Friday, January 30, 2009

What's In A Name? You Wouldn't Ask That Question If You Lived In Macedonia

In searching for the perfect ancient hero to arouse a sense of national identity in their modern-day citizens, Macedonian officials have settled on a provocative spokesperson -- Alexander the Great.

The image of the ancient Greek king and warrior, who at the time of his death in 323 BC had conquered most of the known world, beams intently down on residents from billboards with the message "You are Macedonia."

A lengthy television ad depicts him on the eve of a crucial battle, calling on his fighters -- in the fluent South Slavic strains of contemporary Macedonian -- to be decisive and unafraid of the challenges ahead.

Even Skopje's tiny international airport is in on the act. Until recently, the hub of national carrier Macedonian Airlines' two-plane fleet was called Petrovec Airport. Now it is the Alexander the Great Airport.

Travelers at the airport walking past a massive bust of the ancient conqueror appear indifferent to the encroaching hellenization. But the rebranding frenzy is raising tempers in Greece.

'Expression Of Our Identity'

Athens has spent the past 17 years in a standoff with its northern neighbor over the right to claim the king -- and the name Macedonia -- as its own. Greece has blocked Skopje's NATO entry over the bitter row, and has threatened to scupper its EU bid, as well.

But Sefik Duraki, a Macedonian government spokesperson, appears unrepentant.

"We see this [revival of our ancient Greek past] as an expression of our identity, a kind of nation-building exercise, and a confirmation of our statehood," Duraki says. "It’s not our intention to be provocative."

Officials in Athens might disagree. Buildings, roads, and squares in Macedonia are renamed on an increasingly frequent basis to honor the ancient king and his forebears.

Duraki himself this month announced at least two such rechristenings. A major north-south trans-European highway was to be renamed Alexander of Macedon highway. And a Skopje football stadium will now be called the Philip II football arena -- in honor of Alexander’s father.

Alexander the Great was born in Pella, the capital of the ancient kingdom of Macedonia. That heritage, Skopje says, gives it the right to claim the warrior's image as its own. But Pella is located in what is now Greek Macedonia, and Athens argues that the only country with the right to Alexander's legacy is Greece.

Powerful Lever

The issue has divided the two countries since the early 1990s, when the Socialist Republic of Macedonia split from Yugoslavia and constitutionally anointed itself the Republic of Macedonia.

By focusing the public’s attention on the glories of the past, [the government has] found the perfect way to provide an escape from reality.
Greece objected, and insists on using the provisional reference of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia in its official dealings with Skopje.

It has also exercised a far more powerful lever in blocking Macedonia's NATO and EU bids unless Skopje adopts a name that is acceptable to the Greek leadership.

Officials in Macedonia announced in November it would take Greece to the International Court of Justice in The Hague for blocking the NATO invite, which it says contravenes a 1995 interim accord between the two countries.

In the meantime, Skopje continues to keep its ties with the military alliance warm, with the commander of NATO's allied joint force command, Admiral Mark Fitzgerald, arriving in Macedonia on January 30 for a two-day visit.

Many Macedonians say they are tired of their government's grandstanding, which has only grown more pronounced as the country approaches presidential and local elections on March 22.

Biljana Vankovska, a political science professor at Skopje University, says she worries the dispute with Greece is doing their country irreparable harm by blocking the path toward Western integration.

"By focusing the public’s attention on the glories of the past, [the government has] found the perfect way to provide an escape from reality,” Vankovska says.

The unremitting dispute between Macedonia and Greece has also proved a mounting source of irritation to the international community.

The United Nations has appointed a special mediator in the quarrel, and is urging Skopje to accept the "Republic of Northern Macedonia" for international purposes -- and pressing Athens to drop its veto threats at NATO and the EU if Skopje does.

The EU, which is struggling to slowly herd the Balkan countries onto a membership track, has appeared almost exasperated with the dispute, and signaled particular frustration after Skopje's decision on the Alexander of Macedon highway.

Hellenization Campaign

The International Crisis Group (ICG) think tank this month issued a report warning the name dispute may undermine efforts to stabilize the western Balkans, and called on both Athens and Skopje to take steps toward repairing the relationship.

The ICG called on Macedonian officials to accept the UN's name proposal, and to reverse its hellenization campaign and restore the original names to the Skopje airport and other buildings and roads rechristened in recent years.

It also urged other NATO and EU members to "actively encourage" Greece to drop its NATO and EU objections and to "respond positively" to any concessions by Skopje on the name issue.

Some Macedonians say they would welcome an opportunity to strip their country of some of the government's overreaching attempts to co-opt Alexander the Great.

After all, says Todor Cepreganov, the director of the National History Institute at Skopje's Saints Cyril and Methodius University, there is more to Macedonian history than ancient history.

“I don’t agree that in our search for identity Macedonia should only look back to ancient times," he says. "Yes, we have our roots in ancient times, but we shouldn’t abandon our Slavic roots, either."

Macedonia must solve name dispute to become NATO member state: NATO Commander

Admiral Mark Fitzgerald, commander of NATO's Allied Joint Force Command Headquarters Naples arrived in Skopje for a two-day working visit. He expressed his regret Macedonia did not become NATO member state despite it made the necessary reforms, Makfax agency informs.
Fitzgerald said at a meeting with Macedonian President Branko Crvenovski the problem with the name dispute with Greece is the only issue, which is registered as an obstacle for Macedonia to become NATO member state. He expressed his hope the name dispute will be solved.

Alexander the Great

President Barack Obama said "the time has come to set aside childish things". Evidently the leaders of the former Yugoslav republic of Macedonia weren't listening.

They have just done an unbelievably childish thing and named their section of an important north-south trans-European highway - known in Eurospeak as "Corridor 10""- after Alexander the Great. In 2007, they renamed Skopje airport after him.

Now, as we know, Alexander certainly had a taste for travel. He extended his empire as far as India. But these persistent efforts to attach his name to modern European transport systems are, I'd say, beginning to stretch the point.

The Macedonians in Skopje think their state has a rightful claim on Alexander's memory because of his connections to their territory in ancient times. But the authorities in Athens regard Alexander as an exclusively Greek warrior-hero.

