Friday, June 22, 2007

Macedonia faces FIFA exclusion

SKOPJE -- PM Nikola Gruevski issued a last-minute plea Friday for factions within Macedonian football federation to agree on a president.

An agreement is an only way to save the national teams from exclusion by the sport’s worldwide governing body.

“Instead of thinking of their own interests, both sides should consider Macedonian interests for affirmation through this sport,” a statement from the prime minister’s office said.

The dispute began last month when the so-called “initiative committee for saving Macedonian football” accused Haralampie Hadzi Ristevski, the president of the Football Association of Macedonia (FSM) of taking office after an illegitimate election.

Hadži Ristevki is recognized by FIFA, the sport’s global governing body, as the legitimate FSM head.

The committee elected Emil Bozinovski as president and took over the FSM building.

Last week, FIFA representative Gregory Surkis arrived in Skopje to investigate the dispute. Surkis threatened Macedonia with expulsion from FIFA membership if Hadži Ristevski is not back in his office by the end of Friday.

This would mean that Macedonia’s national team will not be able to finish qualifications for the 2008 European Championship and will not be allowed to play or organize friendly matches. Macedonian teams also would be banned from other international competitions and FSM would not receive financial support from FIFA or UEFA, football’s governing body for Europe.

Bozinovski’s camp announced Wednesday they will not back off their position even if Macedonia is expelled from FIFA.

On Friday, Hadzi Ristevski called on the prime minister to be more decisive.

“I have daily contact with FIFA and UEFA and they are surprised that still nothing is done. Because of that, Macedonian football will be isolated from the world,” Hadzi Ristevski said.

Court delivers first verdict in wiretapping case

In the first verdict in the case of wiretapping scandal stemming from 2000, the court ordered that almost 100.000 euros be paid to journalists who have sued the state.

The Skopje-based Criminal Court on Friday partially upheld the demand for exclusive remedy for 17 journalists whose mobile phones were wiretapped.

The court tasked the Ministry of Interior and Macedonian Telecommunications to pay 350.000 denars each to journalists.

The journalists were displeased with the remedy and said they would appeal court's ruling.

The court found that Interior Ministry and Telecom are in possession of eavesdropping equipment. The court also found that wiretapping did take place and it was at the expense of journalists. A total of five judges run the seven-year-long trial.

Meanwhile, the journalists brought the case to the Strasbourg-based Court of Human Rights, complaining of unreasonably lengthy proceedings in the national court.

The wiretapping scandal, known as Big Ear, broke in 2000, when the then opposition leader Branko Crvenkovski unearthed transcripts of wiretapped phone conversations of politicians, journalists and diplomats.

It is not known how much money has been laundered in Macedonia

Skopje. Hundreds of millions of dollars are laundered every year in Macedonia, the Macedonian A1 television channel informed.
This is money obtained from drug and arms sale, bank and financial frauds, and nobody can say the exact amount, the channel comments.
Profound knowledge in rights and cooperation among institutions is a prerequisite for a successful combat against money laundering. Catching out criminal channels means successful and stable economy, stressed Macedonian Finance Minister Trajko Slaveski.

Macedonia presents upsides of the multi-ethnic society

As many as 714 ethnic Albanians have been employed in the Macedonian over the last nine months, which accounts for 32 percent of overall employments in the same period.

This is one of the results of the Macedonia's efforts for equal representation, which were presented today in Athens by the Macedonian minister for European integration and health minister Imer Selmani, says an official announcement.

Numerous high-ranking officials and political leaders are taking part at the two-day entitled "Balkan as a source of security and stability in Europe" taking place in the Greek capital.

Macedonia was presented as a positive example for the other countries in the region at the event, whose highlights included also debating on perspectives of the Balkan countries, political deals aimed at achieving permanent peace and stability with special focus on the values achieved through the implementation of the Framework Agreement.

According to the Macedonian electronic media, at the meeting between the Greek FM Dora Bakoyannis and DUI's leader Ali Ahmeti - attending the event as member of the Macedonian delegation - the latter pointed out that the Albanians living in Macedonia have no territorial ambitions towards other countries and called for inclusion of the Albanian factor in the negotiations over the Greek problem with the name of Macedonia.

Besides the Macedonian delegation, representatives of Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Montenegro, Romania, Serbia as well as of Switzerland and USA are attending the Athens conference.

The list of participants includes also representatives of the Kosovar Albanians and Serbs, officials from the Council of Europe, EU, OSCE and UN.

Macedonia receives support for NATO

Brussels. Macedonia has received full support for the reforms and preparation for NATO membership, the Macedonian Makfax agency reports, citing an announcement made after Macedonian Defense Minister Lazar Elenovski’s informal meetings with his British Secretary of State for Defense Des Browne, French Defense Minister Herve Morin and US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates.
As part of his visit to Brussels Minister Elenovski took part in the NATO meeting with the states that do not participate in the ISAF mission in Afghanistan.

Germany, Netherlands, Poland hail Macedonia's NATO bid

Macedonia enjoys a full support from Germany, Netherlands and Poland in its efforts for NATO membership, Macedonian Defense Ministry said on Friday.

The same source said the support was spelled out Thursday on the sidelines of the annual meeting of the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council (EAPC) in Brussels, attended by Macedonian Defense Minister Lazar Elenovski.

"As regards the meetings in Brussels, Macedonia attaches importance to so far the most transparent support voiced by German Defense Minister Franz Josef Jung, who strongly supported NATO membership for Macedonia, Croatia and Albania," Macedonian Defense Ministry said in a statement released on Friday.

Defense Minister Elenovski today continues the two-day visit to NATO Headquarters in Brussels.

Minister Elenovski is scheduled to meet with British Defense Secretary Den Brown and French Ambassador to NATO Richard Duke in a fresh bid to lobby and muster support for invitation to NATO membership.

A strong support to NATO membership of Macedonia, Albania and Croatia was expressed last weekend by the US President George Bush, during his visit to Tirana.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Gruevski: Crvenkovski is irrelevant person

President Branko Crvenkovski is irrelevant figure in the Macedonian politics, prime minister Nikola Gruevski said today, thus reopening the rift between the two highest ranking state officials.

"He is a person who has very little competencies in the Macedonian political life. We will certainly keep up good communications with him, but he is insignificant and not very important to us. We are facing much greater challenges and we will surely - in compliance with the constitution and the laws, maintain the cohabitation with him", Gruevski said in Bitola today.

Gruevski gave the statement as answering a journalist's question on the current status of the cohabitation between the premier and the president.

The latest wave of discordances between the two politicians broke out yesterday after their meeting, when Gruevski sent a message to Crvenkovski to be cautious when nominating members of the judicial council, advising him to consult the parliamentary parties, especially the opposition.

In the ensuing response, Crvenkovski said that "the well-intentioned advises" of Gruevski are not the right way to achieve the common goals of integration to EU and NATO.

Gruevski toured the villages in Pelagonija region today, promising improvement of the agro-climate in the country and payments to all contract farmers who delivered their tobacco crops to the Prilep Tobacco Company.

Greece to be sanctioned if it vetos Macedonia’s accession to international organizations

Skopje. Macedonian Foreign Ministry’s spokesperson Spresa Hjusufi told journalists on Thursday that Macedonia continues observing the temporary agreement with Greece over the name issue and that it expects the same thing in return, a Skopje-based correspondent of FOCUS News Agency reported.
In Jusufi’s words Greece has obligations under this agreement and it cannot veto the accession of Macedonia to international organizations. Jusufi stressed that Greece will be sanctioned in case it decides to veto the country’s accession to such organizations.

Accused Cocaine Smuggler Sues Macedonia

Skopje_ Stanislava Cocorovska Poletan, jailed on cocaine smuggling charges, has filed a complaint against Macedonia in the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, her lawyer, Dimitar Dangov, told Balkan Insight on Thursday.

In the complaint, Dangov says, Cocorovska accuses the state of violating her defence rights by keeping her in custody for over forty days without showing her evidence for the charges. Cocorovska blames the investigative judge and the prosecutor's office for their silence about her case.

“The team of lawyers won’t be able to prepare Cocorovska's defense on time, because we haven't looked at the list of prosecutor's evidence,” Dangov said, explaining the reasons for the Strasbourg complaint filed on Tuesday.

Cocorovska was charged with involvement in the smuggling of 486 kilograms of cocaine that was found by the Macedonian police in a truck at the Blace border crossing last Christmas.

