Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Macedonia to take care of its minority in neighboring countries

Macedonia is entitled to take care of its minority in the neighboring countries, said the newly appointed Foreign Minister Antonio Miloshoski in an interview with Skopje's daily Dnevnik.

"Macedonia can lobby and even encourage the neighboring countries, without causing conflict or upset, to comply with European criteria regarding ethnic minority rights. This will be a policy of this government," Miloshoski told Dnevnik daily.

As regards name dispute with Greece, Miloshoski reiterated that the dispute is just a problem between Athens and Skopje, adding that Macedonia could not give up on its constitutional name.

"We don't want to cause waves. That's not our politics... However, I would like to say something: How could a man give up his own shadow. Macedonia could not quit its own name," he added.

Miloshoski made a suggestion to Athens to be in footsteps of Washington and to see the US motives for recognition of Macedonia's constitutional name.

As regards Kosovo issue, Miloshoski said three things are important as far as Macedonia is concerned: the final status should reflect the will of majority citizens in Kosovo; the final settlement should be agreed by the three parties - Pristina, Belgrade and the international community; and finally, the final status should boost not undermine the stability in the region.

Miloshoski sees the demarcation of Macedonia's northern border with Kosovo as part of the third condition mentioned hereabove, however, he raised doubts that Macedonia could wrap up border demarcation prior to status settlement.

"We would be pleased if demarcation of Macedonia's northern border becomes part of the final status package," Macedonian foreign minister said.

Miloshoski said the new government will also take care of Macedonian Diaspora in Europe and offshore countries, noting that the Diaspora will be entitled to vote in the next elections in Macedonia.

"The first thing is to enable the Diaspora to cast their votes at elections..." Miloshoski told Dnevnik daily.

New Russian Ambassador handed over credentials to Crvenkovski

The President of the Republic of Macedonia, Branko Crvenkovski, received today the letter of credentials of the newly appointed plenipotentiary Ambassador of the Russian Federation to the Republic of Macedonia, Vladimir Solotsinsky.

"Macedonian people, and I personally, value highly the friendly Russian Federation's support to our country ever since declaring of independence, and especially in the hard times, backing its sovereignty, territorial integrity and unitarian character of the state", Crvenkovski said.

"I believe that the Russian companies and businessmen will start fining their interest to invest in the Republic of Macedonia. In that sense, I would like to emphasize that you will be provided with support by the Macedonian institutions", Macedonia Head of State added.

Ambassador Solotsinsky said that "Russia has always supported the sovereignty, territorial integrity and the unitarian character of the Republic Macedonia and that position remains unchanged. We will continue our fully support to the efforts of the Macedonia leadership aimed at preserving these values".

He added that "Macedonia is an important political partner for Russia".

"Our intention is to continue the constructive coordination with your country within the international organization on both bilateral and multilateral bases, furthering the practice of exchanging opinions about the main global issues", the new Russian Ambassador said.

As regards the economic cooperation, Solotsinsky stated that "Russia is gradually becoming one of the most important economic partners of Macedonia".

He noted that he will do everything in his power to boost the relations between the two countries in the fields spanning economy and politics.

New government to convene for first session

The new Macedonian government will convene Tuesday for its first session, government's Public Relations Sector said.

No further details regarding the agenda of the first session have been released so far. The session will begin at 14:00 hrs. It takes place one day after the official hand-over of posts between the outgoing and incoming ministers.

Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski and the Foreign Minister Antonio Miloshoski assumed on Monday their first official duties, which included receiving of credentials of newly appointed ambassadors to Macedonia, hosting a delegation of the US company Johnson Controls and a delegation of the People's Republic of China.

US hail peaceful transition of power

United States of America have hailed the peaceful transition of power in Macedonia, saying that "it sends a positive signal in the region regarding the progress the democratic institutions in Macedonia have made since the 1991 declaration of independence".

This is stated in the press statement, released by the US Embassy in Skopje.

"We wish the Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski and his Cabinet a successful launch of the ambitious government's programme. We will support the Government in efforts to step up the economic prosperity, strengthening of the rule of law, full implementation of the 2001 Ohrid Agreement, as well as in pursuing the remaining reforms aimed at further progress of the Republic of Macedonia toward full integration in the Euro-Atlantic structures", the announcement adds.

45th Struga Poetry Evenings Opens

More than 70 poets from around the world are participating in the 45th Struga Poetry Evenings (SPE), which opened on Thursday (24 August). The event is the most prestigious poetry-focused programme in the Balkans, and is heralded worldwide.

Kicking off the SPE was a reading of the Macedonian poem "T'ga za jug" (Grief for the South) by Konstantin Miladinov and a spectacular fireworks show. This year's poet laureate Cuban Nancy Morejón planted the 45th tree in the Park of Poetry.

Morejón writes in Spanish and has 15 books of poetry published. Experts see her modern poetry as continuing the tradition of the old Spanish ballade, where dance, music, warmth and love are the dominant themes. Her works have been translated into almost every European language and published in magazines in the United States.

The central topic of the SPE this year is the multimedia mark of modern poetry and the relation of verses to other arts. The 2006 symposium of the SPE, "The Poem/The Picture: A Dialogue Between Poetry and Painting", was envisioned as a dialogue between poets and painters in theory and aesthetics. Several roundtables are scheduled to focus on this topic.

Other events include a traditional poetry evening dedicated to Caribbean poetry, readings called "Night without Punctuation" will be organised, and a book of poetry, "Pleiades" and anthologies of poetry by Macedonian authors will be published.

The high point of the festival is Bridges -- an event held on the outlet of the Crn Drim River to Lake Ohrid. During this event, the SPE and UNESCO will present an award to young author Maria Markovna-Geyde from the Russian Federation, for her book "Time to Dust".

The SPE will not end in Struga. The poets will visit other towns in Macedonia to read verses in a mission to spread art. Eventually, they will all gather in Skopje for a poetry matinee and reading.

Distinguished poets have come to Macedonia for the SPE for 45 years. The winner of last year's SPE Golden Wreath was the American poet W.S. Merwin. US poets Allen Ginsberg and Joseph Brodsky, Greece's Yannis Ritsos, Hungarian Laszlo Nagy, Chilean Pablo Neruda, Spain's Justo Jorge Padron and Israeli Yehuda Amichai are just some who have received the Golden Wreath.

New directors appointed in IM and Customs Administration

Saso Mijalkov has been appointed as new Director of the Security and Counter-Intelligence Administration (UBK), while Ljupco Todorovski will take up the post of Director of the Public Security Office (BJB).

The new directors have been appointed by a Government's decision adopted at its first session, upon proposal of the Interior Minister Gordana Jankulovska.

Mijalkov's career record includes the posts of Aide for security and intelligence of the Defense Minister, Advisor for security issues of the Defense Minister, and State Secretary for security in the Government of the Republic of Macedonia.

Todorovski held the post of head of Illegal drugs trafficking department with Interior Ministry in 1999. Afterwards, he was appointed as chief of Organized crime department, before taking up the posts of head of Analytics department, and later on - Under-secretary in charge of Crime-Police. He obtained DEA and crisis management certificates, FBI diploma, as well as a certificate on counter-terrorism. He is MA on security studies.

The Government has appointed as Tome Tasevski as acting director of the Customs Administration, who previously held a post at management board of the Bitola Section of Customs Administration.

Vasil Donevski has been appointed as a director of the Common and Joint Affairs Office, while Stojan Tapandzievski is the new acting director of the Employment Agency.

Ivica Georgievski will hold the position of acting director of Duty Free Zones.

At the same session, the Government has discharged from duties the directors and members of the managing boards of the public enterprises, funds and agencies, falling under Government's competence.

"The group discharging serves as a signal that the policy led by the previous Government was unsuccessful", the explanation of the Nikola Gruevski's Government says.

EBRD investments in FYR Macedonia will increase over the next two years to help further promote the country’s transition process and reform agenda.

In its latest strategy for the country, issued 2006-08-30 on the Bank says investments will focus on supporting and attracting local and foreign businesses, working with the financial sector to develop a wider range of products and to increase financing for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). The Bank will also promote infrastructure projects, including privatisations. There will be a particular focus on projects that benefit businesses and people, such as roads, airports, as well as on regional projects.

Through policy dialogue, the Bank will also help push forward the reform agenda, particularly in areas such as the judiciary system, the fight against corruption as well as improving the business climate for investors, particularly SMEs.

Kenji Nakazawa, Head of the EBRD’s office in FYR Macedonia, said the country has made much progress in recent years in meeting its transition challenges and must now build on this to promote an investor-friendly business climate that will attract much-needed investment. The EBRD’s two-year strategy emphasises the Bank’s commitment to being an important partner for local and foreign businesses and for FYR Macedonia as it advances in its transition process and builds on its reform agenda, he added.

Active in FYR Macedonia since 1993, EBRD investments to date amount to more than €403 million, with €86 million committed between in the last strategy period from 2004 to 2006, in areas such as power and energy, general industries and financial institutions. In that period investments rose 27 per cent from the previous two years.

