Monday, October 30, 2006

Ground Breaking Ceremony for Johnson Controls New Macedonian Plant

2006-10-26, Skopje, Macedonia -- Johnson Controls, a leader in automotive interior experience, lays the foundation stone of a new automotive electronics plant in Eastern Europe on 5 October. The ground breaking ceremony takes place in the presence of Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski, along with John Barth, Chairman and CEO, John Fiori, Executive Vice President and President Johnson Controls International and other representatives of Johnson Controls. The new plant is part of Johnson Controls’ strategy for Eastern Europe and production is due to start at the end of 2007. It is anticipated that by the end of 2008, around 150 new employees will have been hired to assemble printed circuit boards in a total workspace of around 6,000 square meters.

“This foundation stone signifies an important and exciting achievement for Skopje and Johnson Controls,” said company Chairman and CEO John Barth. “The Macedonian government has been extremely committed and I would like to thank its officials for their work in supporting this effort. I have no doubt that our partnership will yield excellent results for both Johnson Controls and the Skopje community.”
The new plant is part of Johnson Controls’ long-term strategic objective to position itself in the growth markets of Eastern Europe. Primarily Slovakia is to be supplied from here. The company is investing around USD$20 million in the new plant being built in Bunardzik, a free economic zone located a few kilometers from Skopje. Over the next few years, the capacity of the new plant will be successively adjusted to the order volume. The new location will enable some very good synergies to be leveraged with the development center of the company located only 200 kilometers away in Sofia, Bulgaria.

Social commitment as a corporate objective
“We are always conscious of our social responsibility and here in Macedonia we are making an investment in the future,” explained John Fiori. This investment by the company is not only in the construction of the plant but also in technology, people and the community. For instance, Johnson Controls has a scholarship program at the university in Skopje, where the company provides financial support to 35 students for a maximum of four years.

From these students 20 are already in their second year and 15 are new to the program. These scholarships are set up to ensure that the very high educational standard required by the automotive industry is maintained.

The Macedonia scholarship program is just one example of Johnson Controls’ global commitment to corporate citizenship. Another example is the company’s global sustainability initiative, which focuses on people and the environment – to the benefit of the communities where it does business. “We believe one of the reasons we have been very successful for the past 120 years is that we have strong corporate values,” said Barth. “These values – integrity, customer satisfaction, our employees, improvement and innovation, and safety and the environment – are the foundation of how we do business all over the world.”

Johnson Controls is a global leader in interior experience, building efficiency and power solutions with 136,000 employees in more than 1,000 locations serving customers in 125 countries. The company provides innovative automotive interiors that help make driving more comfortable, safe and enjoyable. For buildings, it offers products and services that optimize energy use and improve comfort and security. Johnson Controls’ automotive product portfolio also includes seating systems, instrument panels/cockpits, door and overhead systems, interior electronics and electrical energy management. The company provides batteries for automobiles and hybrid electric vehicles, along with systems engineering and service expertise. Founded in 1885, Johnson Controls (NYSE: JCI) is headquartered in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The European headquarters is in Burscheid, Germany. Please visit for additional information.

Source: Johnson Controls

Kanal 5: Macedonia not Suitable for Business Development

Skopje. Macedonia is not an appropriate country for business development, the last United Nations Development Program (UNDP) report on competitiveness reads, the Macedonian Kanal 5 informs.
UNDP experts’ main remarks towards Macedonia are high taxes, underdeveloped private sector, discrepancy with world economic tendencies, and weak functioning of the Government in this direction. The recommendations for quicker economic development include a balanced budget, market enlargement, and export increase. The Macedonian experts call for urgent structural reforms. The local business insists that the Government take severe measures for interest reduction and putting aside resources for budget development.

Foreign minister: Macedonia hopes to join NATO in 2008, EU by 2012

BRUSSELS, Belgium Macedonia expects NATO to invite it to join the alliance by 2008, and plans to fulfill all conditions for EU membership by 2012, the country's foreign minister said Friday.

"We are expecting a strong encouraging message" from NATO's upcoming summit next month in Riga, Latvia, Antonio Milososki said. "We expect realistically that we will be invited to join at the next enlargement summit in 2008."

Macedonia, Croatia and Albania, members of the so-called Adriatic group, are all hoping for early invitations to join NATO. The alliance has refused to set a date, but says expansion will feature strongly at its next summit scheduled for 2008.

Milososki, who was meeting with NATO ambassadors in Brussels, said his nation had already undertaken many of the reforms demanded by both NATO and the EU as a precondition for membership.

These included the establishment of a 6,800-member professional military service and participation in operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and Bosnia.

Milososki stressed that since dealing with an ethnic Albanian insurgency in 2001, the nation had become a model of good inter-communal relations for the entire Balkan region.

"We are showing the world that having different ethnic groups ... is not a disadvantage for democracy to succeed," said Milososki, who was named foreign minister after a change of government following elections two months ago.

The tiny Balkan nation applied for EU membership in March 2004 and was accepted as a candidate last year, after the European Commission praised its efforts in dealing with the 2001 rebellion.

Macedonia's government was aware of enlargement fatigue within the EU, which has been anxiously mulling the prospect of letting in Turkey — a poor, predominantly Islamic nation that has problems with human rights, Milososki said.

"We are happy we don't have 72 million inhabitants" like Turkey, he said, adding that he didn't think that would affect Macedonia.

The EU's "absorption capacity" will not be strained by the nation of 2 million people, Milososki said.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Vecer: Large Number of WWI Bombs Lying on the Bottom of the Ohrid Lake

Ohrid. Large number of bombs from the WWI are lying on the bottom of the Ohrid Lake, the Macedonian newspaper Vecer reads today. Team of experts from Slovenia collaborating with the Macedonian Protection and Rescue Agency made some researches these days and has discovered the presence of numerous explosive devices that represent great danger because of their location near the shore. The lake will be cleaned up from the bombs next year, the Agency’s Director Georgi Trendafilov said.

Local authorities won't allow exploitation of Ohrid Lake under concession

The Council of the Ohrid Municipality held a session today, which produced a recommendation to the Government to postpone concluding concession agreement for exploitation of the Ohrid Lake.

The Council based its decision on the fact that no biological justification for fishing of endemic trout species exists as no mechanisms for protection of the lake's fish stock are put in place, Makfax's correspondent reported.

The Council also suggested conducting a transfer of responsibilities encompassing fish stock protection to Ohird and Struga's local authorities.

The Agriculture Ministry announced last February a public competition for awarding concession license for exploitation of the Ohird Lake. Three bidders have submitted applications thus far, however, none of them delivered a plan for fish stock protection to the competent Hydrobiological Institute.

Zegin drugstore demolished in Bitola

A drugstore belonging to Zegin company, housing pharmaceutical laboratory of the Public Health Facility, has been demolished late Wednesday, Makfax's correspondent reported.

Marija Litoska, the manager of the drugstore, confirmed the incident took place at 23:00 hrs, adding that the perpetrators did not took a thing, but merely committed the act of vandalism.

She also said that the security agency "Protect" that was supposed to guard the drugstore, informed her about the incident as late as at 6 a.m., because, according to the agency, the contract with Zegin had been expired.

The Police conducted inspection at the site and the operation for tracking down the vandals is under way.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Transportation Ministry voiced warning to urban mafia

Macedonian Ministry of Transportation and Communication has send a public warning to the so-called urban mafia, saying the Ministry won't tolerate its illegal operations anymore.

The warning followed the attempt to avoid pulling down of an illegally constructed object at the bank of the Vardar River in Skopje. Investors, Skopje's Centre Municipality and lawyers are involved in the case, which resulted in threats to personal safety of the Transportation Minister.

"The Ministry of Transportation and Communication would like to send a public message to all supporters of the urban mafia that the Ministry won't cave in to provocations like the alleged wrongdoings of the Ministry, and it will remain steadfast in its commitment to put order in the sphere of urban planning and construction", the announcement says.

The so-called urban mafia refers to illegal construction business, which spins tens of millions euros on annual basis. It reached alarming proportions especially in Skopje, and is considered as one of the key generators of corruption in the country.