The Macedonian police said that Cocorovska was involved in shipping the cocaine from Venezuela to Montenegro, and that Macedonia was a transit country for the shipment, which was eventually destined for Greece.

Last month, Cocorovska was extradited to Macedonia from Serbia, where she was held in custody for four months. During that period, she failed to gain Serbian citizenship and thus avoid extradition.

Despite the practise of pleading to Strasbourg after the local country court has reached a verdict, this is the first complaint filed from Macedonia for a case that is still under investigation.

Macedonia given confirmation for NATO entry

Skopje. After US President George Bush’s convincing confirmation given to Macedonia’s Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski in Tirana in reference to NATO entry, it was stressed that three membership aspiring states – Macedonia, Albania, and Croatia, should continue with the reforms and to achieve the expected standards and criteria, Foreign Ministry’s spokesperson Spresa Hjusufi told journalists on Thursday.
It was also stressed that the reforms in the field of defense are still going on, the reorganization of the army was completed, and the participation in peacekeeping mission will continue.

Tycoon Smilenski extradited to Macedonia

The shady Macedonian businessman Metodija Smilenski has been extradited to Macedonia this afternoon after one-year detention at Belgrade's facility.

He has been handed over to the Macedonian Police a short while ago at the Tabanovce border crossing, pending transfer to the investigative prison in Shutka, Makfax's reporter informed.

The tycoon's extradition came after Serbian justice minister endorsed the decision for handing over today, just a day before the expiration of the legal deadline of the pre-extradition detention.

Smilenski is wanted by the Macedonian authorities for embezzling about 60 million euros of state funds.

One of his outstanding financial frauds refers to bankruptcy of his Export-Import Bank, which inflicted 20 million euros of damages to the State Budget.

Accusations against Smilenski and the ex-President of the National Bank of Macedonia Ljube Trpevski of being responsible for the bank's bust are accepted by many in Macedonia.

Allegations against Smilenski include a large number of financial frauds, money laundering, and recently Macedonian businessman Risto Gushterov won a lawsuit against him, involving frauds amounting to millions of euros.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Macedonia marks increase in number of marriages, divorces decline

Last year, Macedonia saw the largest number of concluded marriages in the last ten years as well as decline in the number of divorces, showed the latest data of the Macedonian State Statistical Office.

As many as 14.908 couples were married last year, which marks 2.8 percent increase compared to 2005, with permanent increasing trend stretching over the past decade.

As expected, the first-time marriages are the most frequent with women accounting for 92.3 percent and man with 89.9 percent.

As many as 9.3 of all the women that concluded marriages last year entered wedlock for the second-time, while the men take up 7.4 percent in this category.

The average age of women that got married last year ranges 20-24 (39.9 of the total number) whereas the average age of men ranges 25-29 years (37.4 percent).

As many as 1.475 divorces were registered last year. In 2005, 1.552 marriages were terminated compared with 1.645 in 2004.

The average age of women that terminated their marriages in 2006 is 25-29 years, i.e. 40-49 years in men.

WB approves EUR15 million loan to support agriculture in Macedonia

The World Bank's Board of Executive Directors approved a EUR15 million loan for the Agriculture Strengthening and Accession Project for Macedonia.

The Project will improve the delivery of Government assistance to the agriculture sector in a manner consistent with the EU's pre-accession requirements, WB said. The loan has a five-year grace period and 17 years maturity.

The project’s development objective is to improve the delivery of government assistance to the agriculture sector by improving the ability of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Water Economy to disburse and track the use of rural development funds and evaluate their impact on the agri-food sector; paying EU IPARD funds paid to farmers in an EU compliant manner; delivering improved veterinary services to producers and agro-processors in a timely manner; establishing participatory, “demand driven” irrigation management; and divesting the state of financial responsibility for the irrigation sector.

"The project will help Macedonia better use its agricultural potential and move the sector closer to the European Union,” said Julian Lampietti, head of the World Bank team designing the project.

“It complements the country’s development strategy and the European Commission’s program and will assist the Government in creating better and more effective linkages with agricultural producers."

The Project is divided into four components. The first component will strengthen Agriculture Ministry's administrative and management capacity. The second component will support Agriculture Ministry's ability to deliver EU rural development funds. The third component will help develop effective veterinary capacity as part of the creation of a functioning integrated food quality system. The fourth component will complete the reform of the irrigation sector

The agriculture sector plays an important role in Macedonia’s economy through its contributions to GDP (agriculture accounts for 12 percent of GDP, agri-food for 16 percent), employment, trade and the rural economy, the bank said.

Macedonia - source, transit country of human trafficking

Macedonia is a source, transit, and to a lesser extent, destination country for women and children trafficked for the purpose of commercial sexual exploitation, but the Government made increasing progress in its anti-trafficking efforts in 2006.

These are the keynotes of the annual Trafficking in Persons Report, released Tuesday by the U.S. State Department, in which Macedonia was ranked in the second category, along with other former Yugoslav republics except for Slovenia, and EU members Portugal, Greece, Slovakia, Estonia, Latvia, Malta, Bulgaria and Romania.

Macedonian women and girls are trafficked within the country, from eastern rural areas to western Macedonia for sexual exploitation. Victims originated from Moldova, Albania, and to a lesser extent, other Eastern European countries. Victims transited Macedonia en-route to Serbia, Montenegro, Albania and Western Europe, the report says.

According to report, Government of Macedonia does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. The government demonstrated increasing progress in its anti-trafficking efforts in 2006, particularly through joint law enforcement cooperation with neighboring countries

The government should increase efforts to educate law enforcement on the difference between trafficking and smuggling, take steps to ensure that traffickers receive sentences consistent with the heinous nature of the offense, and make greater efforts to prosecute and convict public officials who profit from, or are involved in, trafficking, the report says.

The Government of Macedonia’s anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts showed positive results in 2006. The Government prohibits sex and labor trafficking through its 2004 criminal code article 418 on trafficking in persons, article 418c on organizing a group for trafficking, and article 191 covering forced prostitution. The laws prescribe penalties that are sufficiently stringent. Occasionally, however, relatively light sentences were imposed on convicted offenders. The government in 2006 prosecuted 48 cases related to trafficking, a significant increase from the 35 cases prosecuted in the previous reporting period.

Using special investigative measures, and in cooperation with the Albanian and Greek governments, the Government of Macedonia prosecuted and obtained convictions and jail sentences in three major trafficking cases. Sentences ranged from 8 months to 13 years’ imprisonment, and included provisions for victim restitution and confiscation of property. Despite these relative successes, the judiciary remained the weakest link in the fight against trafficking in persons, with significant instances of procedural errors and delays extending the duration of proceedings, the report says.

Conviction rates for trafficking prosecutions remained low. Concerns over instances of judicial corruption continued in 2006. Two police officers were found guilty of trafficking-related crimes and received sentences of 18 months in one case, and two years in the other.

The Government of Macedonia made significant efforts to improve its protection of trafficking victims. The government encourages victims to participate in investigations and trials, the report says, adding that the Government made significant trafficking prevention efforts over the last year.

The State Department estimates that up to 800.000 persons are trafficked across international borders against their will each year. About 80 percent of trafficked victims are women and girls, with a large majority forced into sex industry. About 50 percent are minors, the report says.

Many victims are forced into prostitution, sweatshops, domestic labor, farm work or child armies.

Furthermore, millions of women and men across the world become victims of human trafficking within national borders mainly for purpose of forced labor, the report says, citing data from the International Labor Organization.

The repot ranks the countries in four categories - whether the are a source, transit or destination country, whether they comply with the criteria set by US laws dating from 2000 pertaining to protection of trafficking victims and the efforts of governments to eliminate human trafficking.

The fourth category singles out 16 countries where the human trafficking situation is most critical. Four American allies in the Persian Gulf - Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar and Bahrain - are among the countries criticized for not doing enough to combat human trafficking.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Macedonian media: Balkans to join NATO, Kosovo independence in sight

Balkans will join NATO, Kosovo will become independent - these are the headlines of news reports in Macedonia following the US President George Bush's visit to Albania.

Dnevnik daily says the White House and President Bush is the greatest friend of Adriatic Group members - Macedonia, Albania and Croatia. The daily says the key messages of the US president referred to the future status of Kosovo, which according to Bush, is on the road to independence.