An important element of the Bank’s work in FYR Macedonia will continue to rely on support from the donor community. Earlier this year, eleven countries committed to financing the Western Balkans Multi Donor Fund, set up to help boost private business investment and infrastructure development in this region.

In many respects, donor finance is the catalyst that helps drive EBRD projects, and this is important in helping countries like FYR Macedonia in their transition process, said Mr Nakazawa.

Gov't adamant over 'name issue' with FYROM

The "name issue" separating Athens and Skopje re-emerged on the "political radar" this week following a series of mostly inflexible statements by FYROM's new leadership, and expected reactions by Greece's foreign ministry.

Deputy Foreign Minister Yiannis Valinakis on Wednesday was the latest top Greek official to comment on the long-standing difference, again clarifying that a solution to the 16-year-old dispute absolutely does not revolve around the name that Greece will use in bilateral relations - a leitmotif of previous FYROM governments repeatedly cited by the Skopje over the past few days.

"If the stated goal was to decide how Greece will refer to the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) then UN Security Council resolutions would not be necessary, nor would negotiations under the auspices of the United Nations secretary general be necessary," Valinakis said when asked about comments by FYROM PM Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski, who heads a new coalition government in Skopje that was installed on Monday.

Kosovo’s Separation Would Lead to War and to Macedonia’s Partition

Washington. If Kosovo is divided between the Albanians and the Serbs on the ethnical principle this would lead to a new war and to Macedonia’s separation as well. This is what the report of the Institute for Peace in Washington reads, Macedonian newspaper Dnevnik informs.

As a solution to Kosovo’s division the Institute proposes the introduction of English as the language of the state institutions which would be acceptable both for the Albanians and the Serbs.
The warnings in the report are published only a day after EU Commissioner for External Relations Benita Ferrero-Waldner stated that Kosovo is threatened by new clashes and rioting.
“If the Serbs in Kosovo are given a state the Albanians in Macedonia will want the same. This will also happen with the Albanians in the valley of Presevo,” the report warns.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

PM Gruevski has EUR44.000 savings!

Macedonian Prime Minister has savings totaling 44.000 euros and no real estate or assets bearing his name, says the summary of the property status of the newly appointed office holders from VMRO DPMNE, published on the party's webpage.

VMRO DPMNE announced that the list will be continuously updated, according to the dynamics of appointing and election of other officials and filing out the questionnaires on their part.

Justice Minister Mihajlo Manevski shares ownership of a 114 square meters apartment in Skopje with his wife. His real estate property includes a family house in Bashino Selo and 10.000 square meters cultivating field, and his personal bank accounts total 85.000 denars.
Manevski family's savings total 20.000 euros.

Mile Janakieski, the new Minister of Transportation and Communication, owns an 65 square meters apartment in Skopje, subject to mortgage pay off, as well as a family house in Skopje's District of Kapishtec. Furthermore, he owns two houses in Prilep, his birth town. Janakievski holds 17 priority shares in Komercijalna Banka-Skopje, 33 priority shares in Stopanska Banka-Skopje and 68 shares in Prolux from Prilep.

Foreign Minister Antonio Miloshoski is a sole owner of two one-room apartments in Skopje and shares ownership with his wife over a 49 square meters apartment in Germany.

Miloshoski is paying off three loans intended for apartment provision. He posses no other property nor has registered savings.

Zoran Konjanovski, the Minister for Local Self-Governance, owns an apartment under construction in Skopje, with area of 41 square meters. His assets also include a banking account containing 200.000 denars and two foreign-currency bankbooks, totaling 1.135 euros.

Albanians in Macedonia Protest New Government

Thousands of ethnic Albanians protested in front of the Macedonian parliament building in Skopje on Friday 25 August as legislators gathered to vote in the new government of Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski. Gruevski’s VMRO-DPMNE won 5 July parliamentary elections and has proposed the formation of a coalition government with the Democratic Party of Albanians (DPA) and several minor parties. But as the parliamentary session started, thousands of sympathizers of another ethnic Albanian party, the Democratic Union of Integrations (DUI), protested at being left out of the government.

Ethnic Albanians make about 25 per cent of Macedonia’s two million population and DUI won 17 parliamentary seats thanks to ethnic Albanian voters. But Gruevski decided to form a coalition with DPA, which won only 11 seats, drawing protests that he was ignoring the will of ethnic Albanians. Some ethnic Albanian intellectuals even wrote to United States Secretary of state Condoleezza Rice, asking her to intervene.
Local media reported that parliament building was cordoned off by security police but there were no incidents. The vote on the new government is expected to take place late tonight.

Gruevski told parliament that his priority will be the improvement inter-ethnic relations, development of democracy, rooting out crime and poverty and improving the dire economic situation. On the international scale, Gruevski predicted Macedonia would become a member of NATO in 2008, and next year will become an official candidate to join the European Union.

If One Owns Bulgarian or Albanian Passport in Macedonia They Will Be Accused of Espionage: MP

Skopje. The Macedonian MP from the Democratic Union for Integration (DUI) Dzevat Ademi refuted before FOCUS News Agency the information disseminated by Macedonian TV station A1 on Friday that DUI leader Ali Ahmeti had said that Macedonia should not be ruled by people with Bulgarian citizenship.

According to Mr. Ademi A1’s information could be called speculative.
“This information is taken out of the context of what Ali Ahmeti said. What he said was: “I as an Albanian can receive an Albanian citizenship but I do not have one because I have never wanted it. As an Albanian I have strong connections in Kosovo and I can become a citizen of Kosovo whenever I want. I, however, do not have such because I want to live in Macedonia and to work for this country because it is my native land,” the Macedonian MP explained.
When asked to comment whether people with double citizenship could govern Macedonia Dzevat Ademi stated: “As far as I know there are two or three ministers with double citizenship in the cabinet of Nikola Gruevski, which is not a legitimate cabinet. This bothers no one”.

According to him there are stereotypes that still exist in Macedonia according to which the politicians could have a Serbian passport but not an Albanian or Bulgarian one.
“If one has an Albanian or Bulgarian passport they will immediately be accused of espionage or of being someone’s vassal,” the DUI MP pointed out.

Macedonia’s New Government Has Only EUR 24 Million

Skopje. Macedonia’s new government has only EUR 24 million of the country’s budget at its disposal, Macedonian TV station A1 informs.

This information triggered a dispute between the up-to-now Finance Minister Nikola Popovski and the newly elected one Trajko Slaveski. Many questions were raised by the business circles in the country which need an answer. Will the new government be able to spend more money, how will the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank react to the spending of the money intended for the big economic projects are only some of these questions.
To begin with Minister Slaveski will order a rebalance of the budget and will check what his predecessor has left him.

Macedonia gets new government, DUI uses militant rhetoric

Macedonian lawmakers approved the composition of the new government around midnight on Saturday (26 August). It consists of the VMRO-DPMNE, the Democratic Party of Albanians (DPA), the New Social Democrats and a few small parties with one or two MPs.

What has attracted the most attention is the exclusion of the Democratic Union for Integration (DUI), the ethnic Albanian party that won more seats in parliament than the DPA. Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski negotiated with DUI representatives for a few days but to no avail.

Gruevksi has denied DUI accusations that the party's exclusion violates the Ohrid Framework Agreement, arguing that obligations under the accord have been met by including the DPA. The US and EU ambassadors, meanwhile, called on DUI to be a constructive opposition. President Branko Crvenkovski voiced a similar view.

In the past weeks, DUI staged protests and blocked roads when it became clear that Gruevski was forming the government without the party, which is led by Ali Ahmeti.

The issue moved to the front burner late last week. While parliament met to approve the new government, DUI organised mass rallies. While Gruevski was presenting his plans to parliament, Ahmeti addressed protesters with militant statements.

"Gruevski will have a problem because he does not respect the will of the Albanians and because he humiliates them. We are the masters of our future and not the tenants in this country. I have already said that if we are not in the government, he will have to deal with us," Ahmeti told the few thousand protestors, according to Dnevnik and Utrinski Vesnik.

Ahmeti explicitly said he did not recognise the new cabinet. MPs for DUI and its coalition partner, PDP, did not attend the session in which lawmakers approved it.

Criticising the boycott, DPA Vice President Menduh Taci said Ahmeti's party did not have the courage to come to the parliament and exchange arguments there.

SDSM leader and outgoing Prime Minister Vlado Buckovski and outgoing Finance Minister Nikola Popovski, meanwhile, have expressed worry over DUI's absence from the government. Buckovski warned Gruevski to be especially watchful over security and good interethnic relations, the basis of stability in Macedonia and the precondition for economic stabilisation.

Heavy traffic accident near Debar leaves two dead

Two persons were killed in a heavy traffic accident that happened at the Gipsara locality near Debar, Makfax Agency reports.

The incident occurred when a Mercedes lorry loaded with firewood tipped over from as yet unknown reasons.

