Globalizzazione in Macedonia: uno "splendido nuovo mondo". Il dibattito sulla globalizzazione non sembra aver molto peso in Macedonia, alcuni sono favorevoli altri contrari, ma in pochi hanno le idee chiare su cosa significhi la globalizzazione. Il nostro corrispondente da Skopje ha discusso con alcuni docenti e giornalisti su questi temi.
O, Wonder! How many goodly creatures
Are there here! How beauteous
Mankind is! O, brave new world
That has such people in't!
(Shakespeare's The Tempest; Miranda, Act V; Scene 1)
Miranda certainly had a very good reason to look forward to the future. She was about to leave Prospero's island and see the wonders of the world. Macedonians, on the other hand, believe that they have every reason to fear it. They would prefer Prospero's cynical answer to his daughter's exclamation, "'Tis new to thee." Ergo, globalization is like a shiny new toy that we haven't figured out yet. Indeed, it is not easy to write about globalization in Macedonia. Consider the following example.
"What is your position on globalization, keeping in mind that the environmentalists and greens are major players in the anti-globalization coalition?" That was the question we asked the leaders of the Environmental Movement of Macedonia.
"We have none," they said, "since we have enough environmental problems of our own. We don't really have any interest in discussing the consequences of globalization on Africa's and Asia's environment. Besides, our pollution is domestically caused."
Pro or contra
"Mention the very word 'reform' to anyone in Macedonia, and he will probably break your nose," says Ljupco Zikov, the editor in chief of "Kapital" weekly, the leading business oriented paper in Macedonia.
The idea is that the fact that almost no one in Macedonia talks about globalization is not all that bad. In Zikov's own words:
"We have this tendency here, especially the politicians, to talk about something so much and do nothing about it, so that we finally make it so absurd and almost bizarre. That happened with the word reform. Everybody here talked about reforms endlessly, and finally you may risk getting your nose broken for it."
However, the issue of globalization and Macedonia's place in the brave new world emerging is slowly entering the public discourse here. Last year, for instance, one Macedonian think-tank (they asked not to release the name of the institution, because it was previously agreed that the debate was to remain closed to the public, due to the politically sensitive positions and offices held by some of the participants. We shall make every effort to honor their request) organized a roundtable debate entitled "Globalization, Regionalism and the Balkans." Their caution and restraint is quite understandable, one may say, having in mind that, due to the last years' events in Macedonia, the issues brought about by globalization may not receive the most positive treatment in the public.
The debate, as clandestine and as secretive as it was, is a positive move ahead. For, it is only by talking about things that you may finally understand them, and ultimately learn how to cope with the problem. The Macedonian media, for instance, did not have much interest in covering the huge anti-globalization protests that have become a regular occurrence at every summit of the world leaders or the international financial institutions. They, as a rule, restricted their coverage of summits and the protests to translations of the foreign press articles on the issue. To the best of our knowledge, there was only one editorial after the Genoa protests of last year, published in "Dnevnik," which was provoked by the death of one of the demonstrators. The editorial accused the anti-globalization movement of "spilling the first blood" in, as the paper saw it, "an attempt of the rich, spoiled kids to deprive everybody else to get the benefits of development." The paper did, however, call for the "rich and powerful of the world" to reevaluate their policies and strategies, since it was evident that "their own youth is becoming disillusioned, and that can't be a good thing."
There is only one, although very prominent voice, constantly present in the media, dealing with the problems of globalization, or to be precise, the economic problems that globalization and transition create for Macedonia and its population. Professor Natalija Nikolovska from the Faculty of Economics at the Skopje University has written a weekly column in "Utrinski Vesnik," the second largest and influential Macedonian daily, since 1999. In March 2001, she collected her columns and published them as a single book, entitled "The Great Illusion - Changes" (Kultura, Skopje, 2001). Although the book is primarily directed, as its title points out, against the policies of the Government coalition between VMRO-DPMNE and the Democratic Alternative (DA), a good third of the book addresses Macedonian problems with globalization. As she writes in the introduction section of the book titled " Globalization - the new economic reality":
"(...) It is necessary to direct our efforts and to give priority to the most controversial issue of the world today - Globalization.
This is imperative for the fact that the position and the comparative advantages of any country... are dependent on the new development strategy that globalization ultimately is. If we talk about a small country with great external debt, such as Macedonia, it does not have a development strategy, or economic policy of its own, which puts it in a position to become a "price taker" and "rule taker" economy that can only follow the rules of the game set by the institutional pillars of the process - the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank and the World Trade Organization (WTO)."
Professor Nikolovska's book is generally concerned with the lack of a real initiative in Macedonia to actually review the measures that the IMF, the World Bank and the WTO propose to Macedonia, the lack of critical approach and the absence of alternative approaches. Her main points do not strain too much from the usual complaints against Globalization. She too, believes that globalization is actually an euphemism for the process of "neo-colonization" that actually takes places all over the world, as another instrument to provide the rich with even more assets at the expense of the poor third world countries that are getting poorer with every day. It is just another instrument to exhaust capital from the small economies, through good use of the multinational corporations.
Ms. Nikolovska also attacks the botched economic reforms and the transition dictated by the international financial institutions. As she points out in her well-written book, the only country that is actually better off now than it was in 1989, Slovenia, managed to do that because of the decision it made in 1991 to refuse the services of the advisors from the international financial institutions and go its own way. Nikolovska advocates Macedonian leadership to try and find its own way into economic development, one that will provide for better social distribution and equality. She is a great promoter of increased Macedonian exports, and she points out that the strategies of the liberalized market and fixed currency rates do not assist it very well.
