Friday, March 30, 2007

Last round of negotiations on EU visa regime due in April

Skopje. The new and most likely the last round of negotiations with the European Commission on facilitation of the visa regime for Macedonian citizens will take place in mid April, Foreign Ministry's spokesperson Shpresa Jusufi told Makfax.
She added that the third round of negotiations will be of technical nature, same as the previous two.
At the beginning of his three-day visit to Macedonia, on Monday, the Director General of the European Commission’s Enlargement Directorate General, Michael Leigh, said that all Western Balkan's countries are due sign agreements on facilitation of the visa regime in May.
Until the launch of the third round of negotiations, the internal consultations among EU member-countries are expected to be completed. EC is seeking for guidelines on the manner of continuation of the negotiations with Skopje's authorities.
Macedonian side set out the negotiations on this issue last November. Macedonia requested mitigation of the requirements for visa issuance for broader category of citizens, issuance of multiple visas with prolonged deadline, canceling of the visa issuance fee and setting a concrete deadline for full liberalization of the visa regime.
According to the announcements, the agreement on facilitation, which is due to come into force by the end of 2007, would be valid for all EU members, except for Great Britain, Ireland and Denmark.

Car crash in SkopjeCar crash in Skopje leaves one dead leaves one dead

One killed and one severely injured is the tragic result of today's heavy traffic accident that took place in Skopje's District of Kisela Voda, the Interior Ministry announced.

The head-on collision involving "Hyundai" operated by Goran Pejkovski, 32, who died on the spot, and a vehicle driven by K.T., 27, both from Skopje, took place in the vicinity of "Supertrade" gas station.

K.T., who sustained severe injuries, was immediately rushed to the Skopje Clinic Center. According to the latest reports, his condition is not critical.

A police team conducted inspection on the site and investigation into the cause of the accident is under way.

Australia appoints new Ambassador for Macedonia

The career diplomat Clare Birgin has been appointed as the new non-resident Ambassador of Australia to Macedonia, Makfax reports.

She will fulfill her ambassadorial duty from the Australian diplomatic office in Belgrade, the Australian Foreign Ministry announced.

The Australian Embassy in Belgrade covers the territory of Macedonia since the establishment of the diplomatic relations in 1995.

The newly-appointed non-resident Australian Ambassador Clare Birgin will replace John Oliver, whose four-year tenure expires in May this year.

The Australian career diplomat Clare Birgin was holding posts in consulates in Warsaw, Geneva and Washington, and in 2004, she was appointed as Australian Ambassador in Hungary.

US defense envoy says Macedonia needs faster reforms for NATO membership

SKOPJE, Macedonia: A senior U.S. defense envoy said Macedonia needed to speed up reforms required to become a full NATO member in a new enlargement round expected next year.

"It is apparent that Macedonia has made impressive strides in defense reform and modernization," Daniel Fata, the U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense, said after meeting Defense Minister Lazar Elenovski.

But he added that "not only defense, but every other aspect of reform must be completed" toward that goal. "There have to be democratic, political, economic and military reforms and all that is part of the package of issues to be reviewed."

The U.S. Congress recently sent legislation to President George W. Bush that endorses expansion of NATO to include three more Balkan countries and two former Soviet republics: Albania, Macedonia and Croatia, as well as Georgia and Ukraine.

Macedonia, Croatia and Albania have been working toward joining the alliance with Membership Action Plans since 2002.

"We have spent a considerable amount of resources working with all three ... We are here to talk with Macedonia on how else we can help them to have the best possible candidacy when the allies get together in 2008," Fata said.

Government now calling for 4th mobile operator in Macedonia

n the wake of the successful award of a third mobile licence to Mobilkom of Austria in January this year, the Macedonian government has reportedly announced its intention to license a fourth mobile network operator to further boost competition in the sector. According to a report from Skopje-based Makfax online, the regulator, the Agency for Electronic Communications, will issue a public notice on the introduction of fourth mobile operator, subject to it receiving interest from bidders in the international community. The terms and criteria for the fourth network operator will be specified in due course.

According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms database, Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski announced plans to license a third mobile operator to compete with the country's two incumbents — T-Mobile Macedonia (formerly MobiMak) a wholly owned subsidiary of national PTO T-Com Macedonia, and Cosmofon, run by Greek telco OTE's mobile arm Cosmote in September 2006. The tender began in December 2006, under the terms and conditions of which the successful bidder was required to pay a one-off upfront payment of at least EUR5 million for rights to the frequency spectrum. Two months later, Mobilkom of Austria's bid to become the country's third mobile operator was approved by the government. The Austrian firm was the sole company to enter a bid, offering EUR10 million (USD13 million) for the ten-year (renewable) GSM licence.

World Bank to grant Macedonia USD 30 million

Skopje. The Board of Directors of the World Bank approved Thursday to grant Macedonia USD 30 million, the correspondent of Focus Agency in Skopje reports.
The government will use the resources to improve the country’s investment climate and public sector management. This is the second out of three loans that the World Bank makes to Macedonia in a period of three to four years. The loans are to assist the structural and institutional reforms necessary for Macedonia to join the European Union.

"American Express" credit card promoted in Macedonia

One of the most prominent credit cards in the world "American Express", has been promoted today in Macedonia through the bearer of the exclusive license, Alpha Bank JSC - Skopje.

This bank has the exclusive right to issue American Express in Macedonia as well as to sign agreements with the local vendors for charging, it was announced at today's promotion.

American Express offers several favorable conditions to the Macedonian citizens, including 50-day grace period with 0% interest rate for retail payment and 5% minimum monthly repayment. The active annual interest rate is set to 15.5%.

No membership fee will be required for the first year. Furthermore, those users that would make an annual turnover of 100.000 denars will be freed from paying membership fee in the following years also. Otherwise, the membership fee is set to 1.500 denars.

The card users will have a constant access to as many as 2.200 American Express's branch offices across the world.

American Express will make an entry with eight bank machines installed at Alpha Bank branch offices throughout Macedonia. In addition, the users will be able to use the card at as many as 200 retail shops.

The bank unveiled plans for setting up as many as 1.000 vendor post-terminals and 15-17 bank machines. Alpha Bank also announced concluding agreements with other banks for joint usage of bank machines, copying the successful practice of Greek banks.

Ideology, which the FYROM state is based on, is crumbling away: Bulgarians from Macedonia

Delegates from Macedonia participated for the first time in a congress of the VMRO-BND, held last weekend. A reporter of FOCUS News Agency spoke with two of them – Save Dimitrieski from the town of Kicevo and Drasko Neseski from the town of Prilep. Dimitrieski and Neseski are members of the VMRO and say for themselves that they are Bulgarians.
‘The state Former Yugoslavian Republic of Macedonia is in serious crisis. Because the ideology this country is based on, the Macedonism, i.e. the story that they are ancestors of Aleksandar of Macedon and that all Bulgarian national revivals are in fact Macedonians is false and is now crumbling away. This gives ground for bad political and economical decisions. This is why the situation is now difficult for both the people with Bulgarian and Macedonian self-awareness. Things are easy only for those, who are in the Government now’, Drasko Neseski.
Among the biggest problems, Nenseki noted, is the fact that Albanians are developing more and more each day – economically and demographically and even territorially.
‘The people who act as if they were Macedonists, cannot see that Albanians are developing more and more. Only we, Bulgarians, see this and Bulgaria should clearly say that Macedonism is bad mostly for Bulgaria, because in a certain period of time the Albanians may reach the town of Kyustendil and we have to stop this Albanism’, Neseski said. He believes that Albanism is a result from Macedoniam.
‘Bulgatia’s first task is to stop the spreading of Macedonism.’, he added.

Telekom Austria wins contract to become Macedonia's No. 3 mobile provider

Austrian telecommunications operator Telekom Austria AG said Tuesday it won a contract to become Macedonia's No. 3 mobile phone service provider.

Telekom Austria said it paid €10 million (US$13.3 million) for a 10-year license to operate in the former Yugoslav republic.

The license will be automatically renewed for another 10 years after it expires, the company said.

Sintez Group intends to build the Macedonia-based power plant

Sintez Group is going to build the power plant with of the 230 MW (electric) and 160 MW (heat) capacity in Macedonia, the company informed.

The Group bought the major stake in TE-TO from Itera. The project will demand 138.5mln euro of investments. The subcontractor is GÀÌÀ (Turkey) and ALSTOM (Swiss) Concortium. The power plant will work on gas.

Sintez Group covers now 9 multiprofile companies including Sintezneftegaz, Arcticshelfneftegaz, Negusneft, Sintez Petroleum, Nizhnevartovsky Capital Wells Repair, Sibirtransservice, Industrial Investments, Sintez Development, South Western TETS.