The three workers, who had been ferrying on the back of the lorry as seating on the top of the piled wood, attempted to rescue themselves by jumping off the truck, which left Agron Sulejmani dead on the spot, while Enver Pilici suffered severe injuries.

Pilici was immediately rushed to the Bitola hospital, where, according to the latest information, he succumbed to the injuries.

The lorry driver and the third worker suffered minor injuries.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Ali Ahmeti Will Not Meet Nikola Gruevski Until He Doesn’t Demand Support from Albanians

Skopje. The chairman of the Democratic Union for Integration Ali Ahmeti announced last night that he had no intention to meet the leader of VMRO-DPMNE and future Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski until he doesn’t demand Albanians’ support, Kanal 5 reports. “Until the mandate bearer Nikola Gruevski demonstrates that he doesn’t reckong with the voice of the majority Albanians he will not be a Prime Minister of the Albanians”, Ahmeti stated, commenting on the point of view of the international representatives in the country that an urgent meeting between himself and Gruevski should take place.

Westward-looking government formed in Macedonia

Skopje - The Macedonian parliament voted late Saturday for a new cabinet under new Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski, chief of the nationalist VMRO-DPMNE party, according to media reports in Skopje.

The parliamentary approval followed a two-day debate.

The new government got 68 votes with 22 opposed in the 120-seat parliament. Numerous ethnic-Albanian legislators abstained from voting.

On Friday, about 5,000 Albanians protested outside the parliament building in a rally called by two Albanian parties, the DUI and PDP. The Albanian parties were shut out of the new government despite strong showings in the recent elections.

Gruevski's governing programme is aimed at raising living standards, boosting the economy, improving relations between ethnic Macedonians and the Albanian minority and fighting corruption. Integration into NATO and the European Union are among the new government's top goals.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Macedonia gets new Cabinet

Macedonia has received a new coalition government lead by Nikola Gruevski

Gruevski (35) is the leader of VMRO-DPMNE and the coalition Better Macedonia that won the parliamentary elections on July 5. After a debate that lasted two days, 68 out of 120 deputies of the Macedonian Parliament voted in support of Gruevski’s Cabinet.

The new Macedonian Minister of Foreign Affairs is Antonio Miloševski (29), who was previously spokesman to former Prime Minister Ljupče Georgijevski. Gordana Jankulovska (30) is the new Minister of Interior, previously an advisor to Gruevski when he was the Finance Minister in Ljupče Georgijevski’s government.

Several new ministers are from the NGO sector: Defence Minister Lazar Elenovski was the President of the Euro-Atlantic Club, Justice Minister Mihajlo Manevski lead the State Anti-Corruption Commission, while the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for European Integration Gabriela Konevska came from Transparency Macedonia.

Gligor Tašković, an American citizen of Macedonian origin, has been appointed Minister without portfolio and he has been tasked with the duty to attract foreign investments.

The newly-founded Ministry of Information Technology is headed by Vele Samak, a young IT expert who had previously worked for Microsoft in the USA.

The new coalition government is comprised of VMRO-DPMNE, the Socialist Party of Macedonia, the Liberal Party, the Democratic Party, the New Social Democratic Party and VMRO-People’s Party lead by the former PM Ljupče Georgijevski. Arben Xhaferi’s Democratic Party of Albanians has also entered the government with 11 deputies, while the other party in the Albanian electorate, the Albanian Democratic Union for Integration was not invited to participate in the new Cabinet, which was why their supporters demonstrated in front of the Parliament building while the legislature was in session.

Ruling Coalition in Macedonia Signs Economic Manifest

Skopje. The parties participating in Macedonia’s new government signed an economic manifest on Thursday, Macedonian news agency Makfax informs.

With the signing of the manifest the parties of the ruling coalition undertook that the government’s main priority in the next four years would be the improvement of the country’s economy.
“We knows it is going to be difficult but we are ready to achieve results with decisive and big steps,” VMRO-DPMNE leader and newly appointed Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski said.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Macedonia: Resistance to Ohrid is dead

It hasn’t been plain sailing but Macedonia is surely now closer than its neighbors to creating a genuinely multi-ethnic society.

Commentary by Ana Petruseva in Skopje for IWPR (24/08/06)

Several years ago, few would ever have imagined that they would one day see the double-headed eagle of neighboring Albania fly on a flag next to the Macedonian flag on government buildings.

But five years after the peace deal that ended a severe bout of ethnic warfare, the sight of an Albanian flag hardly surprises anyone anymore.

Back in 1997, the display of an Albanian flag on the streets of Gostivar, in western Macedonia, led to a massive police raid and hundreds of arrests.

What changed matters was the conflict in 2001, when Albanians obtained the kind of civil rights by force that no Albanian party in government since independence had been able to deliver.

Almost all the demands that Albanians parties had made since independence were granted as part of the 2001 Ohrid peace deal.

Albanians gained greater inclusion in all state institutions; the Albanian language acquired official status in many parts of the country; and a once controversial - indeed, illegal - Albanian university is now paid for out of taxpayers' money.

Is Macedonia now out of the woods, having overcome all the challenges facing this small republic? That would be going too far. But it would be fair to say Macedonia has now moved further than any other country in the region towards the creation of a genuinely multi-ethnic society.

Five years after the eruption of a crisis that threatened to lead to the country's violent dissolution, or to its division along ethnic lines, Macedonia is in the process of reshaping its identity, based on the Ohrid peace deal, which is now widely accepted as a working formula to keep the country together.

To fully understand the changes that have taken place in Macedonia since Ohrid, one has to take in account the events prior to the conflict.

In 1999, most Macedonians sighed with relief when the Kosovo crisis came to an end, enabling about 300,000 Albanian refugees to go home. They believed they had witnessed the last bloody chapter in the fall of the former Yugoslavia.

The year 2001 was supposed to be a good year for Macedonia. Talks with the European Union were underway and there were solid chances for the economic revival of the impoverished republic.

That all ended when the minority Albanians suddenly began an armed struggle for greater civil rights against a state they saw as oppressive.

Initially, NATO described the Albanian gunmen as “murderous thugs” who had lured the authorities into shelling villages through their violent campaign.

But as the Macedonians proved unable to handle the crisis, the international community became increasingly involved, determined to prevent another hotspot from developing in the Balkans. The result was the Ohrid peace deal, signed on 13 August 2001.

The government, led by Social Democrats and former rebels-turned-politicians, in 2002 put the realization of Ohrid at the top of its agenda and pushed most of the provisions through parliament in spite of the disagreement of many Macedonians.

Today, an accord that in 2001 most Macedonians denounced as an act of treason, is no longer disputed. Once loud calls for Ohrid to be revised or abolished have faded.

The only people still disputing the agreement are fairly marginal extremists that attract little attention. The big political players all stand behind it now.

One of the reasons for its acceptance is that most of the obligations foreseen in the framework agreement are now in place.

The last big challenge involved the re-drafting of local government borders in 2004 to create 84 new municipalities of which 16 would have an Albanian majority.

The law caused uproar and about 150,000 people signed a petition for a referendum that could have prevented the law from being put into practice.

The referendum's failure cemented the Ohrid agenda and defused claims that the deal was only postponing all-out confrontation between the two communities.

Inter-ethnic relations have gradually improved since.

That does not change the fact that Macedonians and Albanians in general do not like each other.

The communities remain divided and have little knowledge of each other's language, culture and religion.

Macedonians still fear the eventual rise of a “Greater Albania," linking the west of Macedonia to Kosovo and Albania, or becoming a minority in their own country. The fear is founded on the fact that the Albanian birth rate is far higher than the Macedonian.

Albanians, on the other hand, believe Macedonians will always try to keep Albanians down, as second-class citizens.

But there is little danger now of these stereotypes touching off a new war. Most Macedonians and Albanians are content to complain about each other each before getting on with business as usual, which is not so different from the pattern in many ethnically mixed societies in Europe.

And Europe is where Macedonia sees its future. The ambition to join the EU has been crucial in mobilizing support for the full implementation of the Ohrid deal.

As a reward for adopting the Ohrid package of reforms, the EU granted Macedonia candidate status in December 2005.

To actually get into the EU, Macedonia still needs to show it is capable of creating a fully functional state for all its ethnic communities, and one that does not require frequent high-level visits by finger-wagging diplomats.

Moreover, two major pieces of legislation linked to Ohrid are still to be adopted, one regulating the use of languages and the other dealing with the police.

As both have the potential to stir nationalist emotions, the new right-of-center VMRO-DPMNE led government and its Albanian partner, the Democratic Party of Albanians, DPA, will have to tread carefully with these tricky issues.

VMRO-DPMNE will have to resist the temptation to pay on nationalistic populism, as the party did in the failed 2004 referendum.

Ironically, VMRO DPMNE and DPA were in power when the conflict started in 2001. Now it seems likely that during their mandate Ohrid will be finalised and fully implemented. The DPA's rivals in the Albanian camp, the Democratic Party of Integration, DUI, has openly threatened the government, saying if they are left out of the cabinet, Kalashnikov machine-guns could appear again on the streets.