The Ministry also denied today the allegations voiced by Aleksandar Tortevski, the lawyer of the investors of the building in question, that "Ministry has been sending emissaries" to settle the matter off the record.

Minister Mile Janakievski called the lawyer to report the case to the Police "immediately and not later than tonight", and to offer evidence of his allegations.

At the same time, the Ministry urged once again the Mayor of Center Municipality to execute the decision for pulling down of the object, reiterating its call to all Mayors across the country.

Macedonia ranks 45th in Worldwide Press Freedom Index 2006

The annual Worldwide Press Freedom Index 2006 from Paris-based organisation Reporters Without Borders shows that Macedonia is ranked 45th.

In the annual report Macedonia shares 45 to 48 place with Cape Verde, Mozambique and Serbia and Montenegro with the so-called freedom press index, which is 11,50.

The first place share Finland, Iceland, Ireland and Netherlands while the three worst violators of free expression - North Korea, bottom of the Index at 168th place, Turkmenistan (167th) and Eritrea (166th) - have clamped down further.

Denmark (19th) dropped from joint first place because of serious threats against the authors of the Mohammed cartoons published there in autumn 2005. For the first time in recent years in a country that is very observant of civil liberties, journalists had to have police protection due to threats against them because of their work.

Bosnia-Herzegovina (19th) continued its gradual rise up the Index since the end of the war in ex-Yugoslavia and is now placed above its European Union member-state neighbours Greece (32nd) and Italy (40th).

The index measures the state of press freedom in the world. It reflects the degree of freedom journalists and news organisations enjoy in each country, and the efforts made by the state to respect and ensure respect for this freedom. Reporters Without Borders compiled a questionnaire with 50 criteria for assessing the state of press freedom in each country. The questionnaire was sent to partner organisations of Reporters Without Borders (14 freedom of expression groups in five continents) and its 130 correspondents around the world, as well as to journalists, researchers, jurists and human rights activists.

Macedonian Governmental Team To Meet with IMF representatives

Skopje. The negotiating teams of the Macedonian Government and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) will meet today at the Government's premises, the Macedonian Makfax informs.
Macedonian Deputy Prime Minister Zoran Stavreski is due to hold talks with the Head of the IMF Mission for Macedonia Mark Griffiths.
Macedonian Vice-Prime Minister in charge of implementation of the Ohrid Agreement Imer Selmani, the Minister of Finance Trajko Slaveski, and the President of the National Bank of Macedonia Petar Goshev will also attend the meeting.

Germany supports Macedonia on its way to NATO and EU

Germany stands firmly behind Macedonia's efforts for integration in NATO and the European Union, German Defence Minister Franz Josef Jung told his Macedonian counterpart Lazar Elenovski during their meeting in Berlin, Macedonian Defence Ministry announced.

"Minister Jung appraised highly the manner in which reforms in defence area have been conducted thus far", the announcement adds.

On his part, Minister Elenovski expressed Macedonia's commitment for further participation within the ISAF mission in Afghanistan, as well as the readiness to contribute to strengthening of the European defence and security policy through inclusion of ARM soldiers in the European combating units.

Vecer, Macedonia: Tens of Murders Last Year in Tetovo

Skopje. Tens of murders have been registered last year in Tetovo, Macedonia, the Macedonian daily Vecer reported. The last murder happened a few days ago when a close relative of the Mayor of Tetovo Hazbi Lika – Issa Lika – was killed.
The Macedonian Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski said that there was no danger for inter-Albanian clashes in Macedonia.

Authorities raise charges against Tetovo University's employees

The authorities raised today the first set of charges against employees of the Tetovo State University (TSU) involved in illegal activities.

Tetovo Police set out in motion a procedure for raising criminal charges against three persons suspected of being involved in counterfeiting university diplomas, Makfax's correspondent reported.

Bashkim Selmani, 37, former Secretary General of the Tetovo University is suspected of having issued to A.D, 23, and A.M., 24, from Tetovo's nearby village of Nerashte, certificates of graduation at the Faculty of Classical Studies.

A.D. and A.M. (secondary suspects), used the false certificates to acquire employment at the "Ismail Qemali" primary school located in Nerashte.

The prime suspect in the case, Selmani, was dismissed from duty three weeks ago, during Tetovo University's personnel shake-up.

US supports Macedonia's NATO bid

The United States voiced support to Macedonia in its effort to acquire an invitation for membership in NATO.

US Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau for European and Eurasian Affairs, Rosemary DiCarlo, conveyed this message to the Macedonian Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski today, says the official announcement released after Gruevski-DICarlo meeting.

"US Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau for European and Eurasian Affairs has pledged US support to the Macedonian Government on its way to Euro-Atlantic integrations, as well as to implementation of reforms in the fields spanning economy, judiciary, battle against corruption and activities relating the Ohrid Agreement".

According to DiCarlo, "these reforms will actually contribute to achieving a greater economic growth and approximation of the Republic of Macedonia to NATO and the European Union".

At the meeting, Gruevski reiterated "strong commitment of the Republic of Macedonia to remain an ally in the coalition for global battle against terror and pledged for further participation of the Army of the Republic of Macedonia in peacekeeping missions in Iraq, Afghanistan and Bosnia-Herzegovina".

Senior U.S. official encourages Macedonia to continue with reforms

SKOPJE, Macedonia A senior U.S. official on Monday encouraged Macedonia to press ahead with reforms that will increase the tiny Balkan country's chances of joining the EU and NATO.

Rosemary DiCarlo, U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs who arrived on Monday for a two-day visit, voiced support for Macedonia's goal of joining both.

"We support your aspirations and we share your values," DiCarlo told reporters after meeting with Foreign Minister Antonio Milososki. "We are working very closely with Macedonia to make the needed reforms and we want to make this country the strongest candidate for joining NATO."

Macedonia, Croatia and Albania, members of the so-called Adriatic group, are all hoping for early invitations to join NATO. The alliance has refused to set a date, but says expansion will feature strongly at a summit scheduled for 2008.

DiCarlo reiterated that Macedonia should continue with its judicial and police reforms, intensify its fight against corruption and ensure religious freedoms.

Macedonia applied for EU membership in March 2004 and was accepted as a candidate last year, after the European Commission praised the country for stemming an ethnic Albanian insurgency in 2001.

DiCarlo also met with Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski and other government officials.

US stands strongly behind Macedonia

The United States strongly supports Macedonia in its Euro-Atlantic aspirations, but urge for speeding up of reforms and dialogue between the ruling power and the opposition.

This was stated after today's meeting of the Macedonian Foreign Minister Antonio Miloshoski and US Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau for European and Eurasian Affairs, Rosemary DiCarlo.

"We will back Macedonia in implementation of the necessary reforms and on its road to Euro-Atlantic integrations", DiCarlo said.

She added the highlights of discussions included also "the need of the rule of law, as well as the need of Government's cooperation with all political parties aimed at enhancing the efforts in the fields spanning battle against corruption, full implementation of the Ohrid Agreement and backing of the process for determining the future status of Kosovo".

DiCarlo underscored the importance of "the judicial reforms, combating corruption, human trafficking, and respect of religious freedom and rights of all citizens".

Macedonian Minister Miloshoski confirmed this. "We will put a special focus on the fight against trafficking with human beings and organized crime in the region. We will also work with all religious communities in the country to improve the legislation referring to religious freedom", Miloshoski said after hiss meeting with DiCarlo.

As regards the Kosovo issue, Miloshoski said he and DiCarlo shared the stance that resolving of the Kosovo status should be carried out in the manner that will provide for strengthening of the region's stability.

"The process of reaching a solution on the Kosovo status is also a good opportunity for closing the technical issue of the border demarcation. We express out gratitude to the international community for its support regarding this, but also to Pristina's authorities, who acknowledge the fact that this issue poses as a challenge that requires a positive response", Miloshoski said.

Bitola's Roma residents protest against scandalous death of fellow citizen

Instead of celebrating Ramadan Bairam, Bitola's Roma residents staged protests against, as they put it, scandalous death of the 39-year-old Miljraim Veliovski.

