Thursday, April 26, 2007

First appearance of the trial against Boskoski and Tarculovski ended

The first appearance of the trial against Ljube Boskoski and Johan Tarculovski ended Monday at the Hague Tribunal. As it was agreed at the pre-trial conference on April 12, the Prosecution presented the opening statements and the trial is adjourned and will resume on Monday 7 May 2007 aimed at carrying out all necessary preparations for conducting efficient trial.

The Prosecution Monday presented the indictment against Boskoski and Tarculovski for violation of laws or customs of war in relation to Ljuboten case. Boskoski is charged with "commanding responsibility" i.e. as Minister of Interior approved Tarculovski to form and led police unit which conducted the action in Ljuboten in August 2001 where seven citizens of Albanian nationality were killed.

The Prosecution before the Trial Chamber reconstructed the events in Ljuboten, which happened from 10th to 12th of August 2001. According to the prosecutors, the goal of the police action was to conduct illegal attack on civilians and civilian houses in the village of Ljuboten, which was not justified by military necessity.

The Prosecution considered that Ljube Boskoski is responsible for the criminal acts of his subordinates if he knew or had reason to know that his subordinates were about to commit such acts or had done so, and the superior failed to take necessary and reasonable measures to prevent such acts or to punish the perpetrators. Ljube Boskoski in his capacity as Minister of Interior exercised de jure and de facto command and control over the police forces that participated in the crimes alleged in this indictment.

Johan Tarculovski is also individually criminally responsible for ordering, planning and instigating the crimes charged in the indictment by virtue of his participation in the attack on Ljuboten. He directly intended that these crimes be committed or at least he had the awareness of the substantial likelihood that the crimes would be committed in the execution of his orders, plans and instigation.

Representative of the Prosecution at the opening statement pointed out that in 2001 a conflict erupted between the government of Macedonia, Army of the Republic of Macedonia and police on one side and NLA on the other. NLA assumed control over 20% of the territory of Macedonia. The conflict ended on August 13 when Framework Agreement was signed which preceded the disarmament and disbanding of NLA and acceptance of constitutional amendments for promotion of the rights of the Albanian minority. Macedonian Army consisted of 10.000 soldiers and 20.000 reservists, 100 tanks, guns, armour vehicles, helicopters, planes which were deployed in crisis regions. Interior Ministry consisted of 9.750 members and acted together with the army. Also police reservists around of 10.100 members were mobilised. Police forces were under effective control of Ljube Boskoski as Minister of Internal Affairs, representative of the Prosecution explained.

NLA, which opposed the Macedonian security forces according to the Prosecution, had the basis in Kosovo, Macedonia and Western Europe. - NLA consisted of 6.000 armed members and unarmed reservists. It was composed of four components, supreme command, general staff, armed members, and external organisation for political activities and collection of resources. The most famous representatives were Ali Ahmeti, Gzim Ostreni, Fazli Veliu. NLA acted as armed force with command structures. It had infantry weapons, antitank mines, mortars and other weapons. It was not conventional army but it had all elements of armed force. It issued communiqués and had contacts with political representatives of the Albanians, who participated at the developments of the Framework Agreement, the representative of the Prosecution underlined.

The NLA attacked Macedonian police stations and police patrols, planted mines, and engaged units of the Macedonian army. As the conflict spread out from the areas bordering on Kosovo towards Tetovo and Skopje, the NLA established control over a number of villages. In May another front in Kumanovo opened. NLA expanded the conflict to only 10 kilometres from Skopje and controlled the village of Aracinovo. The fight was waged in Tetovo as well.

Sixty-nine members of the Macedonian security forces were killed, 16 civilians and 211 Macedonian Army members were injured. Large material damage was caused, the losses for economy were estimated at a half a billion Euro, 86.000 people were displaced, 80.000 left Macedonia, over 40 religious facilities were damaged, the representative of the Hague Prosecution said.

Also photographs of the armed clashes during the conflict were presented before the Trial Chamber.

Ljube Boskovski was extradited from Zagreb on March 24 2005. Boskovski until his departure to Hague, was detained for several months in pretrial confinement in Pula, Croatia. The Croatian police arrested him upon the request of the Macedonian authorities since he was charged considering the Rastanski Lozja case. The primary Court Skopje 2 and the Appellate Court have acquitted him from the charges. The Macedonian Justice Ministry announced to withdraw the case from Croatia.

Tarculovski was extradited on March 16 2005.

Both had pleaded not guilty on all charges at the first hearing before the Judicial Council of the Hague Tribunal.

Hague judges rejected twice Boskovski and Traculovski lawyers' request to defend themselves while on bail, even though the Macedonian Government provided guarantees for their availability to the Tribunal at any time.

Hague investigators in 2002 began an inquiry on five cases related to the 2001 conflict. Only one formal procedure regarding the Ljuboten case was brought before the Hague Tribunal.

The remaining four cases which were an interest of investigation - closing of the Lipkovo dam, abusing construction workers, the mass grave in Neprosteno and NLA high commanders - are to be returned to Macedonian authorities.

Parliament adopts alterations to Law on Higher Education

Macedonian Parliament adopted today by 57 votes in favor the alterations to the Law on Higher Education, providing for shortened procedures on recognition of diplomas issued by universities abroad to eight days.

The adopted alterations envisage that academic degrees issued by 500 best universities in the world be recognized within a period of eight working days. The nostrification procedure on diplomas issued by other universities will last around 20 days

The Ministry of Education in Science, chaired by Minister Sulejman Rushiti, and a five-member Committee comprising university professors and experts, will be in charge of nostrification procedure.

The newly adopted alterations will reduce the procedure of equivalence and recognition of academic degrees issued by foreign universities. The amendments will also boost the mobility in academic goals and ensure that foreign documents are authentic. The alterations are expected to thwart departures of young graduates to foreign countries.

The estimated number of university degrees pending nostrification ranges 10.000.

Today's parliamentary session continued with a debate on a draft-bill on forming a Faculty of Administration and Management of IT Systems at the Bitola's University "St Kliment Ohridski".

Macedonia leader 'watched attack'

Macedonia's interior minister watched as police entered a village and killed seven ethnic Albanian men in 2001, UN prosecutors have said.

Video footage showed what prosecutors said was Ljube Boskovski witnessing the attack from behind a wall that overlooked the village.

Mr Boskovski is on trial in The Hague, with police official Johan Tarculovski.

It is the first trial of men suspected of committing war crimes in Macedonia. Both men deny the charges.

The August 2001 attack on the farming village of Ljuboten occurred during a six-month insurgency in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia during which the country's nationalist government fought to suppress ethnic Albanian militias.

'Criminally responsible'

Mr Boskovski, 46, was alleged to have effective command and control over the forces from his position as interior minister.

"Due to his failure to take necessary and reasonable measures to punish the perpetrators of the crimes committed in the village of Ljuboten, the prosecution will ask you to find Ljube Boskovski criminally responsible as a superior," prosecutor Dan Saxon said.

Prosecutors say Mr Tarculovski, 32, ran a private security unit loyal to Mr Boskovski and led the attack on the village.

"The police unit led by the accused Tarculovski deliberately chose unarmed civilians, wantonly burned and destroyed many homes without justification and cruelly treated a group of residents, seven of whom were killed," another prosecutor said.

Footage showing smoke rising from homes in the village was also shown to the court.

According to charges presented by the court, the attack on Ljuboten was launched as a retaliation for an attack which killed eight Macedonian soldiers.