Macedonia makes progress, should work more

On its road to the European Union Macedonia should pay special attention to the Framework Agreement implementation, positive policy for employing ethnic communities, resuming of the power decentralization process, judicial reforms, combat against corruption and organized crime for improving the business climate in the country, Michael Leigh, director general of the European Commission's Enlargement Directorate-General, said Monday in Skopje after his meetings with Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski and Vice-Premier Gabriela Konevska-Trajkovska.

- Macedonia has been making progress in many areas, but it should work more, Lee said, adding that the date for EU entry talks depend on the country's readiness.

- I commend the Government's ambitious goals for adopting laws on modernisation and reforms in the country in regard to the EU membership. However, not only quantity but also the quality of the adopted laws and their efficient application are rather significant, Leigh said.

He believed that the negotiations on facilitating the EU visa regime should be completed in May.

Leigh also referred to the EU Economic Aid, under which the Union has allocated about Euro 300 million to Macedonia for the beginning of the new decade.

- It is my responsibility to insure that those funds will be used appropriately and the country will build its capacity to use them by itself, Leigh said.

The Euro-integration process is the main national interest, Konevska-Trajkovska said.

- We wish to meet deadlines we have ambitiously set and we (the Government) see 2010 as a target year when Macedonia's legislation will be fully harmonized with the Union's one, she said, adding that special attention has been paid to the political, economic criteria.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Tetovo court upholds prison sentence for Nuhiu

The five-member Trial Chamber at the Tetovo District Court upheld the six-year prison sentence for Burhamedin Nuhiu, who was found guilty of attempted murder.

Tetovo's court passed the initial verdict for Nuhiu (41) in absentia on 31 May 2004.

The incident occurred on 29 August 2003 in Poroj, where Nuhiu fired seven bullets from an automatic rifle on a car. Aleksandar Andonovski, Zarko Raicevic and Zoran Ristosvki were aboard the car when the shooting took place. Andonovski suffered severe injuries on the face.

Nuhiu was not present at the first trial and was sentenced to jail in absentia. He was apprehended on 31 January 2005 and demanded a re-trial.

Furthermore, legal proceedings are underway in Skopje District Court, where Nuhiu stands a trial for killing a teen Vanco Josifovski in October 2002 near the city stadium in downtown Tetovo.

Nuhiu faces another trial in Tetovo's court for attempted murder. He is charged with attempted murder of two police inspectors in Poroj in October 2004.

Monday, March 26, 2007

No alternative to success in name issue

Foreign Minister Antonio Milososki stated Sunday in Tetovo that Macedonia is a country with a clear perspective, and the question is not whether Macedonia would become European Union member, but rather when.

"Macedonia is a country that has a clear perspective. If we are committed to the work, we can soon expect a recommendation for beginning of accession talks in 2008. Of course, this will depend on ourselves and how much we can adjust our system and improve it, so that we have a functional market economy and a democracy sustainable within EU", said Milososki.

Pertaining to the use of the country's constitutional name and the dispute with Greece, Milososki stated that nobody in Macedonia had the intention to make any concessions related to the international promotion of the constituional name.

"We do not have any other alternative than success in this dispute. The fact itself that Macedonia is recognized by 114 countries worldwide under its constitutional name, including three UN Security Council members - China, Russia and USA - is an indicator who is winning the battle", underlined Foreign Minister Antonio Milososki during his visit to Tetovo.


CROATIA coach Slaven Bilic was delighted after his side came from behind and scored an 88th-minute winner in Zagreb to pull them five points clear of England at the top of Group E.

"We are glad England were held to a 0-0 draw in Israel, it is a major bonus for us," said former West Ham defender Bilic (above).

"This is a big win for us because the Macedonians have shown once again they are a tough nut to crack. It came down to our character and quality."

Croatia fell behind to a goal from Macedonia captain Goce Sedloski. But Sedloski was sent off for a second bookable offence early in the second half.

Sub Darijo Srna drew level on the hour with a superb free kick and set up Eduardo da Silva to grab the clincher.

Macedonia faces tough sell in efforts to forge ties with U.S.

Mention Macedonia, and most Americans won't know even the basics of the young Balkan country.

It's still seeking an identity in the global marketplace: 2 million residents. Formerly part of Yugoslavia. Landlocked. And now courting business to slash unemployment rates topping 35 percent.

So when Macedonia's foreign investment minister recently visited South Florida to promote ties, the New York-born Cornell University graduate faced a tough sell.

"It's definitely the hardest job I've ever done," said Gligor Tashkovich, 41, who took the post last year under Macedonia's new center-right administration -- partly to honor the memory of his ancestors born there. "It's like surfing a tidal wave perpetually."

Tashkovich said he's working overtime to lure foreign investment to Macedonia. He seeks to draw factories that can use its relatively low-wage labor to export auto parts, processed foods and call-center services to nearby European Union and beyond. And he aims to attract tourism to enjoy the nation's mountains.

The government now offers economic free zones, where export companies get ample tax breaks. It also has cut tax rates overall to some of Europe's lowest levels.

Plus, the administration slashed the time needed to start a new business -- a key gauge of international competitiveness -- from 48 days to three, Tashkovich said.

The efforts are starting to pay off. Johnson Controls of Milwaukee is building an auto parts factory for export, the minister said.

But competition is stiff from better-known nations, with a longer track record for welcoming investment and less of a reputation for corruption.

Macedonia had steered a socialistic course since its independence in 1991. Plus, political tensions with neighboring Greece and its Albanian minority have discouraged business, Tashkovich said.

"My biggest challenge is time," said the globetrotting minister, who aims to visit two countries a month to promote business and hope in Macedonia. "My understanding is the people are giving this government one last chance, after 15 years of being lied to."

VMRO-BND likely to take part in Macedonia’s local elections: leader

Sofia. The Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization – Bulgarian National Movement /VMRO-BND/ stands real chances of taking part in the local elections in Macedonia in 2008, VMRO-BND leader Krasimir Karakachanov said in an interview with FOCUS News Agency. He added that the party was going to expand in Macedonia. He also said that Bulgaria’s support for Macedonia’s NATO integration could not be unconditional unless Macedonia stopped stealing the Bulgarian history.

European anti-laundering experts visit Macedonia

The Council of Europe's experts in the fight against money laundering arrived in Macedonia on Monday.

The experts will be briefed on government's measures to prevent money laundering.

European experts are likely to oversee the operations of banks, broker houses, casinos, courts, public prosecution and corporate houses.

The Council of Europe's experts will stay in Macedonia until March 31. They will evaluate the work of the National Bank, Customs Administration, Anti-Laundering Directorate, Anti-Corruption Commission and several ministries.

The report will be wrapped up by the end of the year. European experts are likely to raise objections on casinos' operations.

New mobile operator appears in Macedonia today

Skopje. The ‘Nov operator’ /New operator/ of the Austrian Mobilkom will become officially today the third mobile operator in Macedonia, the Macedonian daily Spic reports. Representatives of the Agency for electronic communications will present to the Austrian company today the permission for their activity as a mobile operator. Mobilkom paid USD 10 Million for the license on Friday.

The Macedonian Government is going to form an agency for financial support for agriculture

The Macedonian Government is going to form an agency for financial support for agriculture and its improvement and development, reported Deyan Nikolovski, correspondent from ‘Focus News Agency’. The agency for financial support for agriculture will start working in year at the earliest. Thanks to it agrarians will be ale to use pre-joining funds.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Slovenia supports Macedonia's accession to NATO, EU

Macedonian-Slovene cooperation is excellent, particularly in the sphere of defense, Defense Ministers Lazar Elenovski and Karl Erjavec said after their meeting Thursday in Ljubljana. - Slovenia fully supports Macedonia's accession to NATO and the European Union, Erjavec said, extending gratitude for Macedonia's logistic support of the transportation of Slovene peacekeepers to Kosovo.

The Ministers said that Slovenia and Macedonia shared same positions on developments in the region, Both countries have been supporting the plan of UN Special Envoy Martti Ahtisaari on Kosovo final status - as a factor of the region's stability.

Forthcoming accession of Adriatic Charter countries to NATO and the region's integration with the EU will further contribute to the region's stability, Elenovski said.

Taking a journalist question, Erjavec said that Slovenia was interested in the military polygon Krivolak, which was discussed at today's meeting.

Elenovski and Erjavec also talked about the transformation of the armed forces of both countries.

Washington made it clear Thursday there is no change in its position over Macedonia's constitutional name.

Washington made it clear Thursday there is no change in its position over Macedonia's constitutional name.

Asked by a journalist for any readout from the meeting between Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and the Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis, the State Department's spokesman Sean McCormack said they talked about a number of bilateral issues.

"They covered a number of bilateral issues. They talked about the Visa waiver Program. They talked also about issues related to Macedonia," McCormack said.

The Greek journalist asked McCormack did he mean FYROM.

