The International Institute for Middle East and Balkan Studies (IFIMES) from Ljubljana, Slovenia, regularly analyzes developments in the Middle East, the Balkans and around the world. IFIMES made an analysis of the current political situation in North Macedonia in the context of the anticipation of the largest security-intelligence attack on the country. We bring the most important and interesting parts of the extensive analysis “2023 North Macedonia: In Anticipation of the Biggest Security-Intelligence Attack.”
After the establishment of Zoran Zaev’s (SDSM) Government in 2017 the Republic of North Macedonia managed to achieve historic successes. In addition to the signing of the Treaty of Friendship, Good-Neighbourliness and Cooperation with the Republic of. Bulgaria, the law on improvement of the use of languages of other ethnic communities was also adopted. The Prespa agreement with Greece provided for the unblocking of the Euro-Atlantic integration process. North Macedonia became a full-fledged member of NATO in March 2020 and opened the membership talks with the European Union. The historic successes were crowned with the recognition of the autocephaly of the Macedonian Orthodox Church – Ohrid Archbishopic (MPC-OA) in 2022.
The successes of the policy pursued by Zoran Zaev also include the extension of friendship and partnership within the country to all its citizens, as well as extension of friendship and partnership to all the neighbors of Macedonia. No interethnic incidents, which previously were a daily occurrence, have been reported since his arrival to power. North Macedonia no longer has internal tensions and has “O problems” with its neighbor. This creates excellent preconditions for future development, because a country that aspires to achieve prosperity should not have internal tensions or unresolved issues with its neighbors.
The paradigm of Zoran Zaev’s policy has introduced a new political culture on the Macedonian political scene. Specifically, his policy recognizes the opposition and accepts it as a partner, not as an adversary, particularly when decisions are made on key Macedonia national issues and its future, which is primarily related to membership in the EU. The country is to embark on important constitutional changes that require a consensus of majority of political parties in the North Macedonian Sobranie /Parliament/.
A scandal broke out in February 2015 when the illegal tapping by Macedonian secret service (UDK) of around 26, citizens was exposed. It is assessed that Nikola Gruevski’s (VMRO-DPMNE) had syphoned more than five billion Euros out of the country, while the businessmen had been force to pay the “racket” to the regime. Interethnic conflicts were regularly generated and instilled insecurity, concerns and fear among citizens. Gruevski and the oligarchy around him became enormously reach.
An informal center of power involving Nikola Gruevski, Sašo Mijalkov and Orce Kamčev had been established as a symbiosis of political structures, tycoons and mafia, and it was supported by the intelligence underground. The center factually ruled the country. After the fall of the regime the Macedonian government managed only partly to establish full power, because they were not able to fully prevail over and suppress the informal centers of power and dismantle the Gruevski-Mijalkov-Kamčev regime, which still acts subversively against the government and has enormous resources at its disposal to use to topple the government - with the aim to reestablish the previous situation in North Macedonia.
Degruevization does not entail only facing the causes and the consequences of Nikola Gruevski’s and VMRO-DPMNE’s regime, but also a necessary long-term process of dismantling of the regime. In addition to the actions of the judicial system, the broader social actions and activities on the elimination of detrimental consequences of the 11-years-long Gruevski’s rule are also important. Nikola Gruevski has been living in exile in Hungary since 2018. With the protection and the logistic support provided by the Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán (Fidesz), he is still striving to impede the positive political processes in North Macedonia. Several final and binding decisions have been handed down against Gruevski and his associates sentencing them to years of imprisonment. It is not possible to ensure general social progress without the dismantling of Nikola Gruevski’s regime and Orbán’s financial-criminal and banking-business octopus in North Macedonia and the region.
Analysts believe it is important to intensify the degruevization of the country, which cannot possibly be implemented without the extradition of Nikola Gruevski and his handover to the authorities of North Macedonia. Numerous activities aimed against the current Macedonian authorities have continuously been organized from Hungary. The European Union and the US, in cooperation with partner countries, must put pressure on the Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán - and maybe even introduce sanctions if necessary- so that the Hungarian authorities extradite Gruevski to North Macedonian authorities on the basis of an international arrest warrant. This would enable North Macedonia to officially finalize its transition and the main culprit would be brought to justice. Without this act North Macedonia will continue to lag behind in numerous processes, which will remain unfinished and will generate various frustrations and consequences to the future of the country.
Achievement of membership in NATO in 2020 was a realization of a centuries-long dream of Macedonians and other citizens of having their own country, whose territorial integrity and sovereignty is now guaranteed by the largest and strongest military-political alliance in the world- the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). This achievement also meant defeat of hegemonic projects which involved, endangered and had aspirations towards North Macedonia.
The signed Prespa Agreement reaffirmed the state-legal continuity of the Republic of Macedonia, Macedonian ethnicity, recognition of the Macedonian language, culture and identity. This made Macedonian statehood complete and reaffirmed the identity of Macedonians as a people with its own elements. The Prespa Agreement contains all the necessary elements that guarantee viability of a modern Macedonian state and recognize the specificities of Macedonians as a people.
Another recognition to the current authorities, specifically the Ministry of Internal Affairs, was the World Border Security Congress, which was recently organized in Skopje. This year from 8 May to 10 May, the Ministry of Internal Affairs will also host the 50th European regional conference of INTERPOL, the biggest police organization with 195 member countries from all over the world.