Lawyers for both defendants declined to make opening statements.

But a lawyer for Mr Boskovski told the Associated Press news agency that the interior minister had been responding to "terrorist" actions and "took all necessary and responsible measures".

The men could face life sentences if convicted. The trial was adjourned until 7 May.

Mr Tarculovski and Mr Boskovski were the last two men to be indicted by the war crimes tribunal in The Hague over alleged atrocities committed in the former Yugoslavia.

The BBC's Geraldine Coughlan, in The Hague, says while they are the first to face charges over events in Macedonia, more could arrive before the tribunal winds down in 2010.

Rehn hails political dialogue in Macedonia

The European Commission welcomed the intensified dialogue in Macedonia today in Brussels, noting, however, that concrete results are expected.

"I encourage all parties to put efforts into finding compromises and to 'walk the last mile' in order for the dialogue, which intensified over the last couple of days, to produce concrete results", EU Enlargement Commissioner Ollie Rehn said after the meeting with the Macedonian Vice-Prime Minister Gabriela Konevska-Trajkovska.

Macedonian governmental delegation kicked off a two-day visit to Brussels on Monday, for meetings with representatives of the European Commission and the European Parliament.

According to Rehn, such a political dialogue "will facilitate more rapid adoption of laws related to reforms, as well as the implementation of the reforms in judiciary, police and the public administration".

As regards the replacements in the Macedonian Secretariat for European Issues, the EU Commissioner said that these events won't affect Macedonia-EC relations, as "the Secretariat is the main interlocutor of the Commission".

According to Konevska-Trajkovska, the changes took place because of "violation of certain regulations" in promotion of some employees of the Secretariat.

"The current structure is not the best possible solution in terms of satisfying the needs and meeting the main challenges the Ministry is facing", Macedonian Vice-Prime Minister said at a press conference.

Earlier today, the Macedonian delegation met with Doris Pack, Member of the European Parliament and member of the South East Europe Committee.

The meeting focused on the Brussels's activities in realization of the reforms in the region, as well as the progress of the Macedonian reform agenda.

According to the announcements, Konevska-Trajkovska will hold talks on Tuesday with the Deputy President of the European Commission, Franko Frattini, and with the Director of Financial Instruments Directorate, Dirk Meganck.

Prospects in Greece-Macedonia name dispute not bright

The name dispute between Athens and Skopje does not have a very bright prospect, Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, Kurt Walker, said in an interview with Greek paper To Vima.

Calling for reaching a "mutually acceptable solution", Walker underlined that the perspectives are not "flattering" for the Greek diplomacy either.

"The Greek state cannot allow to lose the entire forest for one tree", Walker warned, pointing out that the name issue "should not pose as an obstacle to the overall efforts in the region for integration of the institutions and democracy development aimed at membership in Euro-Atlantic structures".

Macedonia political landscape continues to shift

The Macedonian political stage is bustling as never before. Almost all parties have held congresses and elected new leaderships. The past period has seen enlargement of the right wing, in particular of the ruling VMRO-DPMNE party and the dissolution of the Social Democrat-led For Macedonia Together coalition, formed in 2000.

One of the contributing factors has been a new law on political parties which requires parties to have 1,000 members to register, instead of the previous 500 members. As a result, many smaller political groupings have had to assimilate into larger ones.

The League for Democracy, the first political party to be established in Macedonia after communism, has joined the VMRO-DPMNE, as has the Agricultural Party. The head of the latter, Marjan Gorcev, formerly belonged to the VMRO-DPMNE and served as agriculture minister under former Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski. DRUM, a party founded by former VMRO-DPMNE Vice-President Dosta Dimovska, has also returned to the fold. In all, eight parties have now been absorbed by VMRO-DPMNE.

Small parties are not happy with the amended law on political parties. The former leader of the League for Democracy, university professor Gjorge Marjanovic, has filed a motion with the Constitutional Court, urging it to reconsider the changes.

Last month, the Court launched a procedure concerning the articles in question, which also require parties to deposit signatures at local units of the ministry of justice, and to complete registration within 45 days. The judges expressed concerns that the provisions may violate the constitutional principle of freedom of political assembly.

Meanwhile, the opposition Social Democratic Union of Macedonia (SDSM) has undergone a few quakes in the several months since it lost the most recent elections. Its leader, former Prime Minister Vlado Buckovski, was ousted in a no-confidence vote. A congress to elect a new leader then followed. Radmila Sekerinska, the former deputy prime minister in charge of European integration, became the new SDSM leader. With her came an entirely new party leadership. Elections for municipal level heads are now underway, a move seen as part of Sekerinska's efforts to consolidate the party.

The ruling VMRO-DPMNE also held a congress, re-electing current Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski as its leader.

In terms of public opinion, the situation resembles that of the 2002 parliamentary elections, except with roles reversed. Now, as then, the ruling party enjoys strong popularity, and the opposition is mired in low poll numbers. However, the ruling party today is the VMRO-DPMNE, which has the confidence of 23% of the population, according to recent surveys. In 2002, it was the Social Democrats, who are currently able to muster only around 8% of voter support.

Political analysts see such a phenomenon as quite normal. "It is natural that people who voted for an option in elections give the same option great support for a certain period hoping that it will solve the pressing economic problems," says political analyst Mersel Biljali.

Should the government fail to deliver on its campaign promises, its rating will slowly but surely decline, Biljali says. That is exactly the fate suffered by the SDSM. Despite the government's high rating in 2002, it was not able to meet citizens' expectations concerning economic improvement and investment.

It remains to be seen how effective Sekerinska will be at putting the Social Democrats back on the road to political recovery. The latest development is the breakup of the For Macedonia Together coalition, which was formed ahead of the 2000 local elections. It then went on to triumph in 2002, and subsequently backed Branko Crvenkovski in his 2004 race to the presidency.

The second largest party in the coalition For Macedonia Together, the Liberal Democrats, has undergone a political shakeup. At its most recent congress, party leader and former Mayor of Skopje Risto Penov resigned from his post.

Former Defence Minister Jovan Manasievski then took over the helm. Immediately after the congress, he announced the party's departure from the coalition, saying it was in danger of losing its identity to the SDSM. The Liberal Democrats now plan to run independently in the next local elections, expected in 2009.

Karolina contemplating singing in English

Reports out of Skopje suggest that this year's entry from the FYR Macedonia could be about to undergo a language make-over. Karolina's English version of ''Mojot Svet'' has reportedly found favour amongst Eurovision fans, and it is said that the FYR Macedonia delegation is now considering a language change, or even a combination of the two.

It's not been unusual for FYR Macedonia to sing in either English, Macedonian, or indeed both at the Eurovision Song Contest. They debuted in 1998 and sang in Macedonian, as was the ruling at the time, with ''Ne Zori Zoro'' by Vlado Janevski; and carried on the trend in 2000 with XXL singing ''100% Te ljubam''. Then came Karolina herself in 2002 with ''Od Nas Zavisi'', before Tosi Proeski broke the trend when he sang ''Life Is'' in Istanbul. 2005 Saw Martin Vucic going for the English version of ''Make My Day'', and last year Elena Risteska sang the bi-lingual ''Ninanajana''. Whatever the language, it is highly likely that FYR Macedonia will be in the Helsinki final, given their uncanny ability to qualify from every semifinal so far.

