Friday, February 22, 2008

Anti-Bulgarian graffiti scrawled on consulate fence in Bitola

Bulgarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has yet to decide about its response to anti-Bulgarian graffiti that were scrawled on the fence of Bulgarian consulate in Bitola.

"The consulate waits for decision of the Foreign Ministry in Sofia," Bulgarian Consul Ilian Karamanov told Makfax news agency.

The case makes the headlines in Bulgarian media on Wednesday. The media say this is the first incident since the opening of Bulgarian consular office in Bitola.

Local police suspect that the graffiti - "Tatars, go away", written with a white chock on the consulates' fence, was probably scrawled by a high school teenager.

The consulate is located near Josip Broz Tito High School.

Silence follows Nimitz's proposal

A quit unusual silence follows the new proposal by Matthew Nimitz, the UN mediator in name dispute between Macedonia and Greece, as both countries remained tightlipped over its contents.

Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis declined to reveal any details on the proposal, tabled Tuesday during Nimitz's visit to Athens. Bakoyannis will brief the head of state and the political leaders about the blueprint.

No details have been released thus far on the late Tuesday's meeting of Macedonian top officials.

In the headline "Theatre of Shadows", Greek daily Ta Nea comments the silence on both sides.

Other Greek dailies said there are no official details on Nimitz' blueprint that was presented to negotiators of both countries, Adamantios Vassilakis of Greece and Nikola Dimitrov of Macedonia.

Citing unnamed sources, some dailies in Athens say the one-paged blueprint suggests five options to bridge name differences.

The pro-government conservative daily Kathimerini speculates that four out of five proposed names are Democratic Republic of Macedonia, Constitutional Republic of Macedonia, Independent Republic of Macedonia, and Republic of Upper Macedonia.

The pro-opposition daily Eleftheros Typos speculates that proposed names are New Republic of Macedonia or Republic of New Macedonia (in Cyrillic alphabet), Democratic or People's or Independent Republic of Macedonia.

The same source says it took just 25 minutes for mediator Nimitz to convince both negotiators to accept the proposal and hand it to authorities in Skopje and Athens.

Skopje's daily Dnevnik says Nimitz's blueprint remains top secret as long as the governments of both countries give their final say i.e. whether the proposal is acceptable or not.

In the headline "Nimitz tables proposal urging compromise", Utrinski Vesnik daily quotes Nimitz as saying that the proposal would lead to solution.

Macedonia doesn't rush things with Kosovo

Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski reiterated government's stance today that Macedonia will be careful in bringing decisions after declaration of Kosovo's independence.

Gruevski refused to give a concrete answer on whether will Macedonia recognize the independence of Kosovo, pointing out that the national and state interests will be taken into consideration.

"Kosovo is taking steps towards implementation of the Ahtisaari's plan. We are following closely the situation there as well as in Serbia. Macedonia has ethnically mixed population and we will make all future decision in line with the state and national interests," Gruevski said in Skopje today.

Macedonia name dispute with Greece threatens NATO bid

On the heels of Kosovo's declaration of independence, a deepening dispute in neighboring Macedonia threatens to further rattle the fragile Balkans.

The former Yugoslav state is expecting an invitation to join NATO at a summit in April, and Macedonian officials say the country needs membership in the security organization, and later the European Union, to maintain stability. But Greece has threatened to scupper Macedonia's membership bid if it does not change its name, which Greece says implies a territorial claim to the northern Greek province of Macedonia.

Macedonia has largely been calm since a 2001 uprising by its large Albanian community against state security forces. After several months of fighting, a fragile peace was brokered. But the delicate security situation could deteriorate, experts in Skopje have warned, if Greece vetos the former Yugoslav state's bid to join international organizations.

Greece has insisted that Macedonia is properly known as the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) in such organizations. But more than two-thirds of UN member states, including the United States, have recognized Macedonia under its constitutional name – the Republic of Macedonia.

"Any state that applies for membership is given the criteria and should not be given additional criteria by any other country," says Emil Kirjas, Macedonia's former foreign minister. "Greece is acting illegally to put this extra condition on Macedonia to join NATO or the EU."

He adds that if Greece decides to veto Macedonia's accession, the country would face "a certain security threat."

"If Macedonia joins NATO, it means that the question of the existence of the state and its territorial integrity has been put to rest," he says.

Although the name dispute is often seen as a petty bilateral spat, it may have serious security implications for the Balkans. Last week, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice urged Macedonian and Greek officials to fully participate in the UN-led negotiation process.

Some officials warn the dispute could intensify simmering tensions. "Macedonia has the explosive potential of Bosnia," says Aleksander Matovski, a former Macedonian national security adviser. "Kosovo's independence has polarized the country, with the Macedonian majority very anxious about it and the Albanians highly enthusiastic. This is the most critical moment to extend the umbrella of NATO into the Balkans.

"NATO membership is an existential issue for Macedonia," he adds. "The only way to live with the unmanageable security situation is to become part of a larger alliance."

Michael Nimetz, the UN mediator leading talks on the dispute, presented five compromise name proposals in Athens on Tuesday. He told journalists Tuesday that the proposals, which he did not reveal, offered "a fair and dignified solution" that "meets the aspirations of both countries."

But, he said, the suggested names present difficulties for both sides. "It would be a tremendous success for the region and for the two countries to resolve the issue," he said.

On Tuesday evening, about 2,000 people gathered to demonstrate in Skopje to protest against any change to the name. Some of the demonstrators threw stones at the Greek diplomatic office and held signs that read: "We are Macedonians, nothing else."

Macedonia PM: People Decide Name

Macedonia’s Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski, Wednesday, implied a referendum could be held if the country is forced to change its constitutional name due to Greek pressure.

“I can not comment on this right now but I think that Macedonia’s name in any instance should be decided only by its citizens, not by the politicians,” Gruevski told media, adding that the country’s leadership have “no moral right” to do so.

On Tuesday, Matthew Nemitz, the United Nations envoy to talks between Skopje and Athens over the dispute, handed his latest proposal for a solution to the negotiating teams from both countries but neither side revealed details.

Both said the proposal will be carefully analysed first.

This comes as the latest attempt to resolve the dispute before April’s NATO summit in Bucharest, where Greece has threatened to block Macedonia’s entry to the military alliance if a solution is not reached.

Commenting on the Nemitz proposal, Gruevski noted that Skopje will make its position clear in the coming days.

“We will decline everything that is negative and accept all the positive things. Rest assured that we will reject all that goes against Macedonia’s identity and national interests,” he stressed.

Meanwhile, the local Kanal 5 Television station revealed the alleged content of the proposal citing unnamed government sources.
According to them, Nemitz has proposed five options for Macedonia’s name of which the two sides should choose one while the use of its current constitutional name “Republic of Macedonia” will be restricted to domestic use.

The proposals are reportedly: Democratic Republic of Macedonia, Constitutional Republic of Macedonia, Independent Republic of Macedonia, Republic of Upper Macedonia or Northern Republic of Macedonia.

Of these, sources say that the variants with the prefixes 'Democratic' and 'Independent' could be more acceptable for Skopje.

Macedonia plans to object to clauses that call for the country's constitution to incorporate the new name, and oppose measures that say it should feature in the country's passports.

Macedonia will also reject the use of its new name in bilateral relations, since 120 countries, including the USA , Russia and China, have already recognised the country's constitutional name since Macedonia's independence in 1991.

