Thursday, July 31, 2008

President Crvenkovski Greets Macedonian Citizens Ahead of National Holiday

President Branko Crvenkovski in a note congratulated the National Day of the Republic - August 2 to the citizens of Macedonia.

Allow me on the occasion of the greatest holiday, August 2 - National Day of the Republic, to convey my most sincere wishes to all the citizens of Macedonia and around the world, reads the note.

I use this solemn occasion, it says, to pay my respects for everything that has been done thus far for the Republic of Macedonia, for everything that has been created by past generations and left behind to present and future generations to walk on the same path, the path towards justice and truth, which are enshrined by this great holiday, Ilinden.

Furthermore, the president adds that equality is the key towards achieving stability in the Republic of Macedonia and a guarantee for its European prosperity. Therefore, we are bound together to resume with the promotion of peace, tolerance and cooperation of all citizens.

Lastly, congratulating this great holiday to all Macedonians, I vow adequate observation and celebration that is worthy for Macedonia and for all of us, he notes.

US diplomat prods FYROM

US Ambassador in Skopje Gillian Milovanovic yesterday called on the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) to “carefully study” proposals being put forward by a United Nations mediator in the Macedonia name dispute and “embrace a golden opportunity” for a settlement.

Milovanovic said Skopje should strive to reach an agreement with Athens before a European Union summit in December. She said the proposals of UN mediator Matthew Nimetz “safeguard the interests of (FYROM) and could form the basis for further negotiations with Greece.”

Milovanovic’s comments came a day after FYROM Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski sent a letter to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon broaching the issue of a supposed Macedonian minority in Greece. Gruevski’s letter, which followed two letters from Skopje to the European Commission on the same subject, was rebuffed by Greece’s alternate government spokesman. Evangelos Antonaros said it was “an unsuccessful attempt to distract the attention of the international community” from the name talks.

'SwedMilk Macedonia' gets EU export license

"Swedmilk Macedonia" can officially export milk at the European market as of Tuesday, after obtaining an export certificate.

"Through this decision, we will aim at completing agreements for export in France, Bulgaria etc. In the past six months, we have shown that the Macedonian product is competitive. Latest data shows that 35 percent of import has been replaced by the best Macedonian milk", said "Swedmilk Macedonia" general manager Roger Oscarson.

In the meantime, the factory has also completed the six-month test period for the HACCP certificate.

"We have already launched activities to acquire the BRC certificate, which is important for Nordic countries. We are doing everything so that the best Macedonian milk is competitive at the European market", added Oscarson.

Thus far, "Swedmilk Investment" investments amount to Euro 25 million. The dairy employs 120 people, whereas cooperation agreements with about 1,200 farmers have been signed.

Commentary Defines "Ideological" Nature of Macedonian-Greek Name Dispute

In order to determine the strategic and operative diplomatic and political directions to resolve some open issues, such as the name dispute with Greece, the character of the same should be known, my dear ones. This is significant not because of a scientific whim or seminar eloquence, but because it is the basis of how and with what measures the opening and closing of this issue will be approached and led to its outcome.

There is no need to mention that "our lot" does not have a clue about what they are arguing about and how they should be managing the process of this dispute. Namely, the nature of the dispute between Macedonia and Greece, or vice versa, is not really political, but symbolic. It is a conflict about controlling knowledge, that is, semantically and essentially a postmodern dispute. This does not make it easier or - God forbid - less bloody, but it is mostly of such nature. This means that it is not the strategic confrontation of economic and geopolitical interests (there may exist such interests, but they are not crucial for the dispute) between Macedonia and Greece that is contentious, but that of the interests of a cultural, symbolical, and identity nature. This is what the Greek politicians, who (after our lectures in Athens) have said here for the first time that this dispute is "ideological" (according to [Greek politician] Pangalos), are talking about.

The term "Macedonia/Macedonian" is a strong name and a powerful license, which, if distributed merely to Macedonia, will push the country like a typhoon towards the cultural mythological centres of importance in the globalist world. Greece knows this well from its own experience. It has become an EU and NATO member due to its attitude towards the Hellenic heritage and for meeting the membership criteria. This is why it has spread the denouncement that Macedonia is "stealing away its history." You cannot comprehend this side of the dispute unless you are aware of its nature.

The Greek emigrants have about 15 "attack-arguments," all of them along these lines. This means that the confrontation centre is here. This is the centre where the acupuncture needle should pierce to relax the dispute. This is the division of connotations and the attempt to divide the heritage and mark the pluralities that succeed history without resorting to the grotesque theories of ethno- genetic, direct origin from the ancient nation-making groups of whomever nowadays.

The second problem is the Greek policy of discrimination against and utter rejection of its Macedonian minority. Instead of applying polemics that will solidify its positions, Macedonia should try to "indirectly" help its people in Greece through every available line of struggle to make Greece recognize all minority groups on its territory, including the Macedonians.

Second, instead of the empty "opening-closing" of issues, the Macedonian state should logistically help them to form teams of legal experts that will formulate the "Aegeans'" private complaints against Greece to its courts and Strasbourg, while waiting for the moment when it will be in a position to offer a bilateral agreement on resolving the remaining package of cases regarding Greece.

The third characteristic in this dispute is that it is UNBALANCED [capitalization as published]. Specifically, we are not having a bilateral debate with Greece, even though we do not want to admit this. It underestimates and avoids us, which is a typical Balkan syndrome of a state that thinks highly of itself. Yet, this is only for the time being. When they "polemize," they threaten us, but they actually do this every time the others are listening or in order to send out a message somewhere (to the United States, the EU states, its neighbours, and so forth). Let me give you this piece of advice: never insist on bilateral meetings because they are hardly attainable and futile. Always work in a "threesome" with a strong mediator. We are lucky that this has been the United States so far, given that it supports us. Only in this way - and never in a bilateral manner - can we come to a solution.

