Friday, December 28, 2007

Crvenkovski says name more important than NATO

If we need to make an ultimate choice - NATO membership or change of country's name - we will stand behind the name, Macedonian President Branko Crvenkovski said in an interview for Alsat-M TV.

Greece's eventual veto on Macedonia's admission to NATO would mean a blatant breach of the 1995 interim treaty, consequently, this document would not be in effect for the Republic of Macedonia as well, President Crvenkovski said.

He estimates that both Macedonia and Greece undergo a pressure to reach a solution to name dispute.

"Pressure is piled on both countries. Our country has been urged to be more constructive towards Greece, whilst Greece has been urged not to use the veto powers," Crvenkovski said.

Asked to comment the so-called "May agreement" between VMRO-DPMNE and DUI, President Trajkovski said any agreement should be complied with, and the obligations arising from the agreement should be fulfilled.

Crvenkovski blamed the government of wasting precious time in terms of reaching agreement with opposition parties over pivotal issues. Therefore, the country did not get a starting date of EU accession talks.

"Some saw the ratings more important than showing co-operation in bridging the obstacles," Crvenkovski told Alsat-M TV.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Macedonia urges Greece not to block its NATO bid over name dispute, wants high-level talks

Macedonia urged Greece Tuesday not to block its NATO accession bid over a long-running dispute over its name, and called for high-level talks to resolve the problem.

Foreign Minister Antonio Milososki said NATO-member Greece's right to use its veto if there is no agreement on the name issue "is the same as having the right to a nuclear weapon."

"I believe Greece is a serious state, which will think twice before deciding to use such an option," Milososki said.

It was the strongest statement so far from Macedonia, which has staked much on its bid to join NATO, accelerating anti-corruption and human rights reforms requested by the alliance.

The name dispute has soured relations between the two Balkan neighbors — and strong trading partners — since Macedonia gained independence from Yugoslavia in 1991. Greece says Macedonia's name could imply territorial claims on its own northern region of Macedonia, and insists on calling the country the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

A senior foreign ministry official said Tuesday that Milososki had written to his Greek counterpart, Dora Bakoyannis, proposing to meet for direct negotiations.

Greek and Macedonian diplomats will hold United Nations-supervised talks next month in Skopje, with a second round of talks scheduled shortly afterward in Athens. But the new proposal would seek to fast-track the process.

"The idea is for the foreign ministers of both countries to meet twice a year," the Macedonian official told the Associated Press on condition of anonymity, due to the sensitivity of the issue. "It is unnatural for neighboring countries to have contacts on all matters except for political issues."

The official said there has been no response so far from Greece.

Croatia, Albania and Macedonia are all hoping to receive invitations to join the alliance at a NATO summit in April in the Romanian capital, Bucharest.

Macedonia is officially referred to as the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia at the U.N. and other international bodies. But more than 100 countries — including the U.S. Russia and Canada — have recognized it as Macedonia.

Macedonia urges Greece to drop accession threat over name dispute

Macedonia linked Greece's threat to using its veto right to block Macedonia's NATO bid to the use of nuclear weapon on Tuesday, news reaching here from Skopje reported.

"To have the right of veto is the same as having the right to a nuclear weapon. I believe Greece is a serious country, and it will think twice before leap," Macedonian Foreign Minister Antonio Milososki said.

Greece has threatened to use its NATO-member status to veto Macedonia's accession efforts at the NATO's next spring summit in Bucharest, Romania, if there is no agreement on the name issue by then.

The name dispute between Macedonia and Greece broke out shortly after Macedonia gained independence from Yugoslavia in 1991. Greece has said the country's name, the Republic of Macedonia, implies a territorial claim over the northern Greek province of Macedonia and could destabilize the region.

Instead, it asks Macedonia to use the name of "Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia" or FYROM in short, under which the country joined the U.N. in 1993, otherwise Greece would block Macedonia's NATO and European Union aspirations.

U.N. special envoy Matthew Nimetz announced at the beginning of this month that new meetings between the two countries' negotiators are set to take place early next year in the two countries' capitals, with the first in Skopje and the second in Athens shortly after.

Macedonia fuels row between Greece and Turkey

Skopje. Macedonia has fueled the row between Greece and Turkey, the Macedonian Vreme newspaper writes.
Greece’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Dora Bakoyannis has reacted sharply to the statement made by Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who during Macedonian Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski’s visit to Turkey supported Macedonia’s stand in the name debate.
“Turkey, as well as all other NATO members, has been informed as to when and in what conditions Greece will use its right to veto,” said Dora Bakoyannis.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Policeman shot dead amid banal quarrel

A member of police task force was gunned down and a member of rapid deployment unit was injured in armed incident this morning, police sources told Makfax news agency.

The cause of the incident, which happened Monday morning at Despina restaurant in Skopje's district Michurin, was a banal quarrel among a few guests at the restaurant.

Vladimir Damcevski (26), a member of police task force "Tigers", was shot dead by S. M. (24), a member of rapid deployment unit. He was detained by police and has already admitted to killing Damcevski. The suspect confirmed that he had fired Damcevski's gun after the latter dropped it accidentally.