The result: Greece has made clear it won't pay one euro towards the cost of the Macedonian part of Corridor 10. And relations between Athens and Skopje are in yet another mess.

In Brussels, European Union officials are beside themselves with frustration as they watch this dispute jeopardise their carefully laid plans for the EU's slow but steady enlargement into the Balkans. The argument over what former Yugoslav Macedonia should call itself has dragged on for almost 20 years, and a solution seems no closer now than when it first broke out.

Of course, the dispute arouses great passions on both sides - as shown in the posts to this story on BalkanInsight.com. But the way it's being handled would be enough to make the great Alexander turn in his grave.

Memorial House of Mother Teresa in Skopje

The Memorial House dedicated to Mother Teresa, the great humanist and the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, will be promoted and consecrated in the Skopje centre on Friday.

The consecration of the Memorial Home, which has been erected in the very location of the once Sacred Heart of Jesus Roman Catholic Church, will be serviced by the Bishop of Skopje and Apostolic Exarch in Macedonia, Monsignor Kiro Stojanov.

The construction of the Memorial Home is a project of the Government of the Republic of Macedonia carried out by the Ministry of Culture. The activity is a part of the events intended to mark jubilee 100 years since Mother Teresa’s birth. With her commitment to help people irrespective of their national and religious affiliation, she left an eternal mark in the history of mankind as the symbol of benefaction and humaneness.

PM Nikola Gruevski, Minister of Culture Elizabeta Kanceska-Milevska, and Bishop of Skopje and Apostolic Exarch in Macedonia Monsignor Kiro Stojanov will give addresses. The attendees will be also addressed by Mother Teresa’s spiritual father, Dr. Leo Maasburg who is arriving from Vienna especially for the event.

Mother Teresa was born as Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu to an Albanian family in 1910 in Skopje. She founded the Missionaries of Charity in India, where she ministered over 40 years. In 1979, she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her humanitarian work and, following her death in 1997, was beatified – a step before being canonised as a saint, and given the title Blessed Teresa of Calcutta.

SDU proposes outcome of the crisis with milk producers

Social Democratic Union of Macedonia /SDU/ deposed proposal to the government to repurchase the dept to the milk producers, FOCUS News Agency correspondent informs.
The proposal is government to pay the sum the milk manufacturing company Swedmilk owes to the farmers and to sell the company. According to the party the government will become Swedmilk creditor this way.
This principle is known in the world. More aim will be reached with it, SDU said. Farmers will get their money, the company will continue to work, blockages of the roads will stop and the milk market will normalize, chairman of the Agriculture Committee Dragan Goshevski /SDU/ said at today’s press conference.

Ohrid mayor kidnapped, told police a month later

The police arrested two persons suspected of having kidnapped the Mayor of Ohrid and his driver, who reported the incident a month after it had happened, the Interior Ministry announced Thursday.
According to the same source, neither the Mayor nor the driver explained how come they reported the incident with one-month delay.

The two suspects were taken in late Wednesday, pending questioning aimed at establishing the reasons for the "kidnapping". As to the possible motives, the police's assumptions reportedly range from extortion to unpaid debts.

According to the official report sheet, the kidnapping took place after one of the suspects had demanded from the mayor to pay him 15,000 euros.

Although the suspects refuse to give any testimony relating the case, the police said they had information that the two victims paid a portion of the demanded money to their kidnappers. However, this assumption raises another question, namely, how come the mayor never reported the case to the police and what his connection is to the kidnappers

Macedonia gears up for presidential, local elections

With presidential and local elections set for March 22nd, all of Macedonia's major parties have announced their nominees. The two largest parties both nominated political science professors, one of whom served in the governments of the 1990s.

George Ivanov, a professor at the University of Skopje, secured the nomination of the ruling VMRO-DPMNE by a landslide margin at the party convention. He defeated rival Todor Petrov 1,016 to 91. "VMRO-DPMNE ... under the leadership of [Prime Minister] Nikola Gruevski has ... created an atmosphere that unites Macedonians, Albanians, Turks, Roma, etc.," Ivanov said.

Before the two VMRO-DPMNE candidates addressed the party convention, Gruevski denounced outgoing President Branko Crvenkovski for allegedly stealing the last presidential election and not seeking re-election.

"He is afraid to face the citizens and ask for a second term, which is the practise of every president finishing a first term," Gruevski scoffed.

The main opposition party, SDSM, chose Ljubomir Frckovski, who also enjoys support from the smaller New Social Democrats. Frckovski, now a political scientist, served as interior and foreign minister in the 1990s.

"Gruevski chose a candidate he can easily control and opted for political confrontation. We are focused on defeating this harmful and isolationist policy," said SDSM party head Zoran Zaev after the selection of Frckovski.

Other parties advanced their own candidates. The ruling ethnic-Albanian party, DUI, nominated Agron Budjaku, a former transport and communications minister. The opposition Albanian party, the DPA, nominated Mirushe Hodza, a professor. She and independent Slagjana Taseva are the two female presidential candidates this year. A third Albanian party, PDP, nominated Nevzat Halili, its former head.

New Democracy, meanwhile, nominated its own leader, Imer Selmani. He served as a minister of health in the VMRO-DPMNE-DPA coalition government of 2006 to 2008.

The Liberal Democrats nominated Nano Ruzin, a former ambassador to NATO. Ruzin agreed to run after Srdjan Kerim, a highly regarded former foreign minister and president of the UN General Assembly, declined to run as the SDSM candidate.

The most notorious candidate is former Interior Minister Ljube Boskovski, who spent more than three years in The Hague's custody for alleged war crimes before being acquitted. Boskovski is running as an independent.

Macedonia will take in Guantanamo inmates?

Macedonian might be on the list of countries that will take in prisoners from the U.S. Guantanamo detention camp, the Macedonian Spic daily writes, citing its own sources.
The newspaper claims U.S. diplomatic officials were touring Europe, looking for countries that could take in inmates if the decision of U.S. President Barack Obama closes Guantanamo center. It is about prisoners the U.S. considers to be “terrorists” and “unwelcome on U.S. soil on security grounds.”
Unidentified diplomatic sources say the U.S. has received a positive answer from Germany, Finland, Ireland, Portugal, Britain and Switzerland, which have said they do it in the name of the fight against terrorism.
Austria, the Netherlands, as well as Macedonia have not given an answer yet. Besides Macedonia, U.S. officials have talked with other countries in the region, including Bulgaria, Serbia and Greece, the daily writes.

