Intel Brief: Bulgaria-Macedonia intel scandal
Accusations against Bulgaria are highly likely to reveal more about current internal Macedonian political climate than interstate relations.
Intel Brief by Diane Chido for ISN Security Watch (28/09/07)
The Macedonian intelligence agency denies claims made by the country’s largest daily newspaper, Dnevnik, that one of its counter-intelligence analysts has stolen the agency’s database on undercover operatives, fled the country and sold the information to Bulgarian secret services.
Despite refuting the accuracy of the story, published on 31 August, the Macedonian government has launched an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the publication of the article. And regardless of the investigation’s findings, the case is likely to underscore the instability and corruption in Skopje.
The Dnevnik report claims that the alleged theft of counter-intelligence information has compromised the entire Macedonian intelligence network and is likely to take two decades to rebuild. The story quotes unnamed sources within the Macedonian Interior Ministry, underscores longstanding tensions between Bulgaria and Macedonia and highlights potential instability within the Macedonian government.
The daily also speculated that the alleged data thief is a relative of former Macedonian interior minister Dosta Dimovska, who is now the head of the Macedonian cultural center in the Bulgarian capital, Sofia.
Dimovska resigned from her position as interior minister in 2001 in protest against an “unconstitutional” phone-tapping scandal allegedly initiated by the current president, Branko Crvenkovski, when he was prime minister.
Dimovska has claimed publicly to have no relatives in the intelligence services.
In response to the Dnevnik report, Macedonian Radio noted that Macedonian officials had emphasized the likely “potential negative implications for shaping the public view on the Macedonian security system,” and stressed that publishing unverified information “devalues the security structures’ work.”
Adding to the difficulties within the intelligence agency is the 29 August resignation of its director, Kire Naumov. Appointed by and reporting directly to the president, Naumov has only served in this post since June 2006.
Skopjes daily Vecer reports that Naumov, a 35-year-old economics professor, was selected in order to “stop the chaos” undermining the effectiveness of the agency amid a climate of increasing tensions among the primary Albanian political factions within the government.
One manifestation of these tensions involves reports that the Albanian vice-director of the intelligence agency, Muhamed Ismaili, was illegally arming favored Albanian separatists through his associations with militant leaders. The leader of a rival Albanian party, Rafiz Aliti, threatened violence against the Ismaili faction – a move that culminated in several days of attacks against political figures and the death of Aliti’s son.
On 5 September, Vreme reported that Crvenkovski would likely replace Naumov with Tose Kosinovski, an officer from the military intelligence services. This announcement has caused some concern as the military has its own intelligence service. However, Crvenkovski has said Kosinovski was the right choice as he had not been a party member and as such would not give the impression that the new agency director was anyone’s “tool.”
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) reports that inter-Albanian tensions are likely to continue to affect the structure and sustainability of Macedonia’s security services.
President Crvenkovski has recently come under fire from the opposition in parliament for failing to shore up security in the country. This has been fueled by reports that Xhezair Shaqiri – a former lawmaker who headed an ethnic-Albanian guerilla group that led the bloody 2001 uprising – informed local media on 31 August that he and his supporters had driven back police after they tried to enter the border village of Tanusevci.
On 23 August, Shaqiri said that Tanusevci was preparing a referendum on seceding from Macedonia and uniting with neighboring Kosovo, arguing, according to a report in the daily Fakti, that “the government is showing absolutely no interest in this part of the country.”
Crvenkovski became president in 2002 and resigned his post as prime minister. From early 2004, however, his administration has been under a cloud of suspicion that he was involved in the death of his predecessor, Boris Trajkovski, who died in a plane crash on the way to an economic conference in Croatia. Rescuers did not reach the plane for 24 hours, but Crvenkovski’s public declaration of Trajkovski’s death within hours of the crash led to grave speculations. Trajkovski was known as a moderate reformer and a peace broker.
Vreme, citing the Pristina-based Lajm newspaper, reported that Macedonian authorities offered money for land to residents of the Kosovo village of Debalde, approximately one hundred yards from Tanusevci.
According to Balkan Update, the contested land covers 150 square miles and is the primary reason that the border between Macedonia and Kosovo there has not yet been demarcated.
On 30 August, Kosovo’s Prime Minister Agim Ceku visited Debalde, telling residents that “no one could deprive them of their property.” The statement is vaguely reminiscent of former Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic’s ominous 1989 war cries of “No one will be allowed to beat you” and “No one will ever humiliate the Serbian people again.”
While serving as prime minister in July 1996, Crvenkovski ordered the removal of Albanian flags in front of government buildings, which led to protests that left one person dead………………………….