Monday, July 30, 2007

USAID Provides Assistance to Help Fight Wildfires in Albania and Macedonia

The U.S. Government, through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), is providing $100,000 to assist the Governments of Albania and Macedonia in combating recent wildfires.

U.S. Charge d'Affaires Stephen Cristina declared a disaster in Albania on July 27 and U.S. Ambassador Gillian Milovanovic declared a disaster in Macedonia on July 25, both due to loss of property and livelihoods as a result of the wildfires that have swept through the respective countries.

In Albania, wildfires are active in 21 of the country's 36 districts, and the flames have destroyed 15 homes, consumed 4 fire trucks, and ravaged 4,942 acres of forest land. In addition, widespread smoke is causing health issues, particularly for women and children.

In Macedonia, heat wave-related wildfires have consumed 7,413 acres of forests in 32 municipalities, directly impacting approximately 1 million people, half of Macedonia's population. The fires have caused one death in Macedonia due to smoke inhalation and they continue to threaten vital infrastructure and lives as they approach major urban areas.

USAID will continue to monitor the situation in Albania and Macedonia and provide additional assistance as needed.

24 women held by police in Western Macedonia

Skopje. 24 women, who had worked illegally in restaurants in the regions of Gostivar, were arrested by police in Macedonia, Makfax reports.
The police operation was organized late last night in Gostivar and the villages of Cegrane, Raven and Dobro dol. According to the information, 10 of the women were from Macedonia, 9 from Serbia, 4 – from Albania and one from Bulgaria.

EC unlikely to launch talks with Macedonia any time soon

European Commission is unlikely to set a starting date for accession talks with Macedonia this year, Polish daily Gazeta Viborca said on Friday.

"There is a 99% likeability not to set the starting date for accession negotiations with Macedonia this year. We will just call on Skopje to speed up the pace of reform," an unnamed diplomat said, adding that in best case, Macedonia will join the EU by 2012.

Now, when the Balkans are much needy of support and encouragement given the progress they have made thus far, the EU negotiation process seems to be losing breath, Gazeta Viborca daily said.

"European Commission representatives have already suggested that Croatia should not be admitted to the EU in 2009 as planned," the paper said.

Gazeta Viborca added that Poland is no longer supportive of the EU enlargement process. Furthermore, Polish Foreign Minister Anna Fotiga did not attend the latest EU debate on the Balkans' future.

Most of blazes put under control, but fresh ones spill over from Greece and Albania

The massive wildfires raging across Macedonia have devastated around 3.500 hectares of forest so far, moreover, new blazes spreading spilling over from Albania and Greece have been registered today.

The Crn Vrv fire near Katlanovo, which spilled over to the village of Gradmanci on Thursday, has been contained and it no longer poses a threat to rural areas.

The fire that started at Gorna Matka and spread onto Jasen is of variable intensity. It could spread further but poses no threat to rural areas.

The fire that started above the villages of Davidovo and Miravci has been contained after consuming around 1.300 hectares of forest.

The firefighters contained the blaze near the village of Sushevo, Strumica area, which scorched around 300 hectares of mainly oak forest.

The fire that broke out near the village of Krushino, Kicevo area, spread onto oak forest. A firefighting airplane Canadair intervened. An airplane also intervened to contain the fire near the villages of Gorna Jakupica and Gorno Jabolciste, Veles area. The blaze stall rages in this area.

Тhe blazes have destroyed forests, pastures and rangeland. Around 1.000 hectares of oak forest and pine forest had been scorched in the area of Bratic Dol - Kocevski Vrv in Bitola's outskirts. A firefighting airplane Canadair assisted the efforts to contain the blaze that burned out of control.

The fire near the Lari Company mining filed in the area of the village of Nebregovo is threating to spread mainly because the inaccessibility of the terrain.

The fire that spread over from the neighboring Albania has already consumed 50 hectares of land at the Vojtino-Galacica stretch. Canadair plane is used there too.

The foothill of the Belasica Mountain has also been scorched by the blazes that spilled over from Greece.

Macedonia gives up honoring Ilinden in Prohor Pcinjski monastery

Macedonia has withdrawn the request for Serbia's approval for sending a state delegation to visit Prohor Pcinjski monastery and mark the National Holiday Ilinden, Macedonian Foreign Ministry's spokeswoman Shpresa Jusufi told Makfax today.

She pointed out that the decision resulted from last night's reviewing of all elements relevant to the request. The Interior Ministry decided that "besides the Serbian Foreign Ministry's good will, certain circles have demonstrated a great deal of reluctance for this activity to take place".

"As long as necessary conditions are not in place, Macedonia won't request to be allowed to honor 2nd of August in Prohor Pcinjski", the spokeswoman added.

The last time a Macedonian state delegation paid a visit to the monastery in the frameworks of activities aimed at observation of the 2nd of August - National Holiday "Ilinden" was back in 2005.

Macedonia will not kneel before Serbian gov’t

Nikola Gruevski stated Saturday stated that Macedonia withdrew its request to the Serbian government about granting access to the state delegation set to visit the monastery of Prohor Pčinjski, the usual site of Macedonian celebration of the August 2 national holiday of Ilinden.

“We waited three weeks for Serbian government’s reply that never came. Five days ahead of August 2 we decided to withdraw our request since we have estimated we had better stop begging and kneeling before the Serbian government and the SPC,” Gruevski said.

“It is humiliating that we have to wait until the very last day for their decision. The Macedonian people are watching television each night anticipating what would happen.”

He added that Macedonia should abandon all attempts to visit the monastery until the Macedonian and Serbia churches settle their dispute.

President Branko Crvenkovski noted that Gruevski’s move was hasty, adding that the visit to the place where the Anti-Fascist National Liberation Council of Macedonia (ASNOM) had it first meeting on August 2, 1944, should not have been canceled.

The battler in the Balkans

Gligor Tashkovich, its minister for foreign investment, declared the landlocked Balkan state open for business when he made a three-day flying visit to New Zealand last week.

It was one of more than 15 countries he has canvassed in the past 11 months, in what could be described as a hard sell.

He told Reserve Bank governor Alan Bollard that he wanted Kiwi exporters to look at his country as an investment hub, a "Singapore of Europe".

Fighting stereotypes and a global ignorance of what, and where, Macedonia was, the tall American-accented minister politely countered suggestions that people might laugh at investing in his country.

"It makes much sense to be in Macedonia where you have wage costs as low as China, you have free trade agreements, lower transportation costs, and the lowest taxes in Europe," he said.

The former Socialist Republic of Macedonia gained full independence from Yugoslavia in 1991.

Its centre-right government is only 11 months old, coming into power last year on the basis of dealing to corruption and anti-globalisation sentiment.

Previous ruling parties had put up barriers to foreign investment, which the current government was trying to break down, Mr Tashkovich said.

Cutting the time required to register a business from 48 days to four hours was a good example.

The next step was to be part of Europe, and an expected 2008 invitation to start the process to join the European Union was on the table.

The new government had made a public show - sometimes too public - of prosecuting officials found to be taking payments for services, including customs officers, police officers and doctors, Mr Tashkovich said.

As a result, investment in mining and manufacturing had shifted from neighbours such as Bulgaria to Macedonia.

Born and educated in the United States, where his father was in political exile, Mr Tashkovich returned to Macedonia to follow in the footsteps of his grandfather, a senator and political leader for nine years till 1946.

The thing that drew him back was a personal plea from the new president of Macedonia when he returned with his family for a visit in 1992.

"He said `Look around you, see what you take for granted in America and make it happen here'."

Mr Tashkovich started by bringing in Time magazine as the country's first English-language publication and went on to lobby financial institutions, airlines and corporates to open up shop.

"I took (the president) literally."

With at least 15 countries visited in less than a year, some of them up to six times, he spends only about five days a month at home.

Despite his mission, he said the salvation of Macedonia lay not just in foreign capital.

"We have very high unemployment - foreign investment is not the answer to that."

With thousands of university graduates looking for employment, short-term work contracts in Australia, Canada, Britain and Qatar would elevate Macedonians' limited understanding of the world, he said.