Macedonia keen to develop ties with Kuwait

Skopje. Developing relations with Kuwait in all fields is the aim of the Macedonian government and people, Macedonian Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski stated on Sunday.
Macedonian-Kuwaiti ties witnessed quantum leaps in the last few months, especially after the recent visit of Foreign Minister Antonio Miloshoski to Kuwait, where he discussed political, economic, commercial and cultural issues with Kuwaiti officials, Gruevski told KUNA today.
Developing relations with Kuwait in all fields is the aim of the Macedonian government and people, Macedonian Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski stated on Sunday.
Macedonian-Kuwaiti ties witnessed quantum leaps in the last few months, especially after the recent visit of Foreign Minister Antonio Miloshoski to Kuwait, where he discussed political, economic, commercial and cultural issues with Kuwaiti officials, Gruevski told KUNA today.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Bulgaria, Macedonia Strengthen Friendly Relations

Representatives of the Bulgaria-Macedonia Friendship Group conferred Wednesday in the National Assembly in Sofia.

The Macedonian official delegation was leaded the Chairman of the Macedonia-Bulgaria Friendship Group in the Macedonian Parliament Stojan Andov.

"Macedonia highly appreciates Bulgaria's unconditional support in its efforts for full membership in NATO and the European Union," Andov said during the news conference.

The Bulgarian representation was headed by Margarita Paneva.

British nod to FYROM irks Athens

A decision by the British embassy in Skopje to refer to the “Republic of Macedonia” in official invitations for an embassy function taking place today in the resort of Ohrid has displeased Athens, sources told Kathimerini yesterday.

According to the sources, Britain’s Foreign Office has decided to refer to the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) as the “Republic of Macedonia” despite Greek objections.

Britain is just one of several European Union states to have adopted this tactic recently. A few days ago, Luxembourg signed a contract for the protection of its investments with the “Republic of Macedonia.” Poland’s parliament has officially recognized the Balkan state by the latter name. As too have Bulgarian and Romanian authorities. A total of 114 countries, including the USA, China and Russia, have recognized FYROM as ”Macedonia” to date.

Greece has strenuously opposed FYROM’s insistence on being known as “Macedonia” as there is a northern Greek province of that name and Athens fears the move could set a precedent for territorial claims.

Macedonian family stakes claim to '300' score

The family of late Macedonian folk singer Aleksandar Sarievski has appealed to copyright authorities over what it claims is the stolen closing score to Hollywood's latest blockbuster "300".

Sarievski's grandson, also called Aleksandar, told media the last piece heard in the film is in fact Macedonia's folk classic "Go Down, Go Down Clear Sun", penned by his grandfather.

"We'll wait to see the results of the investigation by the (Macedonian) Association For Author Rights," he was quoted as saying in Friday's Dnevnik daily.

"If we don't reach agreement, we'll explore other measures."

The Zack Snyder-directed portrayal of the 480 B.C. battle between the Persian army and a band of Spartans has already incurred the wrath of Iran.

Tehran denounced the movie as a Western bid to vilify Iranians, depicting their ancestors as ruthless but repeatedly outsmarted by the Greeks. The film has yet to open in Macedonian cinemas but pirate copies are widely available.

PDP will most likely take over the Ministry of Local Self-Government

Skopje. Macedonian Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski will most probably propose the Ministry of Local Self-Government, the posts of a deputy minister and a state secretary to the Party for Democratic Prosperity /PDP/, the Macedonian newspaper Dnevnik reported. Gruevski and PDP’s leader Abdulhadi Vejseli are due to meet today. Vejseli said on Friday that he accepted Gruevski’s proposal for PDP’s joining the ruling coalition.

Trial Opens in 2001 Macedonia Killings

Residents of this close-knit, predominantly ethnic Albanian community still remember the day when they say police stormed their village tucked between green fields and snow-covered mountains, killing seven men.

On Monday, Macedonia's former interior minister and a senior police official go before the U.N. war crimes tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands, on charges of murder, wanton destruction and cruel treatment in the operation.

Prosecutors say they will be the only people to be tried there on charges stemming from Macedonia's 2001 conflict between government forces and ethnic Albanian rebels.

The trial, which is expected to hear opening statements Monday before adjourning until May 7, may test the reconciliation between the Macedonian Slavic majority and the ethnic Albanian minority.

"I want to ask them why they attacked Ljuboten. Did they see signs of fighters? None were here, no one had a uniform on and no one fought," said Elmaz Isufi, whose son was killed in the operation.

According to the U.N. indictment, seven civilians were killed in house-to-house police searches on Aug. 12, 2001, and officers gutted 14 homes with hand grenades or fire and destroyed other buildings with shelling. Villagers who fled were stopped at checkpoints and beaten.

The indictment says the action was "organized, systematic and pervasive."

The operation was apparently launched in retaliation after eight Macedonian soldiers were killed when their truck hit a land mine.

The indictment says former Interior Minister Ljube Boskovski had "superior responsibility" for the actions of police and failed to punish his subordinates for the killings. The senior police official, Johan Tarculovsky, was part of a joint criminal enterprise to direct "an unlawful attack on civilians," it says.

Both men have pleaded not guilty. Boskovski's lawyer, Edina Residovic, argued in a pretrial brief that there was no war in Macedonia at the time and it was impossible for the men to have committed war crimes. The brief added that none of the alleged killers had been under Boskovski's control at the time.

The defendants face a possible punishment of life imprisonment. The policemen who allegedly carried out the killings are not on trial.

Macedonia, a landlocked country of 2.1 million people, split from Yugoslavia in 1991 with Croatia and Slovenia. Macedonia remained at peace as a brief armed attempt to prevent Slovenia's secession failed and fighting in Croatia killed up to 10,000 people.

In 1999, hundreds of thousands of ethnic Albanians poured into northern Macedonia from neighboring Kosovo to flee former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic's troops. Two years later, Macedonia's ethnic Albanians launched their insurgency to fight for more rights for their minority, which comprises about a quarter of the population. A Western-brokered peace deal ended the fighting after six months.

But in the village of Ljuboten, residents say that hate still runs deep between the two groups. Many ethnic Albanians remain outraged over the 2001 police operation.

Isufi is expected to travel to The Hague to testify in the case, despite the fact he is paralyzed and frail. He said he hopes to see Boskovski and Tarculovsky punished.

His son, Rami Isufi, a 33-year-old father of four, had stayed in Ljuboten despite a buildup of forces around the village, which is in a predominantly Macedonian area of the country. Isufi said his son believed a peace deal that was about to be signed that would end the fighting.

The next day, Rami was hit by a string of bullets allegedly fired by police officers who had forced their way into the family's yard. According to the indictment, he was unarmed and was shot at close range in the stomach.

"We saw him dying," said Isufi, 64, tears running down his cheeks.

"It will never satisfy me," he said of the possible punishment of the defendants. "It will lessen my pain a bit, because at least it will be known who is the guilty one, so that this crime is not covered up."

Sadik Qaili, whose cousin Atullah died of injuries from beatings he received during the raid, said reconciliation between the village's ethnic Albanians and Macedonians was difficult to imagine.

"We're waiting day and night to see how The Hague tribunal will decide," he said. "We were empty-handed and they were bent on ethnically cleansing us."

Many Macedonians regard Boskovski and Tarculovsky as heroes. On Sunday, hundreds of supporters attended a nationally broadcast service outside the main cathedral in the capital, Skopje, and demanded a fair trial.

Vera Gluvceva, an 83-year-old Macedonian, said she believed the charges had been invented. "I think they want only Macedonians to be blamed for the conflict," she said.