The cause of Veliovski's death, who died last night at the Bitola's hospital, is still unknown, Makfax's correspondent reported.

Veliovski's family accused the doctors of failing to give him a proper medical treatment.

"We had been taking him to the hospital on Thursday and Friday, but he wasn't admitted until Saturday. However, once they laid him on the bed, no one paid any attention on him, despite our pleas to be examined by a doctor", said Edail Veliovski, the brother of the now late patient.

The Romas are convinced that Miljaim's death resulted from doctors' negligence and raised allegations of racial discrimination.

"He was well and sound, never suffered from any disease. Despite their doctor's oath, medical staff divide the patients to black and white ones", Qamil Demirov, a close friend of the late Miljaim said.

"All necessary tests had been conducted and the patient was provided with adequate medical treatment, however, we were unable to come up with diagnosis. Once the autopsy is performed, we will establish whether someone should be called to account", said Dr. Dimce Kuzmanovski, the Director of Bitola's Hospital.

After refusing to approve the autopsy on Sunday, the family changed its mind today. They reported the case to the Bitola Police and notified the District Prosecution Office

Sunday, October 22, 2006

International Oil Companies Drawn to Untapped Oil Riches in Macedonia

Norwegian, Turkish and Kazakh oil and gas companies plan to come to Macedonia to see just how much oil is bubbling under the surface at the untapped Engilija field near Sveti Nikole in the east of the country, reported Skopje daily Vreme on October 21.

Although it has been known since at least the 1960’s that the flat, soft area known as Ovcho Pole (Shepherd’s Plain) contained some amount of natural resources, no one knows exactly how much. In Yugoslav days, a company from Novi Sad in northern Serbia, Nafta Gas bored into the earth near the village Ergelija, registering positive for oil and gas. After the discovery, however, work mysteriously stopped for reasons still unknown, and until the present day no one really knows how much oil Macedonia might be sitting on. A few months ago, the economics weekly Kapital caused a brief sensation with a lengthy article discussing the issue.

According to Vreme, new Minister for Foreign Investment, and former Vice-President for Publicity and Marketing of the AMBO oil pipeline project, Gligor Tashkovich is in touch with the heads “of some big world’s energy companies” over the resumption of oil exploration in eastern Macedonia. The new government has rated development of the energy sector as among its top priorities for the economic development of the country.

At the moment, the biggest interest in Ergelija has come from Kazakhstan oil giant Kazmunaygaz, reports Vreme, adding that Tashkovich is also speaking with a Norwegian oil company and relevant officials in the Norwegian government.

However, in May 2006, the Macedonian web portal Total had reported that the ex-Minister of Economy, Besnik Fetai and Richard Wordsworth, president and manager of Bankers Petroleum signed a memorandum for cooperation for the Ergelija exploration. Bankers Petroleum already has a presence in the Balkans, working on oil fields in Albania. “Our strategic interest is to be present in this region. Because the investigations from the past have given some positive indications, we decided to sign the memorandum for cooperation with the Ministry of Economy. We wish to expand our activities in the region. Macedonia offers solid possibilities in that respect,” said Wordsworth at the time..

This previous announcement was however not mentioned by Vreme, leaving it unclear as to what became of the deal. Tashkovich also recently visited Kazakhstan, deemed a desired investor for Macedonia on the domestic energy sector. Some of their companies are already interested in the Macedonian market, the article adds. However, a preliminary problem to sort out is the need for the two countries to make diplomatic and consular relations. Also, Kazakh and Turkish companies are believed to be among the candidates to transport the oil in the Trans-Balkan gas pipeline, AMBO, reads Vreme.

Should Macedonia suddenly find itself an oil-rich country, it would come as a great boost. According to A1 TV, foreign investments in Macedonia in 2005 fell drastically compared with investments in 2004, leaving the country on the bottom rung compared to other countries in the region. Last year in Macedonia only around $100 million of foreign investment came in, according to a report on world investments published by the UN’s Conference for Trade and Development (UNKTAD).

Not so fruity salad

Another troubled Balkan candidate for the European Union

WHICH countries will be next in line for membership of the European Union, after Bulgaria and Romania join in January? Many people would answer: Croatia and Turkey, which are now in negotiations. Few would remember Macedonia, a poor, land-locked country of 2m people, with a stagnant economy, which has been offered membership talks but no firm date for starting them. Macedonians have got used to being unloved and ignored. What is more annoying is that the world notices them only when bad things happen.

Officially, at least, good things are now happening. In 2001 Macedonia went to the brink of civil war when a guerrilla army sprang out of the ranks of the ethnic Albanians who make up 25% of the population. The EU, the Americans and NATO rushed to damp the fire, producing the Ohrid agreement, which has proved a success in keeping the peace. What has been a failure is the economy. More than a third of the workforce is unemployed and, except for some biggish privatisations, there has been little foreign investment.

All of which makes it unsurprising that, in July, the electorate turned against the Social Democrats, ruling in coalition with a party led by Ali Ahmeti, who led the Albanian guerrillas in 2001. Diplomats have since been falling over themselves to praise the peaceful transfer of power to a new centre-right coalition under Nikola Gruevski. In public, that is. In private, there is rising concern about Macedonia. Were it a bigger place—or already in the EU—it might have received the sort of attention that has recently been given to Poland or Hungary. For Macedonia too is in the throes of a political earthquake.

The big bone of contention is the government. Mr Gruevski's party needed an Albanian coalition partner (as elsewhere in the region, people vote on ethnic lines). He struck a deal with the smaller of the two main Albanian parties, much to the fury of Mr Ahmeti, whose party won more than 60% of the Albanian vote. He is now arguing that Albanians must wonder what is the point of voting at all, if a Macedonian gets to choose which Albanian party keeps him in power.

Mr Ahmeti's anger is not just about his interpretation of democracy. To be out of power in Macedonia means to be out of patronage. Within three days of the new government taking office in August, as many as 544 managers and top officials from state companies had been sacked or shunted aside. Hundreds of civil servants have been replaced by loyalists to Mr Gruevski's party or to his Albanian partner. The purge has extended right down to lucrative positions manning motorway toll-booths.

The government insisted that it had to replace all these people as part of its bid to stamp out corruption. In fact, says one well-placed senior Macedonian, “it is the nature of things here that you have to replace everyone around you, because otherwise they will do everything in their power to discredit you. People are dedicated to their parties, not to their country.”

One group caught in this argument over power is Transparency International, a German-based anti-corruption lobby group, which has been an influential voice in Macedonia. Transparency has just announced that it is withdrawing its accreditation of the local branch in Macedonia, though it added it hoped to set up a proper operation again.

Gabriela Konevska-Trajkovska, the minister in charge of European integration, was previously, albeit briefly, head of Transparency International in Macedonia. She hopes negotiations on EU membership can start in 2007. EU officials say this is realistic—so long as the country does what it is asked. But for now, they are hopping mad. Many of the people they had trained over the past few years to deal with intricate details of EU rules and regulations have been replaced.

In Tetovo, the western Macedonian town where most Albanian politicians are based, Mr Ahmeti says that former fighters have been coming to him to suggest that, unless his party is taken back into the government, they should take up arms again. He has told them to keep their cool but adds that he cannot take responsibility for the results if his party continues to be ignored. Yet the implied threat is probably an empty one. Whatever else may happen in Macedonia, there is no appetite for a return to armed conflict.

Blair says UK strong supporter of Macedonia's EU and NATO bids

"Great Britain supports strongly the inclusion of Macedonia in European Union and NATO, as soon as your country is ready", British PM Tony Blair said in his congratulating letter sent to the Macedonian PM Nikola Gruevski, upon his election to the post.

"We were happy with the fact that Macedonia acquired a candidacy status during our presidency over the Union, and we value highly participation of the Macedonian soldiers in operations of the NATO-led allied forces in Afghanistan, who are serving under British command", Blair said.