Vreme daily says Bush pledged full support to NATO membership of the Adriatic Group members, but he made it clear that the countries must do their homework.

Utrinski Vesnik daily focuses on Bush's message over Kosovo, saying it’s high time to wrap up the Kosovo issue.

The paper says there are certain objections to hasty status settlement, in particular Russia's opposition to any quick fix of Kosovo issue. However, Bush made it clear in Tirana that at some point in time - sooner rather than later - Kosovo will become independent.

Post-bankruptcy workers spend 100 days in tents, no solution in sight

The authorities made no proposal to alleviate the grievances of post-bankruptcy workers who have spent the last 100 days in tents near parliament building in downtown Skopje.

"In principle, the government shows willingness to solve our problem, although no concrete proposal has been made after 100-day stay in make-shift tent site outside parliament building," Stojan Stojanov, the head of association of post-bankruptcy workers with more than 25 years of service, told Makfax news agency.

Stojanov met today with representatives of government ally NSDP and he was told that the subject was discussed Monday at the meeting of DSDP leader Tito Petkovski, Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski and DPA's deputy head Menduh Thaci.

"There is a possibility that a draft-law on pos-bankruptcy workers be put on the agenda in the parliament. The motion is likely to be supported by the ruling VMRO-DPMNE. However, PM Gruevski said the biggest problem is to define the number of post-bankruptcy workers, noting that the state-run Employment Agency cannot define the exact number," Stojanov said.

According to Stojanov, the number of post-bankruptcy workers with more than 25 years of service ranges 5.000 to 6.000. They demand monthly bonus amounting 40 percent of the average salary in Macedonia as long as they find a new job.

Some 30 post-bankruptcy workers protest outside the government in 15 tents set up in make-shift tent site. Their health condition worsened as temperatures rise.

They collect money in a cardboard box to buy bread. The locals put few denars into the box.

"We collect 200-300 denars (app. 5 euros) a day to buy bread for the next day. We leave the bread overnight because we eat less when the bread is not fresh," said Isen Fetai, the deputy head of the association, adding that high-school students are most generous.

Skopje Mayor Trifun Kostovski visited the tent site last week and donated food and medicines. The St. Petka church also donates food. The famous opera singer Boris Trajanov is a frequent visitor and donor to underfed protesters.

They protesters made it clear that they will stay outside parliament building as long as the government upholds their demands, or at least be given a concrete proposal or promise to meet their demands.

Gumball car killer let off prison

A BRITISH property developer accused of killing a couple with his Porsche in the Gumball 3000 rally wept yesterday as he was given a suspended jail term.

Nicholas Morley had faced 14 years in prison over the deaths of Vladimir Chepulyoski, 67, and his wife Margarita, 65.

His £150,000 Techart Porsche 911 Turbo hit the couple’s VW Golf at a junction near Struga, Macedonia.

Prosecutors alleged that Morley, 30, from Altrincham, Cheshire, was doing 100mph. But he claimed the couple caused the accident by ignoring a stop sign.

Morley broke down after the judge in Struga gave him a two-year suspended jail term for “endangering traffic leading to death”. He had been in custody since the crash on May 2. The Gumball 3000 was cancelled after the accident.

Macedonia and Slovenia for EU Expansion to Western Balkans

Macedonian Foreign Minister Antonio Milososki and his counterpart Dimitrij Rupel praised bilateral relations and voiced common interest in the EU's expansion to the Western Balkans as they addressed a joint press conference following the talks in Ljubljana on Wednesday, 6 June. Rupel pointed to Macedonia as the first in the line after Croatia, saying it could get a date for EU talks during Slovenia's presidency.

"Macedonia's prospect depends on the EU and NATO. We believe the time of accession is getting irrepressibly closer. Slovenia would like to be among those friends who support and advance this," Rupel said, reminding reporters of Slovenia's support for Macedonia in its aspirations so far.

He reiterated that "there is a possibility for Macedonia to start negotiations with the EU during Slovenia's presidency", in the first half of 2008, while he added that much would have to be done ahead of this.

Milososki said that the launch of talks was a major challenge for Macedonia and that the country would try to convince the EU with concrete results that it was fit for this step. Macedonia has the status of a candidate country since December 2005, while it still has not got the date of accession negotiations.

Macedonia makes early repayment of 21% of debt to WB

Macedonia has repaid five loans withdrawn from the World Bank, totaling 96.1 million euros, which amounts to 21 percent of the overall debt owned to WB, Macedonian Finance Ministry announced.

The latest repayment reduced the overall public debt related to GDP from 30 to 28 percent, while the remaining debt owned to WB now totals 454 million euros.

This move will save to the State Budget as much as 32.7 million euros until 2021, i.e. 2.7. million euros for 2007 alone, on the basis of interest rates.

Some time ago, Macedonia cleared fully the debt owned to the International Monetary Fund. This step was welcomed by the IMF and the domestic experts alike, while both sides agreed to further their cooperation as the recommendations and measures proposed by the Fund are very valuable to the country.

Macedonia, World Bank discuss development policy loan 3

Macedonia and the World Bank opened discussions Monday in Skopje over the Programmatic Development Policy Loan - PDPL 3.

Macedonian delegation, headed by Deputy Prime Minister Zoran Stavrevski. Met with the World Bank's delegation, headed by Ivailo Izvorski, the new Country Manager for Macedonia.

Both delegations examined the progress in the implementation of reforms in business environment, financial sector, labor market, health sector, judicial reforms, decentralization and public administration to set out key conditions for realization of these reforms with a pre-defined time table.

"Given the progress in the implementation of reforms, both delegations shared the view that the negotiations for PDPL 3 could begin in autumn 2007. The arrangement can be presented to the World Bank's Board of Executive Directors in February 2008 at latest," says the statement released by government's press service.

Macedonia, Italy to wrap up old debt repayment

Macedonia and Italy have entered the final stage of the process of repayment of Macedonia's debt stemming from the Former Yugoslavia-era.

Both countries initialed Monday an agreement on repayment of Macedonia's debt amounting roughly 19 million euros with interest rates included.

Italian Ambassador Donatino Marcon and Macedonian State Secretary at Finance Ministry Snezhana Kostadinovska initialed the agreement at the ministry's premises.

This document is important given the fact that once it enters into effect it will enable a new credit line for small and medium-sized enterprises for procurement of goods from Italy, amounting 10-12 million euros, Makfax news agency says.

The signing of the Agreement will be wrapped up this summer. The document will be subject to ratification by parliaments in both countries. The entire process is to be completed by the end of the year.

Macedonia's old debt has been succeeded from financial operations carried out in the old Yugoslav federation. The commercial part of the debts totals 15.6 million euros plus interest amounting 6.1 million euros. The debt arising from unpaid loan, for which Macedonia was a guarantor, totals $1.8 million plus $1.6 million interest. The second loan is linked to supply of machines to Bitola-based company Rade Konchar.

Macedonia and Italy opened the debt repayment process in 1998. In January 1998, both countries reached an initial agreement referring to part of former Yugoslavia's debt to Italy, on the basis of allocation of responsibility for the external debt of the Former Yugoslavia.

On 14 December 2001, the courtiers reached a bilateral agreement on debt restructuring in line with provisions set by Paris Club of official creditors.

Macedonia is regularly servicing its obligations set out in the bilateral agreement on debt restructuring.

In 2005 and 2006, both countries launched talks to settle certain amount of the debt that was not included in the negotiations and the Agreement signed in 1998.

FYROM tops list in US, Greece talks

A decision on whether to allow the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) to join NATO has not been taken yet, US Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns insisted ahead of a meeting with Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis yesterday.

Burns is due to hold talks with Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis today. Greece’s name dispute with FYROM is likely to dominate the agenda, which will also include discussions on Kosovo, Cyprus, Turkey and terrorism.

Greek diplomatic sources said Bakoyannis made it clear to Burns yesterday that Athens believes FYROM, as well as Albania, have not yet fulfilled the criteria for membership in the strategic alliance.

Burns did not make a statement after the meeting but said before he left Washington that a decision on FYROM’s bid will be made next April or May.

“I am going to Greece to hear the government’s opinion,” said Burns. “I will listen carefully.”

Washington has backed Croatia’s bid to join NATO but has yet to provide an official view on the candidacies of FYROM and Albania.

A poll by GPO yesterday suggested that 82.3 percent of Greeks think the government should or “probably” should veto FYROM’s membership of NATO.