Macedonia's government said Sunday it expected a "fair, transparent and objective" trial and pledged to continue giving moral and financial support to the two men and their families, according to a statement.

Macedonians pleased with visa facilitation agreement with EU

Macedonia expressed on Friday its pleasure in signing agreements with the EU on visa facilitation and readmission, saying it is the first step towards a free visa regime.

Macedonia and the EU signed the agreements in Brussels late Thursday, which would reduce the cost and simplify the procedures when Macedonians apply for visas to travel to the EU countries, news reaching here from Skopje reported.

Macedonian said the visa facilitation agreement will help Macedonia increase exchange with the rest of Europe and can be expected to have a positive impact on economic and democratic development in Macedonia.

Under the agreements, 20 categories of travelers, including students, children under six, pensioners, journalists, scholars and businessman, would get multiple entry, even free, visas for some of them.

Macedonia also signed a readmission agreement with the EU under which Macedonia would be obliged to take back citizens living illegally in the EU countries.

NATO acknowledges Macedonia's progress

Macedonian Foreign Minister, Antonio Miloshoski along with other members of the Macedonian Government met with Ambassadors of NATO member-countries in Macedonia.

"All of them acknowledged the overall progress, especially in the fiscal decentralization and implementation of the remaining obligations stemming from the Framework Agreement, battle against the organized crime and corruption, continuation of judiciary and defense reforms, as well as improvement of the economic climate in the country", Miloshoski said.

"If we maintain the current pace of activities, I expect for Macedonia and other Adriatic Charter member-countries to receive invitations for membership in NATO in 2008", Miloshoski ended his statement.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Macedonia pleased with visa facilitation agreement with EU

Macedonia believes it has hammered out "an excellent" deal with the European Commission over visa facilitation, BBC Macedonian news said.

Citing a member of Macedonia's negotiation team, BBC Macedonia says the country secured visa facilitation for some 20 categories of citizens. Macedonia, unlike the other countries in the region, has secured simplification of document requirements for certain groups of travelers to get multiple entry visas.

Students, children under 6, journalists, business people, liberal professors and event tourists will benefit from the visa facilitation agreement, signed Thursday in Brussels, Macedonian's negotiation team said.

According to Macedonia's chief negotiator Agnesa Rusi, one of the benefits of the agreement is the possibility that visa applicants can formally complain if they are not being issued entry visas for reasons not in compliance with the agreement.

BBC Macedonia cites sources in the European Commission as saying the most difficult and unsuccessful part of the negotiations was the rejection of Macedonia's proposal to add the Greek visas into Schengen visa-free group. The move turned futile, as Greeks made it clear that they don't recognize the Macedonian passports.

According to evolution cause of the agreement initialed by Macedonia and the EU, the EU and Macedonia can negotiate the possibility of lifting visa requirements for Macedonian citizens after the launch of negotiations on Macedonia's accession into EU.

Macedonia's negotiation team in Brussels and the EU also initialed readmission agreement, a move that was closely connected with visa facilitation.

Gen. Stojanovski: Macedonia deserves NATO membership invitation

Macedonia deserves an invitation to NATO membership, and we should know by late-2007 whether such invitation will be made in 2008, Macedonian army chief said on Friday.

Macedonian Army Chief of Staff, Major General Miroslav Stojanovski, headed to Bulgaria for a three-day official visit.

Maj. Gen. Stojanovski stressed that according to NATO enlargement policy, he doesn't expect the Alliance to make a distinction among the members of the Adriatic Group i.e. Albania and Croatia along with Macedonia expect invitations for NATO membership.

"Many think that Macedonia's participation in international missions is symbolic, but, given the capacity of the Republic of Macedonia and the number of ARM's active personnel, our contribution to mission sin Iraq and Afghanistan is much bigger compared to certain NATO member-states," Stojanovski told Focus news agency.

"We had initially deployed small-size contingents, but for the time being we have accomplished the maximum number of troops in line with the obligations set out in strategic documents. Currently, around 200 soldiers are deployed in missions abroad and this is the maximum," Stojanovski said, adding that Macedonia's participation in NATO-led missions will be stepped up in the future.

Maj. Gen. Stojanovski praised the excellent military cooperation between Macedonia and Bulgaria.

Macedonian National Bank head dismissed

Skopje. Petar Goshev, Governor of the National Bank of the Republic of Macedonia has dismissed the bank’s director Dragan Smiljanovski - his deputy as well as the directors of the Compliance Directorate and Administration Directorate, says today’s edition of the Macedonian Vecher. That happened a little before Easter. The bank has pointed out the terms of office of the heads have expired. According to sources from the edition the reshuffles are not political.

Macedonia - EU negotiations on visa facilitation and readmission agreements concluded

Macedonia has initialed the two agreements with the European Commission - on visa regime facilitation and on readmission, confirmed Shpresa Jusufi spokesperson for the Macedonian Foreign Ministry.
According to her, the Macedonian negotiating team "managed to achieve its goal" set for the current stage of negotiations.

Jusufi announced that more information as to the category of citizens that will be encompassed in relaxed visa issuance requirements would be unveiled once the negotiating team returns to Skopje.

The agreements between Macedonia and the European Commission are due to be officially signed before autumn, which will be followed by ratification in the EU member-countries until the end of 2007.

Bulgarian officer to head NATO’s headquarters in Skopje as of December

Sofia. A Bulgarian officer, most probably with the rank of a general, will head NATO’s headquarters in Skopje as of December 2007, chief of General Staff of the Bulgarian Army Gen. Zlatan Stoykov has announced after meeting his Macedonian counterpart Miroslav Stoyanovski, a journalist of FOCUS News Agency reported.
General Stoykov explained that currently the Bulgarian officer in NATO’s headquarters is a colonel.
The two chiefs of the general staffs of Bulgaria and Macedonia met today. During the meeting Zlatan Stoykov pointed out that defense relations between the two countries are exemplary.

Opening of Office for fighting human trafficking

An Office of the national coordinator of the commission for battle against human trafficking and illegal migration will open today in Skopje.

The Office is being set up in the frameworks of the project for battle against trafficking with humans, which is implemented under partnership of the International Organization for Migrations and the relevant governmental institutions. The project is financed by the Government of the Republic of Finland.

The Office is envisaged to serve as a coordination center among the National Coordinator and the members of the Commission, Secretariat and the subdivision for battle against child trafficking.

Also today, IOM's Skopje Office and the National Commission will promote the handbook "Guidelines to the Battle against Human Trafficking - Reference Book for Putting the Law into Effect".

Macedonian wanted from Interpol is arrested in Kyustendil

Skopje. Macedonian citizen D.I. /40/ suspected for involvement in international drug trafficking was arrested last week in Kyustendil, Macedonian newspaper Dnevnik wrote. According to information of the Bulgarian police the Macedonian was arrested after it was asserted that he was wanted by Interpol in Germany.

Defendants in Bacilo case sentenced to total of 44 years in jail

The Trial Chamber of the Skopje District Court 2, presided by the judge Liljana Ivanovska-Shopova, sentenced the 21 defendants in the Bacilo case to a total of 44 years.

The prime suspect, notary public Nikola Stojmenovic, received the severest sentence of 14 years imprisonment, while the shepherd Isnifaris Xhemaili got 4,5 years.