Analysts believe that this year’s granting of chairmanship over the OSCE marks a continuation of successes of North Macedonian authorities since 2017, particularly as the chairmanship is to take place at the most difficult time for Europe since the end of World War II because of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which has far reaching consequences for the entire world.
The then Prime Minister of North Macedonia Zoran Zaev, together with Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić (SNS) and Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama (PS) signed the declaration of intent to establish a “small Schengen” among the three countries, which later evolved into a leading regional initiative – Open Balkan.
The results achieved so far, particularly in the area of economy and economic cooperation among countries participating in the Open Balkan initiative – faster flow of people, good, capital and service, accelerated growth of all economic indicators, better and more comprehensive political cooperation, prompt resolution of all mutual problems through dialogue and brokering of agreements- are proof that Western Balkans countries have something to offer to the EU, that they want, can, know how to and are able to cooperate with the EU, that they have to be, both formally and legally, a part of the community of European people, and that for centuries already they have been a part of Europe, regardless of the fact that the current policies and bureaucracies maybe dispute that and impede them. Open Balkan is a regional initiative, a regional project. However, it is not a substitute for membership in the EU, nor is it an “equivalent” or a “consolation prize” to the countries that are candidates for membership in the EU, and least of all a kind of an “anteroom” or a “waiting room” for membership in the EU. It is important that Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Kosovo also join the Open Balkan initiative.
Analyses have shown that partial solutions to a pandemic, energy, food and security crisis yield partial results. The importance of cooperation and solidarity becomes most evident at the time of a crisis or natural disaster. The Open Balkan initiative offers comprehensive responses to numerous challenges that the region faces and has already demonstrated positive results for member countries.
Because of its geopolitical and geostrategic position North Macedonia is at the crossroads of regional and international crimes, as well as different interests. As a result, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and security-intelligence services are investing enormous efforts to combat (organized) crime and corruption. Furthermore, their efforts are also the biggest barrier to the migrants who aspire to go through North Macedonian territory to reach the EU. Hence, North Macedonia is protecting the EU from the migrants primarily through the efforts of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, headed by Minister Oliver Spasovski (SDSM).
The implementation of the secret intelligence operation codenamed Rösselsprung, which is coordinated from Budapest, still constitutes a high security threat and risk. The main goal of the operation is overthrow of the existing government and the return of former prime minister Nikola Gruevski (VMRO-DPMNE) to North Macedonia. Therefore, it is important that Macedonian authorities, together with the partners and allies from the EU and US, insist with Hungary on official extradition of Gruevski to North Macedonia.
Destabilization of the state is intensified through generation of numerous scandals. More than 160 media portals that produce fake news and scandals have been detected and located. The company that manages the websites that support the VMRO-DPMNE opposition party is affiliated with the Hungarian public broadcasting service Magyar Televizo (MTV), which favors the ruling Fidesz party headed by Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán. The focus of the Rösselsprung intelligence opertaionis the Minister of Internal Affairs Oliver Spasovski (SDSM), because the goal is to definitely settle accounts with him. Hence, the biggest security-intelligence attack on North Macedonia and Minister Spasovski is anticipated.
Since the start of the Rösselsprung operations Minister of Internal Affairs Oliver Spasovski has been the main target. Within only one year Spasovski has manage to organize the Ministry of Internal Affairs as the leading ministry of the kind in the region, which has received numerous commendations. He has professionalized the police force, detected and dismantled networks of certain foreign security-intelligence services on the territory of North Macedonia, particularly Russian services, which is why the attacks are designed as a kind of retaliation for his successful work. Minister Spasovski has played a key role in the protection of the constitutional-legal order and the police-judicial system of the country. North Macedonian security-intelligence and police sector is to face enormous challenges, threats and risks, which unfortunately come from some EU and NATO member countries. Their latest attack, which is being anticipated, includes also one of the leading intelligence services in the region that is supported and assisted by members of the VMRO-DPMNE opposition party, but also by a part of ruling structures, and even some officials from the SDSM and/or individuals supported by the ruling SDSM party.
Analysts believe the fact that the NATO alliance, but also the EU and US, tolerate such actions of security-intelligence services of their member countries in North Macedonia is a point of concern. Particularly as such actions are not aimed only against the national interests of a sovereign member country, but also against the interests of NATO itself. In the anticipation of the biggest security-intelligence attack on North Macedonia, which can constitute a security milestone, it is necessary to ensure adequate support and assistance from partner countries and allies, increase physical protection of key state institutions and holders of key public offices, particularly Minister Spasovski, who is the main proponent of activities on suppression of the Rösselsprung intelligence operation and particularly the Russian and Chinese influence. It is key to preempt the attacks by undertaking activities ranging from deterrence to attack, which is something that North Macedonian authorities must coordinate with their allies and partners.
NATO and the EU have to assist this promising European country to advance in the negotiation process and continue to be a promotor and defender of European values and perspectives in the region. The attacks against North Macedonia are taking place in the shadow of and the background of the war in Ukraine, therefore rendering it even more dangerous.
Ljubljana/Brussels/Washington/Skopje, 4 May 2023
 IFIMES – The International Institute for Middle East and Balkan Studies (IFIMES) from Ljubljana, Slovenia, has a special consultative status with the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC)/UN since 2018. and it’s publisher of the international scientific journal »European Perspectives«.