Seven in 10 respondents object to the use of “Macedonia” in any name that the neighboring country uses, according to the poll that was published in the Proto Thema newspaper.

Nine in 10 of those questioned also thought that President Karolos Papoulias should convene a meeting of party leaders so that a consensus between the parties is achieved as to the policy that Greece follows with regard to the name issue.

In an interview in Sunday’s Kathimerini, outgoing US Ambassador to Greece Charles Ries stressed that Washington understands Greece’s position on FYROM.

“It is an issue that has existed since 1991,” he said. “We understand and have had many discussions with Greece about it. We understand Greek sensitivities.”

Meanwhile, Ries said that he was also hopeful that the members of Revolutionary Struggle – the group that claimed a missile attack on the US Embassy in January – would soon be caught.

No medical error in treatment of the late professor

There was no medical error in the treatment of the pathology professor Karposh Boshkovski.

The special panel comprised of doctors at the Thoracal Surgery Department at the Skopje Clinic Center established today, announcing their finding as a response to the anonymous letter suggesting that Boshkovski was inadequately treated.

Nevertheless, the Health Minister Imer Selmani unveiled plans for setting out a new probe to be carried out by an expert commission.

The results of the Pathology Institute showed that Boshkovski died as a result of severe damaged of the aorta.

VMRO-DPMNE and Macedonian Government support Marti Ahtisaari’s plan for Kosovo status

Skopje. The position of the Macedonian Government and the parliamentary group of VMRO-DPMNA is to bared in mind the plan of the UN special envoy Marti Ahtisaari, parliamentary group coordinator of VMRO-DPMNE in Macedonian National Assembly Silvana Boneva told FOCUS News Agency. She made that statement in reference to US President statement in Tirana for Kosovo independence.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Macedonia may expect EUR 200 million foreign investments this year

Skopje. By the end of the year foreign investments amounting to EUR 200 million will be made in Macedonia, the Vienna Institute for International Economic Studies forecasts in its latest report, Macedonian television A1 reported. Serbia comes first in forecast foreign investments for the region. It is followed by Croatia.
According to the same report Bulgaria and Romania will get respectively EUR 4 billion and EUR 7 billion of foreign investments.

FM: FYROM must abandon irredentist propaganda, acts

Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis echoed Athens' standing position that the government of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) must abandon irredentist actions, practices and propaganda and actively prove that it was following a policy of good neighbourliness, in press interview published on Sunday.

Bakoyannis noted that Skopje must abide by the "letter and spirit" of all agreements between the two countries, because only in that way will "our bilateral relations be fully normalised, regional cooperation reinforced, and the neighbouring country's Euro-Atlantic course proceed smoothly".

Replying to a question, Bakoyannis said she saw no link between the fact that the Skopje government's application for NATO membership will be examined in March 2008 and the scheduled holding of general elections in Greece the same month, in accordance with the provisions of the Greek constitution.

She stressed, in fact, that "the Greek government exercises its foreign policy with the aim of strengthening the country's national interests, and not at creating impressions for domestic consumption".

Questioned on the developments in Turkey, Bakoyannis said "our desire is that the outcome of recent developments will be a stable, democratic government in the neighbouring country", stressing that the basic target of policy exercised by Athens is a full normalisation of relations between the two countries.

Asked to comment on recent criticism of her personally by main opposition PASOK leader and former foreign minister George Papandreou, Bakoyannis stressed that "foreign policy does not proffer itself either for manufactured disagreements or for virtual clashes".

Referring to the upcoming Congress of ruling New Democracy (ND) party next month, the foreign minister sent a message of unity while, asked whether early general elections would be called, replied that this was an issue that was exclusively under the domain of the prime minister.

Her interview appeared in the Sunday edition of the Thessaloniki-based newspaper "Macedonia".

Greeks want veto on Macedonia's entry into NATO, poll shows

Athens. Greeks want their government to veto a future entry into NATO by Macedonia if a 15-year dispute over the tiny country's name is not resolved, according to an opinion poll published Sunday.
Over 80 percent of Greeks want their neighbour's NATO prospects blocked if it seeks to enter the alliance as 'Macedonia', and 61.5 percent say Athens should also veto an entry request as 'Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia', or FYROM, said the survey published in the To Proto Thema weekly.
Macedonia on June 3 said it would accept becoming a NATO member as FYROM as a temporary solution to the naming controversy, AFP reported.
Greece has since 1992 opposed international recognition of the neighbouring country under the name Macedonia because it considers the name part of Greek heritage. There is a northern Greek province with the same name.
Macedonia joined the UN in 1993 as FYROM.
UN attempts to reach a solution to the controversy have so far failed.
Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis on Sunday discussed the issue with US Under Secretary of State Nicholas Burns, who is on a three-day working visit.
The discussion centred on the fact that Croatia has "adhered to its commitments and reform requirements" to join NATO, while FYROM and Albania have "a long way to go", a Greek diplomatic source said.
FYROM's entry into NATO "is not a current issue, the discussion has not opened yet," the official said.
"Every country is judged according to its own performance, and one particular country cannot hold others back."
US President George W. Bush, who is on a tour of Eastern Europe and arrived in Albania on Sunday, will meet the prime ministers of Albania, Croatia and Macedonia in Tirana to discuss NATO's membership enlargement.
NATO is expected to raise the matter next spring, Burns said before flying to Greece.

Slovenia to hire Macedonian builders

Skopje. The Macedonian labor and social policy parliamentary committee adopted on Friday the bill ratifying the Macedonian-Slovenian agreement on hiring seasonal workers, the Macedonian Utrinski Vesnik newspaper writes.
Deputy Minister of Labor and Social Policy Ajduvan Mamudov said the commitments would extend over a period of three months at the shortest and nine months at the longest. It is builders that will be mainly hired. The seasonal workers will be provided with a residence permit.

Serbian national held on Macedonian border

SKOPJE -- A Serbian citizen was prevented from crossing the Macedonian border due to high radiation levels recorded in her body.

Macedonia’s Customs Administration said that the Serbian citizen identified as V.S., traveling from Skopje to Belgrade late Thursday, was found to have larger than permitted levels of radiation in her body.

The passenger was made to get off a bus headed towards Belgrade at the request of Macedonian customs officers as the bus was quarantened at the Tabanovci border crossing.

V.S. was then handed over to experts from the Macedonian Health Care Institute.

The passenger had a certificate from the Skopje Clinical Center’s patho-physiology department that said the patient received radioactive iodine treatment for her thyroid gland disorder.

Clinical Center doctors have said that V.S. probably arranged the treatment via private channels, adding she could not have been allowed to leave the hospital on such short notice following the iodine treatment.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

USAID supports e-Learning Macedonia

Representatives of the United States Agency for International Development's (USAID) e-BIZ Project and the South East European University (SEEU) signed today a Memorandum of Understanding.

The Memorandum renews SEEU’s Business Development Center’s exclusive license for distributing SkillSoft online courses to Macedonia, Kosovo, Albania, Serbia and Montenegro.

"SkillSoft online training is a good example of the global training trend we call e-Learning,” said Hal Yaeger, head of USAID’s e-BIZ Project. Yaeger and SEEU Rector, Academic Aljadin Abazi signed the agreement.

The SEEU’s Business Development Center, in addition to the e-learning opportunities, also provides consulting and classroom training services to organizations through the use of information and communication technology. Services include management training, business consulting, and video conferencing.

The SkillSoft program includes over 4000 on-line courses. Nearly 3000 leading companies use SkillSoft and more than half of the world's largest 500 companies use SkillSoft e-Learning.

Bid to topple Gruevski administration in Macedonia fails

Late on Thursday (June 7th), the Macedonian Parliament rejected a no-confidence motion against the VMRO-DPMNE-led government of Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski. Some 65 MPs rejected the motion, while 43 supported it.

After a full day of discussion, Gruevski addressed the MPs shortly before midnight. He characterised the motion, filed by the main opposition Social Democratic Union of Macedonia, as an attempt to destabilise the country at an important juncture.

Macedonia is close to receiving an invitation to join NATO, Gruevski said, and should concentrate on stepping up reforms rather than wasting time on such votes.

Opposition lawmakers criticised the Gruevski administration on many issues, charging it with weakening the country's bids for EU and NATO integration and showing poor results in economic reform. A GDP of only 3.5% has been achieved, compared to the promised 6% to 8% rise, Gruevski's critics said.