International Greek Organisations Enraged by Macedonia’s New Ad Campaign

Macedonia’s new advertising campaign shown on CNN enraged Greek organisations around the world.

Greek unions in the US, Australia, Canada, Europe and Africa protested against the advertisements’ perceived theft of cultural identity and its use of Greek symbols and archaeological finds, the Greek newspaper Naftemporiki newspaper reported today.

In a letter to Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis, the international unions’ heads claimed that the new advertisement campaign which twisted historical truths entered the homes of millions of people worldwide.

The video clip promoting Macedonia as a tourist destination premiered on CNN and other international television stations on Christmas of 2008. Shot by renowned Macedonian director Milcho Manchevski, the clip cost the government 190,000 euro to make and “untold millions more for broadcasting between [December 2008] and April,” as blogger Christopher Deliso wrote.

The one-minute clip, consisting mostly of a series of stills of various landmarks around the country and archaeological artefacts, didn’t just enrage the Greek community around the world. Earlier, as Deliso wrote, the advertisement faced domestic criticisms as well – some regarding technical faults and others aimed at its content. Albanians, for example, complained that there was no image of a mosque in the video, a fact at odds with the Macedonia’s aim to attract more tourists from Turkey. According to another accusation, the clip bears an uncanny resemblance in theme to an earlier video created by the Republic of Georgia, to which Manchevski responded by saying he had not seen it.

The video can be downloaded here

Lazarov sets handball scoring record at worlds

Kiril Lazarov's 15 goals for Macedonia in a 32-31 win over South Korea gave him a handball world championship record 92 in nine matches on Thursday.

Yoon Kyuns-shin of South Korea previously held the record of 86 goals in nine matches at the 1995 world championship in Iceland.

Lazarov said he was "satisfied, proud and happy," and thanked his teammates because, "I wouldn't have made it without them."

Macedonia, competing in its second worlds, finished 11th. South Korea, the only non-European team to make the main round, was 12th.

Defending champion Germany finished fifth after defeating Hungary 28-25.

Haunted in Macedonia, With a Wolf at the Door

Milcho Manchevski’s quasi-religious ghost story, “Shadows,” is an unwieldy hybrid of historical allegory and supernatural mystery. The historical part deals with suppressed memories of the little-known persecution of Aegean Macedonians in the early 20th century. In this Balkan fusion of “Hamlet” and “Macbeth,” the spirits of persecuted victims return to haunt the living and demand a proper burial.

The mystery is a supernatural romance and detective yarn indebted to “The Sixth Sense,” “The Others” and “Ghost,” embellished with abundant nudity and heavy-breathing sex. If the movies weren’t already inundated with stories of the undead, this fusion of genres might not seem so unintentionally silly. But the history is too sketchy to resonate. We hear of atrocities that were committed, but not who committed them, why or when.

In his director’s statement, Mr. Manchevski, who won international acclaim with his 1994 film, “Before the Rain,” declares that “Shadows” imagines “what would happen if Lady Macbeth had lived today and survived to have a grown-up son, who might try to come to terms with her overbearing presence and her transgressions of the past.”

But Vera Perkova (Sabina Ajrula-Tozija), a famous doctor and the imperious stand-in for Shakespeare’s dragon lady, is only a minor character. And her crimes, when revealed, are not as horrifying as you are led to expect.

“Shadows” begins with a car crash in which Vera’s son, Lazar Perkov (Borce Nacev), a young Macedonian doctor who works in the same hospital as his mother, nearly dies. Lazar (note the deliberate echo of Lazarus) is nicknamed Lucky, not only for his narrow escape but also for his privileged existence. His wealthy parents have a villa in Macedonia’s lake region; he is handsome (Mr. Nacev resembles the young Al Pacino), with a beautiful wife and a young son.

A year after the accident, while his wife and son are on vacation, Lazar comes home from work to discover a wizened crone (Ratka Radmanovic) cleaning his kitchen floor. Speaking in a dialect he cannot understand, she reaches up to touch his face; he panics and ejects her from the house. Gazing anxiously out the window, he sees her on the street, intently peering up at his apartment, a wolf by her side.

The old woman is the first of several otherworldly manifestations who begin stalking Lazar, materializing suddenly, then disappearing, only to return. Another persistent stalker is a scowling, craggy-faced neighbor (Salaetin Bilal) who carries a little boy in his arms and leaves bloody tracks as he wearily trudges up the stairs.

The most mysterious is Menka (Vesna Stanojevska), a seductive young woman with severe bruises on her neck and arms, who shamelessly throws herself at Lazar when he examines her injuries. He resists her, but not for long. Menka, who falsely claims to be the wife of a noted linguist whom Lazar consults while seeking to translate the old woman’s words, explains what they mean: “Return what’s not yours — have respect.” But he has no idea how that dictum might apply to him, since he has no recollection of having stolen anything.

As “Shadows” vacillates between the historical and the occult, you may snicker at the way hackneyed horror movie conventions are redeployed for more serious ends. But you won’t be bored. The movie is well acted (especially by Ms. Stanojevska) and very sexy. Fabio Cianchetti’s opulent cinematography skillfully uses reflections in mirrors and windowpanes to give “Shadows” a surreal dimension.

The story doesn’t culminate in the kind of “gotcha” revelation that ended “The Sixth Sense” and “The Others.” Instead it offers a sentimental dilution of the Orpheus-Eurydice myth. History is forgotten as “Shadows” is overrun by the ghosts of “Ghost,” “Heaven Can Wait” and a hundred other movies in which passion beckons from beyond the grave.