The suspect's brother E. M. (35), also member of rapid deployment unit, was injured. His condition is stable.

NATO preparing formula for the name of Macedonia

NATO is preparing a compromise formula for the name of the Former Yugoslavian Republic of Macedonia, the Macedonian daily Vecer reports, citing an article in the Greek daily Kathimerini.
Meanwhile the report for the progress of the country in unfavorable, since Skopje has not yet met all the requirements for membership in the Alliance. There are comments, according to which the conclusion of the report could turn into a political decision and Skopje may not receive an invitation for membership in NATO in April next year.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Macedonian police seize arms near Tetovo

The operation, carried out the day before on three locations near the village of Prsce, revealed 18 hand-held rocket launcher missiles and 33 gunpowder charges, hidden in two wooden crates and four sacks.

The village of Prsce is located in the same region where Dxavit Morina, a former KLA commander, who escaped from the Dubrava prison, near Istok, Kosovo, last August, was killed a few weeks ago.

In the same region, police operation Mountain Storm was carried out two weeks ago, when six members of an Albanian armed gang were killed and more than a dozen arrested, while weapons seized on that occasion were "enough to arm 650 men" according to the Macedonian MUP.

Op Mountain Storm also left Ramadan Shiti, another Dubrava escapee, dead, while fugitive Lirim Jakupi managed to escape.

British citizens accuses Macedonian Minister of fraud

Skopje. A British citizen lodged a complaint against Macedonian Minister for Foreign Investment Gligor Taskovic and against Ferki Demirovski who was until recently working in the cabinet of the minister, accusing them of misuse of power and of fraud, the Social Democratic Union of Macedonia (SDUM) informed yesterday, Macedonian paper Vreme writes. The fraud was concerning the sale-trade of real estate, made by Ferki Demirovski.
Gligor Taskovic said that he’d sue SDUM for slander.

Police identifies two victims in Skopje shootout

The two killed in today's shooting in downtown Skopje have been identified as Andrej Filip and Novica Blagojevic, while the motive is most likely unpaid debt.

The incident occurred after a quarrel that broke out between Filip and Blagojevic on one side and the shooter, who managed to grab the weapon from his vehicle and gun down the two men before taking off.

Police investigation is under way.

The double murder took place at about 14:00 hrs on Thursday at the section of the Ilinden Boulevard between the City Zoo and the US Embassy.

5-year-old boy dies under truck wheel

A five-year-old boy died Tuesday morning at about 8:40 hrs in Tetovo, after a truck owned by public utilities enterprise "Tetovo" driven by M.A., 49, run him down.

After picking up waste materials at the loading point located near the railway station, the driver set off, when he heard yelling from the passers-by to stop immediately as they saw the victim Jashko Rahimi going under the right rear wheel.

Little Rahimi died on the spot. The child's parents live in Kumanovo, but they left their son at the house of their relatives in Tetovo, located near the railway station.

After inspection conducted by a prosecutor and an investigative judge, the case was registered as an accident.

Macedonian student dies in Slovenia

23-year-old Nikolce Murgovski, who studied IT technology at Slovenian college, was killed after falling from the top of a Cathedral Church in Maribor.

The accident took place last Saturday, while Murgovski worked on renovation of the Cathedral
as a part-time employee.

Pathology examination of the body established that the lung and head injuries Murgovski sustained in the fall proved fatal for him.

"Macedonian Embassy in Ljubljana received a notification on the case from the Slovenian Interior Ministry. After conducting inspection at the site and receiving the pathologist's report, the police found the death was accidental, " said Saso Kokalanov from the Macedonian Foreign Ministry.

The remains of Nikolce Murgovski's were transported to Bitola today and the funeral will take place at Bitola's cemetery on Thursday.

Greece’s offensive gains international support

Skopje. Several months ago changing the name of Alexander The Great Airport and the declaration for good will and good neighborly relations that obliged Macedonia to have no claims of any kind towards Greece would help Athens to save its image in the eyes of country’s publicity, to announce victory and not to threaten to block the Macedonian membership in NATO, the Macedonian Dnevnik daily reads.
Now it is late, as Greeks have gone too far with threats and diplomatic offensive for which they are internationally supported when the issue is about the name of the airport. Greece considers Macedonia did not recognize the new process stage for finding a compromise in the issue for the name that started on November 1st 2007 in New York, the daily marked.

Macedonia's economic growth should reach 5 pct this year, next year - IMF

he International Monetary Fund said Macedonia's economic performance has been strong and growth this year and next should reach 5 pct.

The fiscal position continues to strengthen, international reserves are increasing, and central bank interest rates remain low. Despite higher food prices, average inflation should stay low, at around 2 pct this year and 3 pct in 2008, the IMF said.

The government's budget for 2008 will safeguard macroeconomic stability. Despite ambitious plans to cut personal and corporate income taxes, make selective cuts in VAT, increase spending on pensions, public investment in roads and education, and government wages, the budget should deliver the deficit target of 1.5 pct of GDP, the IMF said.