"Macedonia lives in a time warp. It makes it very difficult to integrate with Europe and talk about things like anti-corruption."

Skopje commemorates 44th anniversary of devastating earthquake

Skopje commemorates the 44th anniversary of the devastating earthquake that killed 1.070 people and injured around 3.300.

The quake, measuring 6.1 degrees on the Richter scale, lasted 17 seconds. A number of buildings, public facilities and almost 80 percent of homes of the city's residents had been destroyed.

The earthquake heavily damaged the railway station, the Officers Club, the Post Building, National Bank building, Makedonija Hotel, the three theatres, the National Library building, the National Museum of History and many other insignia of the capital.

Shortly after the devastating earthquake, Skopje turned into a city of worldwide solidarity. Aid comprising rescue teams, medicines, tents, blankets, clothes and other basics had arrived from all around the world. Thanks to foreign aid, the city started to function within a short period. A number of districts and facilities had been rebuilt, giving the city a new image.

The families of the victims and the city authorities will place wreaths at the monument of those killed in the earthquake at Butel cemetery.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Croatians mull investments in Macedonia

A number of Croatian business people unveiled investments in Macedonia, encouraged by Agrokor's plans to invest 200 million euros in the country.

"Since Agrokor broke the ice, announcing EUR 200 million worth of investments in Macedonia in the coming years - purchase of fruit and vegetable centers, retail sector - 25 supermarkets - and food industry - other Croatian businesses also announced their campaigns to Macedonia," Vecernji List daily said.

The paper quotes Croatian Agriculture Minister Petar Cobankovic as saying Croatian investments in Macedonia could soon exceed the value of those in Serbia.

Macedonia is the third economic and trade partner to Croatia, after the EU and Serbia. There is a lot of space for further bilateral cooperation, especially in agriculture and food industry, as there are no open issues between the two countries.

Situation with wildfiers critical


Bitola fire has been contained, but dozen large-scale wildfires still rage across Macedonia, the Crisis Management Center said on Wednesday. Helicopters and airplanes will assist the firefighting efforts in dozen sites where the wildfires are still burning - the village of Smojmirovo, Berovo area, Carevic near Pletvar, Premka-Rbetino, Kicevo area and Rotince, Tetovo area. The fire restarted at Skopje's nearby village of Sveta Petka. The Katlanovo fire is still active. The fire spilled over to the village of Gradmanci and Sveti Nikole. The fire near Jasen national park is of variable intensity and still active. Forest fire has been reported at Skopska Crna Gora, near the village of Rastak. The fire that started near Ljuboten burned out of control and spread on to the village. The Mala Reka fire, near Kitka, eased early on Wednesday but it can restart as daily temperatures are expected to rise. Raovic fire is still burning, whilst the blazes at Gorna Matka have been partially contained. In one of the worse fire seasons ever in Macedonia, the most serious blaze in Bitola's outskirts has been contained. Beside the firefighting efforts on the ground, Croatia's Kanader airplane assisted the operation. The fire near the village of Bucin, Krusevo area, burned out of control as the firefighting efforts are hampered by inaccessible terrain, extremely high temperatures and strong winds. The fire just outside Strumica's village of Sushevo is still active and it spreads onto Turkia dam. The fire burned out of control after consuming 10 hectares of forest and rangeland. Through significant assistance from locals, the blaze near the village of Bogomila was put out. The other two fires near the village of Bistrica and Cresnevo have not been contained yet. The fire in the municipality of Gevgelija, near the village of Davidovi is still not contained. The blaze consumed some 600 hectares of forest. Wildfire broke out in the area of Pusta Kula, along the highway. ARM soldiers were battling the blaze, which spread onto vineyards near Veles-Skopje highway. Firefighting airplanes from Turkey, Austria and Switzerland are expected to arrive in Macedonia today to help the country hope with the worse fire season ever.

More countries pledge help in efforts to contain fires sweeping across Macedonia


Slovenia, Turkey, Austria and Switzerland as well as the US army forces on Kosovo have joined Croatia and Slovenia and offered to help Macedonia in fighting fires that have been sweeping across the country for days.

Macedonian PM Nikola Gruevski announced this today, informing that "help from Croatia has already arrived and we are expecting the Slovenian helicopter to land any moment now".

He added that Turkish Canadair and a helicopter and one more helicopter from Austria are due to arrive in Macedonia by tomorrow morning.

"We are doing everything in our power, but while we fight to localize the existing ones, new blazes are breaking out at many locations scattered all over the country", Gruevski said.

Balkan's electric power system collapses


As of 16:00 hrs Tuesday afternoon, the entire territory of the Republic of Macedonia along with a good part of the Balkan's region is experiencing a major power outage.

According to the sources of REK Bitola - the main power plant in the country - the collapse came after Greece pulled excessive quantity of electricity from the network, which triggered the preventive protection system of the plant which shut down three units of the plant.

The same sources said that their teams are working on putting the units back into operation
and establish synchronization among the systems.

An unofficial information says that the initial outage broke out in Serbia's network, triggering collapse of the Kosovo and Montenegro's systems.

The power supply has been already partially restored in Macedonia as the reconnection into power distribution system is carried out gradually to prevent overloading of the system.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Nearly 20 fires rage across Macedonia

Nearly 20 wildfires rage across Macedonia, posing a grave threat to populated areas as heatwave tightens grip on the country.

Crisis Management Center said some of the blazes have been put out but dozen other fires, fanned by strong winds, still sweep across the country.

The fire at Jasen national park has been put under control. The firefighters put out the blazes at Kula and Jasen.

Galicica National Park is undergoing a serious threat of wildfire because a major wildfire has been reported on Albania's side of the border.

Crisis Management Center says the fire that rages in Skopje's village Raovik near Matka over the past few days poses the most serious threat to local population.

The firefighters who were battling the blaze in Katlanovo, had managed to put the fire under control. Airplanes arrived at the scene shortly after day break Monday to help the firefighters and volunteers, but the fire is still on. A total of 14 fire vehicles, 70 firefighters and 100 soldiers of the ARM battled the blaze.

A fire rages in Tetovo's village of Cerovo for more than three days. The blaze spread into the area near Erebino military warehouse. Other fire sweeps across the village of Merovo, destroying 50 to 100 hectares. Other blazes, reported on Sunday, still sweep across Zelino, Strimica and Dolan Lesnica. The fire is still on, covering an area of 30.000 square meters.

Wild fire destroyed some 30 hectares of oak forest in the municipality of Demir Hisar. The fire that broke out in the village of Suvodol one week ago, spread onto the village of Bucin, fanned by strong winds towards the village of Sveta.

Crisis Management Center says active fires are still on in Krusevo area, Kicevo area and near the villages of Carevic and Rabetino.

VMRO-DPMNE and DUI have not signed any secret agreement

Skopje. VMRO-DPMNE and DUI have not signed any secret agreement, or annex to the Ohrid Agreement. They have agreed on three issues in the previous talks and for the same number of issues they failed to agree, PM Nikola Gruevski said at Monday's 60th parliamentary emergency session which was initiated by Gjorgji Orovcanec from New Alternative party, Macedonian agency MIA informed.
The only item on the agenda is reaching parliamentary agreement for improvement of all necessary reform processes, which Macedonia as candidate country for NATO membership and start of the talks for EU admission, should and must be finished effectively.
No new secret agreement is signed or annex to the Ohrid Agreement or new Framework Agreement. Three issues are agreed and international community suggests to be fulfilled. We have agreed on three issues, 45 laws for which double majority is needed to become part of the Rules of Procedure after the adoption of the Rules of Procedure one member from the authority of the Committee for Relations between the Communities to be replaced by official of the opposition parties of the Macedonian bloc, and the law on Committee of Ethnic Communities is necessary.
Three issues which are not agreed, Gruevski said, include DUI's request for passing the law on use of the languages, the status of the former NLA members and election of government according to Badinter principle.
In regard to these requests VMRO-DPMNE and DUI show fundamental differences. Fulfilment of these requests was promised by the previous government, of SDSM. But we were not present at those talks and we are not in a position to fulfil somebody else's promises, Gruevski said.
He appealed to the opposition to support the Government in the efforts in full carrying out of the reforms. - At this point when the NATO door is open for us, when we are to finish all obligations connected with gaining the date for negotiations with the EU, we should surpass all party interests and to direct towards national, state interest. We should not quarrel and to conduct marathon discussions because it will not lead Macedonia in the EU. We should focus on concentrated work of the Parliament, and political debates to continue in direction to Macedonia's membership in the NATO and the EU, Gruevski recommended.