The fourth characteristic in this dispute is that it is a dispute of two radically opposite states and societies. The dispute has "a Laconic characteristic" [should read Lacan characteristic, after French psychoanalyst and philosopher Jacques Lacan] in these terms. Greece is an attempt to obtain a hysterical, ethnically clean, and homogenous culture and a political system within which the homogenizer in the face of religion and Hellenism will dominate. Macedonia is a "nightmare" for such systems because it is their essential opposite. If we succeed, then this will mean that they have made a mistake with the hysterical ethnic homogenization. Macedonia is a multicultural country with an inclusive policy, which it should interpret as an advantage or at least a thorough characteristic. It should not avoid it or imitate Greece in its nationalism, but should instead use its openness as an advantage for an offensive. The moral of this is that its openness and multiculturalism should be used as an advantage in achieving democratic standards, rather than the nation being used to pretend being hysterical, thus pushing it towards a loser's position.

Bey House in Macedonia’s Tetovo to be Restored

Skopje’s National Conservation Centre began the restoration of the nineteenth-century Bey House in Tetovo, north-western Macedonia, which is to eventually become an ethnographic museum, national media reported recently.

The project, worth around 100,000 euro, will be carried out in several stages, the senior conservationist Tsvetanka Hadzhi-Petsova told the Macedonian daily newspaper Vest.

Earlier media reports noted that restoration plans plan to return the house back to its original form, including the reinstallation of its authentic Turkish bricks and the removal of all the walls and structures that were subsequently added onto it.

Mehmed Paloshi’s Bey House, built during the first half of the nineteenth century, dates from the final period of Ottoman rule of the region, which began around the fourteenth to the fifteenth centuries.

According to Vest, the building, which has been protected as a cultural monument since 1950, has an area of 400 square metres. The ground level’s massive stone walls hold up a another floor, whose architectural and stylistic characteristics make it one of the most representative examples of the Ottoman secular architecture of the time not only in Tetovo, but in all of Macedonia.

After the restoration and conservation activities on the house are completed, which according to Hadzhi-Petsova is expected to happen in the next several years, the house will be turned into an ethnographic museum.

New Macedonian government stirs tensions with Greece

The new Conservative government of Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski, who has pledged to make accession to EU and NATO his top priority, was approved by the parliament in Skopje on Saturday (26 July). But an ongoing row with Greece looks to remain a key obstacle to the country's EU aspirations.

MPs approved the new coalition headed by Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski, consisting of his centre-right VMRO-DPMNE party - which had won 63 seats in the snap polls on 1 June - and the Democratic Union for Integration (DUI) - one of the two main parties representing the country's ethnic Albanians. Together, the parties hold a comfortable 78-vote majority in the 120-member Macedonian parliament.

There was no vote against the new coalition as the main opposition parties collectively boycotted the session. The Social Democrats did so to protest against the arrest of their Vice President Zoran Zaev, which they considered "politically motivated", while the Democratic Party for Albanians (DPA), the other main Albanian party, abstained saying they would not to return to Parliament before their community rights were better addressed.

The new government has pledged to make improved inter-ethnic relations and the fight against corruption and organised crime a top priority, also in view of the country's EU ambitions.

"We will work day and night to become a member of the European Union and NATO," Gruevski, who also headed the previous government, told deputies when presenting his new cabinet.

New tensions with Greece

But the Gruevski camp has created fresh tensions with Greece by turning to the Commission for support in its strive for better protection and promotion of the rights of the Macedonian minority in Greece.

A letter by foreign minister Antonio Milososki to Multilingualism Commissioner Leonard Orban, requesting support for recognition of Macedonian as a minority language in Greece, was followed by a letter from Gruevski to Commission President José Manuel Barroso.

He asked Barroso "to personally engage for Greece's strict obeying of the obligations stemming from international instruments regarding human rights, with special emphasis on free expression of ethnic identity and all rights stemming from that."

However, Barroso replied on Friday (25 July) that the Commission had "no general competence" to deal with such issues, which are the responsibility of the EU member states. He also stressed that Macedonia had to solve its problems with Greece before making progress on the EU path.

Milovanovic: Agreement with Greece by December

U.S, Ambassador Gillian Milovanovic said Macedonia should take the proposals put forward by mediator Matthew Nimetz into consideration and embrace the chance to reach an agreement with Greece on the name issue ahead of NATO summit in December.

In an interview for Skopje-based Alfa TV, Ambassador Milovanovic said Macedonia should keep its interests in mind and moves towards a negotiated settlement of the name issue in the coming months.

Ambassador Milovanovic said there are proposals that Macedonia needs to address alongside Nimetz. These proposals will protect Macedonian interests and there will be some details subject to further talks with Greece, she said.

"It's a golden chance for Macedonia," Ambassador Milovanovic told Alfa TV.

Macedonian government to increase pensions

Macedonian government will push pensions up by 5-8%, Macedonian Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski announced at a press conference on Tuesday, cited by Focus News Agency’s correspondent in Skopje.
The decision was made at the new government’s first sitting on Tuesday morning.
The PM has added the increase is larger than the one envisaged by the law because the government wants to improve pensioners’ living standard.

Macedonia's PM visits Johan Tarculovski at the Hague

Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski yesterday met with Johan Tarculovski in the Scheveningen detention unit within the Hague Criminal Tribunal.

Over the course of the meeting, the PM reiterated the Government's support, expressing assurance that the Government will do everything in its power to help the defence of Johan Tarculovski.

Furthermore, they discussed steps, which are due to be taken by Gruevski personally and by the Government, in order to help Tarculovski and his defence to prove the truth during the appeal procedure, Government's press service said in a statement.

Greece blames Macedonia for sabotaging talks with minority issue

Athens made it clear that it won't discuss the Macedonian minority issue, noting that Skopje is trying to sabotage the ongoing talks on the name by raising the minority issue.

Government's spokesman Evangelos Andonaros rebuffed to comment the Macedonian government's request for recognition of Macedonian minority in Greece, noting that Athens' position on the matter is clear.

"Greece, through its prime minister, announced its position absolutely clear. I have nothing to add regarding the futile attempts by other side, which obviously aims to sabotage the efforts to find a solution to the name issue," Andonaros told reporters.

Macedonia to become a one-currency state

Amendements to the law accepted earlier this week by the Macedonian parliament make payments in currencies other than the official Macedonian denar punishable with a fine equivalent to up to 7000 euro and between six months to five years of imprisonment, Bulgarian National Television said.

The new amendments ended an era in which euro, dollars and German marks were accepted in financial traffic, a practice that started in the former Yugoslav republic and continued after Macedonia's independence until the present day.