Due to objections from Athens to the name, Republic of Macedonia, the country entered the UN under the provisional title, “Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia", in 1993.

The two countries were then obliged to continue with UN mediated talks pending a resolution.

Among other things, the deal prevented Athens from blocking Skopje from enrolling in international institutions under the provisional name.

Greece says the name of its northern neighbour implies territorial claims over its northern province of Macedonia.

Mahmuti: Skopje shows arrogance by dragging recognition of Kosova

The Chairperson of the Albanian Democratic Union in Macedonia (BDSH), Bardhyl Mahmuti said today in Tetova that the dragging of the recognition of Kosova’s independence shows the arrogance of the authorities of Skopje.

Moreover, in a press conference Mahmuti evaluated that Albanians of Macedonia have played an important role in the historical process of Kosova’s independence.

“The dignifying celebration of Albanians of Macedonia was right. Kosova’s independence is the wish of every Albanian, no matter the party distinctions. The declaration of Kosova’s independence by Hashim Thaçi concluded the results of a collective sacrifice,” Mahmuti said.

Athens issues invitation to Skopje

Greece on Tuesday issued an invitation to its northern neighbour, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), to put recent history behind them by finding a mutually acceptable solution to the nagging "name issue" and proceed as allies into the future.

Speaking to local and international reporters after an UN-brokered meeting of each country's representatives at the Greek foreign ministry in Athens, Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis said: "As you know, since the 1990s, we have engaged in a negotiation, under the auspices of the United Nations, with the explicit goal: reaching a mutually acceptable solution to the name issue."

" The time has come to solve this issue once and for all. Today the negotiation process is at a crossroads. Both Athens and Skopje have a choice to make: a choice between the past and the future," the Greek foreign minister said, adding:

"I requested Amb. (Nikola) Dimitrov to convey a message to your government and your people: A message of optimism. A message of hope. The people of Greece are an honorable people who have known suffering and been acquainted with grief and yet have managed to persevere and forge their way to prosperity. Greece is a stable and mature democracy, an old member of NATO and the European Union. We have a strong and dynamic economy. And we look at the future with optimism and self-confidence.

"And in this future we want to walk hand-in-hand with you - our neighbours. We see on our borders a proud and dignified people; a strong community with a vibrant economy and an energetic society. We see on our borders a state with much to offer to our neighbourhood. We want to see in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia a good friend, a potentially strong ally and a future solid partner," Bakoyannis said.

"Let us leave the past behind us. Let us reach a solution. Let us make our way inside the Euro-Atlantic and European families together."

Addressing Greek reporters, the foreign minister said the government has been promoting the Greek positions on the FYROM issue on an interntional level, adding that she had reiterated the country's position to UN mediator Matthew Nimetz.

"You know the Mr. Nimetz has tabled a more elaborate proposal which we are studying."

"I requested a meeting with the President of the Republic and party leaders to brief them on current developments. We are facing a difficult negotiation to which Greece comes with clear positions."

Prior to the one-hour talks, Bakoyannis made a brief introductory address before Nimetz and the two countries' representatives, noting that Greece, as the most senior NATO and EU member in the region, desires stability, rapprochement, cooperation and good-neighborly relations.

She also cited what she called Athens' productive stance towards its northern neighbor over the years, and in particular Greek investments and robust trade with the one-time Yugoslav republic.

Finally, Bakoyannis reiterated that "now is the time" for finding a mutually acceptable solution, one that is clear-cut, practical, viable and constant.

In turning to Amb. Dimitrov, she reiterated that Greece intends to back and assist FYROM in its Euro-Atlantic prospects, under the condition that FYROM leadership contributes to the finding of a mutually acceptable solution.

Nimetz proposes new name

The UN mediator in the negotiations over the name differences, Matthew Nimetz, came up at the meeting in Athens with a new proposal for solving of the problem, Skopje-based TV station TELMA reported.

According to the same source, neither Nimetz nor the negotiators of the both sides - Ambassadors Adamantios Vassilakis and Nikola Dimitrov, revealed any details of the proposal.

Once governments of Athens and Skopje announce their stances on the proposal, a new meeting is due to be held.

There is no information as to the date of this new meeting, although some information suggest that it may take place within the next couple of weeks.

Macedonia's decision on Kosovo recognition based on state interests

As regards the recognition of Kosovo independence, Macedonia will take into account the national interests and the consultations with the US and the EU, Macedonian Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski said.

The remarks were made at today's joint press conference with Albanian Prime Minister Sali Berisha. Gruevski stressed that Macedonia has developed excellent relationship with the Kosovo's government.

Gruevski and Berisha praised Skopje-Tirana relations, adding that both countries are ready to press ahead with realization of joint projects.

The two prime ministers rolled out plans for construction of Skopje-Tirana railway, construction of Corridor 8 and the participation in AMBO projects.

Gruevski and Berisha announced opening of a new border crossing Dzepiste-Trebiste near Debar.

Jackson: Macedonia meets NATO membership criteria

Republic of Macedonia is fully qualified to receive an invitation to NATO membership at the upcoming summit in Bucharest, said Bruce Jackson, the founder and President of the Project on Transitional Democracies.

The remarks were made during the meeting with Macedonian President Branko Crvenkovski.
The Project on Transitional Democracies is a multi-year endeavor aimed at accelerating the pace of reform in transitional democracies and advancing the date for the integration of these democracies into the Euro-Atlantic community.

Jackson updated Crvenkovski about his contacts in the US Senate as well as in NATO's institutions, which reaffirmed their support to Macedonia's NATO bid. They share the view that Macedonia meets the NATO membership criteria.

Hague Cases Returned to Macedonia

Four cases brought before the International Criminal Tribunal for Former Yugoslavia, ICTY, were returned to the Macedonian judicial system last week, the ICTY Prosecutor’s Office has told Balkan Insight.

The cases involve alleged crimes committed by ethnic Albanian guerrillas during the 2001 armed conflict in Macedonia.

“The cases were transferred to the Macedonian authorities last week and that concludes our jurisdiction,” Prosecution spokesperson Olga Kavran said.

In late January Macedonia’s public prosecutor, Ljupco Svrgovski, told reporters he would re-examine the cases when they are returned to Macedonia’s jurisdiction.

When the Hague Prosecutor’s Office decided in February not to proceed with the four cases, ICTY President Fausto Pocar and Chief Prosecutor Serge Brammertz announced that they would be referred back to Macedonia.

In 2002 the ICTY took over jurisdiction of five cases from Macedonia.

However, the prosecution brought charges only in the case against former Macedonian Interior Minister Ljube Boskovski and one of his senior police officers, who are now being tried for allegedly ordering a brutal police attack on an Albanian-populated village.

Local politicians and experts in the past few years have expressed fears that the return of the four cases could revive inter-ethnic disputes from the past and distract Macedonia from its reform course towards the EU and NATO.

The conflict in Macedonia lasted for six months and ended with the signing of the Ohrid peace accord. Following the accord, former Albanian guerrilla leaders assumed a political role and now control the major Albanian opposition party in Macedonia, the Democratic Union for Integration.

"Blagoj Gjorev" halted production of cooking oil

The Veles-based food production facility Blagoj Gjorev halted today the production of cooking oil because of lack of raw materials.

The management of the factory made the decision today, after the latest increase of price of the raw cooking oil at the world market, Macedonian Radio reported.

As a result, some 150 employees have been sent on a compulsory vacation.