The government was also criticised for its draft bill on the public prosecutor, for failing to complete the Judiciary Council, and for poor co-operation with President Branko Crvenkovski.

The prime minister countered these accusations by listing the new investments Macedonia has attracted in the last months. Macedonia is undergoing a strong investment cycle due to a more favourable business environment and lower taxes, he argued.

Deputies who supported Gruevski noted his administration has faced no corruption scandal during its nine months in office. Ruling majority MPs cited a strengthened fight against corruption, reduced bureaucratic red tape, a decrease in debts owed to foreign banks, and an increase in exports as some of the administration's achievements.

Essentially, the vote was a test to see whether Gruevski still commands a parliamentary majority, following the recent period of turbulence within the ruling coalition. A junior coalition partner, the Democratic Party of Albanians (DPA), had earlier threatened to leave the cabinet after Gruevski hashed out a deal with the largest ethnic Albanian party, the Democratic Union of Integration.

Nevertheless, the DPA sided with the government Thursday. So did another coalition partner, the New Social Democrats (NSDP), even though party leader Tito Petkovski criticised Gruevski for ignoring the NDSP's programme.

Gruevski and his administration have been given the chance to move forward, and the prime minister is pledging to do so in an honest and diligent manner. By law, his opponents cannot file another no-confidence motion for three months.

Macedonia Gets Ready for War Crimes Trials

The river Vardar, which runs through the centre of Macedonia’s capital Skopje, symbolises the ongoing difficulties facing this country, where ethnic tensions still run deep enough to influence many aspects of life.

On the north side of the river, the inhabitants are mostly from the Albanian minority, which make up about 25 per cent of the population. Across the bridge to the south, there are mostly ethnic Macedonians.

That divide grew wider in 2001, when Macedonia experienced a near civil war between ethnic Albanian rebels demanding greater rights and Macedonian government forces.

The ongoing lack of integration between the two groups remains an issue as the local judiciary prepares for the trial of four cases referred to it by the Hague tribunal.

The cases deal with crimes allegedly committed by members of the then ethnic Albanian National Liberation Army, NLA, many of whom are now members of the coalition government. The Hague tribunal, which is under pressure to end its work by 2010, is sending them back to be tried in national courts.

A major question on the minds of many within the international community and the local population is whether the local courts are sufficiently prepared to deliver a fair trial when the cases actually do arrive in Macedonia.

“It is a key moment in which the country can show it is going down the path of rule of law and not reverting to political deal-making,” said Sally Broughton, spokeswoman for the OSCE’s Skopje mission.

The tribunal initially investigated five cases from the 2001 conflict.

However, prosecutors decided that only one sufficiently fit its mandate - to focus on the most senior people responsible for war crimes. That case, against Macedonia’s former interior minister Ljube Boskoski and his ex-bodyguard Johan Tarculovski recently began in The Hague.

The four other cases were initially referred back to Macedonia in April 2005, but because of various delays have yet to arrive.

There is much speculation in Macedonia about when - and if - the cases will make it back to the country.

“Right now everything is unclear,” said Iso Rusi, president of the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in the Republic of Macedonia. “The minister of justice [in Macedonia] is supposedly asking for the cases, The Hague is supposedly returning them, but nothing is actually going on.”

Ljiljana Pitesa, information assistant for the office of the spokesperson for the prosecutor, said the tribunal was waiting for several key benchmarks to be met before transferring the cases to Macedonia. They include training for local prosecutors and judges and the introduction of several important laws into the local legal system.

She said the tribunal wanted to ensure the national courts are ready to handle the cases, but that it is now ready to transfer them by the end of the summer.

The Macedonian judiciary has been working to meet the international standards.

Anyone who might be involved with the four cases, including judges, prosecutors and interpreters, has had an intensive six-month course in international humanitarian law.

This programme, initiated by the Academy for Training of Judges and Prosecutors of the Republic of Macedonia and supported by the OSCE and the US embassy, covers various aspects of international humanitarian law, including witness protection, command responsibility and proving chain of command and how to define armed conflict.

Tanja Temelkoska-Milenkovic, executive director of the academy, said the legal system has been working diligently to prepare for the four cases.

“It’s considered as a government priority, because the Macedonian judiciary will be judged by the international community very carefully,” she said.

One issue on the minds of many Macedonians is the tribunal’s decision to prosecute only Boskoski and Tarculovski. Some say it has opened the door further for possible future tensions between the two ethnic groups.

“There is a feeling of bitterness that international justice isn’t treating the conflict equally,” said Ljubomir Frcskoski, professor of international law at St. Cyril and Methodius University in Skopje.

However, Frcskoski believes that as long as the local courts follow the rule of law and apply that standard to the cases when they do come back, a sense of justice and equality will be restored.

This means making the court process transparent and decisions made by the local prosecutors public and clear.

By doing this, many in the international community hope people will accept the court’s findings and be able to close that chapter of the country’s history.

"There needs to be a legally sound consideration of the case files, according to international humanitarian legal principles, as well as applicable human rights law," said Victor Ullom, head of the Rule of Law Unit of the OSCE’s Skopje mission.

However, there is still a concern among some that there continues to be the opportunity for political maneuvering within the Macedonian legal system when dealing with the controversial cases that came out of the conflict.

“The judiciary is not in a position to provide a fair process when people are accused of events from 2001,” said Rusi. “The daily politics and ethnic emotions still influence court procedure.”

The process of transferring the cases back is complicated by the fact that the four cases involve members from the rebel Albanian group, the National Liberation Army, NLA, who are now politicians in the opposition group, the Democratic Union for Integration, DUI.

One worry is the role an amnesty law adopted in October 2001 will play in determining the outcomes of the cases. This law granted amnesty for all NLA members except those suspected of war crimes.

However, people interpret differently what this law means. Some, including the former NLA members, say it means amnesty applies to everyone not tried before The Hague, which would include the four cases due to be sent back.

Others disagree, saying anyone suspected of war crimes, regardless of whether the case was tried in The Hague, is not eligible for amnesty.

The clarification of this question will prove to be one of the most important issues addressed by the national courts, according to Ullom. He said he hopes the courts will follow the rule of law and not backroom politics when they make their opinion known

Establishing the rule of law will also be an important indicator of the country’s readiness to join the European Union, for which it first became a candidate in 2005.

Judge Jani Nica, a criminal court judge from Skopje who just returned from training in The Hague, is confident the system is well prepared to handle the cases when they arrive. He added Macedonian judges are becoming familiar with the work of the Hague tribunal and international humanitarian law.

“We as judges can handle the cases and we’re ready to show the readiness of the courts,” he said. “The Macedonian judges and courts are obliged to directly apply international conventions to the trials, and we’re prepared for this.”

Rusi has less faith in the courts and said the tribunal would be making a mistake if it sends the cases back without any indication of its findings.

He wants Hague prosecutors to clearly state whether they found enough evidence to support a war crimes indictment. Without such direct intervention, Rusi fears the political influences on the local courts leave the trials open to ethnic stereotyping and manipulation.

“The only reasonable behavior from the prosecutor is to return the cases with a clear explanation, so our judiciary doesn’t have room to play political games,” said Rusi.

Pitesa said the tribunal is turning over full jurisdiction of the cases to the Macedonian judiciary, meaning it is up to the local courts to determine how best to proceed.

“These are investigative files, which require additional investigative work. Once the cases are returned, they will be the full responsibility of the Macedonian authorities, and it will be for the Macedonian prosecutors and judges to decide on the evidence collected and to conduct additional investigations and make decisions as to whether to proceed or not,” said Pitesa.

The mistrust of the local courts runs deep for many Macedonians.

For Goran Spasevski, a 27-year-old shop employee, it is hard to believe in the promises of a reformed judiciary.

“At this moment it’s like a circus. What they’re saying isn’t realistic for the nation,” said Spasevski.

However, not everyone is pessimistic. Frcskoski said he thinks the courts will be able to deliver a fair trial in these four cases because of the close monitoring of the international community.

“There is practically no space for serious mistakes in the local system and no position to make a risky movement, like a revenge judgment. It’s all being watched by the international community. Judges will be very exposed, so they will think many times before making their decisions,” he said.

Hari Ajcev, a 22-year-old law student in Skopje, shares this optimism.