'WWI spirits' dug up in Macedonia

A remote Macedonian mountain village is at the centre of a treasure hunt for bottles of what is thought to be vintage cognac from World War I.

Farmers in Gradesnica have unearthed what they say are cases of spirits from trenches once used by French soldiers.

Visitors from France have joined locals scouring the former battlefield in the hope of finding some of the liquor.

Valued at thousands of euros a bottle, it is said to have survived a German shell strike that killed many soldiers.

The first case of 15 bottles was reportedly unearthed by villagers in the south of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia about 15 years ago.

Several further batches, containing about 12 bottles each, are said to have been found in subsequent digs.

'Delicious'

At least two cases were reportedly found by a sharp-eyed villager who noticed a glint in the ground.

The liquor could fetch at least 5,000 euros (£3,360) per bottle, according to Skopje University expert Mihail Petkov.

The professor of oenology said: "The villagers told me they have tasted a wonderful, delicious, very strong alcoholic beverage.

"I don't think wine would stay drinkable after 90 years so I think it's probably cognac, as its quality improves with age. People have been coming from France to look for it."

He explained that French wine-producers once had to pay a military tax, which they met by supplying wine and spirits directly to the army.

Stefan Kovacevski, 64, is one of the locals who has tasted the find.

He told the Associated Press news agency: "At first we were afraid to taste the dark, thick liquid. But this must be what people mean by the nectar of the gods."

In 1916, Gradesnica was at the heart of fighting during a drive by Allied forces to bolster Serbia and halt the advance of the Central Powers' troops.

Cosmotelco to invest EUR500 million into WiMAX network in Macedonia

The Greek company Cosmotelco unveiled plans today for investing 500 million euros in the wireless electronic communications in Macedonia.

The Head of Cosmotelco Dimitrios Contominas announced the investment at a press conference staged shortly after the Macedonian Electronic Communications Agency approved the WiMAX license to the company on Monday morning.

Contominas said that this investment refers to the initial stage only, which will be followed by new investments very soon.

He briefed that Cosmotelco had already registered a daughter-company in Skopje under the name Americom. A joint venture with US strategic partners with extensive investing background is in question, Contominas said, stating no names.

The Head of Cosmotelco said that the company's investment operations would encompass all fields related to electronic communication, meaning that in addition to the announced fields spanning television, internet and telephony, Cosmotelco would pursue activities in the electronic medicine, forests protection, education, science and other areas.

Contominas said he was hopeful that his company would start operations in early of 2008.

"Our aim is to make the internet connection affordable and accusable to every citizen of the Republic of Macedonia. This goes for literally every village and not only the bigger towns and cities, Contominas said.

Dora Bakoyannis threatens Macedonia with a veto

Skopje. The temporary agreement between Macedonia and Greece does not mean that Athens is deprived of the freedom to block the membership of its neighbor in International organizations under the name of Former Yugoslavian Republic of Macedonia, Dora Bakoyannis, Foreign Minister of Greece, said talking to Greek media, Utrinski Vesnik reports.
According to Bakoyannis, the temporary agreement is a document, which regulates which actions could not be undertaken by the parties, which have signed it.

Macedonian villagers unearth vintage French cognac left by WWI troops

GRADESNICA, Macedonia: Ninety years ago, a German artillery shell exploded in a battlefield trench in this remote mountain village, killing a band of French soldiers during World War I.

But their spirits live on in Gradesnica: A liquid fortune in vintage cognac and wine — army rations that since 1916 have matured into an exquisite elixir — lies buried in the old trenches.

Villagers unearthed the first case about 15 years ago. Since then, digs have yielded several cognac caches, usually containing about two dozen bottles each.

"At first, we were afraid to taste the dark, thick liquid," said resident Stefan Kovacevski, 64. "But ... this must be what people mean by the nectar of the gods."

Some have been discovered by farmers plowing fields while at least two batches came to light after a glint in the sand of an old trench caught a villager's eye.

There's more to it than a good tipple. The old-fashioned cognac bottles can fetch up to €5,000 (US$6,800) from collectors, according to Mihail Petkov, professor of viticulture and oenology at Skopje University.

"What the villagers drank was probably a cognac, not a wine. The wines were intended to be consumed immediately ... and not to last for a long period of time," he said.

"But with cognac the situation is different — the older, the better," Petkov said.

He explained that wine producers in France were obliged to pay a military tax by preparing certain amounts of wine and spirits for the army.

Gradesnica lies in the heart of the Mariovo region, near the border with Greece, some 200 kilometers (125 miles) south of the Macedonian capital, Skopje. There is no asphalt road, and during the harsh winters, the village is cut off from the rest of the world. Only army vehicles can get through with necessary supplies.

"This is probably the most beautiful part of the country, forgotten by all," said Dano Popovski, 64, owner of the only shop in the village.

But in 1916, Gradesnica was at the heart of the fighting during a drive by Allied forces to support Serbia and stop the advance of Axis troops.

"On this side were Germans and Bulgarians. On the other side of the front line were the French and their Serbian allies," said Najdo Koleskovski, 56.

He said it was in the nearby village of Gruniste, where he lives, that villagers unearthed the first case of 15 bottles.

Holding up three empty bottles of WWI wine and cognac, he reminisces about how he and three friends drank all the bottles he found over several days.

"It was the best drink I ever had in my life," he said.

Gruniste, without electricity and home to four cattle farmers, lies on what was the French side of the front.

Villagers say foreigners — including many French — are scouring the area for cognac, maps in hand. None of the villagers said they had sold any of the bottles.

"Nothing tastes better, and that is why the French come here," said Petar Sindevski, 73, from the village of Staravina.

"There must be a lot of stocks of cognac or wine buried in this area," he said. "It is a real treasure."

When Sindevski dug up a bottle of cognac in a former trench, he couldn't believe his eyes.

"When I heard the sound of glass while digging in the land, the last thing I could imagine was that I would excavate an old bottle of cognac," he said.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Dulic: Serbia will respond if Macedonia recognizes independent Kosovo

Serbia will respond adequately if Macedonia recognizes some kind of independence of Kosovo, Serbian Parliament Speaker Oliver Dulic said today after meeting with the Macedonian Parliament Speaker Ljubisha Georgievski.

Dulic also said that Serbia expects from its neighbors, including Macedonia, to restrain from making the negotiating process on the status more difficult.

Macedonian Parliament Speaker on his part said that Macedonia was and still is a great friend to Serbia.

Serbian Parliament Speaker also held talks with Macedonian PM Nikola Gruevski, who reiterated the stance that Macedonia supports Martti Ahtisaari's plan.

War Clouds Over Kosovo

July 19, 2007: Will resolving Kosovo's "final status" spark the regional war the U.S. tried to avoid in the 1990s? Ethnic Albanians in Macedonia have said they would go to Kosovo to fight for Kosovar independence should the UN decide to deny Kosovo independence, or even delay it. The head of a Macedonian "Albanian veterans" group recently said that if the UN decision "continues to be delayed," then Macedonian Albanians should be prepared to help Kosovo. This could be the trigger for a scenario that has concerned almost everyone – a new Balkan war pitting Albanians against Serbs and Montenegrins.

July 14, 2007: UN officials are openly criticizing Russia for opposing the independence resolution. Russia can cause real problems for the UN. The biggest concern was that putting off a decision on Kosovo's final status would simply increase unrest in Kosovo.

July 10, 2007: Greece fired its ambassador to Macedonia. The ambassador got in trouble by saying that Greece must accept that the country of Macedonia has been recognized "under its constitutional name" by around half of the members of the UN. The constitutional name? Macedonia. Greece, however insists on calling Macedonia "The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia" (FYROM). That's because Greece fears that Macedonia may ultimately try to claim the Greek province of Macedonia.