Furthermore, Blair said that Macedonia has yet to consolidate its progress toward a multi-ethnic democracy in line with the Ohrid Framework Agreement and is looking at lot of work in terms of meeting the conditions for integration in Europe.

"I ensure you and your team that we will continue providing practical and political support as you push ahead with important work of reforms implementation", says Blair's letter sent to Macedonian PM Gruevski.

Lapon: Incidents like the one in Tetovo can't harm security

The late Thursday's incident in Tetovo can't harm the cross-community security in Macedonia, said Alain Lapon, project manager in UNDP.

Lapon, who is in charge of UNDP's project Partnership for Community Safety & Security, made an address on the occasion of completion of safer community building project, implemented in Tetovo as well as in eight other municipalities across the country.

'Incidents, like the one in Tetovo yesterday, could not harm the safer community approach. We need to educate the youths on non-violent communication," Lapon said.

At the project closing conference, the participants have concluded that security-related issues in municipalities have been already detected and can be solved through partnership, support and concrete co-operation between the local and the central authorities.

As regards the effects of the Project, UNDP representative said incidents caused by use of weapons are decreasing in all nine municipalities covered in the project. The project turned successful in terms of raising public awareness on the necessity to hand in illegal weapons

All municipalities that were included in the project - Tetovo, Jegunovce, Tearce, Sopiste, Cair, Gorce Petrov, Stip, Aracinovo and Debar - were granted certificates for their contribution to enhancing the safety and security in their livelihood and reduction of crime, in particular incidents caused by use of firearms.

The municipality of Jegunovce was singled out as the most successful in terms of implementation of the project. No incident was reported in this municipality in the course of the project.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Macedonia Losing Its Children

Skopje. Macedonia is among the countries with highest death rate of babies in Southeast Europe, representative from the UN Fund for Children (UNICEF) announced today, Dnevnik newspaper reports.
The death rate of babies increased with 13.2% in 2004, UNICEF said. The increased death rate among young mothers too rose to 12,8 on 1,000 births. Death among children under the age of 5 also increased compared to the level several years ago, as in 2004 it was 14,8%. This is the highest percentage among the countries in the region, UNICEF pointed out. Poverty level is lower compared to the rest of the countries in the region but nonetheless the number of the children who live with USD 2.15 a day is larger than the number of elderly who live under this poverty threshold.

Macedonia rise to 50th in FIFA World Rankings

Macedonia have moved into the top 50 in FIFA world rankings, as it was ranked 50th with 563 points.

Macedonia has nine more points than September's rankings. Macedonia's national team, led by new coach Srecko Katanec, made a significant progress and marked a fantastic jump in world rankings.

Brazil still tops the rankings with world cup winners Italy in second place, followed by France. Argentina have moved one place down to fourth, with six-placed Germany one place behind England.

The other Euro 2008 qualifying countries that are in the same group with Macedonia - Croatia was ranked 19th, Russia 33rd, Israel 36th, Estonia 112th and Andorra 167th.

Gruevski seeks Germany's support for Macedonia's EU, NATO bids

Macedonian Prime Minster Nikola Gruevski arrived on a three-day visit to Germany on Monday (October 16th) hoping to win Berlin's backing for his country's EU and NATO bids.

Macedonia was recognised as an official EU candidate last year, but has yet to be given a starting date for its accession talks with Brussels. Gruevski voiced hope that this would happen next year.

His first official foreign visit since taking office in August comes weeks before NATO's November 28th-29th summit in Riga and less than three months before Germany assumes the rotating, six-month EU presidency on January 1st.

"We place great hopes in Germany as the next EU presiding country," Macedonian news agency Makfax quoted Gruevski as saying ahead of talks with Chancellor Angela Merkel on Monday.

He also expressed his country's commitment to implementing judicial reform and other required measures.

"We are fully focused on reforms -- especially the economy and the fight against corruption and criminality," he said in an interview with the German news agency DPA, noting his country's ambition to become an EU member by 2013. He said around 95% of the measures stipulated by the Ohrid Framework Agreement, which ended months of ethnic conflict in the country five years ago, have been adopted.

Gruevski also said people in his country felt "disappointed" over the much discussed enlargement fatigue among older EU member nations.

"We are too small a country to be a problem ... we only have two million people," he said, noting that his entire country numbers fewer people than many European capitals.

Stressing Germany's support for Macedonia's stable development, Merkel expressed Berlin's determination to ensure the Balkan nation's "good path to the future". But she gave no indication of any specific steps Skopje could expect from the German EU presidency.

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso suggested last month that the EU should take a break before admitting new members after Bulgaria and Romania join on January 1st, so that it could conduct pending institutional reforms.

Along with Albania and Croatia, Macedonia also aspires to NATO membership. The Alliance is not expected to invite new nations to join during next month's meeting in Latvia. However, Gruevski voiced hope Monday that his country would receive such an invitation in 2008 and would become a full-fledged member by 2009.

Macedonia fires workers on 'political grounds'

Macedonia's new government has axed hundreds of public sector workers, despite criticism from Brussels and requests that civil servants should be shielded from political interference.

Only three days after the new government was elected in August, it removed 544 managers and members of managing boards in state institutions and enterprises.

The changes did not stop there, as some newly appointed managers have made further purges of officials lower down the ranks.

Throughout September, the media has been awash with reports of large-scale sackings of officials in the customs, prison and health services.

The government has defended the personnel changes, saying they were needed to build up these institutions and fight corruption.

But experts say mass dismissals merely show the new government is continuing the bad old practice of politicizing the public administration. Some warn it will undermine the potential to reform it.

Others go even further, saying the country has no real chance of joining the European Union if governments continue to manipulate public employment in this manner.

"The dismissals and appointments in the public administration have taken place at such a speed that it suggests the practice of political employment is continuing," said Gordana Siljanovska, professor of law at Skopje University and an expert in public administration.

Experts say the changes will weaken the capacity for reform at a time when the government has promised serious progress, both to the public and to the EU, and as the country hopes to receive a starting date for membership negotiations with Brussels.

EU officials have also warned that massive dismissals may damage the ability of the administration to deal with the challenge of reform.

Pierre Mirel, director of the European Commission Enlargement Directorate, voiced his reservations about the changes on a visit to Skopje in September. "You do not have to change people to make changes," said Mirel.

One reason for the EU criticism is that many of the recently dismissed officials were former trainees of EU-run programs.

"We have reacted to changes of those people in whose training we invested," a source from the EU office in Skopje told Balkan Insight.

The same source said the EU office wrote to the customs office, asking it not to remove local experts working on a program financed by the Dutch government.

The pressure from Brussels has not stopped the wave of sackings from continuing in the customs office, however.

It did succeed in preventing changes to the law that would have made it easier to sack personnel in the Electronic Communications Agency, an independent regulation body.

"By revising the law in this field, the independence of this body might have been threatened, which is why we hope our comments will be taken into consideration," said Mirel.

Mirel's pointed remarks came only a month before the first report on Macedonia's progress as a EU candidate is to be published. The EC is expected to adopt the report on 8 November.

The government denies sacking people in order to employ loyal party members.

"It is natural that certain changes will occur," the right-of-centre prime minister, Nikola Gruevski, said in response to the criticism. "It is normal that a political team coming to power and with its own programme wants to work with people it trusts."

A government spokesman, Veton Ibrahimi, also denied party political influence on public appointments.

"All the newly appointed officials are professionals, which was not the case with their predecessors," he said.

However, the government has not provided any individual explanatory notes for the dismissals, much to the anger of the government's own anti-corruption body, the State Anti-Corruption Commission.

The commission said due process was not being adhered to when the government made the dismissals, as people were entitled to individual explanations for their removal.

"The commission concluded that the constitution and laws, as well as the prescribed procedures and criteria, were not obeyed in these acts," the acting head of the commission, Slagjana Taseva, said in mid-September.

"This goes directly against the principle of de-politicization and of professionalism in the public administration."

Gruevski did not accept the comments of the state committee, insisting the changes were legitimate.

But experts remain worried about the big picture. Ljubomir Kekenovski, professor of economics at Skopje University said recent events highlighted a fundamental problem that in Macedonia there was still no real distinction between state and public property.