Such outrageous statements come as a reminder that political parties still have the power to seriously damage the Ohrid peace deal, undermining the entire peace process.

But the DUI notwithstanding, Macedonia appears unlikely now to swerve markedly from the course established five years ago at the Ohrid talks.

Ethnic issues no longer top the agenda in Macedonia. Indeed, one sign of this was the fact that the new administration has pledged to make the economy its number-one priority.

Ethnic issues have not been swept under the carpet, as they were during the Nineties. But there is now an ongoing process at work in Macedonia, and mechanisms in place, to create a multi-ethnic society for all Macedonians, regardless of their ethnicity. In that sense, there has surely been progress.

Urgent Intervention Needed to Preserve Ohrid Lake Values

Representatives of five environmentalist organizations, “Krste Jon", „Areal", „Enhalon" and „Green Centre" from Struga, together with the Macedonian Green Centre from Skopje, addressed the President, Government and the Parliament of the Republic of Macedonia in an open letter, to express their concern over the activities that the local authorities in the city of Struga have undertaken along the coastline of the Ohrid Lake, directly endangering the coastal zone.

The letter emphasizes the need for responsibility and demands urgent action to protect the Ohrid Lake, in accordance with the existing legislation on protection of national heritage, as well as the obligations resulting from the international conventions, such as the UNESCO’s convention on protection of global natural heritage.

The organizations reacted to the mass use of concessions to use the coast line for activities contrary to the existing legislation and present direct danger in terms of pollution of the Lake waters. Also, the coast line is paved in stone to create artificial beaches in places characterized by specific habitats.

The organizations also dispute the decision of the Struga Municipal Council to construct a free-way along the coast line, i.e. reconstruction and reopening of the old Ohrid Struga road, as well as the reopening for traffic of the old section of road EuroHotel-Sateska bridge, which was used for more than 20 years as pedestrian exclusive zone.

According to the initiative, the most important danger presented by these activities is the fact that they gradually reduce and contributes to extinction of the unique values of the lake, leading, unavoidably, to it being removed from the UNESCO Global List of Natural and Cultural Heritage.

The organizations emphasize that they do not intend to minimize the efforts of the local authorities to improve the living and development conditions in Struga, but do emphasize the need to respect the national legislation. This is crucial in municipalities that cover protected areas within their territory, such as Ohrid and Struga.

CEFTA rules apply to Macedonia starting today

The Agreement for Accession of the Republic of Macedonia in the Central European Free Trade Agreement (CEFTA) officially comes into force today, the Macedonian Customs Administration announced.

As of today, our country is joining the incumbent CEFTA members - Croatia, Bulgaria and Romania - which automatically terminates the bilateral agreements with these Balkan's countries.

Pursuant to the Agreement, part of the imported goods originating from these countries will be subject to 0% customs duty, while the duty rates for some goods are subject to gradual decrease until full abolishment of the customs fee.

Benefits of inclusion in CEFTA for Macedonia include boosting of the economic cooperation, market liberalization, joint penetration to foreign markets and exchange of experiences with the other countries standing at the threshold of EU.

The Agreement on Accession of Macedonia to CEFTA is aimed at preparing the country for full market liberalization, as envisaged in EU strategic documents.

Arben Dzaferi retreats from politics

On Wednesday, Arben Dzaferi, leader of the Democratic Party of Albanians of Macedonia (DPA) announced his retreat from politics.

"I intend to retreat from politics for health-related reasons", said Dzaferi for Wednesday's issue of Pristina newspaper "Koha Ditore".

"I have health-related problems that keep me from giving contribution in the political processes that will happen in all segments of the Albanian society", explains Dzaferi.

As Makfax correspondent reports, he added that the retreat would be gradual, step by step, "same as I have entered politics".

Dzaferi refused to state possible names of his successor, but said that it won't be a problem.

"Everywhere I have worked, I created personnel that is able to replace me", said Dzaferi in his statement for "Koha Ditore".

Arben Dzaferi, one of the most controversial politicians in the recent Macedonian history, is ill from a difficult disease for many years, which has been kept under control.

He entered politics as a leader of DPA in the beginning of 1990s, after a faction split from until-then undisputed party of Macedonian Albanians - Party of Democratic Prosperity (PDP).

In Macedonian media, with abundant help from ruling elites, Dzaferi traveled the road from "radical", through "largest Albanian intellectual" and "constructive Albanian" to "traitor, secessionist and supporter of the idea for Great Albania".

Before coming to Macedonia and starting a political career, Dzaferi was building his education and professional career in Kosovo, since the time of socialist Yugoslavia.

According to unconfirmed information, since several years ago he is often seen in Pristina, where he has own business.

Opening of 45th Struga Poetry Evenings

By reading verses from the poem "Tga za jug" from Konstantin Miladinov and by starting the festival fire, on Thursday in front of the Struga Cultural Centre 45th Struga Poetry Evenings will be opened.

According to the programme, this year 35 foreign and 36 Macedonian poets will participate, and this year's laureate is Cuban poet Nancy Morejon.

SVP's programme contains traditional contents, poetry readings "Bridges" and "Meridians", portrait of the "Golden Wreath" laureate, in "St. Sofia" church, presentation of the "Pleiades", as well as poetry reading "A night without punctuation".

This year, the evening of national poetry will be dedicated to Caribbean poetry, and the reading will be enhanced with performance of a Caribbean quartet.

On the 45th SVP, the traditional content "Poetry on the road" will be revived by poetry readings throughout Macedonia, in cities of Bitola, Strumica, Kicevo, Kumanovo and Tetovo.

Katanec hopes for good show v England

SKOPJE, Aug 25 (Reuters) - Macedonia coach Srecko Katanec said he hoped his team would provide stiff opposition to England in their Euro 2008 qualifier on Sept. 6, despite their opponents' quality.

"Talking about England's quality would be superfluous and I hope we will put in a good performance," he told the Macedonian Soccer Association (FFM) Web site from his home in Slovenia.

"(England Manager) Steve McLaren has added a new quality to the side, the high tempo they demonstrated in a 4-0 win against Greece in a recent friedly," he said.

"England will surely look to repeat that kind of performance in their opening qualifier against Andorra on Sept 2. and in Skopje four days later. They are the group favourites."

The other teams in Group E are Russia, Croatia and Israel.

Katanec named the same squad that beat Estonia 1-0 in Talinn on Aug 16. That includes only one home-based player, reserve goalkeeper Tome Pacovski from champions Rabotnicki Skopje.

"There is no time for experiments and no need to change the winning team unless something unpredictable happens," he said.

"The atmosphere is great after the win against Estonia and we need to use that in our most important match of the year, a clash in which we have nothing to lose."

England drew with Macedonia 2-2 in Southampton and beat them 2-1 in Skopje under former manager Sven-Goran Eriksson on the road to the Euro 2004 finals.


Goalkeepers: Jane Nikolovski (Slaven Koprivncica, Croatia), Tome Pacovski (Rabotnicki Skopje)

Defenders: Goce Sedloski (Mattersburg, Austria), Igor Mitreski (Energie Cottbus, Germany), Nikolce Novevski (Mainz, Germany), Aleksandar Vasovski (Eintracht Frankfurt, Germany), Robert Petrov (CSKA Sofia, Bulgaria), Vlade Lazarevski (Groclin Grodzisk, Poland)

Midfielders: Igor Jancevski (Enosis Paralimni, Cyprus), Velice Sumolikovski (Bursaspor, Turkey), Vlatko Grozdanovski (Omonia, Cyprus), Darko Tasevski (Metalurg Zaporizhya, Ukraine), Artim Sakiri (Aalborg, Denmark), Aleksandar Mitrevski (Cologne, Germany)

Strikers: Goran Pandev (Lazio, Italy), Aco Stojkov (Partizan Belgrade, Serbia), Ilco Naumovski (Mattersburg, Austria), Goran Maznov (Lokeren, Belgium)

Macedonian Parliament Hasn’t Elected a Government Yet

Skopje. The meeting of the Macedonian Parliament for election of a new cabinet of the country continues, the Macedonian agency Makfax reported. The members of the oppositional Liberal Democratic Party /LDP/ stated they would not support a government of Nikola Gruevski.
The ruling coalition has the support of 70 MPs and no surprises are expected. There is an agreement among the Parliamentary groups that the government has to be elected by the end of the day. The Democratic Union for Integration and the Party for Democratic Prosperity are boycotting today’s meeting as a protest for not being invited to participate in the proposed cabinet.