Police use force against protesting farmers: opposition in Macedonia

Opposition Social Democratic Union of Macedonia /SDSM/ has accused the police of dispersing protesting farmers with force, Focus News Agency’s correspondent in Skopje reported.
“Five milk producers from Bitola have been admitted to a hospital. We have information that eight vans of police officers dispersed the farmers near the village of Miladinovce, Skopje. Let’s go to the hospital in Bitola now. If we find a hospitalized farmer, you will resign,” MP from SDSM Vesna Bendevska addressed Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski.
For his part the Macedonian Prime Minister refuted the claims that the police used force against the farmers.

Ljube Boskovski collects necessary number of signatures for his presidential nomination

The former defense minister Ljube Boskovski has collected 17,000 signatures supporting his presidential nomination, Focus News Agency’s correspondent in Skopje reported.
The law states that a candidate shall collect 10,000 signatures or secure the support of 30 MPs.
“During the first two days we collected 10,000 signatures. The rest of the people put down their signatures in the next two-three days. Residents of Lipkovo and Tetovo, who were affected by the 2001 conflict, put down their signatures as well,” Boskovski said at a press conference on Thursday.
He says he meets all requirements for a presidential candidate – he has turned 48, has been living permanently in Macedonia for 10 years and has a Macedonian citizenship.
In my election campaign I will call for an internal unification of all people in Macedonia, he said.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Macedonia’s candidate for president George Ivanov got 18 000 signatures for 3 hours

Macedonia’s candidate for president George Ivanov managed to collects the needed 18,000 signatures for 3 hours, Macedonian Vreme newspaper informs.
VMRO-DPNE press office said this fact definitely proves citizens see Ivanov's capacities. The party decided to confirm his nomination this way, despite it could do it in the parliament with the support of 30 MPs.

Strasburg to watch closely elections in Macedonia

Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe / PACE/ announced it will send it mission to watch closely the next elections in Macedonia. Monitoring committee will watch closely the situation before, during and after the elections, Macedonian Utrinski Vesnik informs.
Chairman of PACE Luis Maria de Putch expressed his hope the conclusions of the mission will be different from those for the former elections, especially those in June 2008. it is necessary politics, political parties an authorities to be responsible for the implementation of the elections; to make them “clean” and the lection campaign to be “real celabration”, chairman proposed.

Macedonia model of multi ethnical co-existence, according to OSCE commissioner

The model of multi ethnical co-existence is positive example for the region a outside it. Ohrid frame contract has an essential contribution to that, high commissioner of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe Knut Volebek said, cited by Dnevnik newspaper.
Volebek said this at a meeting with Macedonian President Branko Crvenovski. Commissioner expressed his hope Macedonia will integrate in EU and NATO, which wille be significant fort he country and the region.
Knut Volebek also met with Macedonian Minister of Foreign Affairs Antonio Miloshovski.
The development of the international dialogue, the process of establishing confidence among all various of society, which accent is education, were among the main subject at the meeting.

Macedonia PM ‘Nationalist, Provocative’ - Greece

The politics of Macedonia’s conservative Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski are sparking nationalism and provoking Greece, undermining efforts to resolve the two countries’ name dispute, Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis said on Monday.

Speaking at the think-tank Centre for European Policy Studies in Brussels, Bakoyannis criticized Skopje’s recent move to rename its main highway to ‘Alexander of Macedon’, after the ancient conqueror whose origin and heritage is claimed by both countries.
This move indicates that Gruevski “does not believe in the [United Nations sponsored] negotiations underway” on this issue, Bakoyiannis stressed and accused Gruevski of resorting to “short-sighted populism” in order to consolidate his political position.
“There must be a mutually acceptable solution that reflects the geographic reality without winners and losers,” she said. Bakoyiannis expressed concerns about Skopje’s attempts to “monopolise” use of the name “Macedonia’.
In April, Athens blocked Skopje’s NATO invitation arguing that Macedonia must change its name. Athens says that Skopje’s use of that name implies territorial claims over its own northern province also called Macedonia.
Since then, the UN sponsored talks on this issue have intensified but without a breakthrough.A new round of talks is set for February but few expect more than diplomatic pleasantries, as both sides battle it out at the International Court of Justice in Hague.
In November Macedonia sued Greece in the ICJ arguing that Athens broke its pledge in the UN sponsored Interim Accord not to block the country from entering international organizations under its provisional UN mane, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, FYROM.
Bakoyiannis stated that her country will endorse every effort for ensuring that the citizens of Skopje, as Athens usually refers to Macedonia, have better communication with the EU, something Macedonian media interpreted as a signal Athens will not obstruct the current visa liberalisation process.

TAV Airports Holding to Operate Airports in Macedonia

TAV Airports Holding has won the bid to operate the Alexander the Great Airport in Skopje, the capital of Macedonia and the most important center of the Balkans, St Paul the Apostle International Airport in Ohrid, and the new cargo airport in Shtip.

TAV Airports Holding's offer to operate Alexander the Great airport and St Paul the Apostle International Airport for the next twenty years as well as to build and operate Shtip's New Cargo Airlines was announced as the winning bid by the Macedonian government.

The operations contracts were finalized on September 24th in Macedonia. The President & CEO of TAV Airports Holding, M. Sani Åžener, the Macedonian Minister of Transportation and Communications Mile Janakieski, and various other Macedonian government officials were present.

M. Sani Sener, the CEO of TAV Airports Holding, which in addition to becoming a regional brand in airport management has also become a global company due to its business character, said, "We are very happy to be operating an airport in Europe and that we have been successful in this project that we have been working towards for a very long time. The Macedonian contract also carries the mission to open the door to Europe for TAV Airports Holding, a company that already operates airports in the Middle East, the Caucasus, and North Africa. Another important point for us is that along with the airport operations in Macedonia we have reached our aim of "10 Airports in 10 Years' in only eight years. We are proud to have reached our goals ahead of schedule."

Åžener stated that the operation of airports in Macedonia will serve to further open TAV Airports operations into Europe. Åžener said, "With our projects in Macedonia, which holds a very strategic place in both the world and politics and with which we have shared a 500 year common past, we have said, "Hello, Rumelia*" We have been very successful in this project, which we have worked towards for a very long time. With this project TAV Airports has clinched its place in the international arena, both in the financial and the aviation field."