"Public institutions belong to the public and not to political parties," Kekenovski told Balkan Insight, adding that government should enjoy no more than overall oversight.

"The government should undertake only overall control and regulation," he went on. "Contrary to this, the politicians are taking over state and public institutions."

Siljanovska agrees. "The party political criteria for public employment must be replaced by professionalism," she said.

"So far, governments are tying their own hands. When they behave like this with the public administration, they then find they can't accomplish the reforms they need."

In the meantime, some dismissed officials are weighing up legal action.

Ana Pavlovska Daneva, professor of law at Skopje University, who was axed from the state pension funds agency MAPAS, told Balkan Insight she will take her case to court.

"How is it possible to dismiss such a large number of officials at the same time?" she asked, criticizing especially the fact that no explanatory notes accompanied the dismissals.

If many sacked employees follow her example, and sue the government over the lack of explanation for their removal, the State Anti-Corruption Committee estimates it may cost the government a great deal of money.

Germany asks Macedonia for understanding on EU's internal problems

Germany has no dilemma for the European perspective of Macedonia, but asks for understanding of the need of institutional reforms as a necessary prerequisite for admission of new members.

The German Parliament’s Foreign Policy Commission Chairman Ruprecht Polenz conveyed this message to the Macedonian Foreign Minister Antonio Miloshoski.

According to the Macedonian Foreign Ministry, Polenz said "Germany has no dilemma as to the European perspective of Macedonia, however, he asked for understanding of EU's position that internal institutional reform of the Union has to be completed in order to enable admission of new members".

In his address before the members of the Bundestag's Foreign Policy Commission, Miloshoski expressed Macedonia's hopes for setting a date for launch of negotiations for membership in EU in 2008, as well as for "clear message on the possibility for inviting the country to join NATO" at the upcoming summit in Riga.

Miloshoski gave his address in the framework of activities of the Macedonian delegation led by PM Gruevski, which wrapped up its two-day visit to Berlin on Tuesday.

Previously during the day, Gruevski expressed content with the visit to Germany.

EC: Macedonia's economy marks significant progress in some areas

Macedonia's economy in some areas has made a significant progress, and in some areas it has even superseded some members of the Union.

Representatives of the European Commission voiced this opinion at the bilateral meeting in Skopje, held on the occasion of presentation of the first self-appraising report relating the European Charter for Small Enterprises.

Introduction of the one-stop system for registering business enterprises was pointed out as an example for the progress.

This marks the fourth National report on small enterprises, but this is the first self-appraising document, on the basis of which the progress of the country in 10 areas encompassed by the European Charter for Small Enterprises is assessed.

EC's representative in charge of industry and enterprises, Edward Tersmette, underlined that the Commission attaches special significance to these reports, since it serves as an indicator of the degree of development of any given national economy.

He added that Commission expects positive developments to take place in the region within the next three years. "There are many EC's programmes stand at your disposal, all you have to do is to reach for them and implement it", Tersmette said.

European Ambassador to Macedonia, Erwan Fouere, specified that as many as 75 percent of the employed in EU work in small enterprises.

"We are welcoming government's focus on the economic reforms", Fouere said.

Macedonian governmental representatives, Vice-Prime Minister Gabriela Konevska-Trajkovska and Economy Minister Vera Rafajlovska announced strong support for the small- and middle-sized enterprises.

Konevska reiterated Government's preparedness to work as a partner with the private sector, pledging for unreserved support.

Minister Rafajlovska specified that revising of the National Strategy for Small- and Middle-Sized Enterprises is in its final stage.

The 2006 National report is comprised of two segments. The first one demonstrates the current status in the small- and middle-sized enterprises in the country in terms of the 10 areas of the Charter, while the other segment refers to the government's goals to be achieved in the next year.

Foreign investments in Macedonia cut by half in 2005

Foreign direct investments (FDI) in Macedonia in 2005 were almost cut by half compared to 2004, and the country was ranked at the bottom in the region.

Roughly $100 million were invested in Macedonia last year, according to World Investment Report 2006 published by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development.

In Macedonia, FDI flow slipped down in 2005, compared to 2004, when the country reported $157 million foreign direct investments.

Macedonia ranks at the bottom among the countries in South East Europe. In 2005, FDI flow in SEE region ranged $157 million.

FDI inflows rose substantially in Romania and Bulgaria, the future members of the European Union. Both countries reported $63 billion i.e. $2.2 billion worth of foreign investments in 2005. FDI flows in Croatia ranged $1.69 billion. Serbia and Montenegro - $1.48 billion, Bosnia and Herzegovina - $300 million, Albania - $260 million.

FDO inflows in Southeast European region rose to $13.3 billion.

The report says global FDI inflows rose substantially in 2005. Global FDI inflows marked 29% jump reaching $916 billion. A major contributing factor to this strong growth was the market increase in the inflows to developed countries. Rising global demand for commodities was reflected in the steep increase in natural resource-related FDI, although the services sector continued to be the major recipient of FDI.

EU member-countries remained the main magnet for FDI flows, marking $442 billion inflow, i.e. almost half of global FDI inflows.

Bitola and nearby villages run out of libraries

Dozen libraries in Bitola and the nearby villages have been closed down on Tuesday, Makfax correspondent said.

St. Kliment Ohridski University Library in Bitola, which is in charge of small libraries in this area, has decided to close the libraries due to low turnout of readers.

The head of St. Kliment Ohridski Library, Jelena Petrovska, said the small libraries will be shut down amid low number of readers.

"We have established a board to oversee the functioning of local libraries over a five-year stretch. In conclusion, the number of readers attending library ranges from 0 to 5 on yearly basis," Petrovska said.

She gave no additional data on library fund. Some books will be allocated to primary schools and communities in Bitola.

The Islamic population bomb

Traditionally- or at least in the past 5 centuries- the West enjoyed an unparalleled superiority in technological, economic and military sphere versus the East. Nowadays the Western and in particular European power is facing a dramatic decline due to an old but very effective weapon, their own population decline and the population explosion by the Muslim states. In the previous decades since the end of WWII a tremendous demographic expansion of the Islamic population worldwide has occurred and the trends are for continuation well into the 21st century.

The Balkans in the 90’s, were the first areas in Europe where the population explosion of Muslims resulted in a virtual takeover in areas such as central Bosnia and Kosovo. Even Montenegro, a traditional Eastern Orthodox nation, has a sizeable Muslim minority that will eventually became a majority within the coming decades should the upward projection trends prevail.

Demographics are a sensitive issue in discussion of worldwide events such as regional conflicts or terrorism. The politically correct modus that dominates the Western political system combined with an absence of historical research, has laid the foundations of ignorance on how macro-historical population alterations can and do change history and remake a civilization and the way of life.

In our age the Muslim world has at its disposal the ultimate weapon to remake the European future. The weapon is not nuclear nor chemical, but simply the population bomb, or as one might state it as the “P-Bomb”!

Islam: The unparallel growth

For centuries the Islamic world was suffering from a weakness in replacing its human resources. The territory traditionally inhabited by Muslims was an area inflicted by various invasions (Mongols, Crusaders, internal conflicts), as well as covered with large segments of non-arable land and desert. Therefore the population growth was weakened by environmental and human factors, resulting into a more or less stable demographic outlook.

In the era of the great Arabic expansion-8th-12th Century A.C- Islam was the religion and way of life for around 40-50 million peopleThat was not more than 10% of world’s then population.

In order to support their continuous invasion plans towards Europe and India, Muslims assimilated foreign elements in their communities like Christians and Jews, and such assimilation was done by proselytism, often forced and sometimes not, to convert them into Islam. Most of these faith-turnarounds were committed by the use of brute force, mass kidnappings of mostly young aged Christians, slavery and alike.

Later as a result of the Turkish Ottoman occupation of the Balkans in the 15th century AD expansion of the Islam penetrated well into the European territory, as far as Southern Hungary.

