The Christian Science Monitor

North Macedonia’s election: a victory for Western diplomacy?

When I last visited this tiny Balkan nation in 2001, it was teetering on the cliff edge of ethnic civil war, threatening to drag its neighbors back into renewed bloodshed.

I recall sitting in a provincial town hall, my conversation with the mayor drowned out by the clatter of a helicopter gunship outside the window as it fired rockets at nearby rebel positions.

But the country stepped back from the brink. And on Sunday, after a long and tortuous journey, the country will hold presidential elections that the government hopes will finally unlock the Holy Grail: membership in NATO and the start of talks to join the European Union.

The newborn Republic of North Macedonia is unique in a part of the world where nationalist strongmen, religious extremists, and organized criminals are amassing ever greater influence. It is not only swearing allegiance to the West; it is doing (almost) everything it needs to do to join the club.

“We are the most successful story in the region,” says Bujar Osmani, deputy prime minister for European affairs. “We’re a multicultural, multiethnic, multireligious country with no open disputes among ourselves or with our neighbors. We have become a role model.”

Less partisan observers point to flaws in North Macedonia’s democratic credentials, but there is no doubt that “everyone perceives Macedonia as a positive story,”

An important corner of Europe‘Outside pressure brought results’A Westward-looking country‘The only functioning multiethnic state in the region’The Prespa agreement

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