Finally, Nikolovska's point is that instead of turning outwards, we should look inside and seek the answers within ourselves.
We beg to differ...
Her younger colleague from the Faculty of Law at the Skopje University, Vanco Uzunov, Ph.D., lecturer of "Economic System and Economic Policy," believes that we first have to turn to the most visible aspect of globalization, and that is regionalism. Uzunov believes that the IMF and the lot are not actually interested in complete obedience to their policies, and that we would be much better off if we just used their directions to learn the rules of the game, the game being competition in the world market. In an interview he gave to "FORUM" bi-weekly magazine of January 16, 2002, he also spoke about foreign investments, thus touching on one of the pillars of globalization economic theory, liberalization. Uzunov says:
"... Regarding the possibility of a foreign industrial giant entering Macedonia and what we may do to prevent the Government to refuse such entry, I hold the following opinion: Macedonia should stop thinking that its development is definitely tied to the possibility of such a foreign mega-company entering Macedonia. The recipe is simple: First, Macedonia has to continue on the road of developing the domestic market environment; Second, Macedonia should not try to "attract" foreign capital with excessive benefits to the investors, but should create a transparent and unified environment for all investors - both domestic and foreign; and Third, the Government should cease to be the arbiter with which investors can enter Macedonia, as well as where, when or how. Simply, we have to make it an issue of "automatism," without an entity that may have a right to permit or forbid it, to stimulate or make it difficult."
Ljupco Zikov holds a bit of a different opinion. Zikov believes that we have to liberalize everything, as soon as possible. In his opinion, the Government will have to follow everything that the international institutions prescribe to it, because "we don't want to become another Belarus or some such country." Zikov is also a great advocate of regionalism, and believes that projects such as the Western Balkans project pushed by the EU are our chance for getting back on track, since anyway, "these countries (Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Yugoslavia, Albania) are our natural market, which was evident during the Yugoslav wars, when we lost those markets and made UN sanctions violation our official policy."
But, the economic side of globalization is yet to become the focus for the Macedonian public or the media. Here's an illustration. While preparing this article, we went to the offices of "Utrinski Vesnik" to speak to Mirche Jovanovski, the Economic Editor. While talking about the coverage they have dedicated to the problems of globalization ("sorry, but not much, mostly reprinting foreign media), another prominent journalist, Sasho Cholakovski passed by and overhearing our conversation, interrupted us just saying, "Macedonia is a victim of globalization."
Asked to elaborate on that statement, Cholakovski said that he basically had in mind last year's security crisis in Macedonia. In his opinion, globalization only indirectly victimized Macedonia, and it was able to do it only with the assistance of the incapable political elite, which apart from economic dependence, added the dependence on foreign assistance in the field of defense. "The real problem is," he says, "that we never really had a choice. You either flow with the mainstream or you fall in an even darker hole. We have to take the dictate and play the game."
Gjorgi Ivanov, from the Law Faculty, believes that the greatest fault of globalization as it is, is the lack of democracy in the decision making process. In his words, all the decisions are made by a closed group of people, without public debate and differing opinions.
Asked about the major fault of globalization, especially in Macedonia with its series of drastic and severe visa regimes that are used to keeping us at bay, Zikov says: "Like with everything else, we will just have to learn to follow the rules. Realistically speaking, we don't deserve access and liberal border regimes, until we learn how to follow the rules, and that the rules are all that count."
The sad fact is that most Macedonians view globalization (you may, however, never hear that exact word spoken) through the scope of Macedonia's relations with NATO and the European Union. The overall sentiment is that Macedonia was sacrificed to the cause of appeasing Albanians. As one of the participants at the debate we mentioned earlier, Col Temelko Ristevski, from the Military Academy, speaking of last year's security crisis in Macedonia said, "Macedonia will have to look for its place in those global and regional defense systems, such as NATO and the SEE Multinational Brigade." But he also said, "the fact that Macedonia had a conflict last year that is far from over, is due to the facts of this new emerging world. There, the powerful that call the shots, would not allow for a winnable war. The two sides will start fighting, fight for a while, and then negotiate." Colonel Ristevski also mentioned a great chance for Macedonia to find its place in the emerging global coalition against terrorism.
Whatever the public discourse, the closest to the truth was probably professor Jovan Korubin, from the Institute for Sociology at the Faculty of Philosophy. Professor Korubin says that:
"My dilemma whether I am pro or against globalization is false, and that goes for everybody. It can be some philosophical or other dilemma, but realistically speaking it is a false dilemma, since Globalization is like a river, it never flows back. It is hard to make such a universal movement, such a general tendency to stop and turn the river into a lake... Therefore I would agree that globalization, economically speaking is not a unification, but rather a coordination of the world markets."
Similar was the judgement of Prof. Ljubomir Kekenovski, from the Faculty of Economics:
"I see globalization as the engine that pushes development and we should always look at the mainstream. Every road we take has its obstacles and each year there are criticisms provoked by some concrete, but rather marginal, regional or other frustrating reason, and they oppose globalization. The funniest of all are the political elites from the Balkans, who were opposed to globalization over the past ten years, and can not understand that globalization is like gravity, an unstoppable natural phenomenon."
Finally, we may go on living without contemplating gravity, unless we happen to be Sir Isaac Newton. Globalization is somewhat different. So, hopefully, we will start discussing globalization, and we should not be afraid to risk a broken nose or two; for the sake of other people's noses, at the least.