The factory cannot provide funds for purchasing of raw cooking oil, which hit the price of 1,300 euros per 1 ton.

The factory's management sees the way out in government's pledge top release certain quantity of raw oil from the state reserves, which would be later on returned.

On the other hand, the production of margarine in Blagoj Gjorev continues normally.

Monday, February 18, 2008

DUI calls Macedonia to recognize Kosovo

The MPs from the opposition Democratic Union for Integration (DUI) "are calling and inviting the Macedonian state leadership to recognize Kosovo's independence," says DUI's press release, issued Sunday afternoon, immediately after declaration of Kosovo's independence.

DUI addressed the call for recognition of Kosovo as an independent and sovereign state to the President Branko Crvenkovski, Parliament Speaker Ljubisa Georgievski and Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski.

"We strongly believe that in this historic moment, we will be capable of making courageous and just decisions, because Macedonia now has a neighboring country with identical orientation, a good neighbor, friend and a strategic partner in our shared Euro-Atlantic commitments," says the request sent by DUI's deputies.

A large number of DUI's members of and supporters answered the call of the party to celebrate today in Skopje the proclamation of independence of Kosovo by singing songs and firing gunshots in the air.

Albanians in Balkans celebrate Kosovan independence

Albanians across the Balkans celebrated Kosovo's independence on Sunday as the sign of a better future for a people scattered across several countries.

Even before the parliament of the Albanian-majority province formally declared independence from Serbia, thousands of people took to the streets in the Albanian capital Tirana, waving flags and celebrating with bands and dancers in folk costumes.

"I bought a flag to put on the grave of my father who wished all his life to see this day," said Gjylhan Hyka Ahmeti, whose family hails from the Kosovan town of Djakovica.

Albanian Prime Minister Sali Berisha, born near Albania's mountainous eastern border with Kosovo, said it was the "most beautiful day" of his life.

"The Balkans today is freer than ever," he told Reuters Television, saying independence "ushers in a new era of nations working for a better future in peace and cooperation".

Albanians say they are descended from ancient Illyrians, one of the original peoples of the Balkans. Their distinct culture is based on a code of honor and strong clan and family ties.

Their language is completely unrelated to its Greek and Slav neighbors. Most are very liberal Muslims, but a strong minority is Christian, like the late Mother Teresa, a beloved figure.

In Macedonia, where Albanians make up a quarter of the population, thousands gathered to celebrate in the Tetovo region and in the capital Skopje. Crowds blocked streets in the city, singing and waving the red-and-black Albanian flag.

Volleys of gunfire were heard in Skopje -- a long-standing Balkan custom in times of celebration.

"This is a great day for all Albanians, wherever they live," said Musaref Bislimi, mayor of Aracinovo, a village near Skopje that saw heavy fighting during an ethnic Albanian insurgency in 2001.

Fears mounted during that period that Albanians were gearing up for a fight to unite Kosovo with other Albanian areas in Macedonia, Montenegro and Albania proper into "Greater Albania".

The six-month uprising in Macedonia came close to igniting full-scale civil war before NATO and the EU brokered a peace accord offering the Albanian minority greater rights.

In Montenegro, where Albanians account for 7 percent of the 600,000 population, people watched the declaration from Kosovo live on television in cafes and betting shops.

Celebrations in ethnic Albanian areas in southern Serbia were less raucous, reflecting the unease in an area where Albanian guerrillas took up arms in 2000-01 but which remains part of Serbia. Albanians there still seek union with Kosovo.

Western mediation brought that uprising to an end.

"This is a victory for all Albanians," local ex-rebel leader Jonuz Musliu told Reuters. "We also played a small part in it."

One Albanian resident of the south Serbian town of Presevo said everyone there had headed for Kosovo.

"They're giving out everything free of charge there, in all the restaurants and pubs," Nexhad Beluli told Serbia's Tanjug news agency.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Macedonia in No Rush over Kosovo

Macedonia will recognize neighbouring Kosovo two or three weeks after its independence is declared, in the hope of avoiding possible retaliation from Serbia, according to local press reports.

Macedonia would wait for “at least 15 EU countries to recognize Kosovo first”, before it takes the same step, a “well informed” source was quoted as saying in Friday’s edition of the daily Utrinski Vesnik.

The remarks echoed the views of Macedonia’s President, Branko Crvenkovski, who told local media that his country “will certainly not be among the first to recognize Kosovo’s independence”.

Over the past few days, senior Skopje officials have kept silent over possible Kosovo-Serbia scenarios, repeating that the country remains loyal to EU and NATO policy over the disputed territory.

“I will not comment on hypothetical questions,” government spokesman Ivica Bocevski told Balkan Insight on Friday, when asked what Macedonia would do in case of Serbian retaliation.

Biljana Vankovska from the Institute for Peace and Defence Studies in Skopje argues that the Kosovo’s independence declaration must be addressed carefully in order not to jeopardize Macedonia’s good relations with Serbia.

“Macedonia’s economy, energy and infrastructure are closely tied with Serbia,” Vankovska told Balkan Insight on Thursday explaining that possible prolonged retaliatory measures from Belgrade could provoke social instability in the country.

“The perspectives of Kosovo market are a cold comfort for Macedonia’s economy,” she says.

In January, Serbia's government adopted a secret plan to counter Kosovo’s independence. Media suggested that among others, retaliatory measures might be imposed against countries that recognize the new state.

No details about possible recognition of independence were given after Friday’s previously unannounced meeting between the Macedonia and Kosovo Prime Ministers.

The two premiers discussed cooperation and the planned demarcation of the Macedonia-Kosovo.

It is widely expected that the disputed province will declare its independence in a matter of days. Media reports mention Sunday as the most probable date.

Macedonia borders both Kosovo and Serbia.

While Skopje’s economy and infrastructure are linked in large part with Serbia, Kosovo’s main supply route passes trough Macedonia.

US puts name on table

The United States has proposed that Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) settle on the name “New Republic of Macedonia” for Athens’s neighbor, sources told Kathimerini yesterday.

The proposal was made during talks that Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis had with State Department officials, including Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, in Washington yesterday.

Washington has proposed that the name New Republic of Macedonia should be used by Skopje in all its dealings with international organizations, according to sources.

Athens could then, theoretically, press for the name to be used in all of its neighbor’s bilateral relations.

Greece is insistent that any composite name for the Balkan country should be used in FYROM’s bilateral relations and Bakoyannis took the opportunity to press on the USA that it would have to follow suit as well.

Athens is likely to make the same demands of its European Union partners and members of the United Nations Security Council.

Washington’s proposal is likely to form the basis of discussions between Bakoyannis and UN mediator Matthew Nimetz, who is due in Athens on Monday as diplomatic pressure grows for a solution to be found to the name issue.

Rice also met with FYROM Foreign Minister Antonio Milososki this week and,

according to State Department spokesman Sean McCormack, she impressed upon him the need for greater “flexibility” opposite Greece during their talks in Washington on Tuesday. Rice reportedly pressed the FYROM diplomat “to participate fully in the procedure (to find a new name) under the aegis of the United Nations special envoy (Matthew Nimetz).”

Earlier, Bakoyannis sought to clarify Greece’s position during a speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington-based think tank. Bakoyannis noted that Washington’s earlier recognition of FYROM as “Macedonia” was a mistake as it gave Skopje the impression that it did not need to make any effort to negotiate with Athens to find a mutually acceptable solution to the name dispute. Bakoyannis said Greece would “fully support” FYROM in its bid to join NATO, but only once an agreement has been reached.