"I know you would have a different name for it. We call it Macedonia," McCormack told the journalist.

Bulgarian ambassador, Tetovo mayor discuss regional importance of Corridor 8

Bulgarian ambassador in Macedonia Miho Mihov met Thursday with the mayor of Tetovo Hazbi Lika, FOCUS News Agency’s correspondent in Skopje, Dejan Nikolovski reported. They discussed the decentralization and the importance of Corridor 8 for the development of the region.
“All of us, including the municipalities in Macedonia and Bulgaria, have to work for the fulfilment of the project and to insists that the EU should consider it a priority corridor so that its construction can start”, Mr. Mihov said. He stressed that Macedonia is an important factor for the stability and security in the Western Balkans.

Macedonian govt is “dangerously passive” about constitutional name

Skopje. The parliamentary faction of the Social Democratic Union of Macedonia /SDSM/ accused the government of being “dangerously passive” about the protection of the constitutional name of Macedonia, the correspondent of FOCUS News Agency in Skopje reported. “The Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski told members of Rotary Club in Skopje that the name of Macedonia wouldn’t be changed under pressure and force”, MP from SDSM Ilinka Mitreva, who is also a former Foreign Minister, said at a press conference. Mitreva added that Gruevski’s statement meant that the Prime Minister could accept a change of Macedonia’s constitutional name if it was demanded “in a milder way”. According to Mitreva, the Prime Minister offered a surrender of the state and the Macedonian people when he had compared the country as a mouse driven into the corner.

Olli Rehn: Reference FYROM is awkward

The reference FYROM is awkward, Euro-enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn said Wednesday at the European Parliament. - The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia is a candidate country (for the EU membership) and I believe that the bilateral problem between this country and Greece will be solved soon, so that we will no longer have to use this awkward name, Rehn said.

Rehn responded to a question of EP member, who made a joke proposing Macedonia to be named "Future European Republic of Macedonia" instead of FYROM.

Rehn was unwilling to comment launching of a date for Macedonia's EU entry talks.

- Macedonia should above all learn the rules of the democratic game, namely the political consensus that will result in completion of the necessary judicial, public administration reforms, Rehn said.

U.N. Envoy To Help Solve Macedonia Dispute

A U.N. official is trying to help the governments in Athens and Skopje resolve their row over the name of Macedonia.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis at the United Nations Wednesday discussed issues relating to Cyprus, Serbia's mainly ethnic-Albanian Kosovo province and Macedonia, the Greek English-language newspaper Kathimerini reported Thursday.

Kathimerini quoted diplomats as saying the United Nations should work out a new proposal on the name of Macedonia by the year's end. Lynn Pascoe, U.N. undersecretary-general for political affairs, has been appointed the official in charge of trying to solve the problem.

Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia have been in dispute over the Macedonia name since the northern neighbor won international recognition in 1991.

Macedonia is the name of a northern Greek region and Athens, arguing the name might imply territorial ambitions, demands the Skopje government calls its state the FYROM, the name under which it joined the United Nations.

Macedonia’s Defense Minister visits Slovenia

Macedonian Defense Minister Lazar Elenovski is on an official visit to Slovenia at the invitation of his Slovenian counterpart Karl Erjavec, the correspondent of Focus Agency in Skopje reports.
The two ministers are to look into the Macedonian-Slovenian cooperation, and touch upon Slovenia’s support for Macedonia’s NATO membership. Ministers Elenovski and Erjavec are to discuss defense system reforms, cooperation in crisis response operations, southeastern European situation.

Johnson Matthey to open factory in Macedonia

Multinational company "Johnson Matthey" has chosen Macedonia, among ten other European countries, as a country where it can spread its production. The factory will be build in Bunardzik free zone, whereas the production process will kick off in 2009. The memorandum for cooperation for investment realisation was signed Thursday by Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski and Johnson Matthey official Collin Geoffrey.

- We've visited 10 countries, including Hungary, Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Croatia, whereas Macedonia had the advantage in terms of our most important criteria with regard to quality and available workforce, its costs, as well as Government's stimulating measures, taxes and land fees, stated Geoffrey after signing the memo, adding that the decision was final, thus taking no other options into consideration.

Johnson Matthey manufactures automobile catalysts. Their decision to enter the Macedonian market was stemming from their need of enhancing the traditional production capacities.

Not stating the exact amount of the investment, Geoffrey said it would worth millions, creating hundreds of jobs.

Gruevski, expressing content for company's decision, said it represented a great challenge for Macedonia, for its production companies, because they had the opportunity to become company's partners, hence sending serious signal for other foreign companies to invest.

- Macedonia's ability to attract big firms such as Johnson Matthey is a very positive signal in terms of our advantages, attractive and low costs and strategic location, said Gruevski.

He stated that ten other companies, despite Johnson Matthey, were entering an advanced investment phase in Macedonia, while one Iceland-based company was about to reach a decision on investing in the bank sector.

Bulgaria must give a new meaning to its policy towards Macedonia says IMRO- Bulgarian National Movement

Sofia. Bulgaria must give a new meaning to its policy towards Macedonia for stopping anti-Bulgarian campaigning. For this purpose from IMRO- Bulgarian National Movement proposes the following conditions to be observed: respecting the rights of the Bulgarian population and preserving the cultural and historical heritage of Bulgaria on the territory of Macedonia, also all falsifications concerning the Bulgarian history published in Macedonian history books, reported a journalist from Focus News Agency.

After one year Macedonia will start negotiations for membership in EU, intends Branko Crvenkovski

Skopje. In the beginning of 2008 negotiations are expected to be hold between Macedonia and the EU, announced Branko Crvenkovski today in Brussels. At the invitation of king of Belgium Alber, Crvenkovski is visiting Brussels due to the 50 anniversary since the sign of the European Communities Contract. The Macedonian President is among the eight heads of state of countries which are not members of the EU, Focus News Agency reported.

Bulgaria’s aid to Macedonia is not unconditional

Sofia. Macedonia deserves a seat in the European Commission after carrying out some reforms, said Miroslav Murdzhov for Focus News Agency. According to his statement, Macedonia has given signals for its intentions in participating Europe.
It needs to be cleared that Bulgaria’s decision for helping Macedonia is not unconditional. There are many reforms to be made, especially in the education and specifically in the history published in Macedonian books.
Macedonia must admit that Bulgaria is a friend, not an enemy, Murdzhov adds.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Bakoyannis and UN chief discuss Athens-Skopje dispute, Cyprus, and Kosovo

Greek FM Dora Bakoyannis late Tuesday stated that there is no new UN initiative on name dispute between Greece and Macedonia. - At this time, no. He did not give me the impression that a new initiative on the Skopje issue is being prepared. The discussion was very broad and we had the opportunity to brief the Secretary Genera and his staff, which is a new staff -- and I remind you that it is the first discussion we have had -- and he was briefed on our positions and on Greece's proposals, Bakoyannis said.

ANA-MPA agency reported that the dispute between Athens and Skopje on name issue, Cyprus problem and Kosovo developments were the topics of discussion in New York between the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon and Greek FM Dora Bakoyannis.

The working dinner took place at the residence of the Greek Ambassador to the UN Adamantios Vassilakis.

During the day Bakoyannis will meet US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and her assistants John Negroponte and Nicolas Burns as well as the Speaker of the US House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi.

Macedonian government to establish agency handling property confiscations

As part of its effort to fight crime and corruption, the Macedonian government says it is setting up a special agency to manage illegal property that has been confiscated. Funds acquired from the seizure of assets can then be invested in social programmes, police and army reforms.

The government is working to define the precise legal framework for the measures, which it says are provided for by penal code amendments passed in 2003. The amendments introduce property confiscation as an authorised strategy in tackling corruption and crime. Until now, however, this has only been implemented on one occasion -- in the trial of Lambe Arnaudov, the former manager of Elektrostopanstvo na Makedonija. Several vehicles were confiscated from Blif, a company connected to the case.

According to the Justice Ministry, legal provisions allowing confiscation of property acquired via crime and corruption have so far been impossible to enforce, due to the lack of an authority that would manage such property. This is the reason for setting up an agency, it says.

Slagjana Taseva, former president of the Macedonian Anti-Corruption Commission, says, "Provisions of the Penalty Code and other legislation should be made operational and systemised. This is about a measure of confiscation and not sanction. And this means that the measure may be issued without a court ruling."

According to Taseva, co-operation with institutions in other countries in the confiscation of property acquired through organised crime should also be specified.

Former Interior Minister and current MP Pavle Trajanov says many countries have special agencies tackling organised crime, and part of their responsibility is to uncover property acquired illegally.

"After such property is discovered, it is frozen until a court process provides evidence whether the property has or has not been acquired legally. If a property is proven to have been acquired illegally, it is confiscated. If it was acquired legally, it is returned to the owner," Trajanov says.

