Diplomats, journalists, businessmen and mayors close to Macedonia’s ruling party have begun using increasingly inflammatory language in verbal duels with EU and US representatives.
Vladimir Taleski, mayor of Bitola, the second largest town, set a new bar last week by comparing EU critics of Macedonia with Yugoslavia’s Nazi invaders in the Second World War.
In a speech marking the anniversary of the deportation of Macedonian Jews to Nazi death camps, the mayor, a member of the ruling VMRO-DPMNE party, likened EU policy towards Macedonia to the Holocaust.
Diplomat Risto Nikovski last week controversially called for US ambassador Philip Reeker to be expelled.
He said the diplomat had overstepped the mark by proposing that Macedonia should make concessions in its ongoing dispute with Greece over its name.
As a result of the ensuing row, he was obliged to resign from his post as foreign policy advisor to the Macedonian President, Gjorge Ivanov.
Meanwhile, a joint letter signed by four high-profile journalists and sent to 50 official EU addresses attacked the former EU ambassador to Macedonia, Erwan Fouere, the European Parliament’s rapporteur for Macedonia, Zoran Thaler, and the Dutch ambassador, Simone Filippini.
Earlier, in December, a ruling party deputy accused former ambassador Fouere of being politically biased against the government of Nikola Gruevski and of favouring the opposition Social Democrats. Vlatko Gjorcev defended his standpoint on the grounds of freedom of expression.
Political analyst Kim Mehmeti said the series of outbursts were intended to emphasis the Gruevski government’s determination now to be cowed by the EU, the US, or by neighbouring Greece .
Mehmeti noted that Gruevski had adopted a increasingly hard line since 2008, when Greece vetoed a NATO membership invitation to Macedonia over the unresolved name dispute. Greece says that use of the name “Macedonia” implies a territorial pretension to the Greek northern province of Macedonia.
Jovan Donev, on the other hand, head of the Skopje-based Euro Balkan institute, defended the remarks, arguing that everyone had right to state his or her opinion.
“Official standpoints [on the EU, Greece, etc] come from the President and Prime Minister and are very clear,” he said. Gruevski’s government is officially committed to EU and NATO integration.