Macedonians are in a state of shock today as the
first incomplete reports of the death of their president, Boris Trajkovski,
start to filter back from Bosnia, where the president and 8 others died early
this morning in a plane crash, in mountainous terrain near Mostar.
"This is unbelievable… no one could imagine that something like this could
happen to President Trajkovski," said one stunned man in Skopje. On the
capital’s radio stations, the quiet elegiac music is suspended only for brief
updates giving new information on the crash.
to Bloomberg, citing SFOR in Bosnia, Trajkovski's plane crashed near Stolac,
a mountainous area near Croatia's southern coast. While the wreckage of the
plane has been discovered by Bosnian search teams, only 4 bodies have so far
been found. However, everyone aboard- Trajkovski, 6 advisors, guards and the
two-man crew- are presumed dead.
Stormy weather that prevented the landing of other delegation planes is the
most likely cause of the crash, according to Belgrade’s B-92. Macedonia’s TV-5
just reported that a Macedonian search team has just been dispatched to Bosnia,
along with officers from the EU’s Proxima police force serving in Macedonia.
The plane crash, called "one of the most tragic days in the history of the
Republic of Macedonia," by Mirjana Kontevska of the Interior Ministry, will mean
a dramatic surge in temporary security in this state without a president: "…we
are putting extra security on the Parliament, government buildings and Petrovec
Airport, and also pay greater attention to our borders and local controls."
The other persons killed were: Trajkovski’s cabinet advisors, Dimka
Ilkovska-Boskovic, Risto Blazevski, Anita Lozanovska, as well as Mile Krstevski
from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs; two security guards, Boris Velinov and Ace
Bozinovski; and the plane’s two pilots, Markom Markovski and Branko
In a sad irony, the 47 year-old Trajkovski was on his way to an investment
conference in Mostar, just as Macedonia’s EU application was about to be officially
presented in Ireland by Prime Minister Branko Crvenkovski, said Irish Prime
Minister Bertie Ahern. Ireland is the current honorary president of the European
Union. Trajkovski, who was planning to celebrate Macedonia's application in
Mostar, had worked tirelessly towards the goal of making Macedonia an EU member.
Told of the president's death, Crvenkovski was called back immediately and is
now in Skopje.
Macedonian Radio 77 reported that Skopje’s newspaper ‘Dnevnik’ will print a
special commemorative issue devoted to Trajkovski at 3 PM, to be given out for
free. Trajkovski, from the southeastern town of Strumica, was a lawyer by training
and one of the founders of the modern VMRO-DPMNE party. He was elected by the
party in 1999, and presided over Macedonia’s most difficult period: the turbulence
brought on by NATO’s Kosovo bombardment and the 2001 war, with its uncertain
aftermath. Through it all, Trajkovski was firmly pro-American. Although he was
sometimes criticized, Macedonians felt a gentle fondness for their president.
To be sure, he inspired none of the dislike or hatred that most other politicians
in the country have.
Condolences from world leaders have started to come in to Skopje. Tony Blair
and Jack Straw of the UK expressed their sadness, calling Trajkovski one of the
most important people in making peace after the 2001 conflict. Bosnian president
Covic said, "…We today lost a friend." According to Bloomberg, European
Commission President Romano Prodi stated, "…we all owe very much to Boris
Trajkovski and my sincere hope is that his vision will be a legacy for all
Macedonians and will strengthen even further their determination to join the
European institutions soon."
Nobody knows what will happen next in Macedonia. "This issue changes
everything immediately," says one man close to Trajkovski’s circle. The country
is now without a president, and elections slated for the end of the year will
probably be bumped up. For now, Parliamentary speaker Ljubco Jordanovski will
serve as acting president.
The future of Macedonia’s relations with Europe may now change as well. Croatian President
Stipe Mesic said Trajkovski's death will have "political consequences" for
"…it is a human loss which hits not only his family and the republic of
Macedonia but will have political consequences for the situation in the
This afternoon I was supposed to meet Boris at the conference on investment
in Bosnia. Together with him and the presidents of other states we worked on
the program of stabilization and reconciliation in southeastern Europe. Boris
won't be with us today, but we shall I'm convinced continue the work on which
Boris worked too. This will be the best way to continue our joint road."
Comments such as Mesic’s and Prodi’s are the first statements of many to come
in the days and weeks ahead seeking to locate the legacy of Boris Trajkovski.
Most likely, he will be eulogized as a moderate figure who tried to preserve the
territorial integrity of Macedonia, while reaching out to the Albanian minority.
Trajkovski constantly traveled during his 5 years in office, in efforts to raise
money and win investments for the little Balkan state. As was the case with the
shocking assassination of Serbian counterpart Zoran Djindjic almost exactly one
year ago, it is likely that the occasional grumblings against Trajkovski will be
forgiven, and that he will be remembered as a symbol for the kind of
multi-ethnic, European-oriented Macedonia that seems to be the common goal of
Macedonia’s leaders and the West alike.
A clear example insinuating this was the statement of NATO
Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, who said that Trajkovski
"…demonstrated great leadership to preserve the unity of his country when it was
"…In difficult circumstances, and in the face of opposition from many, he
guided the peace process in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia… I pay
tribute to this courageous statesman who fought to ensure that democratic values
would prevail in his country."