FYROM proposal by year-end

The United Nations is considering making a new proposal by the end of the year to resolve the dispute over the name of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, diplomatic sources said yesterday.

The development was revealed after new UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon met with Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis in New York. It was Bakoyannis’s first meeting with the South Korean diplomat since he took over the leadership of the UN in January.

“We talked about Cyprus, FYROM, Kosovo and other matters,” said Ban after the meeting, which was also attended by the UN’s Undersecretary-General for Political Affairs B. Lynn Pascoe. The American diplomat has been put in charge of trying to find a solution to the dispute between Athens and Skopje over FYROM’s name.

A proposal in 2006 by Pascoe’s predecessor, Matthew Nimetz, that FYROM should be renamed Republika Makedonija-Skopje was accepted by Athens but rejected by Skopje.

Bakoyannis is due to meet with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in Washington today for further diplomatic talks.

Meanwhile, Foreign Ministry spokesman Giorgos Koumoutsakos yesterday accused Turkey of showing a lack of respect for its neighbor after Ankara responded to official complaints from Greece about recent fighter jet violations by handing Greek diplomats a report which blames air force pilot Costas Iliakis for a crash between a Greek and a Turkish F-16 last summer which resulted in Iliakis’s death.

The pilot died after colliding with a Turkish plane that entered Greek air space. Koumoutsakos said Ankara’s report was “against the principle of good-neighborly relations.”

Turkey is a proven friend of Macedonia

Skopje. The Macedonian President Branko Crvenovski met today with the Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul, the correspondent of FOCUS News Agency in Skopje Dejan Nikolovski informed.
During the meeting the Turkish Minister has greeted Crvenovski on behalf of Ahmet Necet Sezer and the Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Crvenovski thanked for the constant support rendered by Turkey to Macedonia. He noted that Turkey is a proven friend of Macedonia and friendly support was of special importance to the country.

Landslide kills construction worker at Kozjak dam

One worker of the construction company Granit was killed and one injured in a landslide that took place on Wednesday at Kozjak dam.

The accident occurred at about 13:00 hrs, when a boulder fell onto workers while they carried out construction activities.

A.V., 39, was killed on the spot, while his co-worker I.M., 37, was rushed to the Skopje's Clinic Center.

There was no immediate word as to the cause of the tragic event.

Macedonian PM reveals name dispute strategy

Skopje. Macedonian Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski disclosed a government’s strategy for the name dispute with Greece, the Macedonian newspaper Utrinski Vesnik reports. Gruevski claims that Athens cornered his country so much that Macedonia had to retaliate by changing the name of the airport in Skopje to Alexander the Great and by exhibiting an ancient heritage, which Athens accepted as a provocation. The Prime Minister thinks that Macedonia has nothing to lose in the name dispute although the US Senate approved a resolution three days ago, which uses the acronym FYROM along with the name Republic of Macedonia.
Gruevski’s statement is a confession that there’s no room for talks with Greece, an inference that has been made by all Macedonian Prime Ministers by now, the newspaper says. However, the difference is that no one has dared say that in public, as Gruevski did.
The Utrinski Vesnik stresses that Macedonia will suffer losses in the name dispute and the EU integration process. It points to a few examples – after using the constitutional name for a few years, the EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana used the acronym FYROM during a meeting with Macedonian leaders; the acronym also appeared on the website of BBC. Besides, France has reconsidered its stand for the last two years, which indicates the lack of Macedonian diplomacy.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Macedonian Interior Ministry arrests 15 policemen and customs officers over bribe charges

Skopje. Fifteen policemen and customs officers were arrested in Macedonia over the weekend over bribe charges, the correspondent of FOCUS News Agency, Dejan Nikolovski in Skopje reported. The Macedonian Interior Ministry confirmed the information but did not give details. The measures are supposedly part of an operation against corruption in the Interior Ministry and the Customs. Forty policemen and customs officers were arrested fifteen days ago. The police found the total of EUR 40,000 in their homes and offices.

Stefan Vlahov is not Macedonian yet; nobody knows whether he works in embassy in Sofia

The Agency for Macedonian refugees in Bulgaria told FOCUS News Agency the former Director of the Macedonian Culture Center in Sofia Stefan Vlahov-Mitsov was appointed as a PR of the Macedonian embassy in Bulgaria. However the Agency has also told the correspondent of Focus Agency in Skopje Dejan Nikolovski that it is not competent to answer whether Stefan Vlahov-Mitsov has Macedonian citizenship, and it is the Macedonian Foreign Ministry that can give more details.
The Macedonian embassy in Sofia has announced Stefan Vlahov-Mitsov is not currently working as a PR.
The Macedonian Foreign Ministry stated it “had not heard such a thing” but so far it had neither a confirmation, nor a refutation of Vlahov’s appointment in the embassy.
According to Macedonian sources Vlahov-Mitsov, who is of north Bulgarian descent, is not a Macedonian yet, which makes his would-be appointment scandalous.

Police seizes 4.800 boxes of cigarettes worth 48.000 euros

Police seized as many as 4.800 boxes of cigarettes worth 48.000 euros in the Skopje's nearby village of Vizbegovo today.

After previously received information, the Police found the untaxed cigarettes of brands "Marble" and "Respect" in the family house of K.T. from Skopje.

The origin of the goods is yet to be determined. Nonetheless, the fact that K.T. is family related to I.M., in whose house cigarettes worth about million euros were uncovered recently, gives the police grounds to believe that the same shipment of smuggled cigarettes is in question.

Protesters block boulevard in Skopje, Interior Ministry unaware of the situation

Skopje. A number of citizens blocked this morning the traffic on Krastyo Petkov Misirkov boulevard in Skopje, Deyan Nikolovski, a correspondent of FOCUS News Agency in Skopje has informed. The reasons for the blockade are still unknown. This is one of Skopje’s busiest streets. The Ministry of Interior says it hasn’t been notified of the rally.

Make Mine a Macedonian Wine

No one will ever mistake Kavardaci for Burgundy. About a 90-minute drive south of the capital city of Skopje, Kavardaci might be the heart of Macedonia's wine country, but it's also the site of a communist-era steel mill, surrounded by inexpensive worker housing and weedy open spaces. Yet Kavardaci should be on the radar of anyone looking for the next big thing in European wine. The town is home to the Tikves winery, the largest in southeastern Europe. Tikves is quickly metamorphosing from a socialist-era workhorse into a major producer of high-end wine.

With such reinventions, Tikves and other wineries in the Balkans are running fast to catch up with an industry that left them behind in the 1990s. These days, though, they're competing for gold medals rather than production quotas. From Herzegovina in the west to Macedonia in the east, the territories of the former Yugoslavia are ideal for making wine, with hot, dry summers and rocky slopes where grapevines thrive.

If only Balkan politics and history had been as kind to these vineyards as the soil and the sun. Over the past 15 years, events have dealt blow after blow to a winemaking tradition that goes back thousands of years. "We not only have been through the war, which did a lot of damage, but also through the transition from socialism to capitalism—and this change happened during the war. It wasn't an easy time," says Bruno Saric, executive director of Hepok Ljubuski winery, the second largest in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
White Knights

As a result, wineries in Serbia, Montenegro, Croatia, Macedonia, Slovenia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina face a staggering succession of hurdles. Privatization has splintered collectivized vineyards into hundreds of plots. Consumer tastes have matured beyond the bulk wine that was vintners' communist-era mainstay. Credit for small businesses here still comes mostly in short-term maturities, ill-suited for the kind of long-range planning that winemaking demands, and marketing is a relatively new phenomenon. Many producers lost land, and time, to the Balkan wars of the 1990s. Bosnia alone lost 40% of its vineyard acreage during the 1992-1995 conflict, and many vineyards in Croatia were planted with landmines.

Some wineries, like Tikves and Hepok, have been rescued by white knights. Tikves was scooped up three years ago by a group of shareholders and former managers from Skopje brewery, Macedonia's largest. The consortium, called M6 Investments, has poured $14 million into production in a bid to make wines that can compete on any market. Leading a recent tour of the winery, exports manager Milan Ivanovski pointed proudly to several fermentation vats that cost $265,000 apiece and are used for the company's premium wines. "Someone has called these the Mercedes of tanks," he said.

"For years, Tikves produced average-quality wine, of which the majority was sold as a base for wines in Germany…. It was the biggest mistake," general manager Saso Velkov says. When M6 took over, Tikves headed upmarket. It has reversed its old production ratio of 65% bulk wine to 35% bottled and now offers two tiers of premium wines. It has also scaled back production, using only 35 million liters of its 55 million-liter capacity. Although sales rose by 10% last year, continuing investment means the payoff will be slow in coming. Net profits plunged from $2.2 million in 2005 to $622,000 in 2006.
Government Lends a Hand

Another winemaker that wants to go upscale is Hepok, which was bought two years ago by a Bosnian firm, Nativa, part-owned by a division of Austrian financial house Hypo Group Alpe Adria. The new owners have sunk about $5 million into the business, and Saric said they expect to at least another million this year. One of the new regime's first actions was to replace all its old vines. It also nearly doubled its planting area to 150 hectares, Saric says. As a result, it lost a year of production.