Protests As Macedonian Parliament Meets To OK New Government

SKOPJE, Macedonia (AP)--The Macedonian parliament convened Friday to approve formally the new conservative government, as about 3,000 supporters of an ethnic Albanian party left out of the ruling coalition staged a protest.
Prime Minister-designate Nikola Gruevski requested parliament's approval for a coalition government after his VMRO-DPMNE party won July 5 elections.
After weeks of negotiations, Gruevski, a former finance minister, chose a Cabinet he said would attract foreign investment, stimulate Macedonia's stagnant economy and fight corruption.
"Macedonia has plunged deeper and deeper into poverty in the last 15 years of transition and that is the biggest threat for social and political security. This government intends to initiate an economic revival with strong reforms and to improve the well-being of the people," Gruevski told lawmakers.
Gruevski chose the ethnic Albanian DPA party as a coalition partner, angering supporters of the rival DUI minority group who have staged several protests in recent weeks.
The Cabinet includes two U.S.-educated executives who were named as deputy premiers: Vele Samak, a marketing manager at Microsoft Corp. (MSFT), and Gligor Taskovic, a senior executive at the Macedonian Bulgarian Oil Corporation, AMBO. Both men are tasked with attracting overseas investment.
Fifteen years after Macedonia split peacefully from Yugoslavia, unemployment is at 36%. The country is also still recovering from a 2001 insurgency by rebels from the country's ethnic Albanian minority - which makes up about a quarter of the country's 2.1 million population.
The Democratic Party of Albanians, or DPA, is a traditional partner in conservative governments and was handed the ministries of health, education, culture and the environment.
The rival DUI had demanded a place in the coalition, arguing that failure to include it would ignore the will of the country's ethnic Albanians. About 3,000 of its supporters gathered outside parliament in protest in central Skopje.
DUI deputies have staged walkouts from parliament and joined recent road blockades.
"We won a majority of the votes among Albanians and we do not want Gruevski to (damage) our dignity," said 22-year-old Hisni Ismaili, a DUI supporter at the protest.
The demonstration ended peacefully.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

The 5th Bitola - Open City youth art festival kicked off

The 5th Bitola - Open City youth art festival kicked off on 22 August in Macedonia. The programme includes dance, theatre and poetry performances, concerts, and multimedia art and photo exhibitions. Young artists from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, France, India, Macedonia, Montenegro, Portugal, Sweden and Ukraine are participating.

Traffic accident on Skopje-Kumanovo highway leaves 4 injured

Four persons have suffered severe injuries in a traffic accident that took place at Skopje-Kumanovo motorway in the vicinity of OKTA refinery at 9 am on Wednesday.

All injured passengers have been rushed to the Skopje Clinic Center, Makfax Agency reports.

According to the preliminary information confirmed by the Police, a head-on collision between a lorry and Tico automobile took place, causing the lorry to tip over.

The incident caused complete stoppage of Skopje-Kumanovo road traffic. The Police's inspection at the scene is still under way.

Macedonian State was Harmed with EUR 5 Million

Skopje. The Commission for Fighting Corruption revealed a crime that defraud a revenue of EUR 5 million in which the cabinet commission on denationalization was involved, as well as the Cadastre Agency, notaries and tax inspectors from the Skopje Mayor’s office, the Macedonian TV Kanal 5 reports.
Three cases had been gone through in which an illegal exchange of a property in the center of Macedonian capital was performed. According to the info from the anti-corruption commission the retired Ordan Milanovski was also involved. The commission demands on start of a criminal persecution for the employees from the local and state authority who had allowed that and the property to be confiscated.

Row frustrates Albanian equality efforts

Ruling Albanian party is accused of using drive for fairer ethnic minority representation to reward favorites.

By Frosina Cvetkovska in Skopje for IWPR (23/08/06)

Five years after the signing of the Ohrid Agreement, the ethnic power-sharing deal that helped retrieve Macedonia from the brink of civil war, a key pillar of the accord has become submerged in political feuding and accusations of corruption.

The Ohrid deal ended six months of fighting by securing greater rights for ethnic Albanians. It offered an amnesty to the rebels and political concessions to a minority that makes up a quarter of the country's 2 million people. It also paved the way for a series of peaceful elections.

But one key concession is proving to be a sticking point: the effort to ensure “equitable representation” of Albanians in public institutions.

At the time the Ohrid Agreement was signed, public offices were overwhelmingly in the hands of the ethnic Macedonian majority and fewer than four percent of civil servants were ethnic Albanians.

The balance has since changed dramatically under pressure from an aggressive affirmative-action program written into the deal and watched closely by international observers.

The percentage of ethnic Albanian civil servants has since risen in the police from only two to 16 percent, in the defense ministry from two to 14 percent and in the economics ministry from less than five to 24 percent. Other public institutions show lower but steady increases.

As the guarantor of the peace deal, the international community through the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the European Agency for Reconstruction (EAR) has monitored and supported this process.

From 2002 to 2004, the OSCE provided courses for 2,000 police officers from minority, mainly Albanian.

Gonca Stojanovska, EAR information officer, told Balkan Insight that EAR had managed three large projects for equitable representation since November 2003 alone.

But both sides of the ethnic divide are increasingly unhappy, as ethnic Macedonians complain of excessive layoffs and as Albanians claim the process of increasing ethnic minority representation is tainted by corruption.

A key issue is whether the Democratic Party of Integration (DUI) the Albanian partner in the ruling coalition, led by the former rebel chief Ali Ahmeti, has misused the ethnic recruitment process to cement its position.

“Numerous members of the ruling Albanian party have been employed under the mask of equitable representation at the expense of professionalism,” said Nazmi Maliqi, chair of the Association of Albanian Intellectuals, a prominent group in the minority community.

Daut Dauti, an analyst and publisher, said party membership was increasingly seen as a door to state employment, whenever that party won power in Macedonia.

“The ruling Albanian party has contributed to maintaining this old practice,” he said.

Dauti said the practice put at risk the positive effects of equitable representation, which should be felt by ordinary Albanian citizens.

Albert Musliu, director of the Association of Democratic Initiatives, a non-profit organization, agreed.

He said party political influence had prevented the main benefit of equitable representation, which was that ordinary citizens should perceive the state as their own.

“A partisan administration can't be accepted as one's own by citizens that aren't members of that party,” he said.

UN findings confirm that there is a groundswell of distrust and disenchantment with the state.

A UNDP report published in June noted that 50 to 70 percent of Macedonians feel “distrust” of political leaders.

The most vehement critics of recent political processes are those ethnic Albanians who are not members of the DUI but of the rival Democratic Party of Albanians, DPA.

Members of this party, without exception, claim a key requirement for Albanians applying for state jobs is membership of the DUI.

Ilijaz Halimi, a long-time DPA member, said, “All persons that were hired [for the civil service] were selected through a strict filter to establish whether they were members of the ruling party.”

The DUI and its senior coalition partners, the Social Democratic Union of Macedonia (SDSM) deny the charge.

Musa Xhaferi, a DUI official and former deputy prime minister in charge of implementation of the Ohrid Agreement, said the main point was that overall representation of ethnic Albanians in the civil service had risen to 17 percent.

Rafiz Aliti, DUI vice-president, also denied accusations of political favoritism. “During our participation in the ruling coalition, a priority was always given to the persons who were most capable of doing the job,” he said.

Aliti said that the process of achieving equitable representation for Macedonians was time consuming and would far exceed the mandate of any one party.

“For 30 years Albanians were almost completely out of the state services,” he said. “It is not possible [overnight] to increase the number to the required 25 percent. It takes time.”

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Macedonia Remains Captive to Oligarchs: World Bank

Washington. According to the latest report of the World Bank entitled “Anticorruption in transition. Who is successful and why?” Macedonia continues to remain “captive” to the oligarchs in the country, Macedonian TV station Kanal 5 reports.
The survey mentions the countries in transition including those of the former USSR and Yugoslavia, for the period 2002-2005. The results are generalized on the basis of a survey carried out among a great number of companies which had to answer why they were asked for a bribe and how much that bribe was.
The influence of the oligarchs in the justice, administration and government spheres is a special type of corruption which according to the globally adopted terminology is called “slavery of the country”. On this indicator Macedonia is at the bottom, followed only by Albania and Bosnia and Herzegovina; as for the indicator about the corruption being a hindrance to making business Macedonia is followed only by Kyrgyzstan and Albania.
On the other hand there is a slight drop in the administrative corruption for the period 2002-2005 which means that smaller bribe sums have been given. The same tendency is noted at the customs administration while the corruption rate in the justice sphere is increasing, Kanal 5 notes.

Albanians in Macedonia Enlist U.S. Help to Form Government

A group of ethnic Albanian "independent intellectuals" in Macedonia has asked United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to intervene in the formation of a new government that will protect the rights of ethnic Albanians. Skopje Albanian language daily Lajm on Friday published a letter sent to Rice and signed by 34 "independent intellectuals" demanding that incoming prime minister, Nikola Gruevski, includes in his cabinet members of the largest ethnic Albanian party, the Democratic Union for Integration (DUI).

Gruevski’s VMRO-DPMNE won the 5 July parliamentary election and decided to form a coalition government with DUI’s rival, the Democratic Party of Albanians (DPA) and several minor Macedonian parties. The DUI won 17 seats in the 120-seat parliament, more than the DPA, which won 11 seats taking the second biggest share of the ethnic Albanian vote.

