THE BEGINNING OF THE END?
By Aleksandar Krzhallovski
Yes, the headline has been borrowed from the famous Winston Chrurchill’s statement, and it refers to the popular “Racketeering” case, that is to the yesterday’s speech on the given subject by the Prime Minister Zaev, as well as today’s article by the journalist Branko Geroski, who disclosed the affair in his fictional character stories. And, of course, the question is whether this country has the strength (and methods) to put an end to the high corruption! Or at least, to start dealing with it properly and give a ray of hope that in the future it may eventually end in victory. Speaking of the headline, one could associate it with a broader meaning – is the three-decade long Macedonian transition finally coming to an end giving way to the start of the EU accession negotiations? Is it possible to finally get the long-awaited date for those negotiations even if it is not this year?
The question in the headline has been provoked by several things including the strange twenty-something day standstill preceding the PM’s speech and following the 15 July drama when the only two suspects so far have been arrested and held in custody. Nothing new has happened since, except the hearing of a few witnesses….there has been no disclosure of new evidence by the prosecution, no new suspects or arrests. The public got the impression that the whole thing will just ‘vanish in thin air’, and all those mentioned (some even not mentioned or those who recognized themselves in the fictional characters of Branko Gerovski’s stories or were recognized by others) started making excuses, or even call for clearing up the case themselves; others restricted themselves to the statements made by the public prosecution and hid behind the phrase “so as not to disrupt the investigation”. Or, as the journalist Biljana Sekulovska wrote in her text for Nova TV – everyone turned out to be a victim in this case, they have either been abused and were unaware of what had been done on their behalf, including the suspects themselves.
However, the Euro-American commissioners Hahn, Riker and Matthew Palmer did not spare us the fact that things have gone beyond a joke. The priority in all their statements (besides deciding on the future of the Special Public Prosecution) has become the high corruption fight and proper reforms in the legislature. Previously, the French Ambassador Thimonier also emphasized the same, additionally pointing to the “violent nature of the region” as an obstacle in gaining the French support in the enlargement process.
So, now, apart from the “technical issues only” which were responsible for not getting a negotiation date in June, then the SPP ‘destiny’ as a key indicator of the essential reforms (which have allegedly been one of the terms?!), the “Racketeering” case has become the key factor on whether we get the date in October.
And this is why I choose the question in the headline. And this is why the Prime Minister spoke – to demonstrate the political will and the readiness of this Government to confront the challenge and to “deliver” everything it takes in order to accomplish the EU negotiations goal. Neither that nor the ruling party’s declaration will probably be enough. Moreover, the prosecution is to act quickly, to be more transparent and to communicate on more regular basis with the public on any case, especially this particular one. Unfortunately, everybody has gone on holiday!?
Therefore, I am not a big optimist that something bigger will come out of this case, that the investigation will spread and more charges will be pressed, let alone reach the verdicts of the so-far suspected in the near future (certainly not by October). .
My pessimism results from the fact that no high corruption verdict has been reached in the past SPP (or PP) cases, especially for gaining illegal property (except maybe in the “Thrust” case for which Sead Kocan was sentenced). Not even in the “Tаnk” case, in which the former Prime Minister Gruevski and the former Minister of Interior Jankulovska were accused, it was about “stolen money”, but it was the influence for the provision of the government’s Mercedes (which, by the way is still used for the purpose it was provided for – to transport high foreign representatives, the Chancellor Merkel, for instance, safely round Macedonia, mainly from the airport to Skopje and around the capital). By the way, the total amount of the provision in that case (650,000 Euros) is less than the first part of the payment in the Racketeering case (750,000 Euros from Siljan Micevski’s company). Many other cases have remained unresolved yet, and as the parties fail to negotiate, they may remain such. Unfortunately, most of them were not about “our money” that vanished from the national budget, and the speculations go to as many as 500 million to 5 billion euros during the VMRO-DPMNE reign, the return of which should have been a dial in the Triumphant Gate that would move with every new verdict or payment.
Therefore, the Prime Minister needed to address the public and assure the people of the intransigency in the Racketeering case, no matter how far the investigation will go. For the same reason, Gerovski, in today’s column called for at least half of the government to confess their part in the affair and try to come out clean. He did not accuse anyone in particular (although for the first time he used real, instead of nick names), but called for the specific individuals to publically speak and justify what they had done. So far, this has been to no effect. Let us see what will happen in the future!
As I previously mentioned, the title was borrowed from Churchill. It is part of a statement he made in November 1942 (in the middle of World War II) after the first big British victory against the Nazi Germany in the El Alamein battle (the battle for Egypt), which goes like this: “Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning”! I also hope we are at least at the end of the beginning, but I am not much of an optimist myself since we haven’t won this battle yet!
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