Doubts trouble some in Europe, as well

WASHINGTON - European countries remain deeply divided on whether to recognize the expected declaration of independence by Kosovo, Greece's foreign minister, Dora Bakoyannis, warned this week.

Greece's foreign minister, Dora Bakoyannis, said some nations fear that the breakaway province could set a dangerous precedent.

Bakoyannis said many countries were still uncomfortable with the precedent that will be set when the autonomous Serbian province, an enclave of ethnic Albanians that US troops defended in a bombing campaign in 1999, declares independence over the strong protests of Serbia and Russia. The province, run by the United Nations since 1999, is expected to officially break with Serbia this weekend.

"We have to evaluate very carefully the situation on the ground and be absolutely sure that it is a unique decision," she said in an interview on Wednesday.

Bakoyannis met yesterday with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who has urged Serbia, Russia, and the rest of Europe to accept Kosovo's independence.

Bakoyannis also used her trip to Washington to seek support for Greece's last-ditch effort to push neighboring Macedonia to change its name in a way that would distinguish the former Yugoslav republic from Greece's northern province of the same name.

Since Macedonia became an independent nation after the breakup of Yugoslavia in 1991, Greece has protested the nation's use of the name, saying that it implies territorial claim on parts of northern Greece.

Greece has threatened to block Macedonia's membership to NATO if the dispute is not resolved.

"I fully understand that a lot of people have a lot of difficulty understanding the whole fuss about a name," Bakoyannis said.

Aides to Bakoyannis said Greece was poised to give a major aid package to Macedonia and other neighbors, if Macedonia would only alter its name. Greece has become more flexible, said a Greek diplomat who asked not to be identified, saying the problem could be resolved by adding one word. New Macedonia, perhaps, he said, or Upper Macedonia.

But the Macadonians "have not moved an inch," he said.

Rice, who met with Macedonia's foreign minister Tuesday, urged both countries to use the United Nations to resolve the dispute

No "Greater Albania" wave seen from Kosovo

Kosovo Albanian independence from Serbia will boost the confidence of Albanians in neighboring Macedonia, but prospects of EU membership will outweigh dreams of a "Greater Albania", political leaders say.

Albanians form a 90 percent majority in Kosovo, which is set to declare independence on Sunday. Macedonia's Albanians are a 25 percent minority.

Ethnic Albanian leaders say the best insurance against Macedonia breaking up in ethnic conflict as it nearly did in 2001 is the country's membership in NATO soon and in the European Union in a few years.

"Why talk about building or removing classical borders when Europe has drawn lessons from its old conflicts and decided to build a joint future for its states?" said Ali Ahmeti, head of Macedonia's main Albanian political party.

"We love this country as much as the Macedonians love it," he told Reuters. "Long-term stability in Macedonia will be achieved by solving the problem of Albanians living in Kosovo. It is a victory for us, too.

In 2001, Ahmeti led a 6-month uprising which came close to igniting full-scale civil war, before NATO and the EU brokered peace talks that resulted in more rights for Albanians.

Fears mounted during that period that Albanians were gearing up for a fight to unite all the lands they live in Kosovo, Macedonia and Montenegro, with the republic of Albania. The mountainous borders between them are porous, and weapons left over from Albania's paranoid Stalinist dictatorship abound.

But opportunities offered by a common future in the EU and the NATO alliance seem to have overtaken the old dream of a single ethnic Albanian state.

Albanian citizens buy food in Macedonia's green markets

Food price hikes in Albania forced its citizens to buy food products in green markets and grocery stores in neigboting Macedonia.

Albanian media said the locals in border villages in Albania travel to Macedonia's border towns of Struga, Ohrid and Debar to buy food.

The frequency of travellers at Blato border crossing, near Debar, was tripled in the past four days. Albanian citizens claim food price in Debar are lower 10-25 percent comparing with the prices in Albania.

The number of Albanian citizens purchasing food products in Macedonia is expected to surge after the upcoming lifting of visa requirements by both countries. The citizens will travel to each of the two countries on visa-free basis.

Macedonia needs to be cautious over Kosovo issue: Macedonian opposition leader

Macedonia needs to be cautious and a little bit selfish over Kosovo issue, which is closely linked to regional stability, the opposition SDSM leader Radmila Sekerinska said, as quoted by the Macedonian Makfax.
The remarks by the leader of the country's largest opposition party were made at a panel discussion in Ohrid.
"We need to protect our interests, maintain the good neighborly relations and take care about the national interest. Macedonia must be safe and stable, and the country must have its borders that are confirmed by international agreements," Sekerinska said.
She blamed the government of playing childish games just six weeks before the most important event for Macedonia, the NATO invitation, as it is inadmissible to postpone meetings of political leaders.
Asked by a reporter whether Macedonia is under pressure to change its name, Sekerinska made clear that no choice could be made between NATO and the name.
"Macedonia has the necessary capacity to get an invitation to NATO membership and to preserve its constitutional name, but unfortunately, the government is wasting time on government allies rather than solving these problems, Sekerinska said.
The ongoing diplomatic drive should have happened much earlier, Sekerinska said, adding that the government overlooked the name dispute with Greece and made a number of moves that affected the country's international position.
Sekerinska, however, sounded optimistic as regards the NATO membership invitation during the Bucharest summit, as the international community cannot risk another crisis in the Balkan.

Bakoyannis: Road to NATO, EU via mutually acceptable solution to name issue

"Skopje has only one road to NATO and EU - compliance with the principle of good neighborly relations and this includes a mutually acceptable solution to name issue," Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis said.

Bakoyannis' statement came hours before the meeting with the US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Radio Voice of America's Macedonian news said.

Bakoyannis said Greece supports NATO enlargement and it reckons that Albania and Croatia made progress. As regards Macedonia's NATO bid, Bakoyannis voiced quite opposite stands, saying "Skopje runs a nationalist, anachronistic policy and it tries to monopolize Macedonian identity."

"Our neighbors use a 19th century vocabulary and they hope to be understood in 21st century. This is not a matter of political psychology and massive sentiment, but a matter of regional stability," Bakoyannis said in Washington.

Asked to comment the statement by Macedonian Foreign Minister Antonio Milososki, who said that NATO has nothing to do with naming countries but a lot more, Bakoyannis replied:

"We don't demand from Minister Milososki and Prime Minister Gruevski to try to interpret what NATO is. We just want them to remain attached to the pledges and under NATO mediation to try in constructive way to resolve the name issue, which would let us look into the future," she added.

When asked what Greece does for the rights of Macedonian minority in northern Greece, Bakoyannis made clear that in Greece there is only one minority, the Muslim minority. She added that Greece provides the religious and all other rights.

Bakoyannis stressed Greece's share in the economic development of the region as a modality of political stability. She claimed Greece had invested over 20 billion euros in the region and it's a major investor in Albania, Macedonia and Serbia.

Macedonia 'Unprepared' Over Kosovo

Macedonia’s government is unprepared for neighbouring Kosovo’s independence, despite big implications for the region, the opposition Liberal Democrats said Thursday.

Macedonia must devise an immediate plan to tackle possible retaliation by Serbia over Macedonia's likely recognition of an independent Kosovo, the President of the Liberal Democrat Party, Jovan Manasievski told media.

The plan must contain “political, economic, energy and security measures to counter the negative effects” of possible Serbian retaliation, Manasievski advised.