Macedonia in flames, government convenes for emergency session

An emergency session of the government is under way, following the alarming spread of fires across the country.

Friday afternoon, PM Gruevski paid a visit to the Skopje’s nearby village of Katlanovo, where a raging blaze threatens to halt the traffic at the Skopje-Veles highway.

According to the PM, vast areas of natural treasure are facing massive devastation.

Gruevski added that all available services have been included in the efforts to contain the fires, stating that if the situation deteriorates further, the government might make a call for a helping hand to other countries.

Furthermore, President Branko Crvenkovski sent a request to the ARM Chief of Staff Miroslav Stojanovski to assign 200 servicemen to help and localize the blazes.

According to the competent authorities, most of the fires have been caused deliberately or accidentally by humans.

Munchmellow cookies meet food safety standards

Chocolate cookies Munchmellow Classic that have been imported in Macedonia are safe and they conform to food safety and good quality standards, Ministry of Health said of Friday.

Laboratory testing of samples of Munchmellow Classic cookies, produced by Serbian Jaffa Crvenka, that are being sold throughout the country, showed no presence of salmonella bacteria.

The tests were conducted at the National Health Care Institute in Skopje as well as in health-care institutes in Bitola, Strumica and Stip. All samples of the four imported shipments of Munchmellow Classic tested negative of salmonella, the ministry said.

Croatian retail chains decided to withdraw Jaffa's Munchmellow cookies from the shelves, under suspected presence of salmonella. The official analysis, however, showed that the cookies are safe.

Colgate toothpaste sold in Macedonia safe for use

Colgate toothpastes are safe for use as the quality analyses showed their composition is compliant with the prescribed regulation, the State Sanitary and Health Inspectorate announced today.

Inspectors took 22 random samples of the toothpaste of this brand from the Skopje-based vendors to carry out biochemical and microbiological analysis, which proved it safe for use.

China supports Macedonia's constitutional name

The People's Republic of China supports the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Macedonia, its constitutional name and other national interests, Macedonian FM Antonio Milososki stated after Thursday's meeting with his Chinese counterpart Yang Jiechi in Beijing. The cooperation between the two countries will continue at the very high level, Milososki said, emphasising that Macedonia supports "One China" policy.

- During the talks we emphasised the mutual support not only at bilateral but also at multilateral level mainly in regard to national interests. It was mutually assessed that the cooperation will continue at significantly higher level and in the frameworks of the UN having in mind the fact that Macedonia succeeded to won support from all member states for its president of the 62nd General Assembly, Milososki said.

Yang Jiechi welcomed the reforms being conducted by the Macedonian government and expressed preparedness for intensifying the economic ties. - We concluded that strengthening the economic cooperation is necessary which among other things foresees promotion of Macedonia as place for potential Chinese investments especially in the sphere of modern technology, Milososki said.

Yang Jiechi suggested Macedonia and China to mutually prepare for celebration of the 15th anniversary of establishment of the diplomatic relations.

Milososki is to visit the National People's Congress Standing Committee, China Council for Promotion of International Trade (CCPIT) and Haier Group.

Macedonian FM Antonio Milososki, who is paying a three-day visit to the People's Republic of China, Wednesday in Shanghai met with officials of the Council for Promotion of International Trade (CCPIT) and ZTE, one of the China's leading telecommunications equipment manufacturing companies.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Villager killed after a fight for water

An inhabitant of the Ohrid nearby village of Konjsko slew a fellow-villager after a fight that broke out for water used for watering of cattle.

P.B., 59, hit with a blunt object Srebre S., 61, who later on succumbed to the severe injury. The incident took place at the Asanzura locality Tuesday evening, the Police announced.

The wife of Srebre S. found her dead husband's body Wednesday afternoon.

P.B. has been detained by the Ohrid Police, who will face criminal charges.

Greece-Macedonia: Sticks and stones

A name dispute that has dragged on for more than a decade between the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) and neighboring Greece over has been given new life as a high-ranking Greek diplomat is summoned home and dismissed from her post.

The Greece-FYROM dispute – perhaps the most notably pedantic of the various similar disputes raging among Balkan countries since the 1990s – is a frequent cause of diplomatic outbursts. Despite its seeming insignificance, has easily intoxicated the public, with the xenophobic and intolerant nature of the dispute being reflected even in sports, theaters and literature.

There is little by the way of geopolitical strategy in the dispute, but local politics certainly plays a key role, with neither side willing to back down from their hardline stance now that the public has been consumed by the fires. Politicians who change their stance could risk re-election or be dismissed from office.

The nature of the dispute is illustrated by the fact that it has done nothing to hinder the two countries' excellent trade relations.

Macedonia gained independence from the former Yugoslavia in 1991, joining the UN in 1993 under the temporary name of the FYROM, as Greece then demanded. However, government institutions, citizens and much of the rest of the world continued to refer to the country as the Republic of Macedonia, its constitutional name.

That fact has outraged Greek officials, who say that its neighbor's claim implies territorial claims to the northern Greek province of Macedonia.

Only Greece has raised issue over the name, even though there are nearly a dozen cities, regions and mountains also bearing the name "Macedonia" – six of which are in the US, with others in Australia, Canada and Brazil.
Expending unnecessary political capital

In the latest development in late June, Greece threatened to seek a veto on Macedonia's bid to join NATO and the EU unless the name dispute was resolved in its favor.

Macedonia turned in its application for EU membership in 2004 and was accepted as a candidate in 2005, but no date has been set to start entry talks. EU officials say the name dispute is not part of the conditions for organization accession.

Still, according to the latest poll conducted in June, more than 80 percent of Greek citizens would block their neighbor's bid to join to NATO and the EU under name "Macedonia," while some 60 percent would block it regardless of which name it was registered under.

Christopher Deliso, an American journalist and director of the Balkan-interest website, Balkanalysis.com, believes that any attempt by Greece to block Macedonia's EU accession would be a major expenditure of political capital. In the end, Greece would be blamed for inhibiting the Euro-integration of the Balkans.

At this point, Macedonia is in a better position than its neighbor, since the name dispute is not among NATO and EU requirements and given the fact that most of the major world powers support Macedonia in the case or have demonstrated a complete lack of interest in the dispute. When Macedonia joins NATO and the EU, becoming an equal partner with Greece, most experts believe that it will only be a matter of time before Greece will have to admit diplomatic defeat.

But for now, the dispute rages on.
Realism dismissed

On 12 July, European Parliament adopted the report on Macedonia's progress toward EU membership and welcomed the achieved progress.

Two days earlier, the head of the Greek diplomatic mission to Skopje, Dora Grosomanidou, was summoned to Athens and dismissed after having given a statement to the press advising Greece to recognize FYROM as the Republic of Macedonia, and put an end to the 15-year dispute.

"Greece should face the new reality that Macedonia is recognized under its constitutional name by more than half of United Nations members and that Athens should show more realism on the issue," Grosomanidou, whose mandate was due to end in four months, said in the interview for the Financial Times on 5 July.

Soon after her interview, she was summoned to the office of Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis and told that there was no need for her to return to Skopje.

Some Greek media responded to the affair by suggesting that the Macedonian government had paid the Financial Times to publish the statement to further what they called Skopje's propaganda campaign. Some media also talked about Macedonia's "friendship group" in the US Congress.
Flags, symbols and constitutions

Greece was one of the few countries who refused to grant diplomatic recognition to Macedonia after it gained independence from the former Yugoslavia. In early 1994, Greece also imposed an economic blockade on the country, which lasted until a resolution was found to similar disputes over flags and constitutions in 1995. But the blockage cost the Macedonian economy an estimated US$2 billion.

After gaining independence, Macedonia used the Vergina Sun symbol on its flag, which is associated with King Philip II of Macedon – a symbol that deeply offended Greeks, who claim that it represents the birth of the Greek nation. Historians would argue that both are correct.

Other issue that led to a tense dispute between two countries was Macedonia's first post-independence constitution, which Greek officials claimed had territorial pretensions toward northern parts of the country, particularly the Greek region of Macedonia.