“Our court can proceed with the trials - it has the appropriate laws and procedures to handle them. Our law system isn’t perfect, but there are enough educated and well-qualified judges,” said Ajcev.

Shpend Devaja, a human rights lawyer in Skopje, is less confident. He said it is very difficult to change the mindset of older, more established judges.

“The courts are still dealing with emotion, and I’m not sure they would respect international standards. You need new faces, young people to bring about reform,” said Devaja.

For Frcskoski, the most important legacy of these cases will be the ability of the courts to try such complicated cases, regardless of the outcome.

“Macedonia has to see it has capacity enough to handle such issues. We need to break through the idea that our courts are incapable. We need to finish that story, regardless of whether [the judgment is in favour of] Macedonians or Albanians,” he said.

Others worry that whatever the outcome, one of the groups will feel slighted, which could raise ethnic tensions again.

“We are creating a lot of stereotypes based on the conflict of 2001,” said Rusi. “If we don’t solve the problems, we are creating a base for other clichés and stereotypes to be built on. Perhaps in the future we are going to pay the price for this.”

With so many questions still unanswered, people in Macedonia are watching closely to see how the situation pans out because of the lasting repercussions these cases will have for the future of the Macedonian judiciary.

"Although only a few individuals are direct stakeholders in the cases, how [the cases] are treated does affect the every day lives of citizens,” said Broughton.

"People will want to see if the judiciary handles them in a strictly legalistic, rule of law manner, because if so it would give them more faith in the system's ability to treat their own cases."

Macedonia may receive invitation for NATO membership in 2008 – this is a great challenge, not unattainable though

Solomon Passy, chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee in an interview with FOCUS News Agency:

FOCUS: Mr. Passy, you accepted the proposal to occupy the post of ‘special advisor’ of the Macedonian government and you will help Macedonia in the process of the country’s NATO integration. What do you expect of the future work?
Solomon Passy: I accept this assignment as a great challenge. I believe Macedonia now is much closer to NATO than it has ever been, but I know the final steps are often the hardest, as was the case with Bulgaria. As I told Macedonian Prime Minister I intend not so much to give advice as to share the hard and sometimes bitter experience of Bulgaria on its path towards NATO. I accept my appointment as advisor as a great recognition of the experience Bulgaria gained in its efforts to integrate to NATO.

FOCUS: What is the role of Bulgaria in Macedonia’s North-Atlantic bent?
Solomon Passy: Bulgaria started signing agreements for North-Atlantic partnership with the countries from the region before it became a member state. The government of the National Movement Simeon II (NMSII) believed we were obliged to share with the countries from the region the experience we had gained the same way our neighbours shared their experience with us. This is mandatory for good neighbourly relations, which is one of the main conditions for joining NATO and the European Union.

FOCUS: Mr. Passy, you are one of the founders of the Atlantic Club in Macedonia.
Solomon Passy: The Atlantic Club in Macedonia was established more than 10 years ago. I am really happy the people who established it now rule the country. I think there is something symbolic in this – the people from the Atlantic Club have the mission to get the country to NATO.

FOCUS: When do you think will the countries from the Adriatic – Macedonia, Albania and Croatia be invited to join NATO? Do you expect this to happen at the summit of the alliance in Romania next year? Will the three countries enter NATO separately or together?
Solomon Passy: I really hope the three do what’s necessary to receive invitation for NATO membership. I don’t think it would be a good sign if they enter separately, but then each one should make proportionate efforts. As for Macedonia joining NATO I think one of the important terms is the country’s political dialogue and I think the Macedonian government is well-aware of that fact.
If they work hard and cooperate well with Albania and Croatia the three countries can receive invitation in 2008. The task is a great challenge, but it is in no way unattainable.

FOCUS: What will be the first advices that you will give?
Solomon Passy: I had a one-hour talk with PM Nikola Gruevski today as well as with the defense minister, I will also meet with the foreign minister. My first task is to see how far things have gone, what the expectations of the Macedonian government are and in which areas I can be of use. Then I would be able to give advice. I think people like me should work with all state institutions – with the government, the president, the parliament and the opposition.
I would like to note my role is neither to interfere in the Macedonian internal affairs, nor to mess with the two countries’ bilateral relations conducted by the two foreign ministries. I want to be well-meant in helping Macedonia’s joining NATO. I think Macedonia is our sister that deserves the same efforts we make for Bulgaria.

Rally driver sentenced for deaths

A Cheshire businessman has been given a two-year suspended sentence over the deaths of an elderly couple in a car crash during the Gumball Rally.

Nicholas Morley, 30, from Bowdon, was convicted of "endangering traffic, leading to death" by a court in Struga, Macedonia, his lawyers said.

The Porsche he was driving collided with another car containing Vladimir Chepunjoski and his wife Margarita.

Morley was on remand in prison and is now set to return to the UK.

Morley's family issued a statement through their public relations firm saying they were "delighted and relieved" that he was on his way home.

'Overcrowded' prison

"We have maintained all along that Nick was involved in a tragic accident and entirely innocent of the charges brought against him," it said.

"While we are disappointed that the court has not recognised Nick's innocence, our sole focus today is to get Nick home and reunited with his family.

"In the course of time, we will consider all our options, including an appeal of this decision so we can clear Nick's name."

Morley was being held in Ohrid Prison in Macedonia, which has been criticised as "overcrowded and cramped" by watchdogs.

His co-driver Matthew McConville, from Prestwich, Greater Manchester, was in the car when it was crashed but was allowed to return to the UK.

During Morley's trial, the judge refused to accept expert witness testimony from the UK defence team.

Rally abandoned

Two witnesses claimed Morley was driving at no more than 47mph, rather than the 100mph claimed by the prosecution.

On the first day of the trial, the family of the couple killed in the crash told the court they forgave him and wanted him released, dropping their claim for £100,000 in damages.

The incident happened near Struga on 4 May, close to the Macedonian border, when the Porsche 911 collided with a Volkswagen Golf.

The 2007 Gumball Rally was from London to Istanbul and back, but was cancelled after the crash.

It is an annual 3,000-mile Europe-wide tour which attracts the rich and famous.

Hundreds of businessmen, playboys and celebrities pay £28,000 to drive supercars such as Ferraris, Porsches and Lamborghinis.

Subotic purchased cigarettes in Macedonia as well

Stanko Subotic alias Cane, one of the bosses of Serbian and Balkan tobacco mafia, had purchased smuggled cigarettes in Macedonia as well. He is on the run after Wednesday's crackdown on cigarette smuggling ring in Serbia.

Makfax news agency quotes Belgrade's daily Blic as saying that Miroslav Pesic had masterminded the smuggling operation during his stay in Skopje in the period of 1995-1996. He had an office in the Skopje-based company Makedonija Tabak.

Upon Subotic's order, Miroslav Pesic paid 8 million DM in cash to purchase cigarettes in Makedonija Tabak.

The payment was effectuated as repayment of debt to the Ub-based company MIA and Novi Sad-based company Sakses.

The cigarettes were later transported to the border, where the then head of customs office MIhalj Kertes had reportedly taken-over the operation.

Makfax news agency says "Makedonija Tabak", the largest tobacco and cigarettes trading enterprise in the late 90s, according to countless news reports by Macedonian and regional media, was believed to have been the mastermind of cigarettes smuggling through and across Macedonia and in the former Yugoslavia.

The smuggling included an entire network of aides employed in public institutions. The main coordinator of the network was the then deputy general manager Danco Suturkov.

According to news report published in Macedonian media, Pesic is successor of Vanja Bokan, killed in Athens in 2000. Subotic is believed to have been involved in the murder.

Stanko Subotic - Cane entered the tobacco business through Vanja Bokan i.e. through Jovica Stanisic, secret police chief during Slobodan Milosevic regime. Subotic has business partners in Macedonia, according to Macedonia and Croatian newspapers.

Among them is Kosta Jankovski, one of the wealthiest Macedonians, who runs several firms dealing with sell of cigarettes and alcohol.

Jankovski as well as Subotic have acquired Croatian citizenship since 1999. They were advised by the retired Croatian general Ljubo Chesic - Roys to apply for Croatian passports.

Mayor rejects responsibility over possible blackout in Skopje

The City of Skopje rejects any responsibility for eventual disconnecting from the power supply system of the streets and public areas, Mayor Trifun Kostovski said today.