TAV Airports Holding was the only company, among such global giants as Hochtief (Germany), Egis - Kaupthing Vienna (Austria), and Singer & Friedlander (French - British partnership), which had all passed the first phase of the bidding, to have made it to the final phase and to have been able to meet all of the criteria.

In 2007, 680 thousand passengers used Alexander the Great airport in the capital city of Skopje and St Paul the Apostle International Airport in Ohrid. TAV Airports aims to increase both the passenger and the airline numbers at both of these airports after taking over operations. At the same time it is foreseen that a restructuring will take place that also includes the modernization of the technical infrastructure.

TAV Airport Holding will operate Alexander the Great and St Paul the Apostle International Airport for 20 years. The Shtip Cargo Airport construction is expected to be finished in the second half of 2011.

TAV Airports, an international player in the field of airports management in the Middle East, North Africa and the Caucus, operates Istanbul Ataturk, Ankara Esenboga Domestic and International Terminals and Izmir Adnan Menderes Airport in Turkey; its overseas operations include Georgia Tbilisi Airport and Batumi Airport and Monastir Habib Bourguiba Airport in Tunisia. TAV Airports also holds the rights to operate Antalya GazipaÅŸa Airport and Enfidha Zine Abidine Ben Ali International Airport in Tunisia.

EBRD will help improve Macedonian roads

The EBRD is lending €50 million to Macedonia to finance the improvement and upgrade of more than 400km of regional and local roads.

These roads form part of key regional network and provide connections to international road corridors. The investments will address an urgent need for road repairs, helping to improve transport links inside the country and support the development of areas to which there is currently limited access.

The construction of the road sections will facilitate local development and regional integration by rehabilitating and upgrading the transport links, increasing access and improving road safety.

The regional component will cover at least 160km of both asphalt and gravel roads in the south, east and west of the country, while the local component will cover approximately 250km of local roads across the country.

- The improvement of these road links will contribute not only to the economic development of Macedonia and its important agricultural sector, but will improve links and trade with neighbouring countries and the EU, reads EBRD press release.

This project is a continuation of the Bank’s financing of road sector improvements in Macedonia. It will support the ongoing road sector reform in the country, including institutional strengthening of Agency for State Roads, the state entity responsible for the operation and maintenance of roads in the country, and road maintenance reform.

The programme will address a plan for road maintenance, road planning and road protection, aimed at improving the efficiency of road transport services and encouraging the use of competitive tendering for both periodic and routine maintenance.

The EBRD loan will be provided in two tranches of €25 million each, with parallel financing by the World Bank of €70 million, which is already committed. Additional technical cooperation has been provided by the EBRD Western Balkans Fund, the EBRD Special Shareholder Fund and the Central European Initiative, totalling more than €3 million.

Sue Barrett, EBRD’s Director for Transport, said that this project demonstrates the EBRD’s continuing commitment to Macedonia and its help to upgrade important segments of the road infrastructure in the country and the Western Balkan region.

Projects like these are key for regional integration, especially given the importance of trade for spurring economic growth and making the country more attractive for investment, Elena Urumovska, the Head of the EBRD office in Skopje, added.

Dr. Trajko Slaveski, Macedonian Minister of Finance, said that the EBRD is an important partner for the country in a number of significant projects. The realization of this project comes at a very opportune time for the country, considering its need for in investments in road infrastructure. The project should create improved living and working conditions for the citizens. Minister Slaveski added that as with earlier projects financed by the EBRD, this loan includes a component for strengthening the capacity of Macedonian institutions which will be directly involved in the realisation of the project.

The Bank has been engaged in the Macedonian road sector since 2003, when it provided a €40m loan to upgrade a section of Corridor X from Smokvica to Gevgelija which was completed in March 2006 and the second phase of the Skopje Bypass which was opened to traffic in July 2008.

Active in Macedonia since 1993, EBRD investments to-date amount to more than €460 million and the Bank has helped generate a further €496 million from its partners. The majority of investments are in sectors including power and energy, general industries, financial institutions and the private sector

Macedonia elected its Nobel Peace prize candidate

Artist and humanitarian Zivko Popovski-Cvetin is Macedonia's candidate for the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize.

His nomination is a result of a decision reached by the committee for nominating Macedonian candidates for the Nobel Prize, formed by NGO Macedonian Center for Culture and Development (MCCD) and will be sent Wednesday to the Norwegian Nobel Committee, responsible for selecting the Nobel Peace Prize laureates. MCCD representative Nelko Nelkovski told the press Wednesday that Popovski-Cvetin was nominated due his commitment as an artist, who creates and donates paintings with floral motives for over 30 years. Thus far, he has donated more than 30 thousand paintings to institutions and individuals, including heads of state and parliament, local and foreign artists and has organised many solo exhibits.

Popovski-Cvetinh said he accepted the nomination for this prestigious award with great pleasure. He was especially satisfied for the support he received from 200 institutions and individuals from Macedonia, former president Kiro Gligorov, several universities, ministries, Macedonian Orthodox Church and numerous public figures.

This year, MCCD for the first time promoted an organised approach in nominating Macedonian candidates for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Thus far, nominated candidates for the Noble Peace Prize from Macedonia were former president Kiro Gligorov, singer Esma Redzepova and writer Slavko Janevski.

Nobel Peace prize has become an increasingly political event, causing outride rage in certain areas in the world, far from what Alfred Nobel had envisioned. The latest Nobel Peace awards have gone to highly suspicious characters, ranging from the likes of Marti Ahtisari (personally responsible for carving up African and Balkan countries, eventually leading to numerous wars), to Al Gore, the owner of 4 'environmental' companies whose campaign to save the planet had netted him $120 million. //01.28.09 //MINA

Macedonian FM meets with OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities

Macedonian Minister of Foreign Affairs Antonio Milososki met Wednesday with the High Commissioner on National Minorities of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe Knut Vollebaek, who is paying a three-day visit to Macedonia, Focus News Agency’s correspondent in Skopje reported.
The Macedonian Foreign Ministry announced that up for discussion was multiethnic dialog, confidence between communities with a focus on education. Milososki informed Vollebaek about the measures and actions of the Macedonian government to improve education and increase the number of ethnic community members in the local and government administration.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Macedonia dips seven points in economic freedom index

Macedonia ranks 78th in the 2009 Index of Economic Freedom Index, published jointly by Heritage Foundation and the Wall Street Journal.