Many small wineries across the Balkans cannot afford such extreme makeovers. They get by with smaller modifications or help from organizations like the U.S. Agency for International Development, the European Bank for Reconstruction & Development, and the European Agency for Reconstruction.

That isn't necessarily a handicap, according to one expert who took part in a USAID-sponsored tour of the region last year. Smaller wineries in tourism-driven markets like Croatia and, increasingly, Herzegovina see most of their produce absorbed locally and face less pressure to expand, says Britt Karlsson of BKWine, a wine-writing and tourism business. "It's a mistake to assume that you must produce larger volumes, and that you must invest substantial capital to be a quality producer," Karlsson says. "It may help to have money, but it isn't a sine qua non to become an excellent winemaker."
New Grapes Needed

Annual wine production in the countries of the former Yugoslavia has averaged about 455 million liters combined in recent years, according to EU and national statistics. By comparison, France produced an average of 5.5 billion liters per year from 2000 to 2005.

The wine market in the former Yugoslavia is worth about $2.2 billion, vs. $32 billion in France, according to Euromonitor International. Winemakers and consultants say the Balkans will likely need public help if they're to challenge the world's established wine industries. They say governments should subsidize planting of newer, more popular grape varieties for the hundreds of small vineyards across the region.

Karlsson says solutions require a broader vision: "Perhaps the overall biggest challenge for wine production in the region is actually the lack of international exchange and influence," to help Balkan vintners better understand foreign markets and modernize winemaking techniques.
Out in the Wine World

There's no question that the region's largest wineries are outward-looking, and hungry for new techniques and foreign customers. And the wine world has started to notice. Tikves scored a coup recently, securing a Russian order for 300,000 bottles, and its wines are now in the Kremlin's cellars.

"We're in the middle of a project that will change Macedonian wine production," general manager Velkov says. "This is a region…unknown to the rest of the wine world, with more than 3,000 years of wine tradition." That being the case, the wine world may soon have to expand its map.

Status conference on Boskoski, Tarculovski

A pre-trial status conference in the case against Ljube Boskoski and Johan Tarculoski has been scheduled for Wednesday, March 21, at The Hague Tribunal.

The status conference, to take place Wednesday at 14:15 hrs in at courtroom II, will be the last conference ahead of launch of trial slated for April 16.

In accordance with the procedure, the judges, prosecutors and defense lawyers are to review the case, the activities in connection with the case, collected evidence and related paperwork.

Boskoski and Tarculovski are to brief on their health condition and how they were treated at the tribunal's detention unit Scheweningen.

In April 2005, Macedonia's former interior minister Ljube Boskoski and his former bodyguard Johan Tarculovski pleaded not guilty of charges in connection with Ljuboten case dating from 2001 conflict in Macedonia.

The amended indictment alleges that Boskoski did nothing to prevent the crimes allegedly committed in Skopje's village of Ljuboten in 2001. "A superior is responsible for the criminal acts of his subordinates if he knew that his subordinates were about to commit such acts, and the superior failed to take necessary and reasonable measures to prevent such acts or to punish the perpetrators."

The indictment alleges that Tarculovski "personally commanded the attack of Macedonian police forces in Ljuboten, when seven ethnic Albanians were killed, 14 houses were set on fire, and more than 100 local residents were arrested and mistreated."

The two Macedonian citizens are in Scheweningen since March 2005, awaiting the start of trial.

Certain groups are willing to mess up with Macedonian-Bulgarian relations, Dosta Dimovska says

Sofia. Dosta Dimovska, Director of the Macedonian Culture Centre in Bulgaria has announced that certain groups willing to mess up with the Macedonian-Bulgarian relations exist, says today’s edition of Macedonian newspaper Vreme. “There are certain centres and people, who have negative intent towards Macedonia and Bulgaria. They want to put up walls between the two countries, but these days have been gone since long”, Dimovska commented for Bulgarian journalists.

Nikola Gruevski re-elected VMRO-DPMNE leader

The delegates, attending VMRO-DPMNE's 13th Congress, have unanimously re-elected Nikola Gruevski to the position of party leader.

All 409 delegates attending the Congress out of the 417 accredited have cast their vote for Gruevski.

The Congress was wrapped up by the vote for Statutory and Surveillance Commission for Material Operation of the party. Gordana Jankulovska is elected Statutory Commission president, vice president is Silvana Boneva, whereas its newly-elected members include Trajko Veljanovski, Zoran Petreski, Ivica Konevski, Trajko Slavevski and Koce Trajanovski. Mile Janakieski was elected president of the Commission on Financial and Material Operation, with members including Aleksandar Stojkov and Gordana Jankulovska.

Gruevski after the vote called on VMRO-DPMNE delegates to fulfil their election promises in the next four years, as they had been doing in the previous six moths, after the Government was formed. He added that the demonstrated confidence was an encouragement to him, but also an accountability to pursue improving the life standard in Macedonia and its EU integration process.

- Our objective must not only be NATO and EU integration. Our goal is to improve the quality and life standards in Macedonia, said Gruevski stressing that the citizens have high expectations from VMRO-DPMNE, thus they mustn't be disappointed in any case.

Furthermore, Gruevski promised opening of new jobs in the forthcoming period and implementing firmer social policy in order to "Macedonia reach the standard of European countries".

VMRO-DPMNE adopted the Program Resolution and Congress Doctrine 2007 over the course of the 2-day Congress.

Two persons charged with sexual assault on minors

Gostivar and Bitola's Police laid charges against two persons from Veles and Bitola, for sexual assault on minors.

Z.Z., 22, from Veles is accused of sexual assault on a 12-year-old girl from Gostivar. He committed the assault on two occasions last week, in Skopje's District Shuto Orizari and in Veles.

U.M, 33, from Bitola is accused of sexual assault on two girls - aged 12 and 13. He was ordered 30-day temporary custody under suspicions of having raped the two girls repeatedly in February and March this year.

Seized drugs worth 4 million Euro destroyed

Various drugs and narcotics worth 4 million Euro used as evidence in trials Monday were destroyed in Makstil steel plant. The drug burning was supervised by the commission including members of the Interior and Justice Ministries and court officials. Also PM Nikola Gruevski, government's ministers and representatives of the diplomatic corps attended the operation.

Interior Minister Gordana Jankuloska after drug burning operation said that 150 kilos of hashish, 250 kilos of marijuana, 80 kilos of heroin, 30.000 ecstasy pills and 16 kilos of cocaine amounting to 4 million Euro at the black market were seized.

She said that half a ton of cocaine, which was seized in Blace, will be destroyed transparently after finishing of the trial procedure. Interior Ministry continues with the activities in regard to the investigation of this case.

She announced that a meeting will be held soon organised by SECI which will gather representatives of the Macedonian Interior Ministry and institutions of the neighbouring countries and will debate the possibilities for more efficient fight against illicit drug trafficking.

In regard to arrested judges in Veles and Kocani, Minister Jankuloska said that criminal charges have been filed and based on this investigative judge pronounced a pre-trial confinement.

Regarding the eavesdropping device found at ESM-EVN office in Bitola, Jankuloska said that this will be processed through private suit.

Computerization of the Schools in Macedonia

With the tender for procurement of 100.000 PCs for primary and secondary schools in Macedonia, published on March 13, 2007, the Government launched the “Computer for every child” campaign. The PCs will be allocated and paid at the end of 2007 and beginning of 2008.

The other 50.000 PCs will be paid from the budget of 2009, when this campaign is expected to be finalized. The finances are provided by the budget and the country will not raise credits. The aim of the campaign is to enable pupils to learn using computers, and to allow teachers to convey knowledge using modern methods.

“In the last quarter of 2007 we expect commencing of installation of about 40.000 PCs. In January, February and March additional 60.000 PCs will be installed, while about 50.000 PCs will be installed in 2009,” noted Nikola Gruevski at the press conference in the Government.

Installation will start in secondary schools at the end of this year, the second stage will continue in the primary schools from fifth to eights grade, while the third stage will cover the primary schools from first to fourth grade. The computers will have LCD display that will protect the pupils from radiation, and will be secured from stealing since they will be unusable outside the schools. The teachers will be trained to use the computers. Tender for procurement of stronger PCs for the new faculties in Shtip and Bitola is expected to be published these days.

The Government also promoted the project for building at least 100 new schools, and is waiting for the mayors to express their needs for new school facilities. The Government’s participation in the project will be from 5% to 10%, while the ret is expected to be covered by the private sector.