In that constitution, Macedonia said it would assist and make links with Macedonian nationals in neighboring countries. Greece interpreted the wording as having secessionist undertones.

An agreement was reached between the two countries under the supervision of and pressure from the international community, when Macedonian officials agreed to meet a number of Greek demands to remove the symbol. Weak diplomatic relations were then established.
Irreconcilable differences

Still, the unresolved name issue appears to be irreconcilable for the time being, with Macedonia refused to abandon its constitutional name and Greece refusing to accept it under any conditions.

In the meantime, while all UN member states have recognized FYROM, they are divided over what to call it. A number of countries recognize Macedonia's constitutional name, the Republic of Macedonia, including the US, Russia, China and 103 others. However, the constitutional name is never used in relations where a country not recognizing the constitutional name is a party.

In 1995, the UN set a 2002 deadline for reaching a solution to the name dispute – a deadline that has come and gone. Though there have been a few instances of false hope, both sides have reverted to the drawing board, rendering the dispute unsolvable.

Recently, Greek officials proposed that the country be called the "Macedonian Republic of Skopje," or even the "Macedonian Republic (Skopje)," confident that the additional of the country's capital in the name would set Greek citizens at ease. Macedonia officials overwhelmingly rejected the idea.

The closest the two sides came to a deal was in 2001, when then discussed the potential use of "Gorna Macedonia" (Upper Macedonia). But negotiations collapsed when Macedonia was engulfed in an ethnic conflict between security forces and the ethnic Albanian minority, which was rebelling for more rights and greater representation.

Two special UN mediators, Cyrus Vance and Matthew Nimitz, since 1993 have proposed various compromise solutions without much success. The latest proposal came in 2005, when Nimitz proposed using three separate names for the country, depending on the situation.

The proposal suggested that the "Republic of Macedonia" be used by those countries that had recognized the country under that name, including international institutions and organizations, while Greece should use the formula "Republic Macedonia – Skopje."

Greece rejected the proposal as unacceptable, though Macedonians had no arguments.

Since this failure, the UN has not put forward any new solutions.

While many experts believe that the name issue can only be resolved by international arbitration, often the final solution in Balkan disputes, Delisio disagrees.

According to Deliso, "It will not be possible to resolve it successfully until the perception of the debate is changed and no longer viewed as a 'winner take all' scenario. A 'compromise' could be enforced, but if done under current conditions, would not be a healthy one," Deliso said.

An enforced solution would not improve the relations between the two countries and small scale incidents would likely continue - such Macedonian authorities' move last year to change the name of Skopje's "Petrovec" airport to "Alexander the Great."

The move caused immediate outrage among Greeks because of the existence of the "Megas Alexandros" Kavala International Airport in the neighboring Greek region of Macedonia.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

A purely Greek problem

The Foreign Ministry’s recall of the Greek ambassador to Skopje shows the dead-end that Greece has reached in the dispute over a permanent name for the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM).

Theodora Grosomanidou committed the sin of commenting to a reporter for The Financial Times that “Greece has to face the new reality, as the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia has been recognized under its constitutional name by more than half of the members of the United Nations.”

What she did not need to add was that among those countries are the United States, China and Russia – which means that the big powers, all of them, have moved on and will not pay heed to Greece’s arguments. The only thing that Greece has to show for the enormous diplomatic capital that it has spent on this issue over the past 17 years is the (impatient) tolerance of its friends and the ridicule of its rivals.

However justified a country’s arguments might be on an issue – and Athens has all the right in the world to protest against Skopje’s behavior – there comes a time when its leadership has to estimate whether persisting with a specific policy is worth the long-term costs.

We need only remember that countries have fought wars and reached peace with their enemies in a less time than the dispute between Athens and Skopje has lasted. The US involvement in Vietnam began seriously in 1961 and ended 12 years later, with the Paris peace treaty in 1973.

One might say, of course, that this is not an apt example, that the dispute between Athens and Skopje does not create the same urgent need for a solution as does a war in which tens of thousands of people lost their lives.

But it is valuable for us to remember that however much passion has been aroused by the FYROM issue, it remains a dispute that is on paper, that has to do with theories, with fears, with suspicions, with history and possible future complications. But the fact that it has aroused such passions for such a long time – wherever in the world there are Greeks – shows the need for a solution.

The clash has been mighty from the start: Athens, with the grudging support of its partners in the EU (whom the conservative Mitsotakis government in the early 1990s threatened with a return of Papandreou’s PASOK in order to garner their backing) demanded the total surrender of Skopje. This entailed dropping the use of the name “Macedonia” in any form or derivative. The other side, with no way out but also with no wish to back down, gave way nowhere (other than in dropping the use of the Star of Vergina as the national emblem, something that was a bargaining chip to start with). And the political leadership in Skopje has certainly done all it can to provoke the Greeks. The renaming of their national airport as “Alexander the Great” last January is just the kind of decision that shows how right Greece was to complain about its neighbor’s irredentist propaganda – and at the same time how futile. On the one hand, Alexander the Great was a Greek warrior king who lived some 1,000 years before the Slavs who now call themselves “Macedonians” arrived on the scene; on the other, no one can stop anyone from calling himself or his airport or his dog by whichever name he chooses.

Our neighbors realize that they have won. From the moment that they can join NATO (which they will do soon) and the European Union (sometime in the future) under their temporary name (FYROM), they know that continuing their dispute with Greece will not cost them anything. When they accede to these organizations, they will be equal partners with Greece and will, in all probability, have more allies than Athens does – in which case they will achieve their renaming as “Republic of Macedonia” with few obstacles.

The dispute today is “a purely Greek problem – it’s not our problem,” a trade promotion minister in Skopje, Vele Samak, told The Financial Times in the same report that got Ambassador Grosomanidou into trouble. The fact that an experienced diplomat of Grosomanidou’s ilk incurs her ministry’s wrath simply for stating the obvious shows that Samak’s cynicism is justified. It shows also how much this problem will keep burdening Greece. When an issue which demands a serious national policy becomes a flag of convenience for every kind of political adventurism, when the sincere concerns of serious people are exploited by frivolous populists across the political and social spectrum, the problem keeps growing and cannot be solved by the main political parties that govern. But we are used to our politicians’ weaknesses. However, when the Foreign Ministry gets worked up and overreacts simply for reasons of domestic politics, then it appears that the only tactic we have is to allow ourselves to be dragged toward defeat, with the proud excuse that we never gave in, we never compromised anywhere. But is it policy to abandon the effort, to be at a loss as to the next step, to blind oneself to the facts of the situation?

Macedonia will get date for EU talks in October, says Portuguese ambassador to Skopje

Skopje. Portuguese ambassador to Skopje Alan Bergam presented Monday the priorities of Portugal’s EU Presidency and the country’s clear political will to help Macedonia quickly receive a date for EU membership negotiations, the Macedonian National Radio /MRT/ informed.
The ambassador talked to the members of Macedonia’s parliamentary committee on European affairs. According to him Macedonia will get a date for the negotiations in October and this will be 2008. However, he stressed the date will be also dependent on the upcoming meeting between European Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn, High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana and Macedonian PM Nikola Gruevski.

US supports Macedonia's NATO bid

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice expressed support for Macedonia's NATO bid during a meeting last week in Washington with Macedonian Foreign Minister Antonio Milososki. They also discussed the Kosovo situation, and Macedonia's military contributions to Iraq and Afghanistan, according to US State Department spokesman Sean McCormack.

"We have US support concerning the Adriatic Charter, and we expressed our confidence that together with the other partner countries, Macedonia has the capacity to meet the criteria and be a serious and well-prepared candidate for NATO membership, ready to accept an invitation at the Bucharest summit next year," Milososki said after the July 11th meeting.

In Washington, he met with Deputy Secretary of Defence Gordon R. England, National Security Council Director for Southeast Europe Burt Brown and US lawmakers and NGO representatives.

Although they vowed support for Macedonia's NATO bid, many officials underlined that key reforms must take place. To become a member of NATO, Macedonia must strengthen judicial reforms, fight corruption and maintain its image of a multiethnic society and functional democracy.