Many structural reforms are also being implemented. The government and central bank have submitted their revised central bank law to the European Central Bank and to the European Commission for review. The new law strengthens the financial soundness of the National Bank of the Republic of Macedonia, and reaffirms the government's commitment to safeguarding the bank's independence, the IMF said.

The energy sector's financial problems are also being addressed. Starting from January, large electricity users will purchase all their needs at market prices, which will remove the need for a budget subsidy to MEPSO, the electricity transmission company.

Matthew Nimitz wants an alternative decision from Skopje authorities

Skopje. Special UN Mediator in Macedonian name dispute between Athens and Skopje Matthew Nimitz will visit Macedonia and Greece in the beginning of next month, Macedonian paper Vecer writes. According to unnamed sources Nimitz will ask from the Macedonian authorities an alternative decision for this part of the suggestion which is disputed by Macedonia. Macedonian authorities rejected the clause of the proposal of Nimitz that the state agree with a name for international use different from the constitutional one so that there won’t be confusion between the names of the state and of the region in Greece, the paper writes.

Burns: Greece a 'crucial strategic ally' of the US

US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns called Greece a "strategic ally" of the United States, and outlined the common values and historical bonds between the two countries, while also lauding the role of the Greek American community, during a hearing on "US-Greece Relations and Regional Issues" in the House of Representatives foreign affairs committee's subcommittee on Europe in the US Congress on Wednesday.

Burns, a former US ambassador to Greece and the number three man in the US State Department, referred also to the FYROM name issue and US-Greece cooperation on such matters as nuclear arms non-proliferation, trafficking in persons, and environmental protection, with a special reference to the recent devastating wildfires in Greece and in the state of California.

On Kosovo, Burns said that the US was working towards a definitive settlement of the final status of the region, and backed the Ahtisaari plan, which he said provides for supervised independence for Kosovo, adding that in the event that an agreement was not achieved in the next two rounds of negotiations, which end on December 10, the US and other countries would not back further continuation of the talks and would "take their decisions" on the matter.

He also noted the progress in the procedures for including Greece in the US's visa waiver programme, stressing that the relations between the two countries were the best they have been in decades. "We have excellent relations with the prime minister Mr. (Costas) Karamanlis and the foreign minister Ms. (Dora) Bakoyannis, and we are grateful to both for their strong support for a closer US-Greek alliance," he said.

Burns added that the two countries were working together to promote peace and stability in Greece's neighbourhood, as well as in the wider Middle East "and beyond".

"We know that we can count on our Greek friends and allies, we know that we can face these challenges and that Greece can rely on us," he added.

Replying to questions by members of the subcommittee, Burns said that Greece was a "crucial strategic ally, with which the US fought together in all the major wars of the 20th century".

"Greece is a partner of the US in the front against global terrorism and contributes to the NATO effort in Afghanistan", while "it is also a key country, with strategic importance and deep knowledge of the developments in the Balkans, and a main investor" in Albania, FYROM and Serbia.

To a question on terrorism, Burns said that this was one of the issues that had been of concern in Greek-American relations. He stressed that Greece's efforts had produced a "dramatic improvement", referring the Greek authorities' disbanding of the 'November 17' and 'ELA' terrorist groups which, he noted, had killed members of the US (diplomatic) mission, while most of the victims of those organisations had been Greek citizens, among them the husband of the current foreign minister Bakoyannis (then ruling New Democracy party MP Pavlos Bakoyannis).

The two countries, he continued, are partners in Afghanistan, adding, however, that Greece should examine the prospect of stepping up the efforts in the southern and eastern parts of Afghanistan against the Taliban, with additional forces.

On the Cyprus issue, Burns reaffirmed that the US supported the efforts of the UN for a solution of the Cyprus problem on the basis of a bi-zonal, bi-communal federation.

On FYROM, Burns said that it should not be "refused an invitation for NATO membership on any grounds save that of failure to fulfill the fundamental entry criteria".

He said that certain quarters in Greece were raising the prospect of a veto regarding an invitation to 'Macedonia' if the name issue is not resolved.

"Although the US agrees on the importance of resolving the name issue, it does not believe that only the difference over the name constitutes a reason for obstructing 'Macedonia's' accession to international organisations," he said, adding that the US supports the UN-brokered process under the UN secretary general's special mediator on the FYROM name issue Matthew Nimetz, and implementation of the 1995 Interim Agreement between the two countries which he said allowed 'Macedonia's' membership in regional and international organisations with the name of FYROM.

Burns also called on Skopje to display the necessary flexibility, noting Greece's sensitivities, which he said FYROM should take into consideration.

He further referred to what he called the "visionary policy" of Greek Prime Minister Karamanlis regarding Greek-Turkish relations, noting that there was no need for any US mediation between Athens and Ankara whatsoever, since relations between the two countries were steadily improving.

Burns also expressed his support for the re-opening of the Halki School of Theology and the need forf the Ecumenical Patriarch to freely exercise his duties, noting that the US governments of George Bush and his prede