The lawyer Lence Dimcevska, ex-Deputy Economy Minister Sasha Andonovski, ex-Head of the Cadastre Office Emilija Aleksovska, the public notaries Gordana Rakocevic and Mihail Kosev and the pensioner Ordan Milanovski were all sentenced to three years in prison.

The veterinary Muamer Arifi and the police officer Dusan Stojanov will serve two years, while the car repairman Spase Dimov - 2,5 years.

Grozdana Manasijevska and Saso Slavkovic have been sentenced to 4 months and 13 days imprisonment.

Borka Spasojevic, Tomislav Trajkovski, Zoran Velkovski, Todora Milanovska, Svetlana Simonovska, Mirko Nikolov, Mile Naumcevski and Krste Ilovski received 1-year suspended sentence.

The court suspended the detention order to all defendants, except for the notary Stojmenovic.

The Court also ordered to the defendants to pay a total of 2 million euros as compensation to the state, as well as to return the entire land that was subject of the illegal restitution procedures.

Some of the defendants' lawyers announced to appeal the verdicts.

The court proceedings on the Bacilo case were completed in the all-time record short period in the history of the Macedonian judiciary.

Radoslav Smilcevski, former member of the government's commission for restitution procedures, is the only defendant who received an acquittal verdict.

Arifhikmet Xhemaili elected new culture minister

The Macedonian Parliament elected DPA member Arifhikmet Xhemaili as the new Minister of Culture, replacing Ilirijan Bekiri from the post. A total of 63 MPs voted in favor of Xhemaili's election. Earlier, SDSM deputies left the session claiming they did not want to take part in a debate where their discussions were being censored.

Xhemaili replaces Ilirijan Bekiri, who submitted his resignation on April 2 following the affair regarding ban of theater play "Tito, Certain Diagrams of Hope".

Xhemaili is a member of DPA Central Presidency and former vice president on instruction at Tetovo State University. He was born on November 17, 1953, lives in village Bogovinje, married with three children. He graduated at the Pristina Music Academy in 1981, followed by an M.A. degree in choir conducting at the Novobugarski University in Sofia. Xhemaili has conducted over 50 concerts in Macedonia and abroad, receiving a number of awards and recognitions.

Court fails to rule on wiretapped journalists case for 7 years - bleakest event in March

The case of wiretapped journalists, who raised a suit against the government seven years ago, more precisely the fact that the long-standing legal proceedings produced no court ruling as yet, is the bleakest event in March 2007 in terms of the battle against corruption in Macedonia. This is the result of the monthly opinion poll "Corruption Barometer" carried out by NGO "Zero Corruption" and the Independent News Agency "Makfax", in which chief editors of national media take part.

On the other hand, the exceptionally high response of more than 15.000 citizens that submitted extra income tax return forms to the Public Revenue Office tops the shortlist of "lightsome" corruption-related events in March.

The case of wiretapped journalists was placed on the "bleak events" voting list because March marked the 7th anniversary of setting in motion the legal proceedings on the suit filed by as many as 17 wiretapped journalists and the competent court in Skopje produced no ruling on the case as yet.

The affair broke out in late 2000, when the opposition leader at the time, Branko Crvenkovski, presented publicly shorthand notes of the wiretapped telephone conversation involving politicians, journalists and diplomats. On 19 March this year the fourth replacement of the judge in charge of the case took place, and the new judge scheduled the resumption of the proceedings for June.

As many as 12 out of 16 editors-respondents voted this case as the bleakest, upholding the explanation saying that "stalling of pronouncing a verdict by the court of first instance constitutes a political corruption involving the executive power and judiciary. The damage inflicted to the state is not only material but political".

Ranked second and third in the "bleak section" with four and two votes respectively, are the case of foul allotment of apartments intended for socially underprivileged category of citizens to managers and other holders of high posts in Debar and Gevgelija, and the massive apprehension of corrupted police and customs officers.

The first-ranking "lightsome" event in March referring to the high citizens' response to the call of the Public Revenue Office to report extra income garnered 13 respondents' votes.

"The number of citizens reporting extra income is increasing on yearly basis. As many as 8.800 annual tax returns on extra income were filed in 2003, 10.158 in 2004, and 10.212 in 2005. In the following period, the Public Revenue Office (PRO) will inspect the concordance of the data stated in the tax return forms with the actual figures of realized incomes. The forms of the 60 state officials who are subject of the PRO's ongoing investigation into their property status, will be the first to be inspected", says the rationale on this event.

Corruption Barometer poll is conducted once a month since December 2004. The respondents are chief editors of almost all relevant national media.

The respondents in February poll were editors-in-chief of A1 television, Alsat-M, Sitel, and Telma, radio Kanal 77, daily newspapers Dnevnik, Vest, Utrinski Vesnik, Vreme, Vecer, Fakti and Biznis, weekly magazines Fokus, Kapital and Aktuel and Lobi online newspaper.

Improvement seen in Macedonia's fight against human trafficking

Macedonia has shown progress in the fight against human trafficking during the past year, a US State Department report says. However, it adds, women and children continue to be brought into the country for purposes of sexual exploitation, and measures announced by the government have yet to be fully implemented.

The findings came in the latest Country Report on Human Rights Practices, released last month by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labour. The document covers 2006.

During the year, at least 30 trafficking-related cases were prosecuted, 100 individuals were indicted, and 56 were convicted and sentenced for trafficking, the report said. It noted that a number of high-profile cases against traffickers have been wrapped up, while others are in progress.

Macedonia serves both as a transit and destination country for the trafficking of women and children, and less as a source country, the findings said. In particular, women and children from Albania, Bulgaria, Moldova and Romania are often transported via Macedonia on their way to Kosovo, Serbia and Western European countries.

At least on paper, the Macedonian government has been seeking to wage a tougher fight. In March 2006, it adopted a national action plan and strategy for combating trafficking.

The two documents called for increased training, programmes for awareness and prevention, and for the establishment of a national co-ordinator for trafficking.

However, the State Department said, "by year's end many of the provisions in the action plan had yet to be implemented."

As a positive example, the report notes that several civil servants involved in trafficking chains have been penalised. A police officer in Gostivar and the police chief in Gevgelija were sentenced to jail terms because of their involvement in the illegal trafficking of immigrants.

It added that Macedonia should enforce penalties that are proportional to the severity of the crime, and that are sufficient to deter perpetrators in the future.

A specific case mentioned in the report is that of Dilaver Bojku-Leku, the so-called "Balkan prostitution boss". In 2003, he was sentenced to four years and nine months in prison, but placed in an "open regime" facility with liberal leave policies, allowing him to potentially engage in witness intimidation while on leave.

In June 2003, Bojku-Leku escaped from the prison, though weeks later he was arrested in Montenegro and sent back. Last month, the Appellate Court in Bitola decided to release Leku five months early, due to "good behaviour".

DiCarlo says US policy over name remains unchanged

The United States reiterated that Washington's position over Macedonia's constitutional name has not changed.

"US policy over Macedonia's name has not changed. In 2004, we recognized Macedonia under its constitutional name - Republic of Macedonia - in bilateral relations," Deputy Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs Rosemary DiCarlo said in an interview with Radio Voice of America.

Commenting the NATO Freedom Consolidation Act adopted by the US Senate, in which the FYROM reference stands next to country's name Macedonia, DiCarlo said the support to this Act does not mean acceptance of other name for Macedonia.

On Monday, US President George signed into law the NATO Freedom Consolidation Act of 2007, which reaffirms support for continued enlargement of NATO, and designates Macedonia, Albania, Croatia, Georgia and Ukraine as eligible to receive assistance under the NATO Participation Act and authorizes appropriations for certain military assistance for these countries.