The third project that was promoted by the Government is building of about 100 sport halls in the schools and the European Bank for Development to approve the elaborate submitted by the Ministry of education and science.

The credit for the sport halls is expected to be about 40 million euros. The Government will request a credit for expanding and reconstruction of Macedonian prisons.

Gruevski rewards 44 top students in Macedonia

Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski rewarded 44 students in four state universities in Macedonia, who had graduated with highest grade-point average in the academician year 2005/2006.

The recognition awards ceremony, initiated the Government, covers the graduates at St. Kiril and Metodij University in Skopje, St. Kliment Ohridski University in Bitola, the University in Tetovo and the acreditted SEE University in Tetovo.

"Today's event proves that Macedonia possesses hard-working, successful and creative young people," PM Gruevski said while presenting the written commendation to best students.

He stressed that at the beginning of 21st century, the internatioanl community reached a genearl consensus that knowledge is driving power, and Macedonia is moving in thi sdirection. Gruevski hopes that these graduates will invest their potential and talent in the function of ourt country.

Deputy Prime Minister Zivko Jankulovski said education is among key factors in the development of each country, hence, it is one of the top priorities of Macedonia.

Thefore, the government approved a 1 billion denar increase in education budget, bringing the education budget to 14.320.000.000 denars.

Bakoyannis: No new initiatives in sight on name dispute with Macedonia

There are no signs that the UN Secretary General would come up with a fresh initiative on the Macedonia-Greece dispute over the name.

Greek Foreign Minister, Dora Bakoyannis, said this after Tuesday's working dinner with the UN's chief Ban Ki-moon.

"We had a chance to inform the Secretary General and his new team on Greece's proposals", Bakoyannis said, noting that other subjects were touched too.

According to her, Ban Ki-moon accepted PM Costas Karamanlis's invitation to pay a visit to Athens.

In the course of her visit to US, Bakoyannis is due to meet with State Secretary Condoleezza Rice tomorrow.

Gul: Turkey supports Macedonia's NATO bid

Macedonia and Turkey need to step up the economic cooperation in the following years in order to reach the level of the good political relations, and Turkey is strong supporter of Macedonia's membership in NATO.

This was concluded at today's meeting between the Macedonian Foreign Minister Antonio Miloshoski and the Turkish Vice-Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul
that took place in the premises of the Interior Ministry.

"Political relations between the two countries are characterized by trust and friendship, which is our greatest capital. The challenge is to raise the level of the economic relations to match the political ones", Minister Gul said after the meeting.

He noted that the campaign "Invest in Macedonia" raised great interest among Turkish businessmen.

"Our friendship is grounded on very healthy bases. Turkey is heading the group of countries that are voicing strong support to membership of the Republic of Macedonia to NATO. You can rest assured that you have a strong supporter even in those institutions where you have no representatives of your own. We are also backing your efforts for inclusion in EU", Gul said.

No date set for EU membership of Macedonia

Skopje. There is no date set for the membership of Macedonia in the EU. This is the latest position of official Brussels, and in particular the European Commissioner for enlargement Olli Rehn, who announced it together with his Bulgarian colleague Meglena Kuneva, the Macedonian TV channel A1 reported.
The Macedonian Deputy Prime Minister Gabriela Konevska-Trajkovska is not disturbed by the position of Burssels.

Turkish Foreign Minister visits Macedonia

Turkish Vice-Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul will be leading a combined governmental/business delegation at today's working visit to Macedonia.
Gul's visiting agenda includes meetings with President Branko Crvenkovski, Parliament Speaker Ljubisha Georgievski and Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski.

The talks will focus on the modalities of stepping up the cooperation in many areas, particularly in economics.

The interlocutors are expected to reaffirm the high level of friendly relations between the two countries, the shared commitment for membership in EU and Turkey's preparedness to continue supporting Macedonia's NATO bid, Macedonian Foreign Ministry announced on Tuesday.

Memoranda on cooperation for training of diplomatic staff and on cooperation in environment field are due to be signed in the course of the Minister Gul's visit which is coming upon invitation of the Macedonian Foreign Minister Antonio Miloshoski.

Macedonia confirms unity on name dispute with Greece

Macedonian top officials reaffirmed their unity on the name dispute with Greece.

This was announced after today's coordinative meeting among President Branko Crvenkovski, Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski and Foreign Minister Antonio Miloshoski.

"...The sole position and strategy of the Republic of Macedonia on overcoming the name difference was reaffirmed, as one of the highest state's priorities and prerequisite for preserving the constitutional name of the country", says the joint press statement released after the meeting that was attended also by the Macedonian Special Envoy over this issue, Ambassador Nikola Dimitrov.

The announcement further says that the meeting was aimed at "mutual briefing on the current developments and coordination on this issue of highest state interest".

Crvenkovski-Gruevski meeting comes in a time of strained relations between Athens and Skopje, but also in time of tension in the dialogue between the Prime Minister and the President.

Yesterday, the Government sent to Greece a note of protest relating offending behavior of some of their soldiers towards Macedonia.

Previously, Greece raised objections over renaming of the Skopje Airport into Alexander the Great.

Macedonia protests to Greece over Internet video

Macedonia's government protested to Athens Thursday over a video distributed on the Internet which allegedly shows Greek soldiers chanting anti-Macedonian slogans while training.

Macedonian State Secretary Igor Ilievski handed the formal complaint to the Greek ambassador in Skopje.

"This is contrary to the spirit of friendship and neighborly relations. We expect officials in Athens to condemn this incident," the Foreign Ministry said.

Relations between the two Balkan neighbors have been strained since Macedonia gained independence from Yugoslavia in 1991 over a name dispute.

Greece argues Macedonia's name implies a territorial claim against the Greek region of the same name.

Last week, the Albanian government also complained about a similar video involving Greek soldiers and posted on the popular video sharing site YouTube.

Greece's Defense Ministry condemned the soldiers' conduct and ordered an inquiry into that incident and the video's authenticity.

Macedonian deputy PM visits Russia

Moscow/Skopje. Macedonian Deputy PM Zoran Stavrevski is visiting Russia, the correspondent of Focus Agency in Skopje reports.
The delegation includes also Minister of Economy Vera Rafajlovska and Director of Power Plants in Macedonia Vlatko Cingoski. The aim of the visit is to push forward the signing of the Agreement on regulating Russian clearing debt to Macedonia, and to co-ordinate projects that will cover the debt.

Skopje protests over Greek “anti-Macedonian” tape

Skopje. Macedonian Exterior Ministry send a note to Greek embassador in Skopje protesting over a material, presenting “Greek soldiers singing anti-Macedonia songs,” AFP reports.
The video tape was broadcasted by media in Macedonia in Wednesday. There Greek soldiers can be seen and heard singing: “blood that runs in true Macedonians’ veins is Greek”, AFP points out. The tape was recorded during military training in 2005 and broadcasted in Greece in early March.

IM lays corruption charge against Dr Dokic

The Police laid a criminal charge for corruption against Dr Dejan Dokic, the Director of the Pulmonology and Alergology Clinic with the Skopje Clinic Center.

The renowned doctor was arrested yesterday at the Clinic, under suspicion of having received 300 euros in kickback.

"After previous report filed by a citizen, the police carried out a personal and search of the working premises of the denounced doctor and found 300 euros that were handed over to him by a Struga citizen, whose family member was Dr Dokic's patient".

The Police marked the banknotes previously.

The Interior Ministry also briefed today that upon order of an investigative judge, an invoice of 48.875 denars was seized from a Skopje's tourist agency that were paid by the same damaged person last February as a down payment for Dokic's flight ticket.

Dejan Dokic is currently holding his third term as a Director of the Pulmonology and Alergology Clinic with the Skopje Clinic Center.

Court orders 15-day temporary detention to Skopje doctor accused of corruption

Dr Dejan Dokic, the Director of the Pulmonology and Alergology Clinic with the Skopje Clinic Center received an order for 15 days of temporary custody.

After five-hour questioning, an investigative judge found that police's suspicions of doctor's involvement in bribery were grounded and issued the detention order.

The lawyer of the renowned doctor announced to lodge an appeal.

Dr Dejan Dokic was arrested yesterday at the Clinic, under suspicion of having received 300 euros in kickback.

Macedonia formally protests to Greece over troop scandal

Macedonian Foreign Ministry will send a formal protest note to Greek Foreign Ministry over the conduct of some Greek soldiers, Makfax correspondent quotes the Foreign Minister Antonio Miloshoski.

During today's visit to Ohrid, Miloshoski said the protest note will be handed over to Greek Ambassador to Macedonia Theodora Grosomandiu.

The protest note is related to an incident that took place in October 2005, with video footage showing a parade of Greek special forces chanting insulting slogans against Macedonia, Turkey and Albania.