Macedonia's score is down seven points from the previous year's index.

The index reflects data of 10 categories, including business freedom, trade freedom and labor freedom, with marks ranging from 0 to 100.

A score of 80 to 100 means the economy is free and a score of less than 50 means the economy is repressed.

Macedonia's score is 61.2, up 0.2 from a year ago.

The index shows that the top 10 economic entities considered to be the freest economies are: Hong Kong, Singapore, Australia, Ireland, New Zealand, the United States, Canada, Denmark, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.

Among the countries in the region, Bulgaria's ranking stands at 56, Albania's at 62, Slovenia's at 68, Greece's at 81, Montenegro's at 94, Serbia's at 109, Croatia's at 116 and Bosnia-Herzegovina's at 134.

Macedonia received good ratings in the sectors of fiscal freedom (89.4), monetary freedom (85.4) and trade freedom (81.6).

The report says Macedonia scored worse in property rights (30) and freedom from corruption (33). The country is seen as moderately free as regards investment freedom (50), business freedom (58.2), labor freedom (59.8), finance freedom (60) and government spending (65.2)

Australia needs a sensible foreign policy on Macedonia

Australia’s outdated, unfair and flawed policy on Macedonia is in need of review and innovation if Australia is to become an independent middle power in international relations. Calls for policy innovation have come from a number of sources.

First, the Australian Macedonian community has voiced its concerns through a variety of means such as a peaceful protest in May 2008 in Melbourne attended by at least 20,000 people; and more than 50,000 letters were sent to Prime Minister Kevin Rudd on August 2, 2008 to which no response has been received.

Second, the Rudd Government has ignored the calls made by federal MPs - such as from its own ranks like Ms Jenny George MP and from the opposition, Mr Luke Simpkins MP - for Australia to change its policies on Macedonia’s constitutional name and to bring Australia into line with the rest of the world.

The Rudd Government and the Leader of the Opposition are ignoring the fact that 124 nations, including USA, China, Russia, Canada and the UK, have already recognised the Republic of Macedonia under its constitutional name for ethical, social justice and strategic reasons. They have also largely ignored the concerns of Australian Macedonian citizens who are appalled by Greece’s constant attempts to destroy Macedonian culture, language, identity and civilisation not only in Aegean Macedonia but also in the Republic of Macedonia, in the EU, the UN and here in Australia.

Funded by the Greek government budget and various foundations, the ultra-nationalistic Greek lobby has pursued a destabilising foreign policy which is now the single biggest impediment to any sensible EU, UN or Australian policy on Macedonia and its people, including the diaspora.

The Rudd Government, like previous federal and state governments, has allowed the Greek lobby to dictate Australian foreign policy on Macedonia in return for votes and other promises.

The Australian political system, the mainstream media and leading foreign policy think tanks have collectively failed to scrutinise the unsubstantiated propaganda of the Greek lobby. They have also failed to analyse and assess the damage that this flawed policy is having on Australia’s international image and reputation as a serious and independent player especially in regional peace and stability and human rights protection.

Australian policy towards Macedonia is not evidence-based given the fact that Macedonia has gone out of its way to integrate into the European Union, NATO and the wider international community. Macedonia along with Slovenia was ready to join the EU back in the early 1990s. Macedonia is a candidate to join the EU but its accession has been blocked by Greece. Macedonia has constantly tried to find a solution to the artificial smokescreen problem that Greek political parties have created around the name issue. Macedonia, since independence, has modified its flag and changed its constitution in order to allay fears from Greece about any territorial claims. Macedonia has a tiny army of 8,000 self defence soldiers whereas Greece has 240,000 combat-ready troops. Macedonia has also engaged in a ridiculous process of negotiating its name and identity under UN auspices only to be vetoed by Greece at the NATO Summit in Bucharest in 2008.


Background

Macedonia and its people have been in existence centuries before Christ and have a separate language and identity from the Greeks. Following the break up of the Ottoman Empire, Macedonia was partitioned in 1913 into four parts without the consent of the Macedonian people. Modern Greece, with the help of the French and the British Empire received 51 per cent of Macedonian territory.

Up until 1988, the Greek authorities referred to this part of Macedonia simply as as Northern Greece. It is only after the Republic of Macedonia (which was part of Yugoslavia) had become an independent state in 1991, that Greece embarked on a campaign of claiming that all of Macedonia is Greek because Greece feared there would be re-unification of the Macedonian people.

It has tried hard to prevent the Republic of Macedonia from integrating into the world under the name of Macedonia. Greece swiftly renamed the Macedonian territories under its control as Macedonia, as part of its Hellenisation policies designed to justify its land grab.


Greece’s intransigence and tactics have been a source of embarrassment to the remaining 25 NATO member states who wanted to extend an invitation of membership to the Republic of Macedonia based on meeting all the technical criteria. The US has warned that institutions such as NATO will become unsustainable if one member can hold the organisation to ransom.

As an Australian citizen, I find it difficult to understand how Australia can possibly be advantaged by a foreign policy which at best is redundant and at worst inconsistent with Australia’s much proclaimed values of fairness, democracy, human rights, independent thinking, freedom etc. The Australian Government’s policy on Macedonia is completely out of step with the majority of nations in the world and its own stated objective of pursuing an enlightened, activist and independent foreign policy.

Those who think that Australia should continue to follow the Greek foreign policy line on Macedonia need to understand that such a policy is unjust, unsustainable and not in Australia’s national interest. If a survey were to be conducted of Australian Greek citizens and Australian MPs I believe it would show that most of them would agree that every nation has a right to self-identification and that human rights, language and cultural heritage should be protected.

The recent protests in Greece were driven by deep seated anger against serious corruption, unemployment and manipulation of the people by the Greek establishment. Greek foreign policy on Macedonia is not a reflection of the wishes of decent Greek citizens. Most Greeks, like most decent Australians, understand that the Macedonian people like any other people deserve a fair go and the time for playing political games is over.