The problem is compounded each year when Macedonians from abroad, as well as tourists, visit the country and prefer to pay in euro or dollars, in spite of exchange rates in the street being lower than the official rate.

Finance minister Trajko Slavevski was quoted by Bulgarian National Television as saying that payments of goods or services in currencies other than the denar were a criminal offence, punishable by fines and imprisonment.

Exchange bureaux were expected to see an increase in turnover and profit following the amendments of the law.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Macedonia Opposition Figure in Police Custody

Zoran Zaev, Strumica mayor and vice president of the main opposition Social Democrats, who has been accused of abuse of abuse has been taken to a detention facility.

The Skopje District Court ruled that Zaev is to remain in police custody for the next 30 days. The Court overturned an earlier decision by an investigative judge that Zaev should not be detained.

The Trial Chamber of the Court changed its decision after a second appeal from public prosecutors, who insisted that Zaev alongside five aides should be in police custody as they could influence witnesses in the case.

A large number of Strumica residents gathered late Sunday outside the City Hall to voice support for their mayor and to express outrage at court's decision to arrest him.

“Unfortunately from day to day we become a state of precedents. Macedonia is the only country in the world where despite two decisions of the investigative judge not to order detention, the trial chamber changed that decision,” said Social Democrats' leader Radmila Sekerinska.

“This kind of thing happens only to members of the opposition and those that are successful but do not think the same as the ones in power,” she added.

Zaev and his aides were arrested on 17 July and they were brought to Skopje Court . The court initially decided not to detain Zaev while the Social Democrats claimed that the whole case was a provocation by the parties in power. Zaev was mentioned as one of the possible successor's to Sekerinska after she announced she was stepping down over the party’s crushing defeat at the June 1 general elections.

The only electoral district in which the opposition did not suffer a strong defeat at the polls was the one in which Zaev led the party candidates’ list.

Zaev along with four others is accused of abuse of office over a tender for a local shopping mall in the south-eastern town of Strumica where he is mayor.

In protest over his arrest the Social Democrats launched a boycott of parliament. If they keep up their action, the parliament will practically be left without any opposition lawmakers as last week, the main ethnic Albanian opposition, the Democratic Party of Albanians also left the assembly arguing they will return when the issues concerning greater rights for their community are addressed properly.

In June the ruling centre right VMRO DPMNE-led coalition beat the Social Democrats by winning 63 deputy seats while the Social Democrats alliance secured only 27 out of the 120 parliament seats.

The new government was voted in parliament during the weekend.

SDSM Vice President heading to prison

Unofficially, the Prosecution Body for Fight Against Organized Crime has reached a decision to imprison Strumica's mayor for 30 days, while the case against him is being prepared.

The decision was made earlier today by Skopje Court 1, though it hasn't made it public yet. Mina believes this will be made official shortly. Several hundred Strumica residents have already started gathering around the Local Administrative Building to show their support for the mayor.

According to our source, the decision of Skopje Court 1 is final, and don't intend to review or change it. The reason for the 30 days detention, according to our source, is to stop Zaev and his associates from pressuring and bribing three Strumica famillies into agreeing the land where the "Globe" Shopping Center is built didn't belong to them.

Zaev is expected to arrive at the Suto Orizari County jail this evening. Strumica residents have vowed to gather around the prison to voice their displeasure.

Zaev transferred to detention facility

Strumica mayor and SDSM's deputy head Zoran Zaev, accused of misusing his post as mayor, has been transferred to detention facility late on Sunday.

The Trial Chamber of Skopje District Court 1 ruled that Zaev is to remain in police custody in the next 30 days. The Chamber upheld the second appeal from public prosecutors, who insisted that Zaev alongside five aides be kept in police custody.

Large number of Strumica residents massed late Sunday outside the City Hall to voice support for their mayor and to express outrage at court's decision to arrest him. The locals tried to stop their mayor to surrender himself.

Zaev and his aides were arrested on 17 July and they were brought to Skopje District Court 1. After 12-hour interrogation, they were released on bail and their passports were seized.

Mayor Zaev and five of his associates are accused of wrongdoing in relation to the construction of Global shopping mall in Strumica.

Senior Macedonian opposition official re-arrested on corruption charges

Macedonian authorities have taken a key opposition figure back into custody on corruption charges after the prosecution appealed against his release on bail 10 days ago.

Zoran Zaev, the deputy leader of Macedonia's opposition party, and four aides were arrested July 17 on suspicion of embezzling €7.8 million (US$12.4 million) in public funds during the construction of a shopping mall in the southern town of Strumica.

Zaev was charged with abuse of authority.

The Skopje District Court canceled his release and late Sunday ordered Zaev and his aides held in custody for 30 days on the grounds they might influence witnesses if free.

No trial date has been set.

Opposition Daily Criticizes Macedonian Premier's Foreign Policy Tactics

I suggest that a special department be established, which would be in charge of writing letters to politicians and statesmen in neighbouring countries and worldwide, so that the world can learn about the Macedonians' suffering and the injustice done to Macedonia over the centuries. Encouraged by the great results and impact of the letters to Karamanlis (and his response) and to the European Union, Gruevski should write more similar letters to many leaders in the neighbourhood and further abroad.

A series of letters should urgently be sent to Bulgarian Prime Minister Sergey Stanishev and Bulgarian President Georgi Purvanov. Equally fervent letters should be sent to the Serbian leadership, to President Boris Tadic and Prime Minister Mirko Cvetkovic. Just in case, a firm letter should be sent to Albanian Prime Minister Sali Berisha and Turkish Prime Minister Tayip [Tayyip] Erdogan each. We could also teach a historic lesson to French President Sarkozy, British Prime Minister Brown, Chancellor Merckel [Merkel], and finally, of course, to George W. Bush and to Putin and Medvedev. All the issues concerning Macedonia should be raised at once - let us make the world know about the continuing global conspiracy against us.

For now, Prime Minister Gruevski's letters are only met with support in Macedonia and in the Macedonian media. Naturally, only negative comments and reactions to the letters have come from the European Union and Greece. We have had bad responses from some countries where we have not sent letters at all, such as the United States, France, and Germany. How do they dare respond negatively to us, when we haven't even written to them? Ever since the Bucharest summit, Macedonia has been losing the race with Greece for international support quickly and dramatically. Our positions after Bucharest have worsened badly. But, we are excelling on the home front.

