Fratello, così si fa chiamare il ministro degli interni macedone Ljube Boskovski, una delle figure più controverse della politica macedone. Dejan Georgievski ha scritto per l'Osservatorio il seguente profilo sul ministro. (Testo in inglese)
May 15, 2002, Police Force training ground near Leunovo - a place which will later prove non-existent, picked just a couple of days earlier. The "Lions" special police unit has just finished its live ammunition firing exercise "Leunovo 2002", organised for the press and the members of the diplomatic corps. At the end of the exercise, the commanders of the unit congratulated themselves on what was, even if hastily organized, a successful exercise and answered the questions of the press and some diplomats. But apparently, the exercise was not over. The Minister of the Interior himself, present at Leunovo to observe the "Lions" - his "pet project" - fancied to fire several rounds from the 30 mm Automatic Grenade Launcher M93, nick-named "Frog." The TV cameras were unnervingly precise. The journalists gathered there, too close to the fire line for their safety, were ready to leave for Skopje, but were waiting for a statement from Boshkovski. He joined them with a naughty smile on his face and declared "This is how brother Ljube enters his political campaigns, with automatic fire..." He took aim and fired several rounds. Suddenly, mayhem erupted. Four people were wounded by fragments (whether coming from rocks whether from the grenade) immediately behind him. While Daniela Veljanovska (reporter for "Dnevnik" daily) was wailing in pain, Boshkovski quickly said to the press that "... the exercise was very successful, apart from the unfortunate incident at its completion."
Last week's incident may, or may not, finally lead to Ljube Boshkovski's leaving the Ministry of the Interior. But, first of all, let's see who Boshkovski is.
Boshkovski was born in 1961 in the village of Chelopek, in the Tetovo region. He studied Law at the Skopje University, but, as Mirka Velinovska from "Zum" magazine wrote in a recent editorial, "was too bad a lawyer to seek a career as an attorney at law, so his father decided to take him to Istria, Croatia, where he worked in the family owned tavern and restaurant in Rovinj." His line of work in Croatia bore the brunt of many jokes about him. "Minister of Catering," "candy minister," were just some of them. Both events will, in our opinion, play a role in his formation as politician and Minister of Interior. We can retrace the origin of his anti-Albanian positions and his ardent Macedonian nationalism in the fact that he has lived in Chelopek. Most likely, the Chelopek he left when he moved to Croatia and the one he saw in his visits to Macedonia (last year's Chelopek in particular) were extremely different. The constant rise of the Albanian population of the village, which according to the official statistics was purely Macedonian only a generation ago, increased his sense of bitterness.
His experience in Croatia, however, seems far more important. After all, he has a Croatian passport. According to his interviews, he was a major part of the Croatian struggle for independence and in fact he gives himself lots of credit for the destruction of the SANU - Serbian Academy of Arts and Sciences - program for the creation of a "Greater Serbia." For what regards the period he spent in Croatia, every now and then there are articles in Croatian papers (weekly "Globus" leads in this category) that connect Boshkovski with some mischief. One of which reported a funny anecdote of his incompetence as a lawyer, during his tenure as legal representative of the Rovinj City Hospital. Due to his engagement, the Hospital first lost a law-suit filed by one employee and then he allowed the total debt to rise from 15,000 German Marks (as ruled by the Court) to astounding 350,000 German Marks. After the lawyers of the opposition tried to reach a deal for a quite smaller amount of money, thinking undoubtedly that it was better to get something than nothing, Boshkovski, nota bene, refused to strike a deal and said that the Hospital would make the full payment, which it ultimately did.