In bypassing the DUI in favor of the DPA, Gruevski has "ignored the Albanian majority in forming the government," the intellectuals said in a letter to Rice.

"We, politically independent ethnic Albanian intellectuals in Macedonia, are concerned about political developments in our country, particularly in the part inhabited by ethnic Albanians," the letter said. Gruevski’s boycott of the biggest ethnic Albanian party made ethnic Albanian participation in the elections pointless, the intellectuals said in the letter.

"We hope and expect that your Excellency will use your influence in the defense of basic democratic rights of ethnic Albanians in Macedonia to elect their own representatives in the government,” the intellectuals said.

Gruevski announced the composition of his cabinet this week and it was supposed to be voted by parliament, but the parliamentary decision was postponed for next week.

DUI was a coalition partner in prime minister Vlado Buckovski's government, which was defeated in the July poll. The DUI has fought for a position in Gruevski's government as well, claiming this is what ethnic Albanian voters back.

The general election campaign was marred by violence in which several people were beaten up and two people wounded in incidents involving firearms. Most violent incidents during the campaign occurred between the DUI and the DPA which were fighting for the ethnic Albanian vote: about 25 percent of Macedonia's two million population.

Macedonia is an official European Union candidate and also has its sights set on NATO membership.

Macedonian Tortured in Tetovo Village, As Gang War Rages

SKOPJE – A Macedonian reserve policeman, Duko Simonovski, was found in Shemshevo village, late on the night of 15 April. Kidnapped by local Albanians on Saturday, Simonovski was in critical condition after being tortured and physically abused. He was discovered by an OSCE patrol, according to the Macedonian government. At time of going to press, the OSCE office in Skopje had no further information on the case.

Shemshevo, ethnically mixed until last summer, was one of the many villages afflicted by NLA kidnappings. During the war, NLA-sponsored terrorism forced the Macedonian inhabitants of Shemshevo to flee their homes. They have yet to return.

Violence against Macedonians continues. A MakPetrol gas station in Tetovo was robbed on Monday, and vehicles have been stoned while trying to leave the city. A toll booth on the Tetovo-Gostivar road was also robbed and destroyed on Monday morning. According to government sources, armed and uniformed Albanians recently harassed Macedonian drivers at an impromptu "checkpoint" set up near the Tetovo village of Poroj. Such incidents show that the ongoing redeployment of police in the crisis region is doing little to stop ethnically-motivated intimidation of Macedonians.

Meanwhile, street warfare between rival Albanian factions continued in Tetovo and surrounding villages through the night, the Macedonian Information Agency reported. Heavy weapons fire was reported at six points in downtown Tetovo, including the new Southeast-Europe University (SEE) – a project financed by the EU. Violence extended into early Tuesday morning in the nearby villages of Tearce and Poroj. What is being described as a "turf war" has caused millions of dollars in property damage, and called into question the credibility of Albanian "freedom fighters," who have claimed that their war is for increased rights. The current violence in Tetovo belies that assertion.

For weeks, warfare between dueling factions of the Albanian militant organization, NLA and ANA, has engulfed this ethnically-mixed city in western Macedonia. While the exact reasons are unclear, informed sources claim the fighting revolves around war profits that have "disappeared" among Albanians in Kosovo and in the European diaspora. The infighting has also taken on political overtones. The headquarters of the Democratic Party of Albanians (DPA) was recently attacked, and a restaurant and café owned by Menduh Thaci – the DPA's powerful vice-president – was bombed. High leaders of the DPA and their colleagues – including Thaci and NLA chief Ali Ahmeti – were said to have been the targets of the attack. Their security staff went on high alert, with Thaci's bodyguards gunning down a vehicle passing the restaurant only days later.

The past week has seen sporadic fighting in Tetovo and five nearby villages. Sunday's shootout in Shipkovica, which caused the hospitalization of a 29 year-old man, shows that the ANA is taking the war to the enemy. Shipkovica is a stronghold of Ahmeti and the NLA. The more radical ANA has accused Ahmeti of "selling out the Albanian people," a reference to the compromise negotiations made last summer with the Framework Agreement at Ochrid. The generous concessions made at that time were widely regarded as a big victory for the NLA. The recent Albanian infighting shows that the NLA may have enjoyed too much of a good thing.

Macedonia violence unlikely despite protests

Following elections that brought a pro-Western, pro-market government to power, Macedonia’s future seems promising. But an ethnic Albanian party that feels itself unfairly excluded could cause headaches.

By Christopher Deliso in Skopje for ISN Security Watch (18/08/06)

Since the incumbent coalition was ousted in Macedonia’s 5 July parliamentary elections, the major security concern has been the potential for future violence from the ethnic Albanian Democratic Union for Integration (DUI), excluded from the new government.

Holding road blockades and increasing inflammatory rhetoric in public speeches, the party has warned that future interethnic stability is at risk. However, Western officials directly involved with overseeing Macedonia’s development agree that the new government should be given a chance to show what it can achieve - and that armed violence will not be tolerated.

Led by former rebel leader Ali Ahmeti, the DUI claims that it automatically deserves to be part of the new government because it won a majority of the minority Albanian vote. However, Macedonia is not an ethnic federation, and as in similar European democracies, the party that wins the most seats in parliament has the unconditional mandate to form the government. In this case, is it the center-right VMRO-DPMNE party of former finance minister Nikola Gruevski that has that mandate. At least 61 MPs from Macedonia's 120-seat parliament are needed for a new government.

In the election, Gruevski’s coalition topped all by taking 45 seats, uniting with other parties afterward to achieve a total of 65 seats. These included VMRO-DPMNE’s traditional Albanian coalition partner, the Democratic Party of Albanians (DPA), which won 11 seats and the New Social Democratic Party (NSDP) of veteran politician Tito Petkovski, which won six.

In comparison, the incumbent Social Democrats (SDSM) won 32 seats and the Albanian coalition of the DUI and the Party for Democratic Prosperity (PDP) managed 17 together, with 14 for the DUI - only slightly more than the DPA’s 11.

And while the DUI claimed that it represented “the will of the Albanian people,” under 50 percent of the Albanian electorate actually voted. International and local monitors claimed that violence and fraud were widespread in key regions.

Pressure and provocations

Ahmeti declared on 10 August that DUI could “not accept to be an opposition party,” according to Skopje’s MakFax. A few days later, at a war commemoration in the village of Radusa, party vice-president and hardliner Rafiz Aliti declared that “only with guns” could the Albanians’ goals be achieved. At the same time, a campaign of daily road blockades was held throughout the country, culminating on 15 August.

On Wednesday, in announcing the end of the blockade campaign, Ahmeti claimed his protests had been waged to alleviate the “humiliation” of the Albanian nation. However, the deafening silence from the Albanian public as a whole indicates that the former war hero’s unquestioned authority and prestige have been damaged.

According to a former member of the general staff at the headquarters of the Albanian National Liberation Army (NLA), which was commaded by Ahmeti in the 2001 war, Ahmeti is under pressure from “criminal elements” within the DUI to keep them from possible future prosecution for killings of former Albanian fighters since 2002, allegedly committed under the orders of DUI party strongmen.

According to this source and another former NLA commander, from the Kumanovo region, who spoke to ISN Security Watch, scores of murders carried out against “Albanians who disagreed with Ahmeti’s rule” remain unpunished. The disillusionment of some former paramilitaries, who feel their sacrifices were ignored once Ahmeti turned to politics in 2002, has long been evident. But it is illuminating to see how deep the sentiment runs.

“As much as I loved Ali Ahmeti during the war,” said the Kumanovo commander, “I hate him one thousand times more now [...] he has betrayed the Albanian people and ordered many killings, just to increase his own power.”

Both former soldiers claim to be apolitical, but view the DPA as the lesser of two evils. The second explained the differing experiences ordinary Albanians have had with the parties, thus: “During the DPA’s time in government, between 1998 and 2002, the jails were opened and the graves were sealed. But during the DUI’s rule, the jails were sealed and [new] graves were opened.”

Several international officials in Skopje surveyed by ISN Security Watch concur on key issues. First, DUI’s poor post-election sportsmanship has left a very negative impression internationally. Any attempts from the party to foment another armed insurrection would be tantamount to political suicide.

Nevertheless, the new government’s ambitious economic revitalization scheme could be stymied by having to waste time dealing with localized violence and obstructionism from the DUI.

The DUI’s stated program in this regard involves non-cooperation on the municipal level in areas where they control the mayor’s offices and local administration. According to one US official in Skopje, “this will divert the government’s attention, meaning it is possible to miss expected deadlines.”

The leading example so far has been Skopje’s Albanian-majority neighborhood of Cair, where the DUI-appointed mayor announced plans to modify the municipal seal and make other changes unilaterally. These provocations received a stern admonishment from the West, which nevertheless overlooked, for now, the party’s connection in the municipality to a new private security company partially staffed by Wahhabi fundamentalists who have been locked in a turf war with the legitimate Islamic community for years.

