Comparing and Contrasting North Macedonia’s “Liberal Consociationalism” to Northern Ireland's Power-Sharing Model

STSM start and end date: 05/06/2023 to 04/06/2023
Grantee name: Ognen Vangelov
Host institution:Queen’s University-Belfast
Home institution:University American College-Skopje

Statement about the STSM:

During my stay in Belfast from June 5 to June 14, 2023, I conducted extensive preliminary research on power- sharing in Northern Ireland. With access to Queen’s University of Belfast’s McClay Library, I surveyed recent literature and interviewed esteemed professors including Dr. Rupert Taylor, Dr. Keith Breen, Dr. Adrian Guelke, Dr. John Garry, Dr. James Pow, and Dr. Peter McLoughlin. Through hour-long interviews, I explored various aspects of power-sharing since the Good Friday Agreement, aiming to uncover strengths, weaknesses, and enhance sustainability. We also discussed potential collaborations on a comparative study between Northern Ireland and North Macedonia, resulting in impactful publications and scholarly exchange.

STSM purpose:

The purpose of my Short-Term Scientific Mission (STSM) in Belfast, from June 5 to June 14, 2023, was to conduct a focused exploration of power-sharing in Northern Ireland for the purpose of a comparative structured study including Northern Ireland and North Macedonia. My primary objective was to engage in comprehensive preliminary research at the Queen’s University-Belfast and conduct interviews with esteemed professors. Through these activities, I aimed to gain important insights into the implementation and challenges of power- sharing since the Good Friday Agreement. Additionally, I aimed to establish collaborations for a comparative study between Northern Ireland and North Macedonia, with the goal of producing impactful publications and fostering scholarly exchange in the field of power-sharing.

Description of the work carried out during the STSM:

During my stay in Belfast, which encompassed the period from June 5, 2023, to June 14, 2023, I immersed myself in various activities that greatly contributed to my understanding of power-sharing in Northern Ireland. I was granted visitor access to the esteemed McClay Library at Queen’s University of Belfast. Within the library’s vast collection, I embarked on an extensive survey of recent literature spanning the last fifteen years, with a specific focus on the topic of power-sharing in this region. Some of the significant works were authored by esteemed professors from Queen’s University- Belfast, and I had the honor of meeting and conducting interviews with some of these notable individuals. Among them were:

– Dr. Rupert Taylor, who serves as the editor of the influential volume titled “Consociational Theory: McGarry and O’Leary and the Northern Ireland Conflict.”

– Dr. Keith Breen, the deputy chair of the Democracy Unit at the School of History, Anthropology, Philosophy, and Politics at Queen’s University in Belfast.

– Dr. Adrian Guelke, a distinguished Professor Emeritus at Queen’s University-Belfast, renowned for his expertise in the intricate politics of deeply divided societies.

– Dr. John Garry, the Chair of the Democracy Unit at the School of History, Anthropology, Philosophy, and Politics at Queen’s University in Belfast.

– Dr. James Pow, Lecturer at the School of History, Anthropology, Philosophy, and Politics at Queen’s University in Belfast, whose profound knowledge centers around Northern Ireland politics
and consociationalism.

– Dr. Peter McLoughlin, Senior Lecturer at the School of History, Anthropology, Philosophy, and Politics at Queen’s University in Belfast, whose extensive expertise revolves around the Northern
Ireland problem and the peace process.

During my interactions with these experts, I conducted hour-long interviews, capturing their insights and perspectives on power-sharing in Northern Ireland. The interviews followed a semi-structured format, wherein I posed questions tailored to delve into various aspects of power-sharing experiences since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998. With an intention to uncover both the strengths and weaknesses of the power-sharing model, I explored a wide array of topics. These encompassed structural and institutional issues, the impact of power-sharing on inter-community dialogues, and the potential for future reforms that could enhance the effectiveness and long-term sustainability of power-sharing.

Furthermore, these experts expressed their interest in the status of power-sharing in North Macedonia. In our discussions, we recognized the potential for ongoing collaboration in conducting a comparative study, seeking to deepen our understanding of power-sharing in diverse contexts. As a result of this collaboration, I envisage the publication of articles in prestigious peer-reviewed journals, ensuring international impact and scholarly dissemination. Additionally, I am contemplating the creation of an edited volume that would involve collaborative efforts with experts from both Northern Ireland and North Macedonia. By fostering such a collective endeavor, I aim to facilitate a scholarly exchange that would contribute to a comprehensive and nuanced understanding of power-sharing dynamics.

Description of the main results obtained:

The interviews and discussions conducted during the STSM with key experts on Northern Ireland, along with the gathered material, represent an invaluable asset. The semi-structured interviews provided fresh primary information of significant importance for the structured comparative and contrasting analysis of the power- sharing models in Northern Ireland and North Macedonia.

One of the primary achievements of the STSM is the collection of firsthand insights and perspectives from experts actively involved in studying power-sharing in Northern Ireland. This primary information is crucial for understanding the nuances and complexities of the Northern Ireland model, especially in the context of the challenges it has faced over the past two decades. The model has endured strains, particularly in light of the Brexit process and the ongoing debates surrounding the future status of Northern Ireland.

Moreover, the STSM has underscored the importance of studying the power-sharing model in North Macedonia. This model, too, confronts both internal and external strains, primarily related to its EU integration process and the political dynamics within the country. By recognizing the distinct challenges faced by both models, the STSM has laid the groundwork for a comprehensive comparative analysis that contributes to the Action’s objective of advancing knowledge and understanding of power-sharing practices.

The STSM has set the stage for conducting a structured comparative and contrasting analysis of power-sharing in Northern Ireland and North Macedonia. By examining these two cases in relation to over two decades of implementation, the study will provide valuable insights into the strengths, weaknesses, successes, and failures of each model. This analysis will play an instrumental role in identifying common patterns, unique features, and potential lessons that can be learned from these cases. The aim is to generate a comprehensive understanding of power-sharing dynamics, with a particular focus on the challenges each model has encountered and the strategies employed to overcome them.

The results and findings from the structured analysis will significantly contribute to the Action’s objectives and deliverables. The comparative study will fill a gap in existing research by examining the two cases of power- sharing within a comparative framework, considering their respective historical contexts, challenges, and future prospects. This contribution will enhance the body of knowledge on power-sharing and provide policymakers, academics, and practitioners with valuable insights into the factors that influence the success and sustainability of power-sharing arrangements.

Furthermore, the STSM has paved the way for future follow-up collaborations. The discussions with experts during the STSM have highlighted a shared interest in further exploring and analyzing the power-sharing models in both Northern Ireland and North Macedonia. Plans for future collaboration may include joint research projects, comparative workshops, and the potential for additional visits and exchanges to deepen the analysis and understanding of power-sharing practices. These collaborative efforts will foster ongoing dialogue, knowledge exchange, and joint publications, ensuring the sustainability and impact of the research beyond the scope of the STSM.