We wrecked the Greeks by telling them that we were extremely concerned about the rights of the Macedonian minority and the property of those expelled during the civil war. This resulted in a storm of negative reactions in Greece, which was of course, met with exaltation in Macedonia. When the rights of the Macedonian minority in Greece will indeed improve and when, if at all, the property will be returned are less important details in Macedonia's policy. I suggest that Gruevski should remove Sergey Stanishev and Georgi Purvanov's masks, writing to tell them about their duplicity and Byzantine politics, because on one hand, they pretend to be our friends, while on the other, they have put major obstacles for us in Brussels.

Gruevski should openly tell Stanishev that the minority rights of the Macedonians living in Bulgaria should be recognized. We should openly tell Bulgaria that it has cunningly raised the language issue and that it continues to adopt our history. Gruevski should bravely ask the Bulgarians to pay damages for their crimes against Macedonians during World War II. This will be a great shock for Bulgaria, an even greater shock than the one we prompted in Greece.

As for the Serbian leaders, Tadic and Cvetkovic, we should fiercely raise the issues concerning the recognition of the Macedonian Orthodox Church, Prohor Pcinjski monastery, as well as other territorial issues. We should point out to Sali Berisha that he should recognize the rights of the Macedonians in Albania and curb his paternalism. Kosovo's Hashim Thaci should be told that there will be no recognition before the border has been delineated. Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan should be told that our expectations from Turkey were higher, whereby Gruevski will skilfully explain to the latter that our claim over our property in Greece and our refusal to grant the same rights to the Turks and other people who used to live in Macedonia (whose property was seized under the agricultural reform and nationalization) are two different issues. We should write to German Chancellor Merckel to tell her in no uncertain terms that Germany too has failed us by taking Greece and Bulgaria's side. British Prime Minister Gordon also ought to know that we are not pleased; we will tell him off for not being interested in Macedonia in the least. As for Carla Bruni, we will tell her that her beloved husband Sarkozy is a hated figure here for having brazenly taken the Greeks' side because his grandfather was from Thessaloniki. We could write to Bush, telling him that we suspect that he has started to skive off and is no longer firmly backing Macedonia. He is more concerned about his departure than about Macedonia. As for Putin and Medvedev, Gruevski should be firm in telling them not to overwhelm us with their brotherly love and pan-Slavic messages, because we are less Slavs and more antic Macedonians. This will touch a raw nerve. We prefer to be close with the Hunza, than with the Russians, Polish, Ukranians, Czechs, Slovenes, Slovaks, Serbs, Croats, Montenegrins, and Bulgarians. The latter are barbarians - we are living ancients. After we have published all these letters at home, we will be proud and feel like a weight off our chest has been lifted.

Nobody in Macedonia is interested in the final outcome of the prime minister's correspondence. Who gives a damn that only quiet and persistent diplomacy, which envisages numerous meetings, compromises, tolerance, wisdom, knowledge, mediators, negotiations that take long before they get to be made public, and agreements, tends to yield results towards resolving major inter-state problems?

I do not know whether the alarm has been raised in the Foreign Ministry, but it is really time for it if it is true that Panama is the first country to have changed its mind regarding our constitutional name's recognition. If the greatest achievement in the battle for our name so far, namely, the fact that 120 countries have recognized us under this name, starts to wane, then this will spell the incumbent government's greatest defeat in the realm of global bilateral relations. The recognition by 120 countries has been our greatest diplomatic success, the credit for which goes to several Macedonian governments and prominent people from Macedonia and the world over. What do you think, is Panama to blame for this or we? Perhaps Gruevski will send a ferocious letter to its President Martin Torijos. He will be punished for this.

The theory that some people close to the ruling structure have been promoting lately, namely, that we should not rush Euro- Atlantic integration, is very wrong. Their logic is that we have been lagging behind for years and that there is no reason why we should hurry now and make unnecessary compromises. The fact that the race with Serbia for joining the European Union is exceptionally important both for Macedonia and for Croatia is not mentioned. If Macedonia joins the EU before Serbia, it will be able to solve one of its greatest problems, the recognition of the Macedonian Orthodox Church. With this, the problem that will emerge between Macedonia and Serbia over the former's possible recognition of Kosovo soon will also be ticked off the agenda. Serbia can only become a full- fledged EU member if it resolves all the open issues with its neighbours, including Macedonia. If Serbia and Albania join the EU before us, we will be forced to make compromises that will be to our detriment. Alternatively, we will have to bid farewell to our Euro- Atlantic integration.

Karadzic's arrest and his quick "packing up" for the Hague have heralded Serbia's candidacy status, which the latter should receive by the end of the year. By handing over Karadzic, followed by Mladic and Hadzic, to the Hague Tribunal, Serbia will secure a start date for negotiations. What are we going to do though?

We will continue writing letters.

P.S. I say to myself that it is a pity the Macedonian Interior Ministry was not the one arresting Karadzic. That would have been a thriller and spectacle that even Hollywood would envy. This way, we did not see a single video of Karadzic's arrest. But we have had the chance to see countless videos of Zaev's arrest. It is the Strumica mayor's tough luck that he was not a convicted war criminal.

Father, son die in car crash in Tetovo area

A father and his child were killed in car crash on Tetovo-Jazince road early on Monday, Makfax correspondent said.

Bozin Krsteski, 43, and his five-year-old son Filip where killed when two cars - Renault Clio and BMW - collided on the road. Bozin's wife sustained severe injuries.

The two men aboard BMW also sustained severe injuries.

Kostovski family was en-route from Tetovo to their home village of Staro Selo.

The two cars, running in opposite direction, collided off a bend near the village of Beloviste.

Silence and grief enveloped the village of Staro Selo on Monday. One year ago, four youths had been killed in car crash, two of them were born in this village.

Women Handball: Brazil 27-25 Macedonia

In the decisive match at the Women's Youth Handball Championship, Macedonia lost to Brazil 27-25 (11-13). It became evident in the loss against Croatia that the Macedonian handball team performs poorly under pressure.

The mistakes the team made against Croatia were mistakes that really no one should make. The coach admitted the pressure got to them, but even he was shocked at the number of errors the team committed.