Less funny and far more serious is the second allegation, also published in "Globus," that Boshkovski cooperated in an arms smuggling operation to arm the Albanian rebels in Kosovo with Agim Cheku, former officer of the Yugoslav National Army, then General of the Croatian Army, and finally military commander of KLA and current commander of the Kosovo Protection Corps. Macedonian media - opposition media for the better part - pounced at the opportunity to prove that last year's crisis was some sort of a deal between the two ruling parties in Macedonia, VMRO-DPMNE and DPA, to divide Macedonia along ethnic lines. Boshkovski himself denied all allegations. But inside sources (which we would like to protect by maintaining their anonymity) say that he admitted that the greatest grudge he holds against the Albanians is the sense of their betrayal. According to his private confessions, he cooperated greatly with the Kosovar underground while fighting Serbian nationalism and hegemony in the Balkans. Allegedly, he was befuddled at the fact that Albanians could now "act in the same way Serbs did."
Croatization of Macedonia
Another important aspect coming out of his experience in Croatia is the evident tendency of VMRO-DPMNE to "Croatise" Macedonian social and political life. Closely replicating HDZ policies during their ten years of undisputed, total grip over Croatia, VMRO-DPMNE rapidly turned to attempts to control all tenets of economy, culture, politics, etc. A group of cronies around the Prime Minister - but also the Prime Minister himself - started buying companies that were being privatized and also started feuds with the media, accusing them of being anti-VMRO, ergo, anti-Macedonian. Stories of corruption proliferated with a rate never seen before.
It is hard to see Boshkovski as the prime strategist or inventor of that policy. He is, after all, more suited to play the role of Gojko Susak - former Croatian Minister of Interior - to Georgievski's version of Tudjman. In fact, he did say in an interview he gave to "Denes" weekly two months ago, that his greatest role-model was the late Susak. He was, however, to wait a bit to take the coveted position of Minister of Interior. His first two years in office were first spent in the sector for Public Security - uniformed police - and then in the Counterintelligence Agency, under the tenure of his "dearest friend and mentor", as he called her, Dosta Dimovska. Together with Sasko Staninov - Head of the State Financial Police - he immediately started a campaign against the managers of the greatest and most successful Macedonian companies. They were all arrested, sometimes with great disregard for legal procedures, in spectacular raids involving special police and SWAT teams, under the pretext of tax evasion, corruption and abuse of powers. Despite the fact that no one would claim that they were all perfect law abiding citizens, Boshkovski's and Staninov's failure to provide any real evidence of their offences gave the impression that the campaign was taken because they were, to greater or lesser extent, close to the SDSM. Thus started the great downfall of the whole Ministry of Interior under "Brother Ljube" (himself, Staninov and late Pane Velev - former Deputy Minister for Public Security - called themselves brothers).
"His greatest fault," says Sasko Dimevski - Defense Editor at "Utrinski Vesnik" - "is that he absolutely destroyed the credibility of the Ministry in the eyes of the public. Instead of trusting in the fact that the Ministry and Police would provide for their security, people started fearing them. Such a situation, of course, can be very dangerous for a state, in fact we all know the importance of the Ministry of Interior. He absolutely has to go."
Brothers in arms
Last year's security crisis - war, if you prefer - brought about a new Ljube, we had never seen before. This was Ljube "the gallant warrior and poet." The use of the word poet was not fortuitous. His statements for the press during the war were full of metaphors and poetic phrases, while he talked about "taking strong action against the terrorists." He promoted a strong-handed approach to Albanians. First of all, there is the already mentioned disappointment in the Albanians after all they did "to stop Serb expansionism." It is quite a valid argument that, if not Boshkovski himself, there were certain circles on the Macedonian side which favoured a longer, protracted conflict, as in Croatia, maybe even a "Macedonian Vukovar" a conflict that could lead to a Macedonian version of the "Tetovo "contributed to the fact that at least 60% of Macedonian properties in the city were damaged."
Today, we have an embattled Minister, haunted all the time by the opposition media (albeit with the unwavering devotion of the regime media) for his incompetence and the latent threat that he may be summoned to the Hague Tribunal for his role in the events around the Lions" Special Police force acting on his direct order. In fact, there is ongoing investigation in the case conducted by the Hague tribunal.