The decaying nature of the Ottoman Empire that viewed industry with dismay, resulted in the 19th century national rebirth of nations such as Serbs, Greek, Bulgars and a subsequent expulsion of many Islamic communities in South Eastern Europe that were stettled there by force in the first place.

At that time, West was viewed victorious: British and French colonialism stretched across most of North Africa and the Middle East and the triumph of the West was self-evident.

The encounter of the Western capitalistic states with the underdeveloped Muslim world in the early 20th century was beneficial for the Muslims as introduction of new agricultural methods, sanitation and industrial production, resulted in the dramatic uplifting of the way of life for millions of Muslims that began to reverse the demographic trends that up to then were characterized by high death rate. A French historian, Fernard Braudel, was the lone voice in 1957 that alerted Europe of the ticking Muslim population bomb. Braudel predicted that the then 75 million Muslims of the Middle East will reach 110 million by the early 21st century, a very low predicition of today's actual of 300 million.

Incredible predictions and possible outcomes

An average woman in the Muslim world is the mother of more than 4 children on average, well more than twice than the European level. This sums up into an annual population increase in the Middle East of around 2%.

In the midst of the Europe's victorious 19th century the population growth rate was no more then 1.5%. One has to remember that such lower European growth did enabled the colonization of most of the America and Australia and the creation of quasi European states such as USA, Australia, Canada that actually dominate the world scene today.

In 1960 the percentage of Muslims worldwide was around 13% while in 2001 it reached just above 20%. If the trends continue -- all thing equal -- in 2050 around 35% of world’s population will be Muslim, by far the largest percentage in Islam’s history.

Another element associated directly with the population growth is the high percentage of young people in Muslim countries that cannot be absorbed into the job markets and have great difficulties in upward social mobility. In combination with the autarchic regimes that govern quite a few Muslim states; a breeding ground for rebellion, terrorism and civil unrest has been unraveled. As the reach in the world shrinks due to improved telecommunications and transport, so do the social ramifications of the Middle East become globally widespread.

In the recent European history the state of Bosnia illustrates the dynamics of demographics in internal politics. In 1948 the Muslim population of that Yugoslav republic was less than 30%. In 1991 when Yugoslavia disintegrated Muslims comprised 44% and became the religious denominators of that new state. In Kosovo, today's Muslim Albanian population in the early 50’s was around 60% and 40 years later reached an overwhelming 90%. Both of these regions became theters of conflict involving Muslims against Christians.

Of course population growth is not the only explanatory factor of a series of regional conflicts, but is an important element when one wants to predict future peripheral shifts of power that may eventually lead to wars and uprisings.

Europe- Middle East demography

If it is to examine European and Middle Eastern states and their historical demographic projection, interesting notes could be taken, that reveal wider trends and imbalance of power.

In the 50’s the population of Greece was 7 million people, while the one of Turkey was 21 million, a 1:3 analogy. Nowadays Greece encompasses 11.1 million citizens and Turkey 70 million. Therefore the analogy is 1:7 and that may explain to an extent the roots of the current Greek-Turkish rivalry and brinkmanship.

Continuing in the early 70’s the Magreb states of Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Libya, and Egypt had population of 70 million. In the same period the Mediterranean European states, France, Spain, Portugal, Italy and Greece, were populated in total by 160 million people. Today the numbers are 150 million for North Africa and 180 million for Southern Europe.

The trajectory for the year 2050 will be 250 million for North Africa and just 150 million for Southern Europe. In essence a population gap in Mediterranean Europe will be in stark contrast with an incredible increase in states just a few nautical miles from their shores.

The European Union already has drafted plans for a pan-European coast Guard force, in order to control the inevitable mass immigration from South to the North. Future will tell if that will be an effective measure.

Already, sizable Muslim minorities inhabit European metropolis such as Berlin, Paris and London. In France 75 of the populous cities have Muslims and around 4% in Germany and UK.

The American campaign War on terror coupled with terrorist attacks in Europe over the past few years, has increased European suspicion in their Muslim neighbors and at the same time it has increased the assertiveness of the Muslim communities that view themselves as persecuted and discriminated against. As Islam precludes assimilating into a new society and teaches that the new society should be assimilated into Islam, coupled with widespread proselytism that has already begun in certain states, the population gap between two communities should further increase the size of Muslim presence in Europe.

Historically, population shifts are a recurring phenomenon and Europe was already witnessed the Barbarian Invasions from the North in the late centuries of the Roman Empire. Later on the infamous Vikings populated areas in the European periphery leaving their marks up to date. From the Eastern territory nations such as the Hungarians, Huns, Tatars and Mongols had populated parts of Eastern Europe and played a significant role in the shaping Europe’s civilization. All of these new nations, however, exhibited cultural tendency to assimilate with one another and accept cultural ways of their neighbors, something not happening with the Muslims.

The Yugoslav conflicts over the past 15 years have revealed the first appearance of militant Muslim posture in a European territory, not previously seen since the Balkan wars of 1912-13. Meanwhile, the illegal immigration of Muslims from North Africa, Middle East and the Hindu Subcontinent into Europe has sharply increased, finding itself safe havens of communication, logistic and transport support in places like Pristina, Sarajevo and Tetovo.

These cities are that green corridor that is now controlled by the Western peacekeeping forces, but many project they will not be there for ever. US has already announced a total withdrawal from Bosnia.

Political correctness is handicapping Europe to use of logic in dealing with the emerging death of its Greco-Roman European civilization - and the outcome quite reasonably would be for Europe to view developments with awe and distress not willing to comprehend the simple facts of life that withour rebirth there is only death.

OSCE poll finds decentralisation successful in Macedonia, tax collection still a challenge

Overall, decentralisation in Macedonia is being implemented successfully, without difficulties in most areas, according to mayors surveyed in a new poll by the OSCE monitoring mission. By a large majority, however, the mayors said fiscal decentralisation poses a big challenge.

The main difficulties in the financial area are administration of local taxes and fees, the survey found. Since revenue collection is the basis for normal functioning of local self-government units, assistance in this area will be vital if decentralisation is to proceed.

The OSCE poll was aimed at determining the results of the transfer of authority from the central to local levels that began in July 2005. It was conducted in Skopje, which functions as a separate unit of local self-government, and in 80 other municipalities.

Macedonia has a total of 84 municipalities, following the new law on territorial organisation that entered into force in 2004. Before then, Macedonia was divided into 123 municipalities.

The poll focused on financial management, urban planning, education, inter municipal co-operation, local communities, relations between communities and equality of genders. The results show significant progress in these areas.

"We have not only analysed and assessed the present conditions, but we offer recommendations for future activities of the local authorities that can be supported by the OSCE Mission and other members of the international community with the aim of better focusing and increasing the efficiency of the given aid," said Philip Stil, head of the Public Administration Reform Department with the OSCE Mission.

"Results of the poll and recommendations are an important guideline directing all the entities on the way of decentralisation. As the main partner of the government, we will continue to serve the municipalities as the lobbyists for their interests and will continue to develop our members' capacities, said Andrej Petrov, the chairman of Local Self-Government Communities.

Decentralisation in Macedonia formally started on July 1st 2005 when most responsibilities were transferred from the central to local levels. These include collection of property tax and a part of the VAT.

Under a decision made by the previous government, municipalities manage some sports facilities. The municipalities of Ohrid and Struga were also given the management of the Lake Ohrid coast, with the aim of boosting tourism.

Macedonia Losing Millions of Dollars without Ambassador in USA

Skopje/Washington. Macedonia will lose dozens of millions of dollars under the fund ‘Challenge of the Millennium’ on account of not having an Ambassador in the USA after withdrawing Ljupco Georgievski, Macedonian TV station A1 informs.
According to diplomatic sources in this case there is no one to continue the work of former Macedonian Ambassador Nikola Dimitrov.
After Mr. Dimitrov’s mandate ran out Macedonia had an ambassador in the US only for two months – a term that was insufficient for convincing the White House that Skopje deserves to receive part of the USD 5 billion intended for countries with which Washington maintains friendly relations.
Albania, which has similar economic indicators, has received USD 16 million this year from the fund as this sum is expected to double in 2007, A1 notes.

