A myth about the possible landfilling of radioactive waste in the area around the military range “Krivolak” has been very often brought up in the North Macedonian Euro-Atlantic integration debate. Yet, this myth has never been challenged by facts, i.e. the law.
The main arguments presented in portals construct the following narrative: The Republic of North Macedonia becomes a party to the North Atlantic Treaty (NATO member country); NATO soldiers from all around the world arrive and military trainings are conducted; radioactive waste gets imported and/or radioactive munition waste is landfilled around Krivolak.
For this theory to exceed the territory of an unfounded speculation, a reasonable person would ask two basic questions: 1) What’s the change of North Macedonia’s status by transforming from country partner to a country member of NATO? and 2) Are there any applicable international or national laws regulating radioactive waste disposal?
Macedonia joined the Partnership for Peace in 1995. From then, the country participated in various NATO missions. In terms of training, under the NATO regulations “Alliance exercises are supported by NATO countries and, as appropriate, by partner countries, which provide national commitments in the form of troops, equipment or other types of support.” Hence, North Macedonia, by being country partner to NATO, has already been involved in these processes, too. With full membership the state would become a party with the same rights and obligations as any other member. That practically means that North Macedonia would have its representative in NATO’s two strategic commands which develop the Military Training and Exercise Programme. That also means that the North Macedonian territory would be regulated by the same standards and procedures as any other member country. Today NATO has 29 member states, with North Macedonia, in a process of ratification by the national Parliaments, to become the 30 member state. After 70 years all the members became stronger and more powerful together.
Radioactive waste, on the other hand, is a highly regulated type of waste both on national and international level. In international law, radioactive waste management from civil applications, but also military or defense programs when declared so, is governed by the Joint Convention on the Safety of Spent Fuel Management and on the Safety of Radioactive Waste Management. In the Republic of North Macedonia, also a party to the Joint Convention, radioactive waste is then closely regulated by a separate Law on Protection Against Ionizing Radiation and Radioactive safety. The Law expressly prohibits any import of radioactive waste. Moreover, it stipulates strict regime of its collection, storage, conditioning, transport or disposal.
How did the narrative evolved?
During August, 2018, the narrative about Krivolak and radioactive ammunition and / or depo found its’ way on the internet portals skopjeinfo.mk and kurir.mk with the same headline “THE RETURNING OF NATO AT KRIVOLAK WILL BRING RADIOACTIVE AND CANCEROUS DUST IN SKOPJE?., The topic was massively discussed on social media the day before. Both texts are inspired by a post from a profile on Facebook. It is a matter of debate whether a source from Facebook is up to the relevance and accuracy of its claims.
The narrative was boosted using joint exercise at the Military range Krivolak between the US Army and the Army of Republic of North Macedonia. The claims on the social media and the portals were denied by the Ministry of defense “The Ministry of Defense seriously denies any claims that neither current, nor future training nor exercises of our NATO partners at the Krivolak range are of any danger to the health of citizens, nor will they ever use depleted uranium bombs. Such lies are aimed at boosting distrust of NATO by the public and are being employed as part of a negative campaign for the upcoming referendum. People should be calm, Macedonia’s NATO membership brings uniquely greater safety and security for our country”. The same anti-NATO narrative continued in October and November yet again using the “radioactive” as a key word. The narrative was recycled in February, 2019, just few days after the Signing ceremony for Accession of Republic of North Macedonia in NATO.
The narratives as presented were constantly reminding the readers of the anti-NATO and anti-Prespa agreement associations. Associations could derive subjectively or objectively. What is undisputable, however, is that repeated narratives influence our associations. Propaganda targets those hooks and very carefully serves the right feed at the right time. So, one could easily detect how every time North Macedonia’s NATO accession was becoming more feasible, the public discourse was fueled by the same anti-NATO narrative, bringing out as a leading argument one of the most vivid associations: the radioactive waste landfill – Krivolak. Experts, analysts, media and their wording might differ, however the essence of the narrative remains the same.
This project was funded in part through a U.S. Embassy grant. The opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed herein are those of the implementers/authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the U.S. Government.