Same story against Brazil. Macedonia started the match well, lead through most of it, only at the end the pressure to get to them once more, loosing the lead and the match all together. Talent wise Macedonia has good players, though the inexperience in playing big matches and the pressure put on them by the RFM proved fatal at the end.

With a victory over Brazil, Macedonia would be on the train to place between 1 to 12th place, now is on the train between 12 and 24th place. The pressure is now gone, and I wouldn't be surprised if Macedonia wins their remaining matches.
Pero Stamatovski

Macedonian Premier Pledges New Government to Carry Out Reforms

The new government will fulfil everything within the programme and realization of all envisaged reforms, aimed at raising the living quality of Macedonia's citizens", said late Saturday [26 July] Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski.

"In the next four years, Republic of Macedonia will have political stability, economic development, progress in EU and NATO integration, investments in education, agriculture, but also other sectors", stated Gruevski after the new government was sworn in.

Pertaining to the opposition's absence from the Parliament session, he said this was their choice, which he believes is wrong.

"I think they were wrong. The reason they chose not to attend the session and abstain from the Parliament's work in general is rather unpopular, when you try to oppose the fight against crime and corruption with blackmails in the Parliament. It is not a good choice to boycott the government election. I think that in a year or two they will realize their mistake of leaving the Parliament", underlined PM Gruevski.

Macedonia's Milososki Outlines Foreign Policy Priorities

Foreign policy priorities of the Republic of Macedonia remain the same, determined through a national and political consensus. These are the Euro-Atlantic integrations. The Balkan region, which coped with misunderstandings, conflicts and wars 15 years ago, has since enjoyed years of cooperation, peace, stability and joint investments, so that all countries, including Macedonia, become part of the European family", said Antonio Milososki, who remains in office as foreign minister.

According to him, Macedonia can do this through quality reforms and good representation of the country before the international community, especially with the support of friends from Europe, USA, and other countries Macedonia has good relations with.

Regarding the dispute imposed by Greece, FM Milososki stated that Macedonia remains in the framework of prior talks, mediated by the United Nations.

"Talks can be fruitful only if there is respect from each side, and if there are debates through arguments and on an equal basis. Any threats, pressure and blackmail will not bear fruits. Athens should demonstrate greater understanding on the ways to a reasonable solution, which would enable good neighbourly relations and stability within the already well-developed friendly ties in the economic sector", said Milososki.

Pertaining to aspirations for EU membership, he stated that Macedonia should meet European Commission benchmarks in order to obtain the accession talks date, but also did not exclude Athens blocking that process.

"We remain on the position that Macedonia should everything in its power to meet the EC benchmarks, in order to acquire the recommendation for beginning of EU accession talks. However, I would also say that we should not be surprised if Athens decides to continue with the blocking policy, before all caused by its own internal political developments. In any case, such a stance is unsustainable on the long run, since the policy of EU and NATO integration has a larger capacity", underlined FM Milososki.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Macedonian lawmakers approve new pro-EU government

Macedonia's parliament approved Saturday a new government presented by Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski, who has promised to speed up reforms needed for the Balkan country to join the European Union.

All of the 78 lawmakers present late Saturday voted in favour of the new government, more than one month after Gruevski's conservative VMRO-DPMNE party won a landslide in June 1 elections.

Despite having an absolute majority in the 120-seat parliament, VMRO-DPMNE has formed a coalition government with the Democratic Union for Integration (DUI), one of two main parties representing Macedonia's ethnic Albanians, who comprise about one quarter of its two million population.

Lawmakers from the other main Albanian party, the Democratic Party for Albanians (DPA), and the opposition Social Democratic Union were not present during Saturday's vote, as they are boycotting all parliamentary activity.

The Social Democratic Union began their boycott 10 days ago over the arrest of one of its vice-presidents, Zoran Zaev, over alleged links to organised crime, saying the accusations were "politically motivated".

And the DPA has also refused to take part because it questions the poll results in Albanian-majority regions, where clashes between DUI and DPA activists on polling day left one person dead and forced a partial recount.

The VMRO-DPMNE won 63 seats in the elections, the Social Democratic Union 27, DUI won 18 and DPA 11. One seat went to a small pro-European party.

Gruevski had been under pressure to form a coalition with the DUI whose exclusion from the previous government, even though it garnered more votes than the DPA in 2006 elections, caused political and ethnic tensions.

"We will work day and night to become a member of the European Union and NATO," Gruevski told lawmakers as he presented his 25-member government for approval Saturday.

"But if Greece decides... to close the doors to those hoped for goals, we will work on a strategy for stability and for democratic and economic development even in those circumstances," he said.

Antonio Milososki (VMRO-DPMNE) will be foreign minister in the new cabinet, while Zoran Konjanovski, also VMRO-DPMNE, will take over the defence portfolio.

Although it has been an EU candidate since 2005, Macedonia has struggled on its road to integration into the 27-nation bloc because of political instability, ethnic tensions and corruption.

Its bid to enter NATO has been blocked by Greece, which vetoed its invitation into the alliance in April due to a 17-year dispute with Skopje over the use of the name Macedonia -- also the name of a region in northern Greece.

Macedonia was admitted to the United Nations in 1993 under the temporary name of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), and UN-mediated talks between Skopje and Athens have so far failed to resolve the dispute.

Gruevski said he hoped to achieve economic growth of at least six percent, and promised to work to attract more foreign investment and to modernise the country's infrastructure.

He also pledged to fight corruption and organised crime, and improve inter-ethnic relations.

Macedonian parliament approves new gov't

Macedonian parliament approved on Saturday a new government proposed by the Prime Minister elect Nikola Gruevski, news reaching here from Skopje reported.

The new government was voted in by 78 votes in the 120-seat parliament which was boycotted by opposition parties.

Gruevski submitted a five-point program of the new government to the parliament: to achieve annual economic growth of at least 6percent, join the EU and NATO, fight crime and corruption, boost living standard and offer better education to all its citizens.

In Macedonia's June 1 early general polls, Gruevksi's VMRO-DPMNE won a landslide victory with 63 seats.

Gruevski chose the Democratic Union for Integration, an ethnic Albanian party who won most seats among two main Albanian political parties for co-governing.