Milososki said the government is prepared to give it's all and demonstrate results needed to convince all Alliance members.

Concerning Kosovo's status, Milososki said he was pleased that Macedonia's position corresponded to that of the United States. "As a neighbouring country, we prefer a final status for Kosovo without intending to interfere, instead of maintaining the status quo, which is not a solution whatsoever," Milososki said. The process for Kosovo's status should not circumvent Belgrade, however. The EU should be encouraged to offer a clearer European perspective for the whole region, he said.

The visit also promoted the newly established Friendship Group in the US Congress. The group will help strengthen ties and inform the US public and lawmakers regarding Macedonia-related issues.

"The United States needed 15 years after the independence of Macedonia to recognise Macedonia's constitutional name. Today, it has been accepted by 170 UN member countries. I hope the rest will do the same," Democrat Bill Pascrell said at the group promotion event during a Capitol Hill reception organised by the Macedonian embassy in Washington.

Fresh protests against verdict in Skopje double murder case

Some 100 relatives and friends of Nehad Sulejmani and Suad Jusufi, both sentenced to life in prison for double murder, staged another protest in downtown Skopje today.

The 100-strong procession set out from the Chair settlement Monday afternoon to stop outside the Skopje's District Court. The traffic circulation at the road section stretching from the Mavrovka business center to the Skopje Fair was blocked by the protestors who chanted "We demand justice to be done".

This was the third protest prompted by displeased relatives of Sulejmani and Jusufi, who were jailed for life for vendetta killing of Branko Ivanovski and his brother-in-law Ljupco Atanasovski.

The murders that took place in Vlae district on 13 August 2006. They opened fire on Ivanovski and his brother-in-law Atanasovski, who were aboard a vehicle along with their wives.

Ivanovski and Atanasovski died on the spot from the fatal injuries. Their wives sustained severe gunshot wounds.

The reason for the apparent vendetta was the murder committed by Branko Ivanovski resulting from what started as a trivial squabble for a parking spot.

Macedonian Helsinki Committee accuses of human rights violation by legal precedent

The Macedonian Helsinki Committee (MHC) warned in its regular monthly report that a legal precedent was made, which might lead to continuous violation of the human rights.

The case in question refers to the trial of the customs officers who worked at the Deve Bair border crossing. MHC lodged an appeal to the Supreme Court on the unprecedented decision of the Skopje Appellate Court to allow evidences acquired by illegal fashion to be used in the court proceedings and serve as a basis for the ruling to the case.

The Helsinki Committee also drew attention on the "malice" the Justice Ministry demonstrates when it comes to the judicial matters and the complaisance with the political establishment.

The latter objection is prompted by the public debate on the bills on Public Prosecution and on Council of Prosecutors, in which the initiator "turned a deaf ear, demonstrating astonishing ignorance" on the suggestions of the Prosecutors and jurists, only to accept their proposal in almost identical form, but not before striking a political deal.

Defendants in Army Weapons case get cumulative sentence of 13 years in prison

Skopje District Court sentenced to a total of 13 years imprisonment four of the defendants in the Army Weapons case, and pronounced suspended sentences to the remaining four co-defendants.

The Trial Chamber Presided by judge Pavlina Hristova pronounced the verdicts, including four-year prison term to both Nelko Menkinovski, the former head of the logistics sector, and to Viktor Raichki, the former advisor on the logistics sector with the defense ministry, Macedonian Television reported.

Ilija Shkodrovski, a high-ranking officer in the ARM General Staff got three years, while Gligor Stojanov, the head of the MZT Repair Shop will serve two years in prison.

Suspended sentences were pronounced to Vladimir Lazarov, commander of ARM's WING, to Blazho Kopachev, high-ranking officer of the ARM General Staff, to Mitko Rafajlovski, the head of the procurement department with ARM General Staff, and to Toni Popovski, the head of the Veles-based training headquarter command.

The last four got three-year suspended sentence each.

According to the indictment, the convicts have damaged the state budget by $690.000 by selling out the arms by a fraction of the actual price to the Bulgarian Company Emko.

The defense lawyers announced to appeal the verdicts.

Over 2.200 illegally constructed objects in 2006

A total of 2.258 objects have been illegally constructed in Macedonia in 2006, State Statistical Office said.

According to data from the State Bureau of Statistics, apartment buildings (907) make up 40.2% of the illegally constructed objects. There are 648 illegally constructed annexes or 28.7%; 275 garages or 12.2%; 228 fences or 10.1%; 179 balconies or 7.9% and 21 stairways or 0.9%.

The vast majority of illegally constructed buildings - 509 or 56.1% account for strictly residential buildings; 86 or 9.5% mainly residential buildings; 283 or 31.2% account for office premises, and 29 or 3.2% account for recreation facilities.

Most illegally constructed objects have been reported in Skopje's municipality of Cair - 181 objects - which make up 8.0% of the total number of illegally constructed objects. Second ranked is the municipality of Karpos with 159 or 7.0%, Ohrid 0 145 or 6.4%; Radovis - 116 or 5.1%; Kisela Voda - 113 or 5.0%.

Bakoyannis: Greece opposes Macedonia's NATO entry under constitutional name


Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis reassured her colleagues in the government that Greece will not allow Macedonia be admitted to NATO under its constitutional name.

She added that Athens' position will depend on the behavior of the neighboring country.

As regards the Thursday's vote in the European Parliament on the report on Macedonia's progress toward EU, Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs qualified the vote as a positive outcome, noting that many problematic paragraphs were removed from the report.

Greek diplomat summoned home over Macedonia comments

ATHENS (Thomson Financial) - Greece's top diplomat to Macedonia has been summoned home to explain her suggestion Athens should give up its 15-year fight against the name of the tiny country, the foreign ministry said.

'Greece has to face the new reality, as the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) has been recognised under its constitutional name (Macedonia) by more than half of the members of the UN,' Dora Grosomanidou, the head of the Greek mission in Macedonia, told the Financial Times yesterday.

Greece has opposed international recognition of its neighbour under the name Macedonia since 1992 because it considers the name part of Greek heritage. There is a northern Greek province with the same name.

Macedonia joined the UN in 1993 as FYROM, but the international body's attempts to reach a solution to the controversy have so far failed.

'Grosomanidou is here so that the necessary explanations can be given,' Greek foreign ministry spokesman George Koumoutsakos told reporters. 'At this point there is no talk of a recall.'

A poll in June showed most Greeks want their government to veto a future entry into NATO by Macedonia if the name dispute is not resolved.

More than 80 percent want it blocked if it seeks to enter NATO as 'Macedonia', and 61.5 percent say Athens should also veto its entry as 'Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia', said the survey published in the To Proto Thema weekly.

Greece demands explanation from its ambassador in Macedonia

Greek Ambassador in Skopje Theodora Grosomanidou has been summoned in Athens to clarify her statement for Financial Times regarding Macedonia's name.

Ambassador Grosomanidou told the paper that Greece should be aware of the reality that half of the countries in the world have recognized Macedonia under its constitutional name.

Greek Ambassador will also meet with Greek Foreign Ministry officials to clarify her statement.

The Financial Times recently featured an article - Macedonia 2007 - saying the green light for NATO entry would cement the progress the country has made in the past six years.

In the report, the author uses the constitutional name of the Republic of Macedonia.

Portugal is for faster accession of Macedonia to the EU

In the following six months, Portugal will work intensively to create maximal political and economic conditions for new pace of the activities for Macedonia's integration to the European Union (EU).

The chief of Portugal diplomacy Luis Amado said this on the joint press conference with his Macedonian colleague Antonio Milososki, late Friday in Skopje, explaining the reason for his official visit to Macedonia.

When asked what are the chances Macedonia to start negotiations with the EU during the Portugal's presidency, Amado said that "our political will is to go as fast as possible, if the conditions, reforms and criteria are fulfilled."

"We must stabilize this region as soon as possible and every step forward is important, which will also depend on the Government of the Republic of Macedonia and the European Commission", said Amado.