On Thursday, Macedonia ’s parliament speaker, Ljubisa Georgievski, on a trip to Slovenia, the current European Union President, emphasised that in recognising Kosovo's independence, “Macedonia would follow the EU policy.”

But Manasievski insists Skopje has not done enough to ready itself for ties with the new state. He called for a settlement for good neighbourly relations, friendship and cooperation to be prepared and offered to Pristina.

“It should set guidelines for long term energy and infrastructure cooperation, and offer technical support for the forthcoming Euro-Atlantic integration of Kosovo”, Manasievski explained.

He added that precise dates for the technical demarcation of the Kosovo-Macedonia border must be set as soon as possible. The actual demarcation was postponed due to a dispute between Serbia and Kosovo over who has authority over the border line.

In January, Serbia's government adopted a so-called Action Plan to counter Kosovo’s independence. Media suggested that among others, retaliatory measures might be imposed against countries that recognise the new state.

With Macedonia ’s economy and infrastructure closely tied with Serbia , there are fears among the public that possible retribution from Belgrade could seriously cripple the small country of just over 2 million people.

Court efficiency, judicial independence pressing issues for Macedonia

Judicial reform is a major challenge that Macedonia must meet in its efforts to join NATO and the EU. Two particular problem areas are efficiency of courts and independence of the judicial system.

In Macedonia, cases that would elsewhere take a maximum of six months to complete sometimes drag on for as long as a decade. Meanwhile, under the constitution, judges are elected by parliament, allowing the possibility of direct political influence on their selection.

"It must be ensured that the judges, themselves, elect members of the State Judicial Council in free elections," says legal expert Renata Deskoska.

"The parliamentary political parties should be aware of the meaning of this process, not only because of the Euro integration prospects, but also because Macedonians are faced every day with politically dependent judges and inefficient legal processes," Deskoska says. "The political parties should consider the interests of the people and reach greater consensus for constitutional changes."

Education of people working in the judicial system is also a crucial factor. As the country moves towards integration, its judiciary will be tasked with implementing European and international law. Newly organised judges will be called on to build a more efficient system. Adequate training is needed to achieve this.

According to experts from within the courts, the reforms will be very deep. They will include changes in the constitutional judiciary, by broadening its functions and competences and implementing the so-called "constitutional complaint" as a final measure for people to plead their case in court.

The reforms have to be carried out quickly, experts say. The window of opportunity for Macedonia's EU integration is open, but it may not remain open indefinitely.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Kosovo Party Planned in Macedonia

With Kosovo set to declare independence, ethnic Albanians in neighbouring Macedonia are organising a huge celebration to mark the occasion.

“It will most probably be held on February 17, when Kosovo’s independence is expected to be declared”, one of the organizers, Artan Grubi, President of a non-governmental organisation, “Wake Up”, told Balkan Insight Wednesday.

“We plan to start with children’s music, then we will shift to folk songs and at the end we plan some pop artists,” Grubi says.

Skopje's municipality of Cair, a district with a large ethnic Albanian population, is backing the event.

The organisers hope to gather huge crowds in Skopje’s old bazaar, where the event will be held in front of a monument dedicated to the Albanian historical hero, Skenderbeg.

It's not clear whether members from both of Macedonia's main ethnic Albanian parties will attend.

Rivalries between the two are tense, with the Democratic Party of Albanians currently part of the ruling coalition, and the Democratic Union for Integration in opposition.

Cair's Mayor, Izet Mexhiti, hails from the opposition ranks.

Ethnic Albanians make up about a quarter of Macedonia ’s 2.1 million population.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Sekerinska: We need to be cautious over Kosovo issue

Macedonia needs to be cautious and a little bit selfish over Kosovo issue, which is closely linked to regional stability, the opposition SDSM leader Radmila Sekerinska said.

The remarks by the leader of the country's largest opposition party were made at a panel discussion in Ohrid.

"We need to protect our interests, maintain the good neighborly relations and take care about the national interest. Macedonia must be safe and stable, and the country must have its borders that are confirmed by international agreements," Sekerinska said.

She blamed the government of playing childish games just six weeks before the most important event for Macedonia, the NATO invitation, as it is inadmissible to postpone meetings of political leaders.

Asked by a reporter whether Macedonia is under pressure to change its name, Sekerinska made clear that no choice could be made between NATO and the name.

"Macedonia has the necessary capacity to get an invitation to NATO membership and to preserve its constitutional name, but unfortunately, the government is wasting time on government allies rather than solving these problems, Sekerinska said.

The ongoing diplomatic drive should have happened much earlier, Sekerinska said, adding that the government overlooked the name dispute with Greece and made a number of moves that affected the country's international position.

Sekerinska, however, sounded optimistic as regards the NATO membership invitation during the Bucharest summit, as the international community cannot risk another crisis in the Balkan.

The Macedonian Town of Ohrid, Where Time Stopped

When asked about Ohrid, people from other parts of Macedonia tell the following story. After God created the world and lay down to rest, the Devil got to work and set up Ohrid with all its beauties: the splendid lake, the steep mountains where the Galičica National Park is now located, a moderate climate and a fertile soil. God woke up and looked around in astonishment. “What have you done, Devil?” he asked. “Your deeds are supposed to be evil!” “Oh, just wait, God!,” Satan replied. “You haven't seen Ohrid's citizens yet.”

The only fault that foreign tourists will find with Ohrid's citizens, however, is their proclivity for inflating prices. Yet a dinner of the famous Ohrid trout with generous amounts of zholta, or yellow, rakiya in a restaurant in the old city amidst the dozens of Revival Period houses and medieval churches is not so costly. Landmarks cause prices to rise all over the world. In this case, they include Robevci, or the Robevs' House, and the St Sophia and the Sveta Bogorodica Perivleptos, or St Mother of God the Most Glorious, Churches with their magnificent 11th-14th Century murals.

Situated on the northeastern shore of Lake Ohrid, this is the best-known town in the republic – despite the fact that the CIA has failed to include it on its website map of the former Yugoslav republic. About 50,000 people live there and they are all convinced that Ohrid is the best developed, the richest and the most European town in the country.

Ohrid is said to have 365 churches, one for each day of the year. In reality, they are fewer, but the number is certainly large – a remnant from the time when the place was the residence of the Ohrid archbishops. Theoretically, they were under the authority of the ecumenical patriarch in Constantinople. In fact, however, they acted in such an independent way that in 1676 the Ottoman sultan abolished the archbishopric at the patriarch's request.

Earlier, something far more interesting had happened in Ohrid and because of it you now have problems reading any road sign written in Cyrillic. What appears to you to be the enigmatic alphabet of Macedonia, Bulgaria and Russia was invented here by St Clement of Ohrid. He was one of the students of Cyril and Methodius, the brothers who created the first Slavonic alphabet, the Glagolitic.

Clement, who established an educational institution and a literary school near Ohrid at the invitation of Bulgarian Prince Boris I, soon realised that the complex symbols of the Glagolitic were too hard to learn. So, he changed most of the letters for Greek ones and called the new alphabet the “Cyrillic”. Fifty years later, it established itself as the main writing system and the Monastery of St Clement at Plaošnik – up the hill from St John-at-Kaneo Church and under Samuel's Fortress – is now a major tourist attraction in Ohrid. Its church has been recently restored and the remains of the monastery are undergoing archaeological excavations.