Western officials agree that they have high expectations of the new government, which has seen some unusually qualified personnel nominated the cabinet. The West is therefore willing to support Gruevski’s team against the provocations of the DUI, making the outbreak of violence less likely. Finally, violence is not expected because it would complicate Western efforts to make neighboring Kosovo an independent state.

If excluded from government, the DUI could even splinter. The party’s militant wing is determined to protect its interests through any means necessary, whereas the "reformist" wing, Ahmeti himself plays to both groups, is resigned to its fate. As one official from the latter side admits, “we know we have to make the best of it - in the opposition.”

If such a split occurs, the militant faction would likely be led by Fazli Veliu, who is Ahmeti’s uncle and veteran of the NLA and Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA/UCK) that preceded it, Rafiz Aliti, Gzim Ostreni and other former fighters. However, according to the US official, “Ahmeti will have to remain loyal to the men with guns, or his life is in doubt.”

The proverbial wolf in sheep's clothing

While the 14 seats the DUI won was just enough to beat the DPA, it was not enough to vindicate its prior hubris, nor enough to convince the West of its good intentions. Despite its talk of democracy and inter-ethnic cooperation, the DUI had always been considered the proverbial wolf in sheep’s clothing by Macedonians. And the internationals were starting to see why.

Even before the elections, the DUI began to lose the confidence of the international community, which was also trying to cope with campaign violence that an angry DUI said had been orchestrated by the DPA. Yet when a photo opportunity for signing a declaration on fair elections was held by the National Democratic Institute, Ahmeti was the only major party president who failed to come.

At the same time, senior DUI officials were privately stating their contempt for the allegedly “fourth-class” Western diplomats with whom they had to do business - while those diplomats were expressing shock at finding “Kalashnikovs on the coffee tables,” in the DUI’s headquarters, as one man put it. “I mean, what kind of a party does that?”

For the 5 July vote, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) sent its usual armada of observers to watch the vote and, while far fewer irregularities were noted than in previous elections, observers were allegedly turned back at gunpoint from certain polling areas in Ahmeti’s Kicevo-Zajas stronghold in western Macedonia. Even though this issue was not explicitly stated in the body’s preliminary findings statement, it may be mentioned in the comprehensive report due next month. An OSCE observer also expressed concern that some Albanian voters were being intimidated into voting for the DUI, again through threat of arms.

What is unprecedented now, in the more than a month of post-election protests and verbal accusations from the DUI, is the degree to which Ahmeti has lost the West's favor. His inability to compel the international community to do his bidding has severely damaged the prestige of a man who, during and after the war of 2001, which he started, was effortlessly transformed from war hero to statesman by a fawning procession of foreign diplomats. The strong pro-US streak in Albanian society, a relic of former president Bill Clinton’s 1999 Kosovo intervention, means that any given Albanian political leader is inevitably judged on his ability to curry favor in Washington.

It is this favor that Ahmeti has fatally lost. On 21 July, he sent an inflammatory letter to NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer in which he warned that the election had “gravely deteriorated the interethnic relations in the country” and that excluding the DUI from the new government “threatens to produce unpleasant situations for all of us.”

The letter had no effect, and further ominous broadsides to the international powers have been similarly ignored. The EU, which made Macedonia’s impending accession talks contingent on fair and free elections in July, has been cool. Special Representative Erwan Fouere’s soft-spoken yet consistent call for dialogue instead of blockades, and his public allusions to the DUI as being part of the “new opposition” have shown where Europe stands.

However, it has been with the US, the key power broker, that the damage has been greatest. Ahmeti allegedly infuriated the US embassy in Skopje when he tried to “go over the head” of Ambassador Gillian Milovanovic and appeal directly to the State Department for support. He accused her of “misrepresenting” the political situation in Macedonia, according to the Albanian-language newspaper Laim.

Most recently, in an interview with radio broadcaster Voice of America, senior staff adviser at the US Helsinki Commission Robert Hand stated: “All parties are entitled to raise arguments over their inclusion in the ruling power, nonetheless, the party that holds the mandate should form the governing coalition” - a clear message to the DUI.

More direct condemnation came from one European official in Skopje, who said: “We are extremely disappointed with DUI’s behavior. We expected them to show some political maturity and play a responsible role in the opposition. Hopefully they can come to their senses.”

Pleasantly surprised by VMRO-DPMNE

Yet even as the West has been shocked by the DUI, it has been pleasantly surprised by election winner VMRO-DPMNE. It is, essentially, a completely different party from the one the West worked to dethrone in the 2002 elections. The nationalist old guard, personified by former prime minister Ljubco Georgievski and former interior minister Ljube Boskovski, are long gone. Gruevski, himself untainted by corruption and eminently qualified for his economy-centered agenda, has also assembled a cabinet of fresh young faces; the average age of his ministers is around 36.

The party has kept close ties with similarly oriented Western parties. The Christian Democrat party of German chancellor Angela Merkel, for example, has historic ties with the VMRO-DPMNE, and has aided its development into a mainstream European center-right party.

Most importantly, perhaps, VMRO-DPMNE is also close to the Bush administration. Before the election, conservative consultants were brought in by the International Republican Institute, which engages in party training and conducts voter opinion polls.

That said, Gruevski’s major strategic decision to stock his cabinet with foreign-trained Macedonians who have taken leadership roles in some of the biggest Western companies and financial institutions, casts his government in a far more favorable light than the DUI, with its reputation for primitivism, incompetence and guns. Bringing in know-how and close contacts with the likes of the World Bank, Microsoft, major oil interests and the US and Australian political establishments can only bolster the new government’s standing.

Now, Gruevski’s challenge will be to implement his economic program sooner rather than later and to bring in major foreign investors. Their presence and lobbying clout could in the end mean the difference between a “wild west” Macedonia where a DUI state-within-a-state thrives, and a country where the harmonization of economic and political interests would allow the government to maintain law and order on a national level.

A tired name game

Reaching an agreement on the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia name issue is a political anachronism sustained by prime minister designate Nikola Gruevski, who yesterday urged a solution “that will satisfy both sides without putting the constitutional name into question.”

Antonio Miloseski, soon to be the country’s foreign minister, said that FYROM is willing to reach a compromise solution with Greece only “on bilateral relations, not the country’s international name.”

The new government of this Balkan nation has drained the concept of “negotiation” of all meaning and does not hesitate to address the Greek government and the public as if they are a bunch of fools. Let the issue remain unresolved if that is what Skopje officials want. Let the Greek threats cease as any attempts for dialogue seem to be in vain.

The government of Costas Karamanlis has in the past proposed the name “Republic of Macedonia-Skopje,” an offer that runs against the 1992 decision of the informal council of political leaders under then-president Constantine Karamanlis. It was an ultimate concession for the sake of stability.

In November 2004, when the newly re-elected Bush administration rushed to recognize the country as “the Republic of Macedonia,” the Karamanlis government warned of a possible veto of Skopje’s membership in NATO and the European Union.

But a new wave of European enlargement, particularly in the Balkans, is not in the cards right now. FYROM will probably have to spend many years in the waiting room. And as a result Greece does not have to worry about Skopje submitting an EU candidacy.

The situation calls for pragmatism from all countries. Greece has made significant concessions on the name issue. On the other hand, the new government in FYROM insists on their same tired arguments.

Kostovski misused power for "Kermes"

Majors of Skopje, Trifun Kostovski, and of Centar municipality, Violeta Alarova, have misused their official power in the process of building the "Kermes" hotel.

This was concluded on Tuesday's session of the State Commission for Corruption Prevention, according to which, the placing of foundation stone confirmed the suspicions that the old object is not reconstructed, but instead a new one is being built, with dimensions 20 times larger then the previous.

Anticorruption Commission urged the authorities to stop the construction of "Kermes", to respect the General Urban Plan, and all involved to be called to account.

A reception on five year's anniversary of the Framework Agreement

President Branko Crvenkovski on Thursday will host a reception on the occasion of five year's anniversary of the signing of Framework Agreement.

The reception will be held in residence Biljana in Ohrid, where Macedonian President will address the guests.

Last weekend in Ohrid, Democratic Union for Integration also held a reception on the occasion of the signing of the Framework Agreement.

On the Verge of Empowerment, DPA Looks Forward to Future Successes

Even as DUI leaders announce “mass protests” for the August 25 parliamentary vote on the new government, their empowered Albanian rivals are confident that law and order will prevail in the end, and are looking forward to making a positive contribution to the political and economic development of the Macedonian state.

In an exclusive interview with, DPA Secretary General Ruzhdi Matoshi spoke of his party’s ambitions, plans for the next four years and desire to improve on outreach and public relations. The party spent much of 2005 boycotting parliament and had ostracized itself for a time from the international community for several extreme nationalist statements. However, DPA was rehabilitated in the eyes of the West just in time for the elections and, despite some violent pre-election incidents instigated by party members, was selected by the winning VMRO-DPMNE as partners in the new government.