Ethnic Albanians account for a quarter of Macedonia's 2.1 million people.

Most ministers from the previous government will stay on their jobs in the new government.

Foreign Minister Antonio Milososki, Interior Minister Gordana Jankulovska, Minister without portfolio of Economy Zoran Stavreski, Finance Minister Trajko Slavevski, Justice Minister Mihajlo Manevski are all keeping their positions.

Minister for Transport Mile Janakieski as well as Minister Without Portfolio in Charge for Foreign Investment Vele Samak will also stay. Aco Spasenoski will again lead the Ministry of Agriculture.

The new Defense Minister will be Zoran Konjanovski, and the spokesman of the outgoing government Ivica Bocevski will lead the European Union integration department.

Vesna Kanceska Milevska will be appointed head of the Ministry of Culture while Pero Stojanovski will lead the Ministry of Education. Ivo Ivanovski will lead the newly formed Ministry for Information Society.

The Albanian Democratic Union of Integration party heads five ministries: health, economy, local government, ecology, and labor and social policy.

Abdulakim Ademi from the ethnic Albanian party will serve as the country's deputy prime minister, in charge of implementing a peace deal reached after Macedonia's 2001 internal conflict between Macedonians and ethnic Albanians.

Macedonia's opposition parties led by the Social Democrats and another ethnic Albanian party the Democratic party of Albanians boycotted the parliament session.

The Social Democrats walked out of a parliament session last week in protest against the arrest of its deputy leader, accusing the ruling coalition of trying to intimidate the opposition and force it into wilderness.

Opposition holding the ruling Government hostage

The speaker of the Parliament, Trajko Veljanovski, called the opposition, which announced boycott of Parliament's sessions, to attend tomorrow's session where the new Macedonian Government will be voted for.

"I call the opposition, which announced it wouldn't come, to attend the session for voting on the new Government, so we show we have democratic capacity and responsibility towards the citizens", Veljanovski said.

The voting, according to him, is "a democratic principle through which the Government is introduced in front of the legislative house and receives legitimacy from it".

"I call coordinators of all parliamentary groups to come to coordinate on Saturday, in order to schedule the session's agenda, as well as to discuss other open issues", says Veljanovski's statement.

Because of the announced coordination, Veljanovski re-scheduled the session for voting on the new Government for 17 hours.

The coalition led by SDSM announced boycott of the Parliament after Strumica mayor was detained, and confirmed the decision after the adoption of new Parliament Rulebook of Procedure, while DPA announced its exit immediately after the end of elections because they lost fair and square.

Salonika Airport should revert back to "Mikra"

Macedonian Diplomats have asked Greece to rename its "Macedonia" Airport in Salonika to its old name of "Mikra", Mina finds, though this is still unofficial.

This request was relayed to UN Mediator Matthew Nimetz in his last visit to Skopje and Athens.

Greek Diplomats aren't too concerned with this request because it wasn't in a written format rather it was only discussed. Athens also adds the name of the Salonika Airport wasn't added to the original document drafted in New York.

Macedonian Diplomats are confirming, this request, even though only verbal, is a response to Greek agressive tactics in the name negotiations since the Bucharest Summit.

Greece is still in pain after the renaming of Skopje's Airport into Alexander the Great, wishing they thought of it first. Athens has repeatedly asked the Macedonian Government to change the Airport's name, to which Athens got a reply to first change the Salonika Airport back to "Mikra".

A year before and during Macedonia's independence, the Greek Government went into a panic mode, renaming streets, schools, univerysity, airport into "Macedonia". Salonika's Airport was renamed to "Macedonia" in 1992, when Macedonia already gained its independence. The irony here being, Greece had spent 80 years to erase the word Macedonia from Aegean Macedonia, only later to double their efforts in branding everything as "Macedonia", and going as far as to tell their settlers they were Macedonians.

Currently, the discussion between the two Governments is aimed at resolving issues more as bilateral, and the only way to solve them would be for both sides to make compromises at the same time. However, at this moment, things look very far from any kind of a compromise.

Greece may be in a bit of more trouble than Macedonia, because Macedonia already had its elections, while Karamanlis' government had wanted to call early elections, but is now having second thoughts after a recent loss of points at the polls. The Two Party system in Greece is in trouble with Nea Demokratia and PASOK both tallying roughly 30%. The economy was viewed as the biggest concern for the population.

Commentary Says It's Time for Macedonian Opposition to Stand Against Government

In view of the recently published report on VMRO-DPMNE's [Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization-Democratic Party for Macedonian National Unity] intention to hold an early local election with a view to winning local authority in all the municipalities, it is becoming clear that Gruevski's top priority is to make the SDSM [Social Democratic Alliance of Macedonia] perish. After all, this is what he promised, using the exact same words, in his speeches before the election. But, this is not all. The statement that "the SDSM should be knocked down" in order to be reformed and that it should become a constructive and patriotic opposition in the country can also be attributed to him. The SDSM should be concerned in view of these "humane," "politically mature," moderate, and "patriotic" ideas of this country's favourite politician, which are already being referred to as "Grujovisms [reference to premier's surname akin to Stalinism]." If somebody as politically powerful as Gruevski wishes that you perish and works on this using all available means, in a country where the institutions of the system and rule of law are not particularly strong and capable of offering protection, then this might as well happen to you.

Therefore, having lost the parliamentary election that was carried out through the model of an early election, the SDSM should now acknowledge that it is dealing with somebody who can be described as a "political serial killer." The latter first kills the opposition's Assembly caucus, moving on to the mayors from the opposition's ranks, and finally, probably gets the country's president.

As is usually the case with serial killers, the analysts will probably discover that the reason for his great frustration with the opposition, which he wishes would perish, was that his mother or father were members of the SDSM (or the SKM [Alliance of Macedonia's Communists] or the KPJ [Communist Party of Yugoslavia]). They molested him as a child, so he wants to take his revenge on all those who remind him of them. Alternatively, the analysts will decide that this is his inherent trait. Given that his mother possesses four flats, whereas he himself does not have a single one, such a showdown is highly likely. Joking aside, it is a given fact that as long as Gruevski is the main political actor in Macedonia, President Branko Crvenkovski and the SDSM as a whole are right to be concerned. For, as far as Gruevski and before him, Ljubco Georgievski [former prime minister] are concerned, "the whole must have all its parts in order to be a whole."

