The Republic of North Macedonia is a member of NATO, has the status of a candidate country for EU membership, and maintains politically principled and correct relations with its neighbors. This position has not been easy for this country to achieve. The continuation of these achievements must be prudently protected by the leadership of North Macedonia, even in the current circumstances when Russian destabilizing factors are at their strongest in the Western Balkans region.
Undoubtedly, it is the Republic of Serbia that has the main interest in hindering North Macedonia’s westward journey. Consequently, this interest is also used by the Russian Federation, which should not be allowed to undermine the achievements and goals of this Western Balkan country.
The reports and relations between the Republic of Northern Macedonia and the Republic of Serbia undoubtedly have starting points, but also convergences. The attempt by Serbian information services to prevent democratic changes in 2017 through violence in the Assembly of Northern Macedonia had failed. When demonstrators from the VMRO-DPMNE party entered the Macedonian parliament building in April 2017 to prevent the election of the speaker of parliament from the ranks of an Albanian party, the largest incident that revealed Serbia’s desire to influence democratic change occurred. Among the demonstrators were a member of the Security and Information Agency (BIA) and an employee of the Serbian Embassy in Skopje, Goran Živaljević. The breakdown and cooling of relations between Skopje and Belgrade were evident.
The staff of the Serbian Embassy leaves Skopje. Northern Macedonia continues on its path toward integration steps toward the European Union with the government of Zaev and the government of Kovacevski.
The influence of Serbia, and thus Russia, in North Macedonia becomes even more apparent when internal political forces use the situation to encourage citizens to make democratic changes and move away from the country’s euro-integration orientation. These internal political forces, which have traditionally maintained relations with Serbia, are engaging with all their might, especially after the democratic changes in the country.
These political forces try to present the fulfillment of the standards and requirements of the European Union for North Macedonia as a violation of the constitutional and national order of North Macedonia, which should not be accepted. Their goal does not seem to be to preserve the constitutional and national order of North Macedonia, but to distance themselves from these integrations and to preserve relations based on Orthodoxy as a supporting link.
A study on propaganda and fake news from Russia in North Macedonia highlights the tendencies to create anti-Western sentiment in the public of this Balkan country and hinder its Euro-Atlantic integration. As Voice of America writes, “Most,” a non-governmental organization in Skopje that conducted the study, says that such a goal promotes division in multi-ethnic and democratic Macedonia.
According to the study, there are “well-developed” networks on the social network Facebook that reinforce Russian disinformation and manipulation. It is estimated that the routes used for this misinformation come mainly from Serbia, as they are more understandable for the public.
The rise of the anti-Western spirit in North Macedonia would please only those who do not recognize the facts. This country is a member of NATO and touching with it means touching NATO. Russian interference certainly has the essential purpose of fostering social divisions, but also of undermining confidence in state institutions. Serbia’s exploitation of circumstances to fuel even the most peripheral events that could take place in northern Macedonia benefits the internal forces that, as we said, have traditionally maintained relations with that country, as well as the Russian Federation and not the state of North Macedonia.
For this reason, the official Skopje must be more prudent and cautious in order to overcome any destabilizing attempts that may deter North Macedonia from its path to Euro-integration. /Geopost/