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The Ethnic Conflict Research Digest

2001, Vol. 4 No. 1 .

Making Peace Prevail. Preventing violent conflict in Macedonia
Alice Ackermann

New York: Syracuse University Press, 2000
232pp. Biblio. Index. Pb.:$24.95, ISBN: 0-8156-0602-8.

Macedonia represents in many respects an unusual country. Since its independence in 1991, the small Balkan state managed not to get involved in the Yugoslav war unleashed by the politics of nationalist hatred. Burdened with the economic legacy of communism, she had to cope with two Greek embargoes. Macedonian minorities in Bulgaria and Greece were denied their cultural rights and the use of the Macedonian language. The Kosovo crisis led to a massive influx of refugees; fears of destabilisation seemed reasonable since the country's Albanian minority amounts to 23%. Despite these burdens Macedonia was capable of keeping internal peace. Moreover, her sound foreign policy based on the programme of 'Europeanization of the Balkans' and the continuous tight co-operation with EU, OSCE and UNO made her a stabilising factor in the Balkans. The crucial element of Macedonian politics, however, was the prevailing political will of the ethnic communities' leaders to implement measures of accommodation and co-operation. Macedonia therefore is an almost perfect, but certainly a unique example of preventive diplomacy.

What does preventive diplomacy mean and how can we make peace prevail? Ackermann offers an important and valuable insight to the issue of ethnic conflicts. Her investigation is therefore recommended reading for everybody interested in the Balkans specifically and international politics in general. The analysis of the Slovak-Hungarian, Rwandan and Russian-Estonian conflicts demonstrates the importance of internationally supported preventive diplomacy at an early stage. Ackermann's approach to conflict resolution is two-dimensional: 'deliberate implementation of measures ...' shall prevent the outbreak of violence at the early, nonescalatory stage, while measures such as rapprochement, reconciliation and institution-building aim at the prevention of conflict renewal in the postconflict stage (p. 19f.). The detailed assessment of Macedonian conflict accommodation by the communities' leaders offers the basis for the conflict prevention model (p.169f.). The model suggests concrete policies and pragmatic measures to be implemented by the actors of the four distinct levels (Top-leadership; leaders of ethnic groups; Third party actors - international/regional organisations; NGOs and other grassroots). The crucial factor, however, concerns primarily the top-leadership: the political will of the actors in charge remains the conditio sine qua non of successful conflict prevention. If this will is lacking at the top leadership level, what can be done to foster its emergence in the light of the fact that state sovereignty is legitimised by Public International Law?

Josette Baer
Department of Philosophy

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