According to Mr. Matoshi, the rehabilitation owed partially to the party’s protests over corruption committed by the DUI during the March 2005 local elections, which resulted in a practical sweep for DUI, which took the mayoral positions of the most important Albanian-populated cities and towns. Says Matoshi, “there was a team in the US Embassy compiling a report on bad behavior during the elections, and they brought a lot of information from our own report on corruption to the attention of the State Department.”

Mr. Matoshi also presented evidence that would seem to confirm other sources who claim that intimidation of OSCE observers occurred in Kicevo-area villages under the control of DUI. The election-monitoring body has stated that some trouble did occur in the area, but has so far at least not gone into specifics.

On Past Challenges and Future Goals

Although DUI won more parliamentary seats than did DPA in the July 5th elections, the Macedonian victors chose their traditional Albanian coalition partner, DPA, rather than the party of former militant leader Ali Ahmeti- who was responsible for starting the 2001 war that broke out when VMRO-DPMNE and DPA were last in government.

Although international pundits and diplomats have expressed suspicions that the war may have been started by the leaders of the two parties, (now deposed) Ljubco Georgievski and Arben Xhaferi, a revisionist version of the still-murky war – partly motivated by politics, and partly by reading into the event based on who benefited from it later – has it that SDSM and the then-NLA Albanian fighters actually orchestrated the fighting as a way of taking power over an inexperienced government that had already been hard-hit by having to deal with the NATO bombing of Kosovo in 1999, and the resulting influx of over 400,000 Kosovar refugees, which placed great strain on the country and increased ethnic tensions.

Indeed, when asked about the challenges faced and mistakes made during the parties’ previous 1998-2002 reign, Mr. Matoshi noted that “we [DPA] had too many challenges. We had to try to convince the Macedonian side to allow in the refugees from Kosovo, and that NATO was not a bad organization [for bombing the Serbs]. Still, the economy was getting better, the EU relations were improving, until the war stopped things.”

The VMRO-DPMNE party, which has been purged of its former nationalist leadership and ‘old guard’ figures associated with murky business dealings, has under the present rule of Nikola Gruevski sought to present a more young, enthusiastic and pro-Western lineup of new ministers and advisors. Mr. Matoshi also indicates that his party is concerned to improve its image in the outside world. “We should be more communicative, to express ourselves in a better way” he says, “and we will have zero tolerance for corruption or bribery”- a difficult task considering the endemic nature of such practices in Macedonian society. The DPA General Secretary added that the party will strive to be “closer to the people.”

Bringing “managerial values” to the public administration and business community is part of DPA’s plan for 2006-2010, “so foreigners can see visible improvements” as Macedonia continues making reforms towards possible EU membership. Mr. Matoshi also agrees that it would be a good idea, as some are suggesting, that jobs prone to politicization and corruption such as Public Prosecutor and Health Fund director could be given to a foreign expert rather than a Macedonian citizen. “Such a person could be more impartial… and it will be more easy for bad men to be judged.”

The DPA General Secretary categorized the ministries the party has received – health, education, culture and ecology – as “optimal,” adding, “it is not a question of how many ministries we have, but rather their functionality… we will work hard, and be respected as strong contributors.”

Regarding the ‘national aspect’, i.e., Albanian-specific issues, DPA will be under a lot of pressure from voters to prove that it is the legitimate representative of Albanian interests. Inevitably this will involve dealing with a good bit of relatively symbolic issues. However, this is also likely to alienate Macedonians who already feel that under the last regime SDSM gave away far too many special perks – not to mention a third of the country with the territorial decentralization – to DUI.

Nevertheless, “we will try to work positively with VMRO-DPMNE on the law for languages,” says Mr. Matoshi, “and to realize the Ohrid Agreement in a practical way. And we want to always try to make Macedonia look good in front of the West, so that they will always support us in our goal of being NATO and EU members.”

Representation, Intimidation and Security Concerns

A more populist approach may be a good safeguard, too. After all, the party used the contention that Ali Ahmeti and DUI had forgotten the interests of ordinary people – most fatally, former NLA rank-and-file – and successfully used this platform to attract many such individuals to their side. Thus when asked about whether DUI could indeed cause widespread violence, Mr. Matoshi only smiled. “[The war of] 2001 cannot repeat. If it does, it will be a war between DPA and DUI… and we have more capacity to make problems than them, anyway, having more former fighters. They are no longer allowed to speak for the Albanian people.”

Yet it was precisely this claim – that by winning the majority of the Albanian popular vote, DUI was therefore the ‘democratic representative’ of the people – which Ali Ahmeti has used to argue for why DUI must be included in the government. It was a seductive argument for DUI backers, who argued that the Ohrid Agreement and indeed the whole fabric of human rights risked coming undone should the party not participate in government. Yet, even considering this argument, did DUI actually win?

According to election officials, only 47-49 percent of eligible Albanian voters turned out to vote on July 5th - hardly a sign of overwhelming affection for either party. Officially, DUI took (together with smaller partner PDP) 113,803 votes, or 17 parliamentary seats, while DPA had 70,317 votes, or 11 MPs. However, Mr. Matoshi claims that fraud and intimidation in Ali Ahmeti’s stronghold of Kicevo-Oslomej-Zajas in western Macedonia robbed them of up to 30,000 votes.

“The math is not the same as the statements of Ali Ahmeti,” he says. “If we [DPA supporters] had had the right to vote in his areas, they would not have had almost 114,000 votes. They would have had 80,000.” Although it is unclear how many parliamentary seats would have changed hands under such a scenario, given Macedonia’s proportional representation system, it is certain that the final result would have been closer and Ahmeti would have had less of a basis on which to stake his claim to power.

Most extraordinary is a specific incident which Mr. Matoshi claims to have witnessed in the village of Gresnica, a few kilometers after Ahmeti’s hometown of Zajas on the road to Ohrid. Parties have the right to place observers in or around polling stations, and so Mr. Matoshi went to this DUI-controlled village to try and see whether local polling officials would allow people with the wrong IDs to vote. According to him, his presence inside the school where the voting was taking place was not encouraged, but “I made a compromise with the OSCE observer; I could stand outside of the school, and they would monitor from inside.”

However, things took a dramatic turn when the chairman of the municipal election committee allegedly told the OSCE observer that he should leave also. According to Mr. Matoshi, “he told the OSCE guy, ‘you are violating the rules of Albanian tradition by looking at the women in the eye, and by touching their hand and ID.’ The observer replied, ‘I am Croatian and our traditions are basically the same- and this is not it.’ Yet he was sent out, and when he tried to look at IDs from in front of the school, he was intimidated into leaving from there too.”

At one point in the post-election period it was being rumored that DPA Vice-President Menduh Thaci, who has a reputation for toughness, would be appointed minister of defense. However, in the end this turned out to be just a rumor. Yet given Thaci’s power base in Tetovo and the DPA’s claims that most of the former NLA supports the party, have any international officials sounded them out regarding their ability to keep DUI extremists under control?

“No one has asked us to ensure security,” says Mr. Matoshi. In any case, he predicts that DUI will not be able to cause major incidents, for both political issues and ‘capacity’ ones as well.

The Electricity Issue

When asked about questionable actions of the outgoing rulers, Mr. Matoshi also called into question the government’s decision to rush the privatization of state electricity provider ECM. Austria’s EVN AG spent 225 million euros for 90 percent of the company. “They did not sell it at the optimal time,” he believes. “It should have been sold either earlier or later, but now Macedonia was not in the best position to get the best price… maybe it was a sign of corruption [being sold when it was], but I can’t say.”

A major bone of contention for years has been massive back payments owed to ECM by everyone from individuals to corporations. Under the new Austrian regime, the company is already seeking to crack down and collect its dues by shutting off electricity to state buildings and companies mostly in southern and central Macedonia, inciting dire warnings of economic ruin to come. In the past, attempts to do the same in Albanian-populated areas of northwestern Macedonia have resulted in a violent and outraged reaction. Collectors dispatched to Albanian villages have been attacked, and the state company had generally treaded carefully here- leaving Macedonians resentful that they are in effect paying for their ethnic neighbors’ bills.

When asked about this disparity, Mr. Matoshi quipped, “electricity does not discriminate- people should pay, regardless of nationality.” He said that he does not expect much trouble in the future, and that DUI “won’t be able to use this as a political issue.” Perhaps even the rugged individualists of remote Albanian villages will be forced to knuckle under when faced with uncompromising Austrian ownership.

Perhaps when all is said and done, the company will have even recovered most of its purchasing expenses. It certainly does not feel shy about stepping up the pressure, even as it announces new rate hikes. “‘We won’t say what the total debt is, because of company policy,’ [EVN spokeswoman Lence] Korpuzovska told the Associated Press. ‘It’s not the company’s job to consider the social aspect (of power cuts) … It is up to the government, if it is willing, to cover part of the bills for the poor.’”