"The invitations for NATO membership will be performance-based. We support the membership of Macedonia, Albania and Croatia if the countries wrap up the necessary reform," DiCarlo said.

Macedonia to repay its external debts ahead of schedule

Macedonia will repay 137 million U. S. dollars of its external debts to the World Bank and the European Investment Bank ahead of sechdule, and it will also pay off its entire debts to the International Monetary Fund.

Macedonian Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski said on Wednesday that along with the 103 million U.S. dollars that it had already paid to the Paris Club in March, Macedonia's external debts repayments have totaled up to 240 million U.S. dollars.

The repayments, which will be funded by Macedonia's foreign currency reserves, account for 20 percent of the debts the country owns to the World Bank and the European Investment Bank, news reaching here from Skopje reported.

Gruevski said that the early repayments of the debts, which are due in 2021, will save his country over 37 million U.S. dollars as interest rates and will move Macedonia from a medium-indebted country to a low indebted one.

He also pointed out that this move show the world that Macedonia's economy is solid and stable and its economic policy safe and sound.

Figures released by the Macedonian government show that the country's debts total at 1.6 billion euros (some 2.1 billion U.S. dollars), among them the external debts are put at 8 billion euros. And the country's foreign currency reserves exceed 1.8 billion euros, Makfax, Macedonia's independent news agency, reported.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

US approves aid to future NATO member-countries

US President George Bush on Tuesday signed into a law the bill for approval of military and technical aid to the countries candidates for NATO membership from the Balkans and Caucasus regions.

Macedonia, Albania, Croatia, Georgia and Ukraine are included in the list of countries eligible to use the aid.

The funds have been appropriated from the ongoing budgetary year that wraps up on 30 September, upon the NATO Freedom Consolidation Act of 2007, already approved by the Senate March 15 and the House of Representatives March 26.

It envisions $12 million in aid to Albania, Croatia, Macedonia, Georgia and Ukraine in 2008, which "have clearly stated their desire to join NATO and are working hard to meet the specified requirements for membership."

The text of the Act raised numerous commentaries in Macedonia because it states the temporary acronym FYROM as the name of the country.

Interior minister in Beckham’s stolen car

SKOPJE -- The interior minister, driving David Beckham's stolen car, says he can have it back - if he collects it.

Gordana Jankulovska, 30, said: "I am a big fan, and I am hoping he will come to pick up the car so I can meet him and hand over the keys in person".

She added: "I would be happy to give it back, and delighted to personally hand him the keys of his stolen car that was found here in Macedonia."

The luxury car turned up in the Macedonian town of Debar late last year after it was stolen in Spain.

It was then transported by ship to Greece, before being taken into Macedonia. Police later established it was stolen from the former England captain.

She said the local laws meant the car could only be returned if Beckham turned up in person to collect it.

Newspapers in Macedonia this week published photos of the Interior Minister Gordana Jankulovska in the capital Skopje getting into the car.

Macedonian police seize heroin costing EUR 500,000

Skopje. Macedonian police seized over 10 kg of heroin Sunday morning costing about EUR 500,000, the Macedonian Makfax reports.
The drug was found in a Ford Escort car with a stolen license plate. The car was driven by an unknown person who is still wanted. After checking the car, police found sweaters. Half-kilogram packages full of heroin were cached in 20 of them.


The Bulgarian and Macedonian monthly incomes were among the lowest in the Balkan region, Skopje officials said.

Macedonia’s average reached 255 euro. According to local media, the figure was higher only than the payment that workers in Bulgaria got.

Though Bulgaria became EU member state in the beginning of 2007, its average is only 180 euro, Macedonian television channel A1 reported.

According to the latest data of the Macedonian Statistical Institute monthly income has increased from January 2006 to January 2007.

Upon its EU accession Bulgaria became one of the member countries having the lowest income levels and economists said that European averages would take long time to achieve.

Montenegro will recognize Kosovo’s independence

Podgorica. Aide to Kosovo’s Prime Minister Azem Vlasi expressed Monday certainty that Montenegro, Macedonia and Albania would recognize Kosovo’s independence. This will happen despite Serbia’s resistance, the Serbian TANJUG agency informs.
Vlasi added these countries had accepted UN special envoy Martti Ahtisaari’s plan envisaging “supervised independence” for Kosovo.
“We are certain that Macedonia, Montenegro and Albania will act according to UN Security Council’s resolutions,” Vlasi stressed.

Macedonian Minister steps down after attempt to ban play

Amid a furor over his decision to ban a theatrical work, Macedonia's culture minister has resigned. The attempted ban triggered protests from actors, the media, and political figures -- including Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski -- who said he supported the play. He denied any involvement in the effort to censor it.

Just two days before the March 31st premiere of "Tito, Certain Diagrams of Desire," Minister Ilirijan Bekiri sent a letter to the directors and producers, warning them that rehearsals and preparations should cease, and that any further activities would be penalised.

Justifying the ban, Bekiri suggested the play is the work of "exponents of communism in decline". He said he is "a consistent representative of the democratic values and mercilessly rejects communist values".

Nevertheless, the premiere went ahead, and Gruevski subsequently accepted Bekiri's resignation. According to the prime minister, Bekiri explained his views and the reasons for his move, and said he had not changed his stance.

"Our government does not censor," Gruevski vowed, adding that as long as he is prime minister, no play would be prohibited.

That didn't convince the opposition Social Democratic Union of Macedonia (SDSM), whose leader, Radmila Sekerinska, claims it is Gruevski himself who ordered the ban.

"I don't believe that a minister can take on an autocratic game and prohibit a play," she said.

An EU-sponsored co-production, "Tito" is now scheduled for a European tour. The play, based on a text by Croatian director Slobodan Snajder, is directed by Macedonians Martin Kocovski, Dejan Damjanovski and Dejan Projkovski in collaboration with Croatian director and conceptual leader Branko Brezovec.

According to playwright Goran Stefanovski, it is a "complex, polyphonic theatre and mosaic encyclopedia of images, a sad and funny two-and-a-half-hour tragicomedy where the performers sing and dance and stand on their heads". At the Bitola premiere, the audience reacted with a ten-minute standing ovation.

"It is important that art won," said co-director Damjanovski, "despite the talks on anything but theatre in the past couple of days."

Minister of Culture-designate Arifhikmet Xhemaili is a member of the Democratic Party of Albanians (DPA).

Macedonia marked International Roma Day as national holiday for the first time ever

Skopje. For the first time ever Macedonia marked the International Roma Day as a national holiday for its Roma people, Macedonian television A1 reports. NGO Nahtari and the Union of Roma in Macedonia have marked the holiday in Šuto Orizari municipality; celebrations will be held on the square of the municipality tonight.
According to latest surveys 53,879 Roma people live in Macedonia, which is 2.66% of the population.
This is the third year of the The Decade of Roma Inclusion (2005 – 2015) – an international initiative for improving the economic state of Roma people. It is supported by Macedonia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Montenegro, Romania, Serbia and Hungary.