The political circumstances are playing into Gruevski's hands and helping him achieve his objective. When they are not to his benefit, he turns them to be. Following Greece's veto in Bucharest, it was easy to reinforce the nation's indignation with Europe, Greece, and even the United States. It was easy to say to your own people, "we are the good ones, but the others do not understand what is good." It was easy to raise nationalist euphoria in the form of a defensive nationalism, presenting and treating as traitors all those who do not share your opinion. It was easy to create a patriotic front similar to the Socialist people's front, which used to defend us from the enemies of Communism. As some journalists would say, this is patriotic hysteria and piracy.

Nevertheless, knowing the reasons for this situation does not help the SDSM. Gruevski has convinced almost half a million people that he could save us from the bad Greeks, poverty, criminals, as well as from "the Albanians' excessive appetites." He comfortably adopted the image of a saviour and national hero deserving of a wag figure in the museum that is to be built in Skopje.

Realistically speaking, the SDSM does not stand chances against him until it manages systematically to shatter this lie. This lie may persist for some time, just as was the case in Serbia during Milosevic. However, exposing the lie will not suffice, for Gruevski will be quick to come out with a Milosevic-style slogan, "Who could ever replace me?"

The SDSM will have to demonstrate that it is a realistic alternative to this policy.

First of all, it will have to start believing in itself, so that others can believe it. In order to have others believe it, the SDSM should not imitate the VMRO-DPMNE. It should emphasize its distinctness and demonstrate its capacity to tackle the challenges of this era. Macedonia does not need yet another Gruevski - what it needs is an alternative.

The "For European Macedonia" coalition, which received the support of 230,000 voters, should quickly demonstrate that it has the capacity and knowledge to use its power to defend democratic principles in the country. Just like human rights and liberties, democracy also must be defended when under threat.

The SDSM should focus on safeguarding rule of law and civic liberties. This does not finish at Macedonia's borders and Gruevski must know this (or should be told so). His sovereignty is limited and he cannot turn into a dictator of a country that is a candidate for EU membership. He is under constant monitoring by those in Brussels, whom he already treats as Macedonia's enemies (just like Ljubco Georgievski used to). He must be forced to realize that he cannot abuse state funds without accounting for his expenditures without an end. His economic reforms, which serious economists consider as economic ignorance, rather than reformism, must be subject to ridicule.

Gruevski should be given the chance to repeat as often as possible that he works too much, that he is honest, unyielding, and concerned, and that his revival is constantly being expanded, upgraded, and effected. The receipts as to who is paying for the self-advertizing of his party-state, whose money is used, what the objective is, and who profits should follow each of his statements and advertizing campaigns.

There is hope for the opposition. Whenever it comes to power, the VMRO-DPMNE promises to rule for the next 100 years, which is why its programme consists of 100 steps. However, the party has never progressed further than the second or third step because of double- dribble, and consequently, the referee sends it out. At the moment, it is at the second step. The SDSM as a party and as part of a coalition with so many professors, doctors, ambassadors, former ministers, mayors, and other serious people with solid careers should not be intimidated by Gruevski, Jankuloska, or Stavreski. Before taking office, the latter were totally anonymous in this country. All it will take [for the SDSM] is some spite, consciousness, and the willingness to change the situation.

Macedonia: New Name for Thessaloniki Airport

Reports say there will be another round of talks on the Macedonia ‘name’ row in August, while Skopje has urged Greece to rename Thessaloniki’s airport as a sign of good will.

Macedonian media cite an interview that Matthew Nimetz gave for the Greek Net TV in which he calls on Greece and Macedonia to focus on resolving the name issue which has stalled Macedonia’s NATO accession.

Nimetz said that both sides so far have been constructive over many of his suggestions but noted that there is still much to be done to reach a solution that would satisfy both sides.

Meanwhile Macedonian daily Dnevnik cites unnamed Macedonian and Greek diplomats as saying that during the latest round of name talks in early July, Skopje asked Athens to bring back the old name to the Thessaloniki airport as a sign of good will.

Since 1992, a year after Macedonia declared its independence from the former Yugoslavia, the airport was renamed from “Micra” to “Macedonia.”

The sources explain that Skopje’s latest attempt to open side issues in the name talks is a reaction to a similar tendency by Athens. Greece strongly opposed the renaming of Skopje’s international airport from “Petrovec” to “Alexander the Great” in early 2007 and is still arguing that it represents a provocation.

“This is an attempt to motivate Greece to focus on the name issue which is the subject of the United Nations sponsored talks,” Macedonian government source says.

Relations between the two countries significantly worsened in April when Greece blocked Macedonia’s invitation to join NATO arguing that the country should change its name first.

Athens argues the name Macedonia implies Skopje's territorial claims over Greece's own northern province of the same name.

The UN sponsored talks have been ongoing for 15 years.

No abuse of Macedonian citizens in Greece - Athens

An official Greek statement, released via its liaison office in the Macedonian capital of Skopje on July 25, said there have been no cases of abuse against Macedonian citizens in the country, local media report.

Macedonian news agency Makfax said a Macedonian truck driver had been forced to stop on the highway near the Greek city of Thessaloniki.

According to, the man allegedly shouted at the driver that his country’s name was not Macedonia but Skopje and scratched the MK markings on the back of his vehicle.

Following the incident, the Macedonian government urged Athens to condemn the case and to bring the perpetrators to justice.

According to the Macedonian interior ministry there have been seven cases of abuse of Macedonian citizens in Greece so far this year.

In its statement, Athens said "Greek authorities did not receive any report on such an incident. There are no indications that such an incident took place," reported.

"Therefore, there is nothing that the government in Greece should condemn. It is high time to put an end to distortion ofthe truth," the Greek statement was quoted as saying.

Democracy in Macedonia: The Crying Game

On 17 July Mr. Zaev, vice president of the Macedonian social democrats (SDSM) was brought to the Court in Skopje, charged with abuse of office. SDSM and VMRO exchanged accusations: SDSM accused VMRO of dictatorship, VMRO in turn accused SDSM of interfering with the work of judiciary
On Saturday, July 26, the freshly elected Macedonian Parliament will convene to approve the new government composed by the two winners in the recent snap vote, Macedonian VMRO and the Albanian Democratic Union of Integration (DUI).