Despite the fact that the International tribunal for War Crimes does not even mention him among those summoned, there was a campaign entitled "We Don't Give Brother Ljube to the Hague," which was organized by several NGOs. The campaign managed to collect over 200,000 signatures from all over Macedonia and finished with a rally in front of the Parliament. The rally was a failure, which prompted the media to attack the whole campaign (helped by the political opposition) as a scam organized by VMRO-DPMNE as an electoral campaign ruse, especially having in mind that, as Tito Petkovski from SDSM maintained, "no one actually wanted him." More serious allegations stated that VMRO-DPMNE used its thugs and members of the "Lions" to pressure and coerce people to sign the petition. On the other hand, his constant opposition to the international community and his reluctance to disband the "Lions" led to repeated requests, at least advises, to the Prime Minister to fire Boshkovski.
Immediately after what happened during the "Leunovo 2002" exercise, Boshkovski said that "he was very sorry" and that he was prepared "to face the consequences, should the investigation point to any responsibility on his behalf." The ambassadors and the representatives of the international community immediately gathered in Georgievski's office, presumably with one issue to discuss, Boshkovski's immediate resignation. For a while, there were different rumours hinting that Georgievski refused Boshkovski's resignation or vice versa that Boshkovski refused to present his resignation. At the end, a culprit was found in Boban Utkovski, the Deputy Commander of the "Lions," which means that Boshkovski will likely remain in office.
The Dog in Georgievski's fight
Realistically, it is highly unlikely that Georgievski will easily renounce to Boshkovski. He is needed both because of his relations with the international community and the elections looming ahead this Autumn. Dimevski basically confirmed our suspicion that Boshkovski may be used by Georgievski to attract the nationalist vote.
This could also serve as a sort of preventive action against Ali Ahmeti now clear intention to get directly involved in politics. In this sense, he can always present Boshkovski as the Macedonian alternative to Ahmeti, which would assure him a great deal of Macedonian votes, should Ahmeti decide to run for the office. The second reason is connected to matters of internal and international politics. That reason is called Boris Trajkovski, who is considered by the international community as one of the candidates most favourable to a Macedonia open to Western models. They support Trajkovski to the such an extent that several legal experts accused the international community representatives of undermining Macedonian Constitution by installing a parallel Presidential System in the country. Boshkovski proved very effective in this type of game. For instance, once President Trajkovski, advised by several international factors, started talking about the rampant corruption, etc, and named Georgievski as the leader of the pack, Boshkovski quickly started investigation on possible embezzlement of humanitarian aid during the Kosovo Crisis. You can easily guess that Trajkovski was in charge of this distribution. Sure enough, Trajkovski abruptly forgot his anti-corruption talk and front and is now suspiciously silent. The President's Office nervous denials sort of confirmed the old saying that "where there's smoke, there's fire."
Boshkovski's bulldozer style, lacking any subtlety, perfectly suits Georgievski's necessities for a striking hand. Totally devoid of any political tact, he says what he thinks, and then considers possible action. For instance, he did not hesitate to call Ljubomir Frckovski - in his own right the master of political wheeling-dealing game - "a moron, imbecile and spineless," during his attack on Frckovski, who is informal advisor to Trajkovski and is now charged with corruption and compliance in the attempt to assassinate President Gligorov.
Currently, Boshkovski has yet one more enemy to fear. The media finally got completely tired with him after one of them was wounded at Leunovo. They are all very much determined to "completely get him out of politics, before he does even more damage to Macedonia." Now that it is almost evident that Georgievski has no intention to distance himself from Boshkovski, they maintain that they will use the incident for constant attacks on Georgievski and VMRO-DPMNE itself.
The way things are, Ljube (and VMRO-DPMNE) is predestined to go. The only problem is whether he would go with "a whimper" or would either prefer "a bang," as in the poem. Some people are positive that he might just choose the bang, and that VMRO actually formed the "Lions," which are almost fanatically devoted to their party and their Minister, to use them in such an emergency as the forthcoming elections. Anyway, they proved fatally incompetent when faced with armed resistance during the crisis last year, but may prove terribly useful in voter intimidation.
Whatever the outcome of this personal tragicomedy that walks around slightly resembling our Minister of Interior, it seems that we are stuck with it. At least for several months ahead.