Not only Bulgaria should make efforts for easing visa issue procedure:

Skopje. Bulgaria’s two consulates in Macedonia – in Bitolja and Skopje, work very hard; employees are dedicated and good professionals, Bulgarian ambassador to Macedonia Miho Mihov told BNR, having in mind Macedonians’ wish to visit Bulgaria despite the introduction of visas after Bulgaria joined the EU.
He added that January 1st 2007 and the recent holidays complicated the issue of Bulgarian visas to the long queues waiting outside Bulgaria’ consulates.
“It is not only Bulgaria that should make efforts for easing visa issue regime, it has made enough because a year before acceding the EU Bulgaria proposed an agreement to Macedonia,” Bulgarian ambassador said.
He noted that if Macedonians had been more informed, the current visa problems would have been avoided.
Mihov is skeptical about the full liberalization of the visa regime with Bulgaria and other EU states, as the Macedonian government demands.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Macedonia To Roll Out Electronic Passports

Macedonia will begin registering its citizens for electronic passports this month, and the government expects to issue approximately 1.5 million passports by the end of 2009, according to Germany-based vendor Giesecke & Devrient. The electronic passport carries a 72K chip to hold personal data, such as a passport photo and potentially other data. In addition to passports, the Republic of Macedonia will produce personal ID cards and driver's licenses, which are to be issued in the fall. In November 2005, Giesecke & Devrient was awarded the contract by the Macedonian government to provide a system for producing the passports, 1.8 million personal identity cards and 500,000 driver's licenses. The project is worth approximately 23.5 million euros (US$ 31.4 million), the vendor states.

Meanwhile, in Montenegro

2) Macedonia. Macedonia is an EU candidate, but it’s several steps behind Croatia. Membership is not likely before 2012 at the earliest.

Macedonia some problems. Here’s the dumbest one. A couple of years ago, France adopted an asinine constitutional amendment requiring a referendum on all new EU members. This was, of course, aimed at the Turks. (I know, I know… a thinly disguised appeal to xenophobia dressed up as a piece of populism. In the reign of Jacques Chirac! Who would have thought it?) But the Macedonians will probably be the first to be affected by it. Yah, that’s right — unless France amends its constitution back, France (population ~60 million) will have to hold a referendum on admitting Macedonia (population ~2.5 million). And then additional referendums for Albania, Montenegro, and every other country on this list.

Another problem: both the Greeks and the Bulgarians have muttered under their breath about blocking Macedonia’s membership. In the case of Bulgaria, this is probably just posturing. In the case of Greece, it’s hard to be sure — the Greeks have shown an impressive capacity for stupid behavior where Macedonia is concerned.

DPA, DUI accept proposal for unification of Albanian political bloc

Skopje. The Democratic Party of Albanians /DPA/ and the Democratic Union for Integration /DUI/ have accepted a proposal by Abdulhadi Vejseli, leader of the Albanian Party for Democratic Prosperity /PDP/ for unification of the Albanian political bloc in Macedonia on the key issues related to language, equal representation in the state institutions and the status of the fighters from the National Liberation Army /NLA/, the Macedonian television Kanal 5 reported. The Albanian leaders are likely to sit at the negotiating table after the Easter holidays. Vejseli’s initiative was backed by international representatives in Macedonia.

Macedonia, Russia settle debts

SKOPJE -- Macedonia successfully wrapped up negotiations on the projects intended for settling of Russia's debt owned to Macedonia.

The Cabinet of the Macedonian Vice-Prime Minister, Zoran Stavrevski issued a statement following the governmental delegation's official working visit to Moscow.

In the course of the visit, Macedonian officials met with the Russian Finance Minister Sergey Storchak, who is in charge of settling liabilities of the former USSR towards the Republic of Macedonia.

The negotiators reached an agreement that the debt be returned by construction of a gas-pipeline system in Macedonia.

Russian and Macedonian high state officals agreed on the Initiation of as many as four projects, including the primary and secondary gas pipeline ring encircling Skopje, the local pipeline Klečovce-Veles-Stip and the pipeline Skopje-Tetovo.

The interlocutors also agreed to set up a working panel, comprised of representatives of Gazprom and Macedonian experts, tasked to work out the details on the realization of the projects.

OMO Ilinden – PIRIN refutes having forged signatures

Skopje. The leaders of the organization OMO Ilinden – PIRIN reacted with a letter to the ‘new media hysteria’, which has started with the statement, made by the Chairman of the Bulgarian VMRO Krasimir Karakachanoiv, the the Bulgarian Prosecutor’s Office would receive documents for the falsification of the signatures, submitted for the regiustration of OMO Ilinden – PIRIN as a political party in Bulgaria, the Macedonian TV channel A1 reported.
‘The party is not at all worried by such option. On the contrary, it welcomes it. This would give the opportunity to prove the truth about the manipulation and the pressure exerted by state authorities on the members of OMO Ilinden – PIRIN in a courtroom in the presense of EU observers.’, the letter reads.

Macedonia and Albania have great chances of joining NATO

Macedonian and Albanian Defense Ministers Lazar Elenovski and Fatmir Mediu share the opinion that Macedonia and Albania have great chances of joining NATO, the Macedonian A1 TV channel informs.
The two ministers met in Tirana and agreed on the steps to be taken in the next two months so that the countries could receive membership invitations next year. Ministers Elenovski and Mediu agreed also on joint lobby for the countries’ NATO membership.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Gruevski unveils entry of Société Générale in Macedonia

As of yesterday, Société Générale started operations in Macedonia as it acquired 51.6% of the Ohridska Banka's shares.

Macedonian Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski announced this today in presence of Philipe Jean, Société Générale's Director for development of international retail banking, as well as of Ohridska Banka's representatives.

Société Générale's representative said that he would like to restrain from giving commentaries while the process is still under way and expressed gratitude to the Macedonian authorities for their attention and attitude towards this process, which he described as a clear proof of the good climate for foreign investments.

Asked if Ohridska Banka will acquire Société Générale's brand, Jean explained that this represents a friendly take-over, which means the local name and the incumbent management of the Bank will be retained. He added that the information for belonging to the Société Générale Group is likely to be attached to the Bank's name.

The take-over process is due to be completed by the end of April, when Société Générale is to pay 43 million euros to become full owner of Ohridska Banka.

"I believe that banking business in Macedonia will be separated in two periods, before and after the entrance of Société Générale. We expect from this bank to introduce new standards, new services, new quality of working activities as it has successful operations in 80- countries across the world", Gruevski said.

He also expressed hopes that this move will pave way for entry of more French companies in Macedonia, but also of the other EU member-countries.

Société Générale has 120.000 employees in more than 80 countries around the globe and assets of $1 trillion. Fortune magazine ranked it as 9th most attractive bank in the world. In 2006, the Bank generated over $64 billion of incomes and $5.5 billion of profits.

Macedonia won’t be affected by events in Kosovo: Ali Ahmeti

Skopje. “The events in Kosovo won’t affect Macedonia”, leader of the ethnic Albanian party Democratic Union for Integration /DUI/ said in an interview with the Greek newspaper Kathimerini cited by the Macedonian television Sitel.
“We expect the end of process which will lead to Kosovo’s independence. We don’t aim to form a large Albania or a large Kosovo. We want to become part of large Europe”, Ahmeti stressed. According to him, the events in Kosovo do not threaten Macedonia because the Kosovo Albanians do not have territorial claims to the neighbors, but want good relations.

Dialogue and judiciary - main challenges in Macedonia's NATO bid

The political dialogue and the judiciary reforms are the main challenges Macedonia is facing on its road to NATO membership.

These challenges have been identified as the most urgent by the incumbent Defense Minister and several of his predecessors at today's panel discussion.