Vreme: Bulgarian Citizenship Becomes More and More Attractive

Sofia.According to the former Bulgarian Minister of Foreign Affairs Solomon Passy, who is current chairman of the Parliamentary commission of Foreign Policy, a total of 82,000 foreigners have applied for Bulgarian citizenship so far, the Macedonian daily Vreme reports.
Despite the high interest for Bulgarian passports in Macedonia, the largest number of passports have been issued to people from Moldova, he said.
As the Bulgarian citizenship is becoming more and more attractive, the Parliament of the country adopted to make the procedure even easier.

Bulgaria and Romania Will Join the EU, But What About the Others?

This time, there were no flags, emotional euphoria, and grandiloquent-bombastic rhetoric about "the final end of the Cold War," which was the case on May 1, 2004, when eight former Soviet satellites joined the ranks of the happy European family. Instead, Bulgaria and Romania received a remarkably lukewarm, if not to say, icy welcome.

On Sept. 26, the European Commission, the executive body of the European Union, announced that the Balkan-duo would be allowed to enter the EU on Jan. 1, 2007. Like a severe schoolmaster, the EU commission immediately admonished the two pupils. Its (draft) report, compiled under the auspices of enlargement commissioner Olli Rehn, pointed out that the young brethren are in need of additional education about European rules and values. Rehn's report states that Bulgaria only produced limited progress in modernizing its justice system, adding a complaint about the lack of investigation and prosecution of high-level corruption, and warns Romania that "petty and small scale corruption remains a problem." If Romania and Bulgaria fail to push on judicial reform, judgements and warrants issued by their Courts will not be recognized in the EU. On March 31, 2007, they will have to convey clear proof of progress in the field of justice and in the combat of corruption. The EU also imposed other transitional arrangements on its latest "acquisitions": a restriction on the free movement of workers — so far, only little Estonia has officially announced that it will welcome Bulgarian and Romanian labour-immigrants — and bans on food exports and cuts to the EU funds, in case problems with the reform of the backward agricultural branch arise.

An article was published in The Times of London on Sept. 25 indicates that indeed a lot of work is awaiting Bulgaria and Romania. The leading British daily — a dedicated advocate of EU-enlargement — wrote that efforts to wipe out corruption have been stepped up, but at the same time provided some examples of the rotten mentality that is still keeping parts of Bulgarian and Romanian society in its stranglehold. In Bulgaria, a former director of the state-owned heating company is being accused of tax evasion and transferring $2.85 million to foreign bank accounts. Six prosecutors were sacked for "forgetting" a massive corruption investigation. Bribing the police is everyday, practical routine, not to mention the 150 gangland-killings over the last five years. On the weekend before the publication of the Commission's findings, 18 customs officers and 2 former secret agents were arrested at Bucharest Airport. Many (Western) tourists could add stories about their personal experiences with "civil servants" demanding payment of "local" or "environmental taxes" at the Bulgarian and Romanian borders.

Did the EU make a grave mistake then by letting Bulgaria and Romania in? On the contrary. First, accession of both countries was inevitable, since this was already agreed upon during the EU summit in Helsinki, in December 1999. The Thessaloniki Summit (June 2003) set the accession-date of Jan. 1, 2007. On April 25, 2005, both countries signed their Accession Treaties in Luxemburg. These treaties also contain protocols on a possible one-year postponement, but cancellation of the operation as such was out of the question. Second, the argument that EU membership will deeply anchor democracy, the rule of law, and the free market economy in the new member states and will enhance regional stability is not bound to time and space. Logically, it could be applied to all the countries on the European continent that have displayed interest in eventually joining the ranks of the EU — so not only to Bulgaria and Romania, and before them Poland, the Baltic States, and all the other countries that joined the EU in 2004 (Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovak Republic, and Slovenia), but also to Croatia, Macedonia, Serbia, Kosovo, Montenegro, Albania, Moldova, Turkey, Ukraine, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Armenia, and, after dictator Aleksandr Lukachenko's voluntary or forced retirement, Belarus.

In the recent past, the EU already made promises to Croatia and Macedonia. Romano Prodi, the then president of the European Commission, granted Croatia the official status of candidate for membership in June 2004. Like neighboring Slovenia, Croatia once belonged to the multi-ethic Habsburg Empire that infamously collapsed at the end of the First World War in 1918, but is still seen by many as the EU's "delivery room." The main obstacle for Croatian membership, the extradition of war criminal Ante Gotovina to the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, has meanwhile removed itself (Gotovina was arrested in the Spanish Canary Islands in December 2005). Prodi's successor José Manuel Barroso nominated Macedonia — officially: "the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia," or "F.Y.R.O.M." — as a candidate member state in November 2005, a recommendation that was taken over by the European Council (the European heads of government) one month later. Vigorous EU and NATO diplomacy prevented the outbreak of a Kosovo-like civil-war between native Macedonians and ethnic Albanians in 2001, but tensions have occurred ever since. Guiding Macedonia to the EU altar might be a good incentive for consolidating a lasting peace in the country.

Bearing in mind the magic formula of exporting the basic liberal-democratic values to Europe's fragile, former communist — and before that, authoritarian-fascist — Eastern periphery, it is rather striking that Barroso made the following statement (Sept. 25): "The upcoming enlargement with Bulgaria and Romania will be the last stage of enlargement allowing the reunification of Europe. There are limits to our absorption capacity." An institutional agreement among its current members should precede further EU-enlargement, the president of the commission added in the European Parliament.

Of course, Barroso is right from a formal point of view — an ever-growing EU should not end up as an unmanageable tanker helplessly adrift in the ocean of world politics. But is this the only explanation for the sudden neglect of the enlargement rational that has proved to be so successful over the last 15 years? Apart from Turkey — the accession talks with this country, which kicked off last year, are on the brink of a collapse — the Balkan and former Soviet republics will not be in a position to exert far-going influence on Brussels' decision-making process. In total, they have approximately 85 million inhabitants, but a combination of Germany and France will simply overrule them.

Yet, another, more crucial factor is slumbering in the background: the wish to appease the wrath of the spoiled inhabitants of "Old Europe." The rejection of the European Constitution by French and Dutch voters on May 29 and June 1, 2005, has been interpreted as a clear hint that the inhabitants of the old and rich member states are no longer willing to pay for obscure, unknown peoples in the East, who dare to dream of a more prosperous future and who will deluge the West, snatching up all the jobs there. Barroso seems to take into account the possibility that the French and Dutch will blockade a second, adapted version of the constitution, or a completely new treaty on the reform of the EU's institutional framework, as well.

Not surprisingly, France, still an influential member of the union, immediately expressed its warm support for Barroso's hardened stand. La Grande Nation is not anxious to welcome more pro-American countries (the Romanian government, for instance, signed an agreement on the opening of American military facilities on Romanian soil with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in December 2005) that might undermine its "natural leading position" within the EU even further. France announced it would subject all future enlargement rounds to plebiscites. Nicolas Sarkozy, the rightwing candidate in France's presidential election next year, reiterated his doubts about further EU expansion. Other members, like Italy, Belgium and Luxemburg, share France's view that the construction of a European "core group" might be the inevitable outcome.

So it seems that the unpopular — but inescapable — accession of Bulgaria and Romania had to be compensated for in the capacity of employing tough language against the backwards stragglers. Regarding Ukraine and Georgia: has the EU surreptitiously taken the cynical decision to render them to Russia's sphere of influence, so that it can pursue lucrative gas deals with versatile Moscow? The reticence and lack of enthusiasm Brussels has displayed after the 2004 Orange Revolution in Ukraine has surely contributed to the return to power of sinister, pro-Russian Viktor Yanukovych in Kiev last August. Former Estonian Prime Minister Mart Laar called on the EU to play a mediating role, but the union has remained remarkably silent during the recent Russian-Georgian crisis.

Barroso's hesitation has exposed the EU's real weakness: a total lack of authoritative, visionary politicians who are able to explain to a broader audience in a calm and convincing way the necessity of disseminating stability throughout the whole of Europe, including its outskirts. Will the new Vaclav Havel please stand up?

