amsterdam op zondag 17 mei 2015 < https://www.facebook.com/events/776234272483350/ >

 

Oproep voor solidariteit met de Macedonische protesterende burgers (06.05.2015)

Op dinsdagnacht (05-05-2015) protesteerden duizenden burgers uit Macedonië bij het regeringshoofdkwartier met als doel het ontslag van premier Gruevski en zijn kabinet. Geluidsopnames van telefoongesprekken tussen regeringsbeamten, die uren van tevoren ten gehore waren gebracht, onthulde directe betrokkenheid van de Premier en de Minister van Interne Zaken. Zij probeerden de waarheid te verhullen over de betrokkenheid van een politieagent bij de moord op een 22-jarige man. De politieagent had de man doodgeslagen tijdens zijn dienst in juni 2011.

Wat begon als een vreedzaam protest tegen politiebrutaliteit, escaleerde al snel toen de betogers het politiekordon doorbraken en zich verplaatsten tot recht voor het regeringsgebouw. Binnen een paar uur braken volledig uitgeruste ME’ers het protest op, door gebruik te maken van bruut geweld, schokgranaten en traangas. Ze dreigden verder waterkanonnen in te zetten, maar deden dat uiteindelijk niet. Aan het einde van de 1politieactie werden tientallen burgers aangehouden – Sommige van hen werden zover als het centrum van Skopje achterna gezeten. Tijdens de jacht op de protesterende burgers werd door de speciale eenheid zelfs een publieke universitaire bibliotheek bestookt, waar men de studenten die daar toevallig aanwezig waren lastig vielen. Als gevolg van deze geweldadige politieactie, raakte een klein aantal politieagenten en omstanders en een groter aantal protesterende burgers ernstig gewond. Naar schatting werden er zo’n 40 activisten aangehouden. Het protest zal elke dag hervat worden om 18:00 uur.

Gealarmeerd door het willekeurig gebruik van geweld door de politie van Skopje dinsdagnacht, vrezen wij dat de confrontaties waarschijnlijk verder zullen escaleren. Wij twijfelen er niet aan dat Gruevski, de oproep om op te stappen negeert en dat hij bereid is de politie-eenheid tot tragische extremen op te drijven om zijn grip op staatsbevoegdheid en machtsmiddelen te houden.

De audio-opname die het protest op gang bracht is één van de meest recente uit een serie van gelekte telefoontaps, die de grootste opositiepartij, de Sociale Democraten, openbaar heeft gemaakt voor het Macedonische volk. Wat begon met bewijs van het monitoren van 2meer dan 20,000 burgers opgezet door de Premier en zijn neef, het hoofd van de raad van toezicht voor Veiligheid en geclassificeerde informatie, Sasho Mijalkov, ging door met meer schandalige onthullingen. In meer dan 30 van de teloontaps onthulde de gesprekken verkiezingsfraude, complete controle over de rechterlijke macht en media, acties van directe druk en bedreigingen tegen over tegenstanders, verduistering van grote hoeveelheden van publiek geld en publieke eigendommen voor eigen profijt, corruptie op een massale schaal. Ze hebben getoond hoe over een periode van 9 jaar, sinds de aantreding van Gruevski, de staat is veranderd in een crimineel netwerk volledig toegewijd tot het verdedigen van eigen belang en regeringselite, hun families en vrienden en volhardt in een compleet systeem van controle over de bevolking door middel van het aanhoudende gebruik van propaganda. De bijna complete controle van de media heeft geresulteerd in gelimiteerde beschikbaarheid van informatie voor de Macedonische bevolking met betrekking tot het materiaal van de telefoontaps, de protesten en het brute optreden van de politie. De sociale media en enkele mediakanalen zijn de enige bronnen geweest van informatie.

Deze brief, vanuit de burgers, activisten en academici, die bezorgd zijn over de recente ontwikkelingen in Macedonië, is een poging om aandacht te trekken voor de gebeurtenissen in het land. Het is ook een pleidooi voor solidariteit met de burgers die gerechtigheid zoeken en vrijheid. Wij, de ondergetekenden steunen het verzoek van de protesterende burgers voor het ontslag van de regering. Des te meer, verzoeken wij de Macedonische politie-eenheid solidariteit te tonen met hun burgers, zich te onttrekken aan het gebruik van onevenredig geweld en alle bevelen te weigeren die niet grondwettelijk zijnzijn en in strijd zijn met de rechten van de protesterende burgers. Ten slotte hopen we op een onzijdig en professionele verslaggeving door nationale en internationale media omtrent de gebeurtenissen.

Als u wilt dat uw naam en/of uw organisatie wordt toegevoegd op de lijst van medestanders, schrijf dan een mail naar prekugranicenkomitet@gmail.com, met de volgende zin als onderwerp: SOLIDARITY WITH MACEDONIA’S PROTESTERS.