On Wednesday, reliable sources told Makfax news agency that the government held a closed-door session on Tuesday to discuss the matter, but no decision on protest note was made during the session. The officials attending the sessions shared the view that the footage downloaded from internet should be verified beforehand.

"We waited for verification of the footage in question. It was verified and today we will hand over a protest note over such conduct of some soldiers of the Greek Army," Miloshoski said.

He added that Greek ambassador will be told that incidents of this type are not in the spirit of good neighborly relations. Macedonia will also ask for clarification of the event.

Miloshoski voiced hope that protest note would turn fruitful and make sure that such incidents, which spark unnecessary tension in the public, be not repeated in the future, because "the two countries have a lot to share".

He added that the incident took place a few years ago and it will not affect the bilateral relations. Nonetheless, it is a matter of the society in Greece and its military institutions. Greece, a member of NATO and EU should take such matters into serious consideration.

Ex-Macedonian PM: Macedonia ahead of Bulgaria in defence reforms

Skopje. “It is a fact that Macedonia is the regional champion in the field of reforms in defence. I dare say, and I stand for it, that in defence reforms Macedonia is ahead of Bulgaria,” Vlado Buchkovski, ex Macedonian Prime Minister, stated after Defence Minister of Macedonia Lazar Elenovski, a correspondent of FOCUS News Agency reported.
All previous Defense Ministers of Macedonia took part in the meeting on topic integrating the Macedonia troops in NATO.

Macedonia handed over protest note to Greek Ambassador

Macedonian Foreign Ministry filed a formal protest note to the Greek Foreign Ministry over the conduct of some Greek soldiers insulting Macedonia.

Macedonian Foreign Ministry announced that the Greek Ambassador to Macedonia, Theodora Grosomanidou, was called in for talks.

The meeting was related to a video recording of a military parade that took place in October 2005, whose authenticity was verified today.

Macedonian side "voiced protest against the video footage showing Greek special forces chanting insulting slogans against the Republic of Macedonia".

"In addition, Macedonian officials pointed out to the Greek Ambassador that the abovementioned behavior slides out the declared commitment for good neighborly and friendly relations and have a negative impact on the overall relations between the two states and nations", the announcement says.

Macedonia urged the Ambassador Theodora Grosomanidou "to convey promptly the protest note to the competent institutions in the Republic of Greece in hope that official Athens will denounce the incident".

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Gorans in Kosovo want to be recognized as Macedonians

On the eve of reaching a solution on Kosovo, the Gorans (a people living in the region of Gora in Kosovo) demanded from the Kosovo government and the UN to be recognized as a Macedonian ethnic community with a cultural autonomy, official use of Macedonian language, education in Macedonian language, as well as at least three parliamentary seats guaranteed by the Constitution of Kosovo, the Macedonian television A1 reported. The Gorans will accept Kosovo’s status, but they unconditionally demand separate provinces Gora and Recani, a 24-hour international monitoring of the border checkpoint Strezimir-Restelica, the right to enter Macedonia with an identity card and the right to a double citizenship – Macedonian and Kosovo citizenship.

Long-delayed trans-Balkan oil deal to be signed Thursday

The tripartite agreement on co-operation in the implementation of the Trans-Balkan oil pipeline Burgas-Alexandropoulos will be signed in Athens on Thursday, March 15.

The tripartite agreement will be signed by top officials of the signatory countries - Russia, Greece and Bulgaria.

The Russian Embassy in Skopje said the Russian President Vladimir Putin will visit Athens tomorrow on the occasion of the signing ceremony.

Besides the talks with Greek senior officials, President Putin will take part in the trilateral Russian-Bulgarian-Greek summit.

After the completion of the trilateral summit, the competent ministers are due to signing the inter-governmental; treaty on co-operation in the realization of the Burgas-Alexandropoulos oil pipeline project.

The nearly 300-kilometer-long Trans-Balkan oil pipeline will carry Russian oil to the Mediterranean. In the phase 1, the pipeline will transport 15 million tons of oil per year; 24 million ton sin the phase 2; and 35 million tons of oil within phase 3.

The project aims to create a new route of continued export of Russian oil and other oil from Caspian Sea to the Mediterranean markets, says the statement released by the Russian Embassy in Skopje.

Two Skopje's municipalities stripped of construction works competencies

Ministry of Transportation and Communication decided to abolish competencies relating construction works to two of the Skopje's municipalities - Center and Kisela Voda.

The Ministry explained that the move came after State Construction Inspectorate's findings of municipalities' involvement in illegal activities.

The Inspectorate established a number of irregularities in implementation of city planning designs as well as failure of taking action by the construction inspection and the urban police.

Pursuant to the decision, the competencies relating construction works and inspection supervision on buildings belonging to third, fourth and fifth category, as prescribed in the Law on Physical and City Planning, the announcement explains.

As of today, the Ministry of Transportation and Communication will be in charge of executing responsibilities on the behalf of the municipalities.

The Ministry also said that the State Inspectorate has already filed reports to the Interior Ministry and the Public Prosecution Office on all wrongdoings established during monitoring of municipalities' activities.

By this decision, the Ministry of Transportation confirms its firm and steadfast commitment for putting the operations relating construction and city planning into order, the announcement concludes.

Crvenkovski made the threats while under the influence of alcohol and cocaine

Skopje. “I won’t bring a charge against the President Branko Crvenkovski because I think he is crazy. He suffers from hallucinations while he is under the influence of alcohol and cocaine”, Menduh Taci, MP from the Democratic Party of Albanians /DPA/ said in the Parliament on Wednesday, FOCUS News Agency’s correspondent in Skopje, Dejan Nikolovski reported.
“Branko Crvenkovski made the threats while he was under the influence of alcohol and cocaine. For two or three days already I have been trying to explain to citizens and especially to the members of DPA and my family that obviously the man is out of his reason and no one should take him seriously”, DPA’s deputy leader stated.
Taci claims that Crvenkovski made the following threat to him: “I will exterminate his whole family together with his dog and cat."
Another member of DPA, Refet Elmazi said he met with the chief of the Intelligence Agency, Kire Naumov as he had also been threatened by Macedonia’s President.
“Naumov was surprised to hear about Crvenkovski’s threat”, Macedonia’s Deputy Interior Minister Elmazi said.
According to the two DPA members, the Interior Ministry has been informed of the threats and will take the necessary measures.

Government and private sector set to build 100 new schools

The Government is set to build a hundred new primary and secondary schools under partnership with the private sector, as well as a hundred new gymnasiums.

Macedonian PM Nikola Gruevski announced this at today's press conference in Skopje, adding that the entire project foresees also supplying of as many as 150.000 computers.

"The private companies will be offered to invest in construction of schools that will be in their ownership under concession license for a certain period, in which the local self-government will pay them rental fees", Gruevski said, adding that the Government will increase appropriation of funds to the Municipalities during the first years to assist payment of rental fee.

Gruevski explained that the Municipal Mayors would be entitled to specify the number and locations of the new schools, while the public biddings for their construction would be announced soon, but gave no details as to the building deadlines.

"The goal is to bring schoolchildren and students closer to the schools", Gruevski said, adding that the Government aims to cancel the third and the second school shifts.

Macedonian PM said the projects will be executed through a EUR40 million loan, due to be approved by the European Bank for Development and Reconstruction in June.

Trial on Bacilo and Denationalization cases begins

The trial on Bacilo 1 and Bacilo 3 cases, involving a multitude of illegal actions is scheduled to begin today in Skopje District Court.

As many as 23 defendants will appear before the court, including a former deputy minister, judge, lawyer and notary. The total damage inflicted to the State Budget through wrongdoings in both cases is estimated to 6 million euros.

The Bacilo 1 case refers to last year's ruling binding the state to pay 720.000 euros compensation to the shepherd Isnifaris Xhemaili as the court proceeding - brimming with legal flaws - found that Macedonian Army allegedly killed 900 sheep and destroyed 1.000 cheese containers after bombing his mountain sheepfold.

This affair is linked to the case of illegal restitution of land in downtown Skopje, dubbed Bacilo 3 case.

Misuse of the restitution procedure by individuals, lawyers and notaries is in question, carried out through government's secondary commission, in charge of receiving appeals on the bodies of original jurisdiction.

The appellants were then allotted more attractive locations in downtown Skopje approved by construction stamps, which were sold at high prices to third parties.

FYROM is Republic of Macedonia for UN

A Greek newspaper claims that “owing to the Greek veto in NATO, Skopje will be recognized in the UN,” Macedonian newspaper Dnevnik writes today.
“Dora (Bakoiani) silently approves the outcome with the name of the Former Yogoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) in the UN and NATO,” the Greek newspaper point out.
It is considered that the Greek Foreign Ministry wass under pressure to take “realistic decisions” and continue recognizing the acronym FYROM in NATO. This procedure will end this autumn at the UN Common Council where the issue with the name will be discussed, with Skopje insisting on recognizing the country by the name most member states accept it – Republic of Macedonia.