He added that Portugal, at the beginning of its six-month presidency, wants to give a positive signal that Europe should enable faster accession to the entire West Balkans to the EU.

Minister Milososki said that Amado's visit shows the seriousness of Portugal's approach to the process of integration of Macedonia and the region.

"This is an additional motivation for the Government to invest all its efforts, in order during the Portugal's presidency to receive solid recommendation for commencing the negotiation process", said the chief of Macedonian diplomacy.

Surgeon from Veles hospital arrested for bribery

N.N. (63), surgeon in the Veles hospital was arrested on Friday for taking bribe of 250 Euros for performed surgery, announced the Police.

According to the official information, on Thursday law enforcing services received anonymous information that N.N. requested kickback of 250 Euros in his office from children of a patient whom he has already operated.

The money was to be given to him when the patient would leave the hospital.

The Police supplied the patient with marked money that the accused received early Friday in his office.

"After obtaining a court order, the Police searched the office of the doctor, where the money were found, and after that the surgeon was apprehended and will be transferred to Investigation Judge's custody during the day", announced the Police.

Police uncover 25 girls in nightclubs in Tetovo area

A total of 25 young women - Macedonian and foreign citizens - have been transferred to Human Trafficking Victims Shelter in Skopje following police raids in two nightclubs in Tetovo area.

The girls have been working in Oriental As club in Tetovo's village of Zerovjane and in club in Gostivar's village of Cegrene. Their status was non-regulated.

The police are yet to establish whether the girls - 11 Albanian, nine Bulgarian, two Serbian citizens, two from Skopje and one from Gostivar - have been trafficked and forced to prostitution, Interior Ministry said.

Few months ago, the police conducted a raid in Oriental As club and uncovered 10 girls, who were later brought to transit center. They refused to testify on suspected involvement in prostitution, and the police could do nothing more as the surveillance camera footage that was seized was allegedly empty.

During the raid, the police reported that two police officers not on duty were present in the club. The police were to explain their presence in the club.

Manevski:Macedonia prepared for The Hague cases

Macedonia is prepared to take the five cases from The Hague Tribunal, but the accent is put on preparation of personnel and the ability to ensure implementation of international standards.

Macedonian Minister of Justice Mihajlo Manevski said this on Thursday while answering a journalist's question, emphasizing that the state organizes preparation of personnel and undertakes other material procedures for the purpose of returning the cases from The Hague Tribunal.

He added that there is already prepared an appropriate courtroom, according to The Hague standards, in the Suto Orizari prison.

According to Manevski, the international community and the Ministry of Justice have prepared a joint programme for education of personnel, where two groups of judges and prosecutors have already went for training to The Hague and Sarajevo. Also, there is permanent training for the humanitary law, and there also obligations pending on education of court police, translators and expert workers.

The Minister of Justice denied the information that The Hague prosecutioner Carla Del Ponte said that Macedonian courts are not ready yet for returning of the cases.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Leka again freed of charges for aiding murder of baby

Parliament member Daut Rexepi-Leka, in the repeated court procedure, was again freed of charges for aiding in a murder of baby.

Tetovo's Court on Wednesday acquitted Daut Rexepi from Poroj and the primary charged Zorica Janackova from Stip, due to lack of evidence, as Makfax reports.

Janackova was accused of killing a baby of a Moldavian citizen, and Rexepi was accused of aiding the perpetrator.

The mother of the baby and the primary charged were working in the bar "Aurora" in Neprosteno, owned by Leka.

According to the prosecution act, the mother, Moldavian citizen Chernad, on 18 November 2000, gave birth to a male child, but asked Janackova to get rid of the baby, in order to continue to work as a dancer.

Janackova, according to the prosecution, left the one day old baby in a cardboard box on the locality Neprostenska Jurija, whereas Leka also aided her.

On the first trial in April 2001, the Moldavian citizen was found guilty and sentenced to 8 months in prison, while Janackova and Leka were acquitted.

The prosecution announced complaints to this second sentence.

"Atlantic Group" buys "Viciski Commerce"

Leading European manufacturer of food for athletes and vitaminized drinks "Atlantic Group" from Croatia on Monday announced acquisition in Macedonia, reports Makfax.

"Atlantic Group" bought Skopje company "Viciski Commerce", one of leading distributors on the Macedonian market.

"Atlantic Group" also is a prominent regional producer of cosmetics and personal care products, and is considered to be the leading distributor of consumer goods in Southeast Europe.

The new company in Macedonia will be named "Atlantic trade Skopje", and before the end of the year growth of turnover is planned for 20 per cent, as well as widening the range with at least six renowned world distributors.

"Atlantic Group" has 1.400 employees in several countries, owns over 30.000 selling points in the region, where it distributes world brands of consumer goods.

"Viciski Commerce" is leading Macedonian distributor of cosmetic brands and make-ups and represents many famous world brands of decorative and preparation cosmetics.

Macedonia expects serious results from Macovei

Macedonia expects serious results from Monica Macovei, new advisor on combat against corruption of the Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski.

This was said on Monday by Minister of Interior, Gordana Jankulovska, after Macovei's meeting with the Prime Minister and several Government ministers in Skopje.

"I hope to have good cooperation with the Prime Minister and the citizens, because my advices will be primarily to the people's benefit", said Macovei in her first statement for Macedonian media after the meeting with Prime Minister Gruevski, Macedonian radio reported.

Macovei announced that she will share with Macedonia her positive experience from the combat against corruption.

"I hope I will have good cooperation with the people in Macedonia, because I insist these reforms to be implemented for the people themselves", said the new advisor of the Macedonian Prime Minister.

At Macovei's meeting with the Prime Minister, besides minister Jankulovska, also were present vice-president for European integration Gabriela Konevska-Trajkovska and minister of Justice, Mihajlo Manevski.

Romania’s Anti-Graft Crusader Moves to Macedonia

Romania’s graft-fighting former justice minister, Monica Macovei, on Monday started a new job as anti-corruption adviser to Macedonia’s Prime Minister, Nikola Gruevski.

A Macedonian government spokesman, Ivica Bocevski, told Balkan Insight that Macovei’s anti-corruption drive and judicial reforms had helped transform Romania’s image and “we hope she will transfer that experience to Macedonia”.

“I will not be able to fight corruption on my own; I’m her to give advice,” Macovei said on Monday after meetings with the country’s justice and interior ministers.

The move came as a surprise in Bucharest, where Macovei is admired as a professional who made a good job in rooting out the corruption long practiced in Romania.

“During her term as justice minister Ms Macovei made fighting corruption her mission and got some clear results,” a political analyst, Cristian Ghinea, told Balkan Insight.

“Her experience and very good personal relations in Brussels are bound to help the Skopje government in its mission to tackle corruption.”

A trained lawyer who spent most of her career defending human rights, Macovei was made justice minister in December 2004, when Romania urgently needed to prove to Brussels that it was serious about fighting corruption.

Macovei, 48, entered the government as a nonparty member. While winning strong support in the European Commission and among the public, she was deeply unpopular among legislators who feared her campaign.

Pressure on Macovei to step down began as soon as Romania entered the EU. On February 13, a majority in the Senate approved a motion of censure and called on her to resign, criticizing her, accusing her of “discrediting the legislative work being done in the country”.

She was fired on April 2, her removal being precipitated by the rupture in the governing coalition between the Democratic Party, aligned with President Traian Basescu, and Prime Minister’s Calin Popescu-Tariceanu’s Liberal Party.

Three Albanians wounded in shooting at coffee house in Skopje

Skopje. Three Albanians were wounded in shooting at the Brooklyn coffee house in Skopje, the correspondent of FOCUS News Agency informed. According to the information, a car stopped in front of the coffee house and some Albanians who were inside, started to shoot. So far there is no information for the condition of the victims. The reasons for the shooting are not known.

Slovenia takes up role of EU presidency in Macedonia

As of July 1, Slovenia represents the Portuguese EU presidency in Macedonia and Montenegro, where it will perform duties on behalf of Portugal as long as Slovenia takes-over the EU presidency next January.

