March 2, 1992 Vreme News Digest Agency No 23

Macedonia & the Army

"We Have Managed To Reach An Agreement"

by Nebojsa Bugarinovic

The President of Macedonia talks about his meetings with general Adzic The peaceful unravelling of the conflict between Macedonia and the Army is almost entirely attributed to the political wisdom and experience of President Gligorov. And here is what he says about that:

There was no real conflict between the Macedonian people and the Army. That statement is confirmed by the following facts: Firstly, not a single unpleasant incident with the Army has occurred here. Knowing where the creation of the so called paramilitary formations could lead us, our standing on that issue, from the very beginning, was to inhibit such undertakings. And it did not happen - not a single paramilitary formation was created here.

Secondly, we have realized the full implications of the blockading of the barracks, the mistreatment of the families of the officers, etc... and that also did not happen here. The families of the military have continued to live quite normally, together with their friends and neighbours, and we have sought to resolve all problems by talking them over with the Army commanders. We have had a dispute with the Army when the war began to rage, and when we took a stand that we simply cannot take part in it, that we cannot send our men to fight in an inter-ethnic war. I believe that the time has shown that we were right.

Then, we demanded that our men be returned from the front, but that demand was not met, and 42 lives were lost. The atmosphere was heating up with every new coffin that arrived to Macedonia, and it was after a rally in front of the Macedonian Parliament, attended by several thousand mothers, that I realized that we have no choice but to refuse to participate in that war. From our part, we did not give any pretext for a possible conflict with the Army. Finally, that fact had to be appreciated by the Army, and they could ultimately realize that they had to go in peace, because we have already adopted a constitution establishing Macedonia as an independent and sovereign state, and we have held a plebiscite to determine that. We have set a six month deadline for their withdrawal, and I have, once again, appealed to the Army to sit down and talk with us about their departure and about all possible consequences of that act. After a month or two of silence, the time has come for us to make an agreement.

The talks were decent, and I think that their outcome is good. Considering the circumstances, I am satisfied with the agreement, and I have an impression that the Army is satisfied too. Meanwhile, lots of things have been taken out of Macedonia. I don't regret the fact that tanks, missiles and other heavy armament have been taken away, because I don't know what would we do with it in the first place. A single human life is more valuable than all that load of steel, no matter how much it may cost. And it costs much, for it is only now that one can realize how much has been invested in all that weaponry, because its dislocation, from Macedonia alone, has already taken several months. Once we have started the talks, we agreed that the Army can take along all the armament pertaining to its units (and they are taking along everything, up to the last rifle), and that it should leave behind what is genuinely ours, i.e. the weapons belonging to the Territorial Defence. These Weapons can only be used for the internal security matters and for the guarding of the frontiers. It is not exactly our intention to create a large army. It is evident that, today, the overall power of a country does not depend on the size of its arsenals, but on the power of its economy and on its social stability.