Police in Kicevo detain illegal Albanian immigrants

The police in Kicevo have detained eleven Albanians, who were staying in the country illegally, the correspondent of Focus Agency in Skopje reports.
They were arrested during a police check of a bus traveling from Struga to Skopje.
The Macedonian Interior Ministry announces the passengers are between 17 and 41 years of age. Only three of them had ID documents. The Albanians are thought to have illegally crossed the border somewhere near Kafasan border checkpoint.
The case is under investigation.

Macedonia’s President says won’t allow to be involved in dispute over Menduh Taci’s accusations

Macedonia’s President Branko Crvenkovski has never allowed and will not allow to be involved in a dispute or comments on the provocations, insults and fabrications in the statement by the deputy leader of the Democratic Party of Albanians /DPA/ Menduh Taci, Crvenkovski’s press office told FOCUS News Agency.
In connection to Taci’s statement, which some media published on Tuesday, the press office of the Macedonian President announced the following:
“The President of Macedonia Branko Crvenkovski has never allowed and will not allow to be involved in a dispute or comments on the provocations, insults and fabrications in the statement by Menduh Taci. The scenario, which he has been trying to realize for a long time, is too transparent and mean to be noted by the President”, reads the announcement, which Crvenkovski’s press office accorded to FOCUS News Agency.

US shows support for Macedonia's NATO accession

US Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Daniel Fried was in Skopje on Thursday (March 8th) to deliver a message of support for Macedonia's NATO and EU ambitions, and to urge the country to proceed with reforms.

"The United States wants Macedonia to be the strongest candidate for NATO," Fried said. "The president and the prime minister know what the challenges are and what should be done."

The US diplomat met with Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski, President Branko Crvenkovski and with leaders of the opposition Social Democrats and Democratic Union for Integration, Radmila Sekerinska and Ali Ahmeti, respectively. His visit was part of a regional tour that also included stops in Belgrade and Pristina.

Macedonia has a long road ahead in terms of tackling corruption and organised crime, as well as implementing the Ohrid Agreement and reforming the economy, Fried said. "That should be done in the next six months because NATO will then make a review of the candidates' achievements."

Gruevski assured him that Macedonia was aware of the homework it needs to do. "This year, the government will invest a lot of energy in the reforms," he pledged. "We also believe that all relevant political parties will contribute to and invest in Macedonia's preparation for the EU and NATO membership."

He also stressed the country's contribution to peacekeeping and stabilisation missions, and to the war against terror. "Macedonia will continue to be a part of the fight against global terrorism and we are staying with our partners in Iraq, Afghanistan and Bosnia," he said.

Fried was in Skopje one day after the US House of Representatives adopted a bill supporting the accession to NATO of Macedonia, Georgia, Ukraine, Albania and Croatia.

The resolution reiterates US support for the continued enlargement of the Alliance "to democracies that are able and willing to meet the responsibilities of membership".

It specifically calls for "the timely admission of Albania, Croatia, Georgia, and Macedonia to NATO" and authorises security assistance for these countries this year.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Cashier in Bitola's Pension Fund suspected of fraud

A female comptroller in the Pension Insurance Fund's office in Bitola is suspected of having embezzled roughly 1 million denars.

The police said they have submitted a "special report" to Bitola's prosecutor, documenting six felonies committed by comptroller E. M (54), which include "abuse of power and authorizations" and "counterfeiting of official documents.

In the period of 1998-2006, the suspect made double checks for payment and disability bonuses for several persons. She posted the original check to disability bonus recipients, and later she posted the counterfeit check designated as "post restant". The suspect personally collected the checks from the post office and cashed them there.

The suspect made 145 fake checks, thus inflicting 18.000 euro damage to Pension Insurance Fund.

Makfax correspondent in Bitola contacted the prosecutor's office and he was told that criminal charges and the special report are treated equally as regards reporting a felony.

Albanian leader Taci says Macedonia’s President Crvenkovski threatened him and his family

Skopje. The deputy leader of the Democratic Party of Albanians /DPA/ Menduh Taci said the Macedonian President Branko Crvenkovski had threatened him and his family, FOCUS News Agency correspondent in Skopje, Dejan Nikolovski reported. The threats were sent via the chiefs of the Intelligence Agency and DBK /Macedonian Security and Counter-espionage Service/, who met with Crvenkovski on Friday.
“Now it’s clear why Macedonia has been ailing for 17 years already”, Taci said.
Deputy Interior Minister Refet Elmazi has contacted the chief of the Intelligence Agency Kire Naumov to check the signal. Taci told journalists that he did not fear the threats because “my family has 150 men, and he /the President/ is alone”.
Taci stated that the attack against Gligorov and the plane crash, in which President Boris Trajkovski died, should be now looked upon in a new way.

Ex Macedonia's Prime Minister Buckovski will not form new party

Skopje. The Macedonian ex-prime minister and former leader of the Social Democratic Union of Macedonia /SDSM/ Vlado Buckovski, who is currently an MP in the Macedonian parliament, stated today that he has no intentions to form a new political party, FOCUS News Agency's correspondent in Skopje Dejan Nikolovski reported. Buckovski appealed to all discontented members of SDSM not to abuse his name if they have ambitions to form new political parties . The ex-head of SDSM thinks that new party’s board should be given a chance.

Athens and Washington at odds over Macedonia's name

ATHENS -- Official Athens in collision with the US Administration over the name of Macedonia, a Greek daily reports.

The Athens-based Eleftherotypia daily newspaper draws such a conclusion from the Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis statement that "Athens and Washington have discordant positions on many issues, particularly in regards to the dispute with Skopje over the name".

According to the daily, Bakoyannis statement given in the interview with the Greek TV station MEGA, clearly demonstrates the collision between Costas Karamanlis's Government and Washington over the efforts for resolving the dispute on the name of Macedonia.

The article further says that the collision comes at the time when Macedonia promotes its candidacy for membership in NATO under the constitutional name.

The Greek daily also comments that Bakoyannis’ statement represents unprecedented acknowledgment of discordances between official Athens and Washington over the future status of Kosovo as well.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Tetovo Court pronounces verdicts to burglars from Kosovo

Tetovo District Court pronounced prison sentences and several-year ban from entering the country to four-member criminal group from Kosovo.

In October and November 2006, the four convicts had been breaking into and looting a number of apartments in Tetovo, Makfax's correspondent reported.

The Court found the prime suspect, Bashkim Mehanoli, 25, from Pristina, guilty of two burglaries and two attempts of burglary, sentencing him to 4 years in prison, in addition to 8-year ban from entering in Macedonia.

Mehanoli's co-defendants, Arton Rahimi, b.1983, Xhebet Cacici, b.1976, and Besim Blaqori, b.1974, all from Podujevo, Kosovo, have been found guilty for attempted robbery, while the latter two received additional sentences for counterfeiting passports.

All three co-defendants are banned from entering Macedonia in the next 5 years. Rahimi got 4 months in jail, and Cacici and Blaqori 1 year each.

Rahimi is the only one entitled to defend himself while free until the verdict comes into force, whereas the other three remain in temporary custody.

USAID launches National Information Tour in primary schools

USAID's new Primary Education Project, a five-year initiative targeted toward all public primary schools in Macedonia, is embarking on a National Information Tour starting on 12 March 2007.

"We want to speak directly to our clients and partners throughout Macedonia to inform them of our plans to assist the Ministry of Education and Science to develop a quality primary education service that will foster economic growth and stability in Macedonia," USAID said in a statement released on Monday.

The tour will last until March 29 and will visit schools and make presentations in eight cities throughout the country: Skopje, Tetovo, Ohrid, Bitola, Kavadarci, Strumica, Kocani and Kumanovo.

USAID will also inform school directors and mayors about how they can apply for USAID funds for renovating buildings and improving classrooms to stimulate learning and creativity.

Representatives from the NGO 'OXO' will also present USAID's message about energy efficiency, and in several schools Macedonian pop star and special PEP partner, Tose Proeski, will convey PEP's main message about the importance of education and the fact that education is everybody's concern.

Over 6000 graduates in Skopje and Bitola's universities in 2006

A total of 6213 students had graduated at St. Cyril & Methodius University in Skopje and St Kliment Ohriski University in Bitola in 2006.

According to data published by the State Statistical Office, there are no reports on the number of graduates at the SEE University in Tetovo and the State University in Tetovo.

A total of 422 students had graduated at higher vocational schools and professional studies (new programmes).

The female graduates comprise 64.8 per cent of the total number of graduates, among them, 278 or 62.9 per cent have completed the higher vocational school and professional studies. A total of 3750 female students i.e. 65.0 per cent of a total number of graduates have acquired university degree