Slovenia, according to rules set by the European Union, will hold the role of EU presidency in Skopje and Podgorica for a period of one year, as Portugal which took over the rotating EU presidency on July 1 has no embassies in Macedonia and Montenegro.

Italy will chair the EU in Albania on behalf of Portugal. France will carry out duties in Armenia and Kuwait and Slovakia will carry out the duties of EU presidency in Belarus.

Slovenia, in line with guidelines by EU presidency, will carry out the EU activities in Skopje and Podgorica pertaining to foreign and security policy, policing and judicial co-operation in criminal matters

Invest in Macedonia or Not

This week's The Economist features full page color ad (probably
expensive) "Invest in Macedonia - New Business Heaven in Europe",
all with the graph of (growing, of course) MBI-10 Macedonian Stock
Exchange Index.

All post-communist countries today proudly flout their stock
exchanges, trading dozen or so stocks, like some sort of tropheys. I
found myself chuckling at claims about "excellent infrastructure",
because I travelled through Macedonia a couple of times during 1980-
s, and I think it is slightly preposterous to advertise free access
to large market of 650 million customers, that includes 27 EU an
d 13 other European countries with which Macedonia has Free Trade
Agreements: you can open a business in Austria and be closer to that
market, with advantages of even more excellent infrastructure.

Also, with probably a decade before it is accepted in the EU,
Macedonia is presented as EU & NATO candidate country (the official
name of FYROM is mentioned nowhere in the ad): but Europe is full of
countries that already are NATO and EU countries, so being a candidate
can obviously not be sold as an advantage. But there are things about
Macedonia that can: 10% flat tax, lure of laissez fair corporate
pundits, both corporate and personal income flat tax, and 10 years
FREE of corporate tax if your business is in one of the two designated
Free Economic Zones & Technology Parks (Skopje and Stip).

Besides liberal approach to taxation, the other advantage, shamelessly
advetised both in The Economist and on the website, is CHEAP LABOR:
"abundant and competitive labour with 370 euros a month average gross
salary." That's $480/month - average, so politicians, lawyers and
doctors included - real laborers salary is perhaps much lower. That
sure is an incentive for multi-national corporations to move in. But
this is the first time I see a country so openly advertising that
its primary advantage is having tons of people willing to work for
peanuts!

The "abundance of labour" is clearly defined by
the highest unemployment rate in CEE (over 40% -
http://www.stat.fi/isi99/proceedings/arkisto/varasto/naum0031.pdf),
and this could be the last ditch effort to draw some foreign
investment to the place among former Yugoslavs best remembered for
failed factories (Femi).

Worldbank's country brief on Macedonia in 2006 puts the unemployment
rate at 37.2%, and foreign direct investment at 1.7% - this initiative
surely aims to lower the first by raising the later percentage rate.
More importantly, the ad promises "fast company registration - 2
days"; Worldbank assessed the time required to start a business at -
48 days.. (cutting red tape follows the Croatian example - hitro.hr).
Good luck, Macedonia.

Government team promotes Macedonia in Italy

Reasons and advantages for investing in Macedonia were presented in front of the business community of Italy by high Macedonian government officials.

Macedonian government team, led by vice-president Zoran Stavrevski, talked in Bari about the accelerated economic reforms, as well as on everything that is offered as advantage for investment, reported the state television.

On the first session Stavrevski talked about recent reforms, which started to move the economy and contributed towards the growth of GDP. He also made a presentation about government reforms and the project of regulatory guillotine.

On the morning session also spoke minister of economy Vera Rafajlovska and of transport, Mile Janakievski, as well as the director of the Agency for Investments, Victor Mizo.

The promotion continues late Monday with its second session, when Macedonian prime minister will have an address. The session is of open type, more than 200 guests are expected, and also there was interest from Italian media.

Vatican supports Macedonia's EU, NATO bid

Vatican pledged a full support to Macedonia's efforts to join the EU and NATO, but discreetly urged change of legislation relating religious communities, Makfax reporter said on Monday.

"The Holy See supports your efforts to become part of the European Union and the Euro-Atlantic institutions," the Vatican's Foreign Affairs Minister, Archbishop Dominique Mamberti said after the meeting with the Macedonian Foreign Minister Antonio Miloshoski.

In this context, the Holy See encourages the government to continue to fight political corruption and organized crime, Archbishop Mamberti said.

He expressed hope that Macedonia legislation, in particular the one pertaining to religious freedoms, will soon be in line with the European standards.

"The voice of the Vatican is a voice of high reputation within the European community," Miloshoski said, adding that he was much pleased with the Holy See's backing of Macedonia's strategic goal - EU membership.

Miloshoski added that the relations between Macedonia and Vatican are based on high confidence and intensive co-operation.

Minister Miloshoski and Archbishop Mamberti also discussed about choosing a good reason for Pope Benedict XVI to visit the region.

Asked by a reporter on whether Vatican is willing to help overcome the perennial dispute between Macedonian Orthodox Church and the Serbian Orthodox Church, Archbishop Mamberti gave a diplomatic answer, saying the Pope supports the dialogue among the sister Orthodox Churches.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Police brings in OHIS's CEO for questioning

The Police has brought in Jorgo Kjuka - the CEO of the Skopje-based OHIS Company - for questioning under suspicions of power abuse, Makfax Agency quotes police sources speaking under condition of anonymity.

Fraudulent dealings with OHIS's shares involving nearly 1 million euros is the subject of the questioning.

The Police raised suspicions that Kjuka, in a capacity of President of OHIS's Steering
Board, has put company's shares as a security guarantee at the Komercijalna Banka.

According to the same sources, the case is apparently related to the pharmacological facility that was opened within the OHIS premises, which was called ICN Macedonia.

At the time when the facility opened, the project was presented as a joint investment of OHIS and ICN Galenika - a daughter company of ex-Yugoslav Prime Minister Milan Panic's ICN Pharmaceuticals.

Then, in 2002, Serbia took over ICN Galenika after paying back about $50 million to the American owner for the investment.

Eurostandard Bank is also involved in the case of suspicious share deals. Jorgo Kjuka was one-time member of Eurostandard's Steering Board as well.

The CEO of the biggest chemical production facility in Macedonia, Jorgo Kjuka, has been holding the post for over a decade and a half. He is deemed as one of the most powerful CEOs in the country with solid political and business lobby connections.

The facility that once had as many as 4.000 employees, has been struggling its way out of bankruptcy for years now, and large part of the workers were unable to get proper retirement because of the company's unsettled fees to the State Pension Fund.

Vatican foreign policy chief, Archbishop Mamberti visits Macedonia

Skopje. Upon the invitation of Foreign Minister Antonio Milososki, Vatican (Holy See) Secretary for Relations with States, Archbishop Dominique Mamberti will pay an official visit to Macedonia on June 30-July 3, reads Ministry press release, cited by MIA.
Archbishop Mamberti is scheduled to meet with his host Milososki on Monday, followed by meetings with President Branko Crvenkovski and Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski.
The Vatican official will also hold talks with Parliament Speaker Ljubisa Georgievski, as well as heads of religious communities in Macedonia.
Discussions will focus on possibilities for enhancement of bilateral relations and Macedonia's Euro-Atlantic aspirations, as well as regional and interiational issues.
Moreover, Archbishop Mamberti will hold a liturgy and dedication of cathedral "Assumption of Holy Mother of God" in Strumica, and visit Catholic churches in Sekirnik, Radovo, Petralinci, Saraj and Nova Maala, as well as Ohrid's cultural-historic monuments, reads the press release.

DPA elects successor of Arben Xhaferi

Struga. The ruling Democratic Party of Albanians /DPA/ is holding a congress in Struga on Saturday to officially appoint party’s deputy /DPA/ chairman Menduh Taci as leader, the Macedonian Utrinski Vesnik newspaper writes.
Taci will be a successor of the outgoing DPA leader Arben Xhaferi, who had already announced his withdrawal.
DPA thinks nobody will oppose Xhaferi and stand for a party chairman. Taci has been considered informal leader even up to now, the edition adds.
According to DPA sources one of Taci’s rivals is Healthcare Minister Imer Selmani, but his power within the party has been fading, as his authorities have been cut.