Conference on SEE lakes protection

International conference on integrated protection and management of lakes in South-East Europe (SEE) countries opened in Ohrid on 12 October.
The three-day conference brought together some 60 representatives of the SEE countries, the World Bank, UNDP and UNESCO. The event was organized by Macedonian Ministry of Environment and the International Organization for Water Protection.
In the course of opening session on Thursday, the World Bank pledged support to joint projects of the SEE countries on sustainable management of transboundary waters.
The World Bank still remains a key supporter of environment protection projects, however, it made it clear that transboundary water management would require a co-operation among the countries in the region.
The conference is expected to set out guidelines and new projects on lake protection, funded by international finance organizations.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Budget expenses increased for 6,5 billion Denars

Budget expenses increased for 6,5 billion Denars

Skopje, 12.10.2006 (Makfax) - The State Budget, with its re-balance for the income side, was increased for 5,8 billion Denars, and in the expense side - for 6,5 billion Denars.

Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski announced this in Skopje on Thursday, adding that the Government has submitted the Budget re-balance to the Parliament.

Agriculture, education, social services and clearing out of inherited debts are key items that the Government plans to cover with the proposed Budget re-balance.

Gruevski, as reported by Makfax, said that the modified Budget projection envisages most money for farmers and the agricultural sector, where the increase is from three to around four billion Denars.

The Budget re-balance also envisages around four million Euros for de-compensation of the salaries from the collective agreements in the Ministry of Education.

Around 500 million Denars are set aside for settling out debts left over from the previous government to the ministries and other public institutions.

The Government intents to allocate around 10 million Euros for the education sector, including two million for improvement of students' standard, around 500 million Denars would be aimed towards improving the prisons' conditions, and just as much for the Pension Fund, as a transitional expense for covering the deficit in this institution.

A total of 200 million Denars are allocated for the Major Roads Fund, due to recorded deficit that occurred by improper collection of highway tolls. The Prime Minister announced investigation of this issue.

Around 300 million Denars will be allotted to programmes of the social package, and a significant portion of three million Denars will be aimed for the Culture.

Prime Minister Gruevski, while avoiding to state details about sources that will cover the Budget re-balance, announced that the Government will not increase the taxes.

On the joint press-conference of three deputy prime ministers and the Minister of Finance Trajko Slavevski, he said the cause for the re-balance of the Budget that the Government adopted is the inappropriate distribution of incomes and expenses that was planned with the previous Budget. /

etovo University Situation Escalates

Tetovo. The situation in the University of Tetovo is escalating, Macedonian TV station A1 reports.
Yesterday university inspectors found out about 100 more forged diplomas. Some of them were issued to close relatives of former and present functionaries who received the certificates after only a few months. Some of the professors who had taught at the University had forged their masters and PhD diplomas. Wives, children and cousins of the professors had been appointed at the university without having the necessary qualifications, A1 sources from the Macedonian Education Ministry claim. According to unofficial information 2,000 forged diplomas, issued to students from Kosovo and Albania, have been discovered so far.
Macedonia’s Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski is concerned about the situation, A1 says. He claims that all those responsible will face the consequences of their actions but he added he would wait for the Inspectorate to carry out a thorough check-up. The Ministry informs that the check-up will go on for at least a month.

Macedonia recalls ambassador to U.S

Macedonia's President Branko Crvenkovski on Tuesday issued a decree to recall the country's ambassador to the United States, who was accused by the government of undiplomatic behavior, news from Skopje reported.

Macedonia's new government, elected in July, sharply criticized Ljupco Jordanovski, a former parliamentary speaker, for being indiscreet when dealing with the media.

Jordanovski and his counterpart in London engaged in a public debate in local media over why their Social-Democratic Party lost the elections, and their views were extensively quoted in the media.

Macedonian Foreign Minister Antonio Milososki said they had violated the diplomatic code of behavior, and he threatened to keep the diplomat, who is in Skopje at present, indefinitely for consultations until the president recalled him.

However, Western diplomats in Skopje said the new government wanted to use this opportunity to get rid of the two diplomats who belonged to the rival Social-Democratic Party and fill the two most important positions with their own people.

Gjorgji Spasov, Macedonia's ambassador to Britain, resigned last month.

Macedonia, Balkans have no EU membership timetable, Barroso says

Berlin- European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said Wednesday that Macedonia and other Balkans countries knocking at the European Union's door could not be given any timetable for membership. Barroso, speaking at a news conference after talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, insisted that the EU remained open to taking in countries from the Balkans.

But he added: "To achieve it they have to do a lot in political and economic terms."

Barroso said that for this reason "we cannot commit ourselves to a precise calendar."

The EU is set to admit Bulgaria and Romania to the currently 25-nation bloc next year pending a final green light from several present member states including Germany.

Charges of misused of foreign assistance by Macedonia quickly rebuffed

Allegations by the new Macedonian government that its predecessor misused foreign assistance proved to be short-lived. The claims, made last week by government spokesman Veton Ibrahimi, were vehemently denied by the former Deputy Prime Minister in charge of European Integration, Radmila Sekerinska.

According to Ibrahimi, some ambassadors had complained that foreign assistance managed by Sekerinska was being misused. A government commission would be formed to look into the matter, and the police, finance ministry and anti-corruption commission would become involved if needed, the spokesman said.

Making unjustified accusations without investigation is ridiculous, Sekerinska responded. She charged that the ruling VRMO-DPMNE party was attempting to discredit her and interfere with the Social Democratic Union of Macedonia ahead of a party confidence vote on former Prime Minister Vlado Buckovski.

Sekerinska is generally viewed as the most serious candidate to succeed Buckovski, who lost the confidence vote Saturday (October 7th). Analysts say she has the potential to boost the party's ratings -- currently the worst in its history.

International officials and diplomats quickly weighed in, dismissing the allegations of mismanagement as groundless.

US Ambassador to Macedonia Gillian Milovanovich, British Ambassador Robert Chatterton Dickson and EU Special Representative Erwan Fouere all took issue with Ibrahimi's statement. In a press release, the US embassy said it was "surprised by recent reports in the media alleging the misuse by the previous government of donor assistance, including assistance provided by the US government through USAID. The embassy has no knowledge of such misuse and has made no such allegations."

"All USAID procurements are conducted in compliance with US government regulations, designed to make those transactions fair, transparent, and competitive. Prior to awarding a project, implementing partners are subject to an audit of their internal controls and accounting policies and procedures. All financial records and project activities are subject to periodic and random audits conducted by the Office of the Inspector General and independent audit firms," the statement added. Fouere said he was satisfied with the procedures used.

"The EU assistance management is the responsibility of the European Agency for Reconstruction in a fully transparent manner, and we are satisfied with what has been achieved," Fouere said.

Similar words came from the British ambassador. "We have never had any problems with fraud or questions of misuse of our funds and we are continuing to work with the current government in the same manner with an extensive programme," Dickson said.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Fouere criticizes ousting of Tetovo University's Rector

The latest developments at the Tetovo University and the Parliament alike, are not good for the image of the country, European Ambassador Erwan Fouere said today in Ohrid, Makfax's correspondent reports.

"I haven't seen the integral version of the report yet, however it seems obvious to me that the replacement of the Tetovo University's Rector was not carried out according to regular procedure, which must be observed in such cases".

As regards the open conflict between DPA and DUI, Fouere said that as a ruling coalition ally, DPA is the one that should come forward and try to initiate a dialogue with DUI. According to him, the cooperation between these two parties is a necessary prerequisite for reaching a political consensus for resumption of the reform process.

"EU expects from Macedonia to push ahead with the reform agenda, which is important for the future of the country, therefore the parties' political interests should give way to the common interests", Fouere said.

During his visit to Ohrid, Fouere attended the presentation of the results of the project "Improving cultural cooperation in the ethnically mixed schools".

The project, funded by the European Agency for Reconstruction, was carried out in 20 primary and secondary schools, including 900 pupils and students. The project was aimed at overcoming of the inter-ethnic prejudices.