Macedonia’s political and economic outlook has been reoriented by three recent events.

First, a new minority government (led by the leftist SDSM party, with ethnic Albanian minority ones) was formed. Second, US Vice-President Mike Pence endorsed its new Prime Minister, Zoran Zaev, at NATO’s August 2 Adriatic Charter meeting in Montenegro. Third, on August 1, Zaev and Bulgarian counterpart Boyko Borisov inked a landmark ‘good-neighbourly relations’ deal that envisions both enhanced economic cooperation and a role for Bulgaria in Macedonian internal affairs.

The hugely controversial nature of these events, and the circumstances under which they occurred, is being amplified as parties prepare for crucial October 15 local elections.

Impact

  • This climate is ideal for informal networks to quietly expand influence. With the full spotlight on politicians and public figures, they will exploit the controversies and internal rivalries within Macedonia and Bulgaria for their own interests.
  • Similarly, two foreign powers will benefit from the Balkan turbulence through both informal networks and the mutually conflicting political realities created by US/EU interventionism. In a region now characterised by governments with very narrow parliamentary majorities, peripheral players will play decisive roles in determining economic and political outcomes.