In the letter addressed to the Finance Minister Trajko Slavevski, the Mayor blamed the previous government of passing inadequate regulation pertaining to this area. But he also accused the electric power distributor EVN of demanding settlement of electricity bills, although the company evades paying fees to the city budget generated from communal taxes collected from the citizens for street lighting.

Few days ago, EVN threatened to shut down the city lighting and even the traffic lights, if the City's authorities fail to settle 2 million euros debt for the supplied electricity.

"The city authorities and EVN are unable to overcome the problem", Kostovski said in his letter, adding that some of Skopje's municipalities' refusal to relocate the funds EVN transfers to their accounts to the City Budget adds up to the problem.

Kostovski urged Slaveski to host a meeting among representatives of the City Council, EVN and Skopje's municipalities in order to reach an acceptable solution, noting however, that a new regulation on this issue was necessary.

EVN announced to cut the power on Tuesday, 12 June.

Gumball Rally crash Briton freed from jail

A British driver was reunited with his family yesterday after being given a suspended sentence for causing the deaths of two people by dangerous driving in the Gumball Rally.

British driver Nicholas Morley was given a suspended sentence yesterday for causing the deaths of two people by dangerous driving in the Gumball Rally
Nicholas Morley leaves court in Struga. The British driver received a suspended sentence

Nicholas Morley, 30, had been locked in a cell in Ohrid prison, Macedonia, 23 hours a day for a month while a court decided his sentence.

He was unable to exercise, and went for stretches without food or access to a telephone to call his family or legal support.

Although he was found guilty, he was freed shortly afterwards on the suspended sentence and warned not to offend again in Macedonia for the next three years.

Upon hearing the sentence, Mr Morley said: "I love Macedonia, it is a great country."

There were fears that his sentence would be much harsher after the court refused to hear evidence from forensic experts hired by the defence to show that Mr Morley was driving at a reasonable speed.

He was taking part in the Gumball Rally, a pan-European race, when his Porsche 911 collided with the Volkswagen Golf of Vladimir Cepulyoski, 67, and his wife Margarita on May 2, killing them both.

The official forensic scientist, who was later revealed in court to be unemployed, claimed Mr Morley was driving at more than 100mph.

However, TRL, the company that reconstructed Princess Diana's fatal accident, said he was driving at about 37mph. It said the official report was "nonsensical and completely erroneous" and added that the calculations of Mr Morley's speed were "incorrect physically, mathematically and also in common sense".

Mr Morley's family said they were "delighted and relieved" that he had been freed.

"We have maintained all along that Nick was involved in a tragic accident and entirely innocent of the charges brought against him. While we are disappointed that the court has not recognised Nick's innocence, our sole focus today is to get Nick home and reunited with his family," they said in a statement.

Macedonia gets Slovenia’s support for NATO membership

Ljubljana. Slovenia, as an open and honest friend, backs completely Macedonia and its aspirations for EU and NATO accession, Slovenian Foreign Minister Dimitrij Rupel stated at the Ljubljana meeting on Wednesday with his Macedonian counterpart Antonio Milososki, MRT reports.
After the meeting the two ministers signed a memorandum for cooperation between the Slovenian and Macedonian ministries of foreign affairs, MIA correspondent reports.
The memorandum is one step that will assist Macedonia's EU accession, said Rupel at the joint press conference with Milososki. In terms of the EU integration, Milososki stated Slovenia's support was important, adding that Macedonia was receiving it when most necessary.
The Republic of Macedonia is prepared for prompt start of the negotiations. We'll convince our friends with results that Macedonia is prepared for EU membership, Milososki said.
Given the regional challenges, he said Macedonia and Slovenia were sharing the same position (both countries back Ahtisaari's plan for the status of Kosovo).
We believe that status settlement will assist Serbia on its road towards EU, both ministers concurred.
Croatia and Macedonia's accession to EU is essential for the future of West Balkans, Rupel added.
We will pledge for A3 countries (Croatia, Macedonia, Albania) to become NATO members as soon as possible.
Regarding the NATO membership issue, Milososki said Macedonia was prepared and anticipated membership invitation at the forthcoming NATO summit in Bucharest. Given the economic cooperation, he expressed content for the incoming investments by Slovenian businessmen, thus enhancing the bilateral ties.
However, the greatest capital we share is the mutual confidence between Macedonia and Slovenia, said Milososki.
Both interlocutors also agreed on several issues related to the European system of diplomacy.- Slovenia will offer Macedonia assistance of any kind. For instance, Macedonian diplomat will come to Slovenia's embassy in Lisbon during Portugal's chairmanship with EU, who is to come to Ljubljana during Slovenia's EU presidency, said Rupel.
The ministers also talked about the Ljubljana-based Forum of Slavonic Cultures. The objective of the forum, with members such as Slovenia, Macedonia, Serbia, Bulgaria, Czech Republic and Slovakia, is to promote the Slavonic languages and cultures. Despite meeting with his host, FM Milososki also met with Anton Kokalj, Chairman of the European Affairs Committee of the Slovenian Parliament.He is due to visit the Centre for European Perspectives in Ljubljana.

ARM assumes NATO's logistics for Kosovo

The Army of The Republic of Macedonia (ARM) today will take-over from NATO's Camp Able Sentry (CAS) in Petrovec the logistic support for the mission in Kosovo KFOR.

The task will be conducted by the working cell - the Host Nation Support Coordination Center - based in Straso Pindjur Barracks in Petrovec.

In April 2006 at the NATO HQs at Camp Able Sentry (CAS) NATO Headquarters Skopje transferred a central part of their longstanding responsibilities for logistics support for the mission in Kosovo (KFOR) to the logistics command of the ARM.

Almost two years ago the ARM began providing soldiers to NATO Skopje as part of the logistics cell. This began a training process to develop the ARM logistics command to assume portions of this NATO mission and to prepare them to be greater parts of NATO missions elsewhere when needed.

The assumption of the logistics operation for Kosovo is a major step in defining ARM's maturity and capability of participating in missions and performing major NATO support tasks.

The task of the HNSCC will include monitoring of logistics operations in coordination with KFRO troops, monitoring of communications in operations in the region and convoys passing through Macedonia, coordination of customs and border procedures, coordination and management of military flights etc.

Among those expected to attend today's ceremony will be Macedonian Defense Minister Lazar Elenovski, ARM Chief of Staff, Major General Miroslav Stojanovski, and NATO Headquarters Skopje Commander and Senior Military Representative, Brigadier General John Durance.

NATO to transfer its camp in Skopje to Macedonian army

Skopje. NATO’s commanding in Macedonia will pass to Macedonian army “Able Sentry” camp, situated in “Straso Pindzur” cantonment near the Alexander the Great Airport in Skopje, FOCUS News Agency informed. The official ceremony will be attended by Macedonian Minister of Defense Lazar Elenovski, Chief of General Staff of Macedonian Armed Forces Gen. Lieutenant-Colonel Miroslav Stojanovski, NATO Staff commander in Skopje brigadier-general John Durance and other officials.

Ohrid Bank offers home loans with 8% interest rate

Ohrid Bank, part of Societe Generale Banking Group, announced Thursday home purchase loans with interest rate amounting 7.97 per cent.

The bank's First General Manager Bernard Koenig and the Skopje branch manager Nina Nedanoska unveiled bank's loan programs at today's press conference in Skopje.

The main advantage of home purchase loans offered by Ohrid Bank is that the clients can buy an apartment with minimum balance requirements.

Nedanoska said the repayment period of home purchase loan, amounting to 30.000 euros, ranges 25 years, with 20% downpayments (6.000 euros). The minimum income of loan applicant is set at 361 euros.

Macedonian government survives no confidence vote over economy, minority

SKOPJE, Macedonia (AP) - Macedonia's conservative government early Friday overcame a no confidence vote tabled by the main opposition Social Democrats.
Lawmakers in the 120-seat parliament voted 65-43 against the motion, while 12 deputies were not present. The vote was requested by the SDSM party, which accused Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski's governing coalition of failing to revive the economy and making too many concessions to one of the two parties representing the small Balkan country's ethnic Albanian minority.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

US and EU hailed agreement between VMRO DPMNE and DUI

EU and USA hailed the agreement resulting from the political dialogue between VMRO DPMNE and DUI and expressed hopes of quick returning of DUI to the parliament.

"EU Mission in Macedonia and the US Embassy in Skopje are welcoming the agreement reached between the parties VMRO DPMNE and DUI as an important step forward in the country's processes of integration with EU and NATO", says the joint statement released Tuesday afternoon in Skopje.