Outside the town, on the south bank of the lake and nearly at the Albanian border, lies a more well-preserved monastery. St Naum boasts a miniature church with medieval frescos and a well maintained yard, which is the favourite walking area for tourists and peacocks.

Ohrid is home to more than just “church tourism” and there are well over a dozen places where your eyes can rest from the views of domes and medieval red bricks or white stone walls. The easiest thing is to intentionally get lost in the maze of narrow lanes between the city centre and the hill with Samuel's Fortress. While in Ohrid's old part everybody is desperately trying to conserve the Revival Period and medieval past because of the tourists, here a different type of past has managed to survive without any particular effort.

You'll see more children riding bicycles in the streets than adults driving 1960s cars. The air carries the scent of freshly hung washing and the meals that housewives are cooking for supper. Each empty piece of land is occupied by parked Zastavas, the triumph of Communist Yugoslavia's industry. Judging from the flat tyres and tatty seats, these cars will leave their place among the weeds to set off on one last journey – to the scrap yard.

Ohrid's citizens are down-to-earth people and have retained their Communist-era hotels, just like they keep their Zastavas. Most of these establishments have simply had their curtains and names replaced by “more prestigious” ones and are still functioning. The “prestige” that the Palace, Slavia, Park, Metropol, Bellevue, Granite and the “Zastava” Hotel-Sveti Stefan (sic) exude, however, is redolent of Communism.

Locals say everything in Ohrid is as it used to be a century ago, and changes happen very slowly. As if to show this, a 800-year-old plane tree stands in the middle of the cobbled square by the old market and the Ali Pasha Mosque. The only difference between now and 100 years ago is that the hollow in its huge trunk is no longer used as a barber's shop or a café; now, it is filled with cement.

This article is courtesy of the Bulgarian magazine Vagabond.

Bulgarian insurance company is new owner of Macosped Osiguruvanje

Skopje. Bulgarian insurance company Euroins is the new owner of Macosped Osiguruvanje, Macedonian agency Makfax informs. With two transactions on the Macedonian exchange 83% of the shares of Macosped Osiguruvanje were bought. Over 2 100 shares were sold at the price of EUR 3490 each. Management of Macosped Osiguruvanje still doesn’t give any details concerning the new owner.

US urges Macedonia to resolve name dispute with Greece

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is urging Macedonia to resolve a dispute with Greece over its name.
The U.S. State Department says Rice told Macedonian Foreign Minister Antonio Milososki Tuesday that the country should use a U.N.mediation process to find a solution. Rice plans to deliver the same message to Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis this week.
Macedonia is called the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, or FYROM, at the U.N. But more than 100 countries have recognized it as Macedonia.

Greece has objected to the name, arguing that it could imply claims on the Greek province of Macedonia.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Macedonia passes lustration law

Macedonia's parliament passed a bill on January 22nd requiring all candidates for official positions be investigated to determine whether they co-operated with -- or were members of -- the secret services during the communist era.

This kind of vetting process is referred to as lustration, a term that historically referred to purification rituals practiced by ancient Greeks and Romans. After the fall of communism, the term came to mean limiting former communists -- and especially spies of the communist secret police -- from participation in governments and all other public functions.

Macedonia's bill finally passed after the government agreed that it should apply from 1944 to the present. In May 2007, the government suggested that the vetting process apply only until July 2000. Proponents of the bill criticised that idea, saying it was evidence that the government sought to exempt agents and informers who are currently in power.

Those who want to work in the civil service, judiciary, academia, media and NGOs and religious organisations are now required to sign affidavits saying they did not collaborate with the secret services. Their record will then be verified by a nine-member parliamentary commission. The law will be in effect for five years.

Macedonia was among the last countries in the former Yugoslavia and Eastern bloc to implement a lustration law. Advocates argue that the benefits are twofold: the law will allow victims of the regime to receive justice, while also removing the hold former communists have on Macedonia's economy and institutions.

Some are concerned, however, that the lustration process could be manipulated and that much of the evidence to prove collaboration has already been destroyed.

Igor Ivanovski, an MP from the Social Democratic Union of Macedonia (SDSM), said his party supports the law. "But that does not mean that we accept the law unconditionally," he added, warning that in its present form it could be used to discredit the opposition and for political manipulation.

Stojan Androv, an MP and former president of parliament, proposed the legislation. "With this law, public administration work won't be possible for those who were motivated ideologically or politically and were secret political informers who worked for the elimination of every other political option besides communism," he explained.

The law, according to Androv, is very important for the country because it will allow key people in positions in the political establishment, media, education and science to be independent from secret centres of power left by the communist regime. Therefore, he says, "the decisions that vetted officials will take are more likely to favour the country and the citizens and will follow the laws of Macedonia."

Macedonia Wants to Patent the Popular Balkan Dish Ajvar

Macedonia’s government is taking steps to trademark its version of ajvar, a traditional dish that exists throughout the Balkans with slight modifications and under various names, in what may be the latest epic battle of the Balkan Culinary Wars.

Ajvar is a slightly piquant, mushy relish made of red peppers and aubergines. Though available in stores throughout the year, domestic production is usually prepared in the fall and conserved in jars for consumption in the winter.

Macedonia is trying to trademark the product under the brand name Macedonian Ajvar, the Southeast European Times Web site,, reported last week. If the trademark request is granted, according to the media, the brand would receive protection as a product with a certain geographic origin.

“The Macedonian government is attempting to make ajvar a world-recognised product," government spokesman Ivica Bocevski told, adding that “branding would allow production to be standardised with the ingredients and its preparation listed on the labels. This, in turn, will guarantee quality and competitiveness at home and on the world markets.”

The initiative is pressing ahead despite earlier efforts by a Slovenian company to patent the product that failed when ajvar was deemed a generic name and not subject to trademark protection as one country’s property.

The name ajvar comes from the Turkish word havyar, meaning ‘caviar’. Though unrelated to fish eggs, ajvar has a similar, grainy texture.

Ajvar, as such, is a popular dish not only in Macedonia, but in Serbia, Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Serbian version is often prepared without aubergines.

Though known under different names, variations of the spread exist throughout the rest of the Balkans too: Bulgarians love their lyutenitsa – a red pepper and tomato dip, Romanians relish their zacuscă – a spread made of roasted eggplant, red peppers and cooked beans. But perhaps the predecessor of them all is the Turkish biber salçası – a paste made from red chili peppers.

Macedonia Police Deny Brutality

There was no excessive use of force against those detained in November’s anti-extremist operation, police said after footage showing alleged police brutality prompted calls for the interior minister’s resignation.

The police spokesman Ivo Kotevsi told Balkan insight on Tuesday that “an internal police investigation carried out straight after the action has proven that all procedures were observed”.

Macedonia’s opposition has called for a no-confidence vote in the Interior Minister, Gordana Jankulovska, after footage, probably taken with a mobile phone camera was aired on local media.

The recording shows a detainee, Habib Ahmeti, face covered in blood and bruises, wearing a green uniform, sitting in what appears to be an interrogation room.

Ahmeti was one of those arrested in a major police operation against an armed ethnic Albanian group in the north-western village of Brodec.

Xhevat Ademi, a legislator from the main ethnic Albanian opposition party in Macedonia, the Democratic Union for Integration, announced the no-confidence motion on Monday.

“There is no country in the world in which the minister can stay in office after that kind of footage appears in public,” the Vice-President of the main opposition Social Democratic Party, Jani Makraduli, told media on Monday.