It is important to remember that Australia and Macedonia have many points of common interest and purpose such as contributing to regional and global security especially in Iraq and Afghanistan, collaborating on energy policy and climate change, pursuing a multi-lateralist agenda, trade and investment and educational and cultural exchange.

To advance the bi-lateral relationship requires courage, commitment and political good will on the part of the Rudd Government. Macedonia recently introduced visa free travel for Australian citizens and celebrated the creation of an Australia-Macedonia Inter-parliamentary Group. Both sides need to provide resources to operationalise the closer relationship.

Speaking at a seminar in May 2008 on Australia-EU Relations at the Contemporary Europe Research Centre at the University of Melbourne, Ambassador Penny Wensley, the then Europe Chief at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade noted that “pursuing a creative middle power diplomacy requires engagement with like minded countries in order to promote joint positions on a range of strategic, economic and social issues”.

For this to happen, there needs to be a suitable foreign policy setting backed up by fresh thinking and new leadership on Australia’s role in international affairs.

For its part, the Australian Macedonian community and its civil society organisations stand ready to facilitate collaboration and advancement of the bi-lateral relationship and to build close and friendly relations with all responsible and respectable stakeholders.

March elections key for Macedonia

When temperatures begin to rise this spring, political battles in Macedonia will also be heating up. The country will go to the polls on March 22nd to elect a new president, as well as mayors and municipal councils. The government announced the local and presidential election date on Saturday (January 10th).

"These elections are very crucial for us citizens," Parliament Speaker Trajko Veljanovski said after the announcement. "According to the highest European standards, fair and democratic elections are of the highest importance for our further inclusion in the EU."

This round of voting will see a significant change in turnout requirements. In the past, at least 50% of the electorate had to turn up at the polls in order for the results to be valid. That figure has fallen to 40%.

Parliament agreed to the change on Friday. It also approved a requirement for candidates to submit a notarised statement to the Lustration Commission swearing that he or she never collaborated with the secret police of the former communist regime.

Political parties are, for the time being, keeping their candidate lists under wraps. Both the ruling VMRO-DPMNE and the main opposition SDSM have disclosed their mayoral candidates only in areas where they are confident of victory.

The VMRO-DPMNE says that in Bitola and Prilep, its mayoral candidates will be incumbents Marjan Risteski and Vladimir Talevski. The SDSM announced that its incumbent mayors in Strumica, Ohrid and Kumanovo -- Zoran Zaev, Aleksandar Petrevski and Zoran Damjanovski, respectively -- will be running again.

As for the presidential race, former Interior Minister Ljube Boskovski was the first to throw his hat into the ring. Boskovski spent more than three years in custody at The Hague in connection with a 2001 police raid on an ethnic Albanian village that left seven people dead. Prosecutors are appealing his acquittal by the UN court.

Topping the polls, however, is former Foreign Minister Srdjan Kerim. On Tuesday, the SDSM presented Kerim as a candidate who could command the support of both parties.

"We put forward a proposal to VMRO-DPMNE and the party's president, Nikola Gruevski, for the two largest parties in the country to stand behind a single nonpartisan candidate for the next head of state," SDSM leader Zoran Zaev said. We consider ... Kerim to be the most fitting person for such a post."

The election is crucial to Macedonia's chances of joining the EU. Brussels has made it clear that it wants to see honest and democratic elections, as opposed to last June's parliamentary vote, marred by violence and voter fraud. According to Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski, the government has adopted a plan for the March elections to prevent any possible incidents.

DUI nominates Agron Buxhaku for presidential elections

The ruling DUI will nominate Agron Buxhaku as the party's sole candidate at the elections for the next President of Macedonia.

DUI's leadership adopted this decision at the meeting Tuesday evening in the party's seat in Mala Recica.

The opposition DPA is also due to decide on whether to nominate its own candidate in the presidential elections slated for 22 March.

Macedonian Ministry of Defense to be investigated over helicopter crash

A team of prosecutors will investigate whether the Ministry of Defense has responsibility for the cash of the military helicopter MI- 17, the Macedonian Vreme newspaper informs.
For the first time several prosecutors are investigating the reasons for the crash due to the specifics of the case.
The three commissions, which had prepared the report on the case, presented to the prosecutors’ office all documents connected to the crash, including classified.
Prosecutors’ office press center said they consider commissions’ reports and will decide whether there is a reason for punitive measure to be undertaken, the edition informs.

FOCUS News Agency reminds that 11 military officers were killed in a helicopter crash on January 12, 2008. The helicopter crashed in Katlanovo area near Skopje.

EU in new election warning to Macedonia

Macedonia’s EU integration process could be postponed if the next elections do not meet international standards, European Union officials have warned.

Presidential and local elections will be held on March 22 in Macedonia.

“If these elections do not completely fulfill international standards, I am afraid that it will be a great failure for the country and will postpone its EU integration,” the EU’s envoy to Macedonia Irvan Fuer said.

Macedonia applied for EU membership in 2004, but has not fulfilled all the necessary criteria for starting talks on EU association.

Fuer said that an unsuccessful election process would postpone the EU integration process until the next elections, which are due in 2012.

There was violence during last year’s parliamentary elections between rival Albanian parties. One person died and nine were injured in the clashes.

Fuer said that if the March elections went off without a hitch and if Skopje implemented all the necessary reforms, then the “European Commission will have enough of an argument to recommend (the opening of association talks).”

The EU will offer training for Macedonian police before the elections, and called on Macedonian leaders to maintain security and a positive atmosphere for voting.

Fuer said that the dispute between Skopje and Athens regarding Macedonia’s name “is a separate issue not related to reforms, and the Commission will be basing its report on reforms.”

He added that EU officials had told Skopje that the dispute with Greece must be resolved before EU association could continue.

Greece has threatened to block Macedonia’s integration process if no compromise is reached, while the EU has called for both sides to continue the UN-brokered negotiations.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

resh Macedonia Name Talks Soon -Report

Matthew Nimetz, the UN mediator in the long running Athens-Skopje name row, plans to hold a meeting between the two sides before the end of January, Greek daily Kathimerini said on Thursday citing unnamed diplomats from Athens. The dispute dates from the early 1990s, after Macedonia broke away from socialist Yugoslavia.