At the same time, EU and USA emphasized the need of implementation of the agreed stances by both parties and called DUI to return to the parliament.

"We expect DUI to return to the parliament as soon as possible in order to resume the activities aimed at implementation of the crucial reforms related to membership in EU and NATO, including the full implementation of the Framework Agreement", the statement adds.

The international community also pointed out that "the stabile democratic institutions and the permanent political dialogue among all political parties within those institutions pose as the most efficient way for securing continuous progress on the country's road to EU and NATO".

Ethnos: Name dispute puts Athens in awkward position

Athens is in awkward position regarding the name dispute with Macedonia after Skopje won a "confidence vote" from NATO and Washington, Greek daily Ethnos said on Tuesday.

One of the most important messages to support Macedonia will occur on 28-29 June in Ohrid, during the meeting of NATO defense and interior ministers, Greek daily said.

The Ohrid meeting will put Athens in difficult position because it will demonstrate NATO's commitment to overlook the problems in relations between Greece and Macedonia, in order to secure Macedonia's NATO membership.

According to Ethnos, Athens has not yet decided who will represent the country in Ohrid. Greek delegation will be put in awkward position simply because the country's name will be used by the host country.

On the other hand, if Greece doesn't attend the meeting, it will be a major blow on constructive stance of Greece's foreign policy, Ethnos daily said.

US exerts pressure on Skopje –Athens name dispute

Washington. Washington warns that if Macedonia does not achieve all the necessary reforms and compromises, its NATO perspective will not be so nice, Greek newspaper Eleftherotypia writes today.
The US Deputy Assistant Secretary Rosemary DiCarlo recommends Skopje not to do “odd things” with Greece.
A month ago the US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice sent a letter to her Macedonian counterpart. The letter reads that Washington’s hope for the integration of Skopje in NATO couldn’t be understood as a commitment, because the discordance between Athens and Skopje may turn into a real obstacle for Macedonian integration to the Alliance.

Rann defends Macedonia views

South Australia's Premier Mike Rann has defended his views on the history of Macedonia.

The South Australian Macedonian community wants an apology from Mr Rann for comments attributed to him in a Greek newspaper this month.

He was quoted as saying that Macedonia was 'as Greek as the Acropolis', in reference to a long-running dispute over territory and cultural symbols.

Mr Rann says Macedonia tried to claim the symbols of Greece in the 1990s and that his views are not out of step with the international community.

"Alexander the Great, Philip the second of Macedon, the star of Vergina, the White Tower of Thessaloniki, and this was wrong, so my position, and I was explaining my position back in the 1990s which hasn't changed are the identical ones to the United Nations and the identical ones to the European Union so I'm in good company," he said.

Macedonia's top diplomat elected president of UN General Assembly

Kerim was elected by the 192-nation body unopposed and will lead the assembly's 62nd annual session starting September. The post rotates among different regions in the world. Kerim was selected by the Central and Eastern Europe bloc, whose turn it was this year.

He will take over from Sheikha Haya Rashed al-Khalifa from Bahrain when the assembly begins the new session in mid-September. The assembly chose to elect its president some six months in advance to allow time for the newcomer to prepare for his responsibilities.

Human rights and reform advocacy groups have protested the UN selection process of choosing by the region whose turn is up, saying it allows no able competitors to run for the post.

Macedonian teens beat Guinness record for simultaneous dance

High school students from 10 Macedonian schools joined their counterparts from Slovenia, Hungary, Austria, Croatia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Serbia and Montenegro to exceed the number of 23.628 participants of the last year's parade by 778 and set a new record.

SLO-VAL 202 Radio broadcast the music that was transmitted via satellite link by the Macedonian Radio.

In his welcoming address given at the opening of the parade, Skopje's Mayor Trifun Kostovski said he was glad Skopje was included as a participant city in the event marking the completion of the secondary education to 2006/07 class.

European Ambassador Erwan Fouere closed the parade, wishing the matriculates to have a life equally joyous as their dance performance today.

"With young people like you, I am sure this country will become a part of EU", Fouere said.

Court pronounces verdicts to three involved in human smuggling

The five-member Trial Chamber of the Kumanovo District Court sentenced today three persons tried for human smuggling to a total of six years in prison.

The prime suspect Shakil Ismailovski was sentenced to four years in jail for organizing and enticing human smuggling, while Strahil Andasarov and Kosta Georgiev got one year each for smuggling, i.e. providing transportation to immigrants.

The Trial Chamber, chaired by judge Mile Popovski, rejected the request of the prosecutor Nikola Spiridonovski for extension of the convict's temporary detention until verdicts go into effect, as well as for confiscation of their mobile phones and two vehicles. However, the prime suspect Ismailovski has been deprived of his passport to ensure his availability to the authorities.

Defense lawyers unveiled intention to appeal the verdicts.

The three convicts were arrested on 9 May, 2007, while transporting seven Chinese citizens, from the village of Lojane to Gevgelija, intending to bring the immigrants into Greece illegally.

New York hosts Macedonia-Greece meeting on the name

The authorized negotiators of Macedonia and Greece held another meeting on the Greece's problem with the name of the Republic of Macedonia.

"Both sides presented their positions and arguments and agreed to launch another round of negotiations, whose date will be additionally defined", Macedonian Foreign Ministry announced.

UN mediator Matthew Nimetz, Macedonian Special Representative, Ambassador Nikola Dimitrov, and the Permanent Representative of the Republic of Greece, Adamantios Vassilakis, attended the meeting.

In 1995, Macedonia and Greece signed an Interim Agreement arranging the bilateral relations, which binds the countries to resume the negotiations under UN auspice to find a solution on the name dispute.

Minister Elenovski's plane involved in incident

Government's airplane returning from Brussels with Defense Minister Lazar Elenovski aboard, was forced to land last night in Germany due to technical problems.

Shortly after taking off from Brussels, a safety alarm signaling malfunction of the left engine went off, which prompted the emergency landing, A1 TV Station reported.

German Air Traffic Control approved landing at Munich airport, where maintenance staff confirmed the malfunction and started working on it.

Macedonian delegation arrived in Skopje this afternoon via commercial flight.

Macedonia purchased the aircraft Learjet 60 in 2005 for $11 million from Bombardier Aerospace company.

The business jet "Learjet 60" received Federal Aviation Administration certification in 1993. It has capacity of 8 to 10 passengers and 2 crew members,

The powerplant consists of two Pratt and Whitney 305 A twin engine, it has maximum speed of 860 km/h, rate of climb of 15.000 meters and the maximum range of 4.628 kilometers.

Macedonia-US military cooperation

Macedonian Army today will brief Tuesday to the members of the Vermont National Guard over the professionalization of the Macedonian military in its transformation to meet NATO interoperalibility standards.

Major General Michael Dubie, Vermont's Adjutant General, will give lecture at ARM Center in Skopje on the theme "Support of Vermont National Guard to civil authorities in crisis situations".

The members of the Vermont National Guard will meet with the ARM Chief of Staff, Lieutenant General Miroslav Stojanovski and the Minister of Defense Lazar Elenovski.

Also on the agenda are meetings of chief petty officers of the Vermont National Guard and of ARM.

Established in 1995 through the State Partnership Program of the U.S. European Command, the Partnership began as primarily a military-to-military relationship between the Macedonian Army and the Vermont National Guard. The Partnership has grown, and this year includes crisis management exercises, the establishment of university partnerships, economic development discussions, and support for a Macedonian youth baseball organization.

The Partnership with Vermont has been an important venue for bilateral contact. It has resulted in over 540 joint events that have included over 6,000 members of the Macedonian Army.

Greek threatens Macedonia's Euro-Atlantic integration

The position of the Macedonian authorities regarding the name "will certainly have an impact on the development of country's relations with the EU and NATO.'

This threatening message over Macedonia's integration into the Euro-Atlantic community was made by Greek President Carolos Papoulias, after the late Monday's meeting with the visiting Austrian President Heinz Fischer.
Greek president blamed the Macedonian government on "non-constructive position" as to the name issue.

Austrian president stressed that name differences should be solved by the authorities in Skopje and Athens.

Fisher told the press that Macedonia has been admitted to the United Nations under the reference FUROM, adding that the differences over country's name is an issue that needs to be solved on bilateral basis.