On Monday the police confirmed the authenticity of the film, but claimed that the injuries seen were sustained during the arrest and not in the course of the subsequent interrogation.

In November, the police launched an operation aimed at a 15-strong armed group of criminals and extremists hiding in the village north of the town of Tetovo.

The clash left six gunmen dead and several injured.

Eleftheros Typos: Macedonia in close coordination with US

Greece was not notified about today's meeting of US State Secretary Condoleezza Rice and Macedonian Foreign Minister Antonio Milososki, which confirms that Washington and Skopje work together, a Greek daily said.

Eleftheros Typos daily said nobody in Athens knew about Rice-Milososki meeting. Greek officials were caught by surprise with the unannounced meeting, which takes place one day before the visit of Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis to Washington.

The paper says Greece's allies in NATO and in European Union no longer pledge solidarity with Athens due to eventual veto on Macedonia's NATO entry.

The decision on Greek veto on Macedonia's admission to NATO will push the Costas Karamanlis' government to the wall, to diplomatic extortion and deadlock in the next 20 days, the pro-opposition daily said.

Even though Greek government made clear that non-resolution of name dispute would mean a veto on NATO entry, it is quite obvious that the strategy will be additionally shaped after the Bakoyannis-Rice meeting, and the issue is likely to be settled along with Kosovo independence.

If Greece quits veto, the move will have a high political price. Nonetheless, the eventual consent to Cyrillic transcript of Republic of Macedonia will be of much higher price, Eleftheros Typos daily said.

Macedonia ready to talk, but not bargain about constitutional name

Macedonia will not give up its constitutional name, but is prepared to talk for finding a solution to the argument with Greece. This is the joint position of the President Branko Crvenovski and the Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski, the Macedonian daily Vreme announces.
‘We are more interested that any other country, including Greece, in finding a solution and the end of use of the insulting abbreviation FYROM, Crvenovski said. The Prime Minster Nikola Gruevski has said that Macedonia was prepared to talk but not to bargain about its constitutional name.

Independent Kosovo not danger for Macedonia: Milososki

The declaration of independence by Kosovo will not threaten the territorial integrity of Macedonia, the country’s Minster of Interior Antonio Milososki said, cited by the Macedonian daily Vecer.
‘We’ve had problems when Kosovo was not autonomous and then we proved that a multi-ethnic country can exist. Without any desire to play a role of mediator between Belgrade and Pristina, Macedonia can help in solving regional conflicts. Regarding the recognition of the Kosovo independence issue we will make our position to correspond to that of the international community’, Milososki said.

Macedonia won’t join EU and NATO with hatred towards neighbors

Macedonian authorities obviously could not understand that with such deliberate hatred which was bred among the population against the neighboring states they had no place in the EU and most probably on April 4th Macedonia would not be invited to join NATO, National History Museum Director Prof Bozhidar Dimitrov said for FOCUS News Agency provoked by an anti-Bulgarian article published in Macedonian paper Utrinski Vesnik. According to the article Bulgaria didn’t take into consideration the Macedonian identity. With such demonstration of hatred by Macedonian media the state would be hardly accepted, Prof Dimitrov said.

Employee of robbed bank in Tetovo also stole money

An employee of the Tetovo's branch office of Uni Banka, which was robbed last Monday, is suspected of having stolen 15,000 euros out of the total 34,000 that were robbed.

The armed robber probably took the rest of the money.

The Police filed formal accusation against the bank's employee D.G., 42, explaining that during the robbery itself, he was throwing money from the strong-box into the trash bin and then, unnoticed from his colleagues, brought the money to his home.

But , fearing from exposure, the next day D.G. put some of the money back in the bin, hoping that police or other bank employees will find it.

The Police did find these money (3,000 euros and 100,000 denars), and after searching his house, retrieved additional 7.900 euros and 150,000 denars.

Zito Bitola put on sale

Zito Bitola, Macedonia's largest manufacturer of bread and backed goods which went bankrupt, is put on sale Thursday with a starting price set at 8 million euros.

The public tender specifies the sale in two packages in a total amount of more than 8 million euros, Makfax correspondent said.

"The plant's yard and all accompanying objects, along with six shops in the city, will be sold out as a whole, with a starting price of 462 million denars," said Josip Dimitrovski, bankruptcy manager at Zito Bitola.

He added that the Zito Bitola's facility in industrial part of the city, which includes warehouse, workshop and offices, will be put on sale with a starting price of 62 million denars. The factory's assets in Krusevo and Resen are not for sale due to mortgages, activated by Public Revenue Office due to unpaid tax.

The sale of Zito Bitola's property will be made with sealed bids. The public notice on the sale of Zito Bitola will run till 13 March 2008. The bids will be unsealed later on.

Zito Bitola went bankrupt one year ago. The overall demand by creditors amount 12 million euros. Plant's 350 employees demand 1.6 million euros for unpaid salaries and contributions during two successive years.

Four cases transfered to Macedonia

The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) intends to transfer four cases involving Albanian guerillas to Macedonia, according to the Birn agency.

This decision was announced on January 22 during a meeting between Macedonia's Prime Minister and the Tribunal's president and prosecutor in Skopje. The Macedonian chief prosecutor subsequently told the MIA agency that "This decision was expected." Of the five Macedonian cases before the ICTY, only one prosecution has been conducted by The Hague: former minister of the interior Ljube Boskovski and a senior police officer are currently on trial for their alleged involvement in the attack on an Albanian village. The other cases involve members of the opposition party, the Albanian guerilla forces. The Balkan information agency mentions fears expressed over the past few years by experts and members of the political class that these trials might revive ethnic tension. Up until one week before the visit of the ICTY president and prosecutor, the prosecutor general of Skopje was opposed to the return of these cases, in which no accusation had been formally brought by the ICTY.

Macedonia observes 136th anniversary of Goce Delcev's birth

Macedonia is marking today the 136th anniversary of the birth of Goce Delcev, one of the greatest revolutionaries of the Macedonian people.

A governmental delegation led by the PM Nikola Gruevski, officials of the President Crvenkovski's Cabinet, members of Parliament as well as representatives of the Army of the Republic of Macedonia, Veterans' Association, Macedonian Academy of Arts and Sciences and organizations bearing his name, laid flowers Monday morning at his tomb in the "St. Spas" church in Skopje.

Professor Marija Pandevska, PhD, delivered a speech on Delcev's life and work.

Goce Delcev was born on January 23, 1872 in Kukush (Kiklis), Aegean Macedonia. After graduating at the Military academy in Sofia in 1891, he returned to Macedonia to become a teacher in Stip, where he met Dame Gruev, one of the founders of the Secret Macedonian Odrin Revolutionary Organization. As a result of the close friendship between the two, Delcev joined the organization in 1895 becoming before long one of its main leaders.

Delcev was killed on May 4, 1903 in an armed skirmish with Turkish soldiers just outside the village of Banica.

The recent historiographical data leave little doubt that Delcev was betrayed, although no clear evidence as to the traitor has emerged yet.

His body had been initially brought into Bulgaria, only to be relocated on October 11, 1946 in Macedonia. His remains are interned in the courtyard of the Skopje's Church "St. Spas".

Friday, February 08, 2008

More than 20 people, includig policemen, arrested in Macedonia’s Prilep

Prilep. More than 20 people including policemen were arrested in the Macedonian town of Prilep in a vast operation of the crime fighting department and the quick response team of the country’s Ministry of Interior, the Maceodnian TV channel A1 reported. The operation was held early on Saturday and reportedly was aimed at a crime group acting on the territory of Prilep for the last five years. Police said the group was blamed for several explosions, racket, blackmailing, trashing restaurants.