Greece blockaded the new state saying the name Macedonia implicates territorial claims on its own northern province of the same name, eventually forcing Macedonia to change its flag and its constitution in order to end the embargo and sign an interim U.N. accord.

In November, Macedonia announced it is taking Greece to the International Court of Justice in The Hague, arguing that Athens broke that 1995 accord when it put the breaks on its NATO invitation last April.


Few expect a breakthrough in any upcoming talks. Media and analysts have said the talks are “clinically dead”, not only due to entrenched positions on either side but also because of more pressing internal preoccupations in both Skopje and Athens in the year to come.

Macedonia is holding presidential and local elections in March, while Greece is busy with its own political troubles after violent student demonstrations in December and an alleged terrorist attack on police earlier this month.

Moreover, the USA, the main political sponsor of the talks, is preoccupied with the change of administration, with Barack Obama due to formally take over the US presidency later in January.

Macedonian PM calls leader’s meeting over upcoming elections

Skopje. Macedonian Prime Minister and leader of the VMRO-DPMNE party, Nikola Gruevski, invited the chairpersons of the leading political parties in Macedonia to a meeting dedicated to the upcoming president and local elections, Makfax reports.
“The upcoming elections, as well as the development of the elections legislation and democratic practices during elections are highly important to the country and its European perspective”, states the invitation sent to the chairs of theo ther three leading political parties – Social Democratic Union of Macedonia, Democratic Union for Integration, Democratic Party of Albanians.
Leader’s meeting is scheduled for January 9.

Popova Sapka

Popova Šapka (sometimes mentioned as Popova Sapka or Popova Shapka) is one of the most famous winter-recreational and ski resorts in Macedonia and the former Yugoslavia. It is located in Šar Planina (mountain). The resort is situated on 18 km from Tetovo and from the capital, Skopje is just 48 km away.Šar Planina itself, is characterized by the numerous natural beauties, large areas covered with grass, flower meadows and 43 peaks at the height over 2,500 meters, above the sea level. The most famous is Titov Vrv - with a height of 2,747 meters, is in the vicinity of Popova Šapka. The beauty of the mountain is enhanced by the several springs and mountain lakes: Livadičko Lake, Crno Lake, Belo Lake, and others. Šar Planina is also rich with woods, that end at 1,600 meters above the sea level. In some of the higher parts of the mountain, the snow remains even during the warmest summer months. The length of this impressive mountain massif extends 80 km, and in latitude - 12 km. The snow cover is from November to April. Popova Šapka is located at the height of 1,708 meters.

Popova Šapka is connected to the nearest city, Tetovo, by a cable railway and a asphalt road. In the immediate vicinity of the Dervish Monastery Arabati Baba Tekje, in Tetovo, is the start of a cable car lift going up to Popova Šapka. The lift is 7 km long and it takes less than 40 minutes to reach Popova Šapka. A good asphalt road, that is passing by the mountainous villages of Gajre, Šipkovica and Lisec, leads to the complex of hotels and ski slopes, which can be used during the whole year, even in the winter months, (except in very bad snow storms), because the road is always being cleaned from the snow cover. The ski slopes in Popova Šapka are first class. They are connected by chair and drag-lifts.

There are 6 ski-lifts: Teteks 1, Teteks 2, Aerodrom, Ge (Pionir), Jelak and one parallel to the Aerodrom ski-lift. Also there are 3 chairlifts: Ceripašina and one parallel with Teteks and Aerodrom ski-lifts. The third one is by the Ceripašina double chairlift, but it is out of order. The Teteks ski-lifts are single drag, while all the rest are double drag. The lowest ski-slope is at Teteks ski-lift 1,708 meters, while the highest is Ceripašina chairlift at 2,510 meters. Just above Ceripašina chairlift is situated the Popova Šapka meteorological station, near the border with Serbia (Kosovo), on an altitude of 2,525 meters above the sea level. Several years ago a monastery complex was built by the church dedicated to St. Naum. There is a hut at the Ge (Pionir) ski-lift where the visitors can buy some tea or other products.

Macedonia has gas for less than one day

Macedonia is using its last natural gas reserves after Russian Gazprom cut the deliveries from Ukraine, through Bulgaria, to Macedonia, at 04:30 /local time”, Macedonian A1 television reports.
The country disposes of natural gas reserve, which will be enough for less than one day.
The gas crisis will affect more than 20 companies using natural gas. Those that lack alternative energy sources will be the most affected, the television remarks.

Gas supply to Macedonia halted

Natural gas shipment to Macedonia has been halted due to the dispute between Moscow and Kiev on gas price.

Russia state company Gazprom Tuesday morning halted the shipment to Bulgaria, Greece, Turkey, Romania, Croatia and significantly reduced to Hungary, Austria, Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Czech Republic.

The transit of the Russian natural gas to the Balkans and Turkey has been halted Tuesday morning at 04:30h, Makpetrol told referring to the GA-MA operator’s press release.

As a result of this the gas shipment will be fully halted in 20 to 24 hours for the work of the consumers in Macedonia, Makpetrol told. The government, Regulatory Commission and natural gas consumers in the country are informed about the newly developed situation.

The largest gas distributor in Macedonia is “Toplifikacija.” Its manager Dimitar Hadzimisev confirmed that the situation of gas supply is serious and the company starting this evening will start using crude oil.

The halt to Russian gas supplies has no serious consequences to Macedonia, as the country generally does not use much gas, Economy Minister Fatmir Besimi stated for local media.

- We have official reports from Ukraine Naftogaz that gas shipment to Macedonia is halted due to misunderstandings with Gazprom Russia and it can have both economic and political implications. We consider that Macedonia uses small quantities of natural gas and the implications will also be small, Besimi said.

He said that industrial capacities and “Toplifikacija” for the time being could start using crude oil as alternative fuel.

- I consider that regular supply of gas should be established whereat in coordination with the colleagues from the region we would point out the economic implications and we call on respect on international conventions for energy transit projects, Economy Minister Fatmir Besimi said.