The Prespa Forum Dialogue — a jobs program for the “colorful revolutionaries”

Here’s something “new” — the so-called “Prespa Forum Dialogue” (PFD) which “is a platform created by the Government of the Republic of North Macedonia to enable countries, leaders, organizations, and citizens to build long-term relationships and strengthen partnerships,” according to its website.

Their tag line? “Bridge to a Common Future.” Of course.

Well, Macedonia, and the region, certainly does not have enough groups like this!

The PFD will hold a gabfest July 1 and 2 at Lake Prespa and in Ohrid. The group has invited (and says it has confirmed) the following speakers, whose titles I will not add, otherwise they would take up this entire article: Matthew Nimtez, Philip Reeker, Federica Mogherini, Edi Rama, Alexis Tsipris, Ana Brnabic, Albin Kurti, Johannes Hahn, Miroslav Lajcak, Lord George Robertson, Alain LeRoy, Florian Bieber, Gerald Knaus, Matthew Palmer, Tim Judah, Doris Pack, Ivo Vajgl, Vladimir Gligorov, Edward Joseph, and about 30 others, not including Macedonian government officials.

In the lead-up to this event, it is busy posting social media posts like this recent one from Phil Reeker, former US Ambassador to Macedonia and now assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian Affairs (or “Euroasian” as their website spells it). It quotes Phil as stating “The WB6 (Western Balkans) countries themselves are capable to solve the problems and debatable issues together.” Aside from the fact that he did not write this — it’s terrible English — it begs the question: if the countries of the Western Balkans are capable of solving their own issues together, then why does Phil need to be involved in the first place? What is the need, and why the financial expense, of holding yet another boring talkathon of blathering politicians, so-called “experts,” and unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats?

This is just another opportunity for these people to sit around in a circle and engage in mutual self-congratulatory rhetoric.

The entire project claims to be a “one-of-a-kind” by presenting itself as:

“a sui generis concept, based on the positive experience of the Republic of North Macedonia in finding solutions for its internal challenges and open issues with its neighbors:

-the Ohrid Framework Agreement that laid down sustainable foundations for its internal governance

-the Agreement on Friendship, Good-Neighborliness and Cooperation with Bulgaria as an important step forward in the relations between the two countries

-the Final Agreement for the Settlement of the Differences over the Name with Greece (the so-called Prespa Agreement) that opened the doors for NATO accession and for the decision for opening of the EU accession negotiations as well as for building a strong bilateral partnership”

One small, odd issue with all of this is that none of the above-mentioned “solutions” has been made final, and, if the authors were honest, never would be made final. They are all on-going projects and it can be reasonably argued that they have “solved” very little and have, in fact, created many new problems, especially the agreement with Bulgaria which is the basis for Bulgaria’s veto of Macedonia’s EU accession talks.

Aside from that, and interestingly, the concept for the PFD includes the following which sounds like a permanent jobs program for colorful revolutionaries. The organizers drone on about how this is connected with a project called “EU for Prespa” which aims to do nice things in the Prespa region (and to the benefit of Macedonia, Greece, and Albania) to the tune of 18 million Euros. And then, the “…project also envisages the construction of a Multimedia Centre for Dialogue and Development of European Values in Prespa. The Centre would be operational over the entire year by organising workshops, roundtables, seminars, conferences etc., with participation of experts with various knowledge and experience, and would employ primarily young people. Once the Centre has been constructed and becomes fully operational, it would also house the Prespa Forum for Dialogue, as well as the civil society organisations that would work on the development of the Prespa Region…..The idea is that the Forum will not be a one-off event which will be held once a year, but over the entire year to organize other, smaller events under its auspices in the form of thematic workshops, seminars, roundtables etc; our intention is to make the Forum a specific brand by which the Republic of North Macedonia will become even more recognizable on the international scene.”

Two points: first, this is not, as the organizers state, a “one-off event,” but a mechanism to create the “Prespa Forum for Dialogue, as well as the civil society organisations that would work on the development of the Prespa Region,” in other words, a long-term jobs program for failed so-called “colorful revolutionaries.”

Second, did you notice that they wish to create “a specific brand” by which their version of Macedonia will “become even more recognizable on the international scene?” This entire exercise is simply to push Zoran Zaev’s “North Macedonia” or, as the global media and some NATO members call it the “North Macedonian” project.

I’d say the next government should simply shut it down.

Finally, the organizations note that on Thursday, July 1, the opening session of the conference will address the following points: “How much North Macedonia (sic) success story is well known and spread out to the wider public? Did and to what extent (sic) the Ohrid Framework Agreement and the Agreements with Bulgaria and Greece changed (sic) the perception about North Macedonia and, in general, about the region? Addressing the challenges in the implementation of the three agreements of North Macedonia.”

I leave you to answer those questions, but you likely know what I would say.