Slovenian presidency of the EU wants solution to the naming argument between Athens, Skopje

Skopje/Athens. The Slovenian presidency of the European Union wants a peaceful solution to the argument for the name of Macedonia between Athens and Skopje, the Greek agency ANA-MPA reports. The Foreign Minister of Slovenia Dimitrij Rupel has noted the necessity of finding a solution to the problem before the NATO meeting in April, after his meeting with the Foreign Minister of FYROM Antonio Milososki, the agency announces.

Foreign investments on the rise in Macedonia

Macedonian Finance Minister Trajko Slaveski said on Wednesday (January 30th) at a conference in Skopje that the country will receive 282m euros in foreign investments in 2008 and foreign investments will increase even further to 329m euros in 2009. The inflation rate will remain within the projected range of 2.5-3%, he added.

EU entry talks with Macedonia

Macedonia may get EU entry talks date this year

There are real chances for Macedonia to start negotiations on the European Union membership in 2008, Slovenian Foreign Minister and President of the EU General Affairs and External Relations Council, Dimitrij Rupel, said Friday in Skopje after meeting Macedonian FM Antonio Milososki.

Slovenia, as friendly country and current holder of the EU Presidency, attaches great importance to the cooperation with "the Former Republic of Macedonia", as future EU member, Rupel said, calling the country to respect the EU principle of unity, solidarity and flexibility.

Saying that Slovenia, as the chair, has set the Union's enlargement as one of its top priorities, Milososki expressed satisfaction with the fact that the support for Macedonia was coming in the moment when it expected to get a date for the EU entry talks.

- To that end Macedonia has been investing great efforts, adopting numerous reform laws related to the judiciary, police, public prosecution, combat against corruption, power decentralization, Milososki said.

He also mentioned the vast support (over 90 percent of Macedonian citizens) of Macedonia’s EU integration, saying that the political consensus on the matter was demonstrated by setting up the National Euro-integration Council, chaired by the opposition leader.

Launching of Macedonia-EU negotiations on free visa regime in the near future is also rather significant for the citizens of Macedonia, Milososki said, pointing out that the country has met large number of criteria in that respect.

- Macedonia is ready to enter the visa liberalization talks and hopes for success as soon as possible, Milososki said.

He also underlined that Macedonia was expecting an invitation for NATO membership at Bucharest Summit, along with Croatia and Albania, as the country has met all necessary criteria.

To a journalist’s question why he uses the reference FYROM, considering the fact that Slovenia has recognized Macedonia under its constitutional name, Rupel said he had been using both variants, but in line with his EU role, he was obliged to respect certain rules.

Asked to comment his different statements on the name dispute settlement in the context of Macedonia’s EU-integration, i.e. that the dispute should be resolved now as it would be too late if done in March, which is opposing his earlier statements that the name was not part of the necessary criteria, Rupel said his opinion was insignificant.

- It is a fact that Bucharest Summit will make important decisions. I wish for FYROM, i.e. all three Adriatic Group countries, to join NATO. At the moment my opinion as Slovene Foreign Minister does not count, as Slovenia is not the one that makes decisions, but only one of the countries that participates in the decision-making process of all EU members, Rupel said.

I do not believe that the name is the main problem at the moment, it is not part of any document, but, taking into consideration the discussions within NATO and EU, it becomes clear that this is a significant matter for one or two countries, which may be of essential importance during the decision-making process, Rupel said.

- Slovenia is trying to persuade other countries as much as it can, but the country is not a super power to silence everybody else, he added.

He pointed out that the European Union wished European perspective for all Western Balkan countries.

- At the moment, Croatia is topping the list, followed by, as far as I know, FYROM, which is a candidate country, but yet without a negotiation date. However, Slovenia and the EU are making efforts for Macedonia to get this date as soon as possible, Rupel said.

Referring to Kosovo, Rupel said Slovenia considered that it was a European problem and EU’s responsibility.

Macedonians are inadequately educated to work in foreign companies

The Macedonian citizens are inadequately educated to work for foreign companies. The education, received in the country refers to an obsolete system and does not deal with the new criteria for production. This is the evaluation of the foreign investors for the Macedonian workers, the Macedonian TV channel Kanal 5 reports. According to the information too few Macedonian companies invest in their workers.
According to the study, working hand is cheap in Macedonia and this is one of the reasons why foreign companies decide to invest there.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Macedonia expects EUR 280 million foreign investments in 2008

The direct foreign investments in Macedonia will be EUR 282 million in 2008 and EUR 329 million in 2009, Finance Minister Trajko Slaveski told members of the U.S.-Macedonian Chamber, the Macedonian Makfax agency reported.
Slaveski noted the prognosis was worked out in cooperation with the International Monetary Fund and the National Bank of Macedonia. The finance minister grounded the expectations on the reforms that were implemented last year, as well as on the large number of activities that will be undertaken in the next period of encouraging the direct foreign investments.

Macedonia Minister "should Resign"

The leader of Macedonia’s New Social Democrats, NSDP, has urged the defence minister, appointed from within the party’s ranks, to resign over the fate of 11 Macedonian soldiers who were killed in a helicopter crash.

“If I were in minister Lazar Elenovski’s place, I would have resigned immediately after the army helicopter crashed,” NSDP President Tito Petkovski said at a news conference on Wednesday.

He explained that the minister should now step down out of solidarity with the families of the soldiers who were killed when their helicopter came down in thick fog near Skopje airport on January 12.

The soldiers were returning home from an EU-led peacekeeping mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

On Tuesday Elenovski told parliament that he did not feel morally responsible for the tragedy.

The causes of the accident are still being investigated by the authorities.

A day of national mourning was declared on the day of the soldiers’ funeral.

EU does not have double standards towards candidate countries, says Ervan Fuere

Skopje. The Head of the EU permanent delegation in Macedonia Ervan Fuere denies the Union has double standards towards the candidate for EU membership although Serbia received overnight a facilitated visa regime and member candidate status, the Macedonian newspaper Spic writes.
“There are no double standards for Macedonia and the rest of the countries. What has been proposed to Serbia has been proposed to the other Balkan states as well. The talks with Macedonia on lifting visas will start very soon, but it is not known exactly when,” Fuere added.

Fewer Macedonians Optimistic About EU

The high level of optimism that Macedonian citizens previously expressed about their country's prospects for EU integration is decreasing, according to the latest opinion poll conducted by the EU.

A Eurobarometer report published on Thursday finds that the number of people who believe the EU is taking account of Macedonia's interests significantly decreased, from 54 per cent in the summer of last year to 40 per cent in the autumn.

The survey, which is conducted twice a year, shows that unemployment, the difficult economic situation and the crime rate continue to be regarded by Macedonian citizens as the country’s biggest problems, while concern about price increases is rising.

Unlike citizens in the EU, around 30 per cent of Macedonians believe that local media coverage of the EU is too high and too positive.

Still, 48 per cent of Macedonians believe that the EU is having a positive influence on the domestic economy.

Despite the social and economic difficulties that Macedonia is experiencing, 38 per cent of its people believe the country is moving in the right direction, compared to 33 per cent who think the opposite.

The survey was conducted from September to November 2007 in all EU member states and in the three candidate countries, Croatia, Macedonia and Turkey.