The former Defense Minister and ex-Prime Minister, Vlado Buckovski, said that the "false dialogue" between the government and opposition produced no results thus far.

"If the largest Albanian party is out of the Parliament for more than seven weeks, it is a very bad signal", Buckovski said. According to him, somebody is averting VMRO DPMNE from establishing a dialogue with DUI.

"I agree that we have to reaffirm the dialogue", incumbent Minister Lazar Elenovski said, adding that some progress has been made in this sense.

According to him, about 30 draft-laws have been agreed upon during the dialogue process. He also said that judiciary legislation important for NATO membership will be adopted in timely manner.

Former Defense Minister Jovan Manasievski pointed out at lack of effective communication between the Government and the President and on stalling of military equipment procurement.

Academician Nikola Kljusev also singled out the need of providing sophisticated weapons for ARM, in order to avoid turning Macedonia into a museum of obsolete weapons. He called for authentic partnership between Macedonia and NATO, instead of the current one, which comes down to sending Macedonian troops to foreign missions.

Former Minister Trajan Gocevski said that Macedonia cannot afford to miss this opportunity, for it could face a long-standing instability.

Basescu due in Macedonia soon

Romanian President Traian Basescu is due to pay a working visit to Macedonia in the second half of April, says an official announcement released today.

Basescu will arrive in Macedonia on 19 April, in the eve of the Summit of SEE Head of States scheduled to kick off the following day in Ohrid.

The visit of the Romanian President will come upon invitation of the Macedonian President Branko Crvenkovski, who paid a visit to Bucharest in February 2006.

The two Presidents will discuss Macedonian integration in Euro-Atlantic structures and the Romanian support to the process, the economic cooperation, and the current situation in the region, with special emphasis on Kosovo.

The visit of the Romanian President gains additional importance given the fact the Bucharest is very likely to host the NATO Summit in 2008, from which Macedonia expects to receive a membership invitation, says the announcement of the Macedonian President's Cabinet.

Macedonia culture minister resigns over play about communist

SKOPJE, Macedonia-Macedonia's Culture Minister Ilirian Beqiri resigned Monday over a play about Yugoslavia's late communist leader Josip Broz Tito.

Beqiri, 39, resigned after imposing a brief ban on the play "Tito, Certain Diagrams of Desire" before it opened Saturday in the southern city of Bitola.

Beqiri, a prominent member of the ethnic Albanian DPA party in the conservative coalition, described the play as being against the "national interest."

The ban was lifted after the play's director publicly complained.

Government spokesman Ivica Bocevski said the government was in talks with the DPA to select Beqiri's successor.

Tito ruled Yugoslavia for 35 years, until his death in 1980.

Macedonia presents its energy projects to SEE countries

Macedonia has presented its ongoing energy-related projects and needs at the international Forum of the SEE countries, which was held today in Zagreb.

Macedonian Economy Minister Vera Rafajlovska presented the international investment projects in the energy filed which are executed rapidly in Macedonia.

At the Forum "South East Europe - Energy Bridge between the Russian Federation, Mediterranean, Caspian and Central European Region and the European Union", Macedonian Minister presented the tenders on TEC Negotino, on construction of as many as 60 small-size hydro-electric plants, "Vardar Valley" project and AMBO oil pipeline.

The Ministers of Croatia, Greece, Serbia, Montenegro, Moldova, Romania, Bulgaria, Slovenia as well as high officials from Turkey, Italy, Germany, Austria and Russia, and the European Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs, took part at the event.

The participants shared the stance that South East European countries should serve as a bridge between the Ural and Caspian region countries rich with energy resources and the EU market.

In the framework of the Forum, Croatia, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia and Italy signed a declaration on a Pan-European Oil Pipeline.

Macedonia does not violate human rights in preliminary investigation procedure

The Council of Europe has no information about violation of rights taking place in Macedonia in the course of preliminary investigation procedures or in ordering temporary detention.

Andre Konze, an expert from the Council of Europe, said this today in Ohrid, where he is attending a seminar for crime prevention with special emphasis on the relations among police, prosecution office and citizens.

"The informative questioning of suspects is the toughest task the police is facing, as it is very sensitive in terms of violation of the suspect's human rights. However, I have no information that such violations are taking place in Macedonia", Konze said.

He added that the purpose of CE experts' participation at seminars is not to punish the police officers who committed violation of human rights while fulfilling their duty, but to point out what practices are in accordance with the international human rights convention, and what aren't.

Antonio Senev, representative of the Interior Ministry, said that the Macedonian Police is operating in accordance with the law, adding that there are adequate instruments and institutions tasked to monitor and detect eventual cases of human rights violation.

The seminar in Ohrid is the third in a row organized by the Macedonian Interior Ministry and the Council of Europe. As many as 25 police officers of various ranks, representatives of the Public Prosecution Office, as well as domestic and foreign experts are taking part at the event.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Powell takes rap for Macedonia

Former US secretary of state Colin Powell has told Kathimerini that he was responsible for Washington’s decision to recognize the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) as “Macedonia” in 2004, with the aim of easing tensions in the volatile Balkan state.

In an interview published in yesterday’s Kathimerini, Powell said he made the decision, despite Greek objections, to avoid the escalation of a crisis in FYROM that “could have provoked a huge explosion.”

Questioned about the Cyprus problem, Powell expressed his disappointment with the Greek Cypriots’ rejection in 2004 of the Annan plan – the blueprint for the island’s reunification drafted by former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan. He said peace talks should be revived – “when the time is right” – but said leadership changes, on both sides of the island, may be necessary if the problem is to be solved.

Athens afraid of new surprise in argument with Skopje about name of Macedonia

The Greek Prime Minister Kostas Karamanlis is afraid of new surprise in the argument with Skopje about the name of Macedonia, the Greek daily Kathimerini reports today in an article entitled ‘Athens puts pressure on Skopje in Congress’.
According to the article Athens is determined to lead a two-field battle – at the U.S. home political scene and in NATO. Thus Athens hopes to intercept any new surprise about the name of the Former Yugoslavian Republic of Macedonia /FYROM/. The daily notes that Athens is using its ties with the Greek community in the United States and their access to the U.S. congress. The Greek Government has informed the Government of George Bush , but also the new Secretary General of the UN Ban Ki-Mun, that Greece would not accept humiliation. Athens has firmly stated that no government would ratify Skopje’s joining to NATO if acceptable solution to the name problem is not found.

Maloney and Bilirakis Succeed in Effort Regarding Designation of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia

Reps. Maloney and Bilirakis Succeed in Effort Regarding Designation of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia

WASHINGTON, DC - Legislation to encourage the expansion of NATO, the "NATO Freedom Consolidation Act of 2007," has been cleared for the White House with the inclusion of language referring to the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia or "FYROM" as such when referring to that entity. The bill, which had been passed by both the House and the Senate, differed in this designation with only S. 494 including the "FYROM" language. Co-chairs of the Congressional Caucus on Hellenic Issues, Representatives Carolyn B. Maloney (NY-14) and Gus M. Bilirakis (FL-09), sent letters to Chairmen Lantos and Biden and Ranking Members Ros-Lehtinen and Lugar of the House and Senate Foreign Affairs and Relations Committees urging them to include the Senate language. The full text of the Representatives' letters can be found at: .

"I am pleased that Congress continues to refer to the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia as such when considering legislation," Maloney said. "We must respect the ongoing negotiations between Greece and the FYROM to resolve the name dispute, and I applaud my colleagues for accepting the Senate language on this matter."