But alas, VMRO and DUI will have to go to the party alone. The major opposition parties, Macedonian social democrats (SDSM) and the Democratic Party of the Albanians (DPA) have both already left Parliament.

DPA announced its withdrawal a few weeks ago when it became clear it won’t make it into the government. SDSM just announced its boycott the other day in sign of protest against the arrest of their vice president and mayor of Strumica, Zoran Zaev.

On 17 July before noon Mr. Zaev was brought to the Court in Skopje together with five of his associates from Strumica. All of them handcuffed, including the middle-age female clerks. The TV crews were already waiting. Someone as usual, has tipped them off. Mr. Zaev and his associates have been charged with abuse of office in connection with the construction of the new, modern trade center in Strumica, opened earlier this year.

Mr. Zaev’s is merely the last in the series of spectacular TV busts which have happened during the mandate of the previous government of Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski.

At the word of their vice president’s arrest, the entire SDSM leadership, together with several hundred supporters gathered in protest in front of the Court. Riot police were already in place. The social democrats engaged in some pushing with the police and demanded the release of their colleague. After a few hours, things quieted down. Late into the night, after 12 hours of interrogation, the judge released Mr. Zaev and his associates to defend themselves from freedom.

The detainees returned to Strumica and Mr. Zaev was given a hero’s welcome. The crowd carried him; tears of joy replaced the tears of despair from earlier that day; a Roma brass band was summoned to the social democrats’ head office in Strumica to make the joy even greater. Democracy won, said the social democrats.

The next day, their president Radmila Sekerinska announced they were leaving Parliament.

Protesting in front of the Court, former Prime Minister Vlado Buckovski, said the scene made him feel like vomiting. “This arrest has a political pretext and it will have serious political consequences”, said he.

Mr. Buckovski suffered the identical scene some months back. He was charged with abuse of office from the time when he served as Defense Minister, and was given the same TV-arrest. His party colleagues reacted in the same way too. They gathered in front of the Court and demanded his release. Mr. Buckovski, whose trial is currently underway, was allowed to defend himself from freedom. Some of the other indictees have spent some time in detention.

“The incoming government of Nikola Gruevski is continuing with the practice of intimidation, said Mr. Buckovski.

Over the next few days SDSM and VMRO continued with mutual accusations. SDSM accused VMRO of dictatorship, persecution of political opponents, and abuse of human rights, the presumption of innocence in particular. VMRO in turn accused SDSM of interfering with the work of judiciary, and trying to intimidate judges, and cynically suggested to pass legislation to pardon all social democrats who have committed any crime.

The truth is as usual somewhere in between. SDSM is interfering with what is essentially a criminal investigation, and trying to cause a political crisis in just a few weeks after they suffered their worst electoral defeat in their existence. What happens if it turns out that Mr. Zaev is really guilty, asked some analysts?

“If they stay out of Parliament, and then it turns out Mr. Zaev is guilty, they risk of appearing as having pressured the judiciary”, comments professor Jovan Donev from the Eurobalkan Institute.
It is also true however that the spectacular TV arrests make people guilty before the trial has even begun. Even if acquitted later on, these people will remain labeled and their careers will suffer.

“TV justice has nothing to do with the fight against corruption and crime, nor with the respect of the presumption of innocence”, said Saso Ordanovski from Transparency Macedonia, a government watchdog. “This party - police circus has gone too far and we have been warning that it is out of democratic control”, Mr. Ordanovski added.

Many commentators concluded that SDSM can not revolt against the fact that charges have been brought against one of their own, but it is right to protest the way it is done in.

The Helsinki Committee for Human Rights also warned the government against the violation of the presumption of innocence done by widely televized arrests.

On the other hand, comments arrived from allover criticizing the social democrats’ decision to leave Parliament.

“People elected them, and are paying them to sit there”, said professor George Ivanov from the Law Faculty.

The European Commission also called upon the opposition to return to Parliament so the country could keep on course with reforms.

Yet, SDSM had a meeting a few days after the initial decision, and said they were not coming back. On the meeting of their executive board, which took place in Strumica as Mr. Zaev is under court order not to leave town, SDSM stood on their decision.

“ If perhaps last week some of us had some doubts whether we had gone too far, we are now convinced we did right”, said SDSM president Sekerinska.

VMRO does not want a democratic dialogue, they might as well continue to work alone, commented Ms. Sekerinska.

VMRO had used the few days of no opposition in the Parliament to quickly push through tens of pieces of legislation including the Parliament Statute, an important legislation which regulates the work of the Parliament itself.

Democratic tradition requires a consensus of political factors on adopting the Statute, and the EU demanded the same thing from Macedonia as a benchmark for opening negotiations. Both the EU and the US expressed disappointment over the fact that the opposition was not consulted on the issue.

The new government, with powerful majority in Parliament will be inaugurated Saturday. Democracy continues – the Macedonian way.

Both sides should reconsider their act. The government efforts against corruption are commendable but media lynching is not justice. The opposition on the other hand should stop the crying game and act responsibly.

Fines for incorrect use of Macedonian to be increased

Authorities in Macedonia introduced new fines for non-compliance with "the proper use of the Macedonian language and the Cyrillic alphabet," Bulgarian broadcaster said.

Currently, the Law on the use of the Macedonian language foresees fines of between 160 and 320 euro. The fines would now be increased to a maximum of 3000 euro, Bulgarian news agency BTA quoted Macedonian information agency MIA as saying.

Macedonian daily Dnevnik said any publisher, media company or municipality risked being fined for violating the law. The new law would be especially expensive on anyone using foreign words like "advertisement" or "management", quoted Dnevnik as saying.

"The linguists of the Institute of Macedonian language Kraste Misirkov would be most pleased with the new amendments, as they have for years complained that the Macedonian language was being destroyed because of a lack of rules. The institute has not been please with companies, media and public personalities using words and phrases from English and the languages of neighbouring countries," quoted Dnevnik as saying.

Athens urges Sofia, Belgrade to change their positions on Macedonia’s constitutional name

Authorities in Athens have been urging Bulgaria and Serbia for a few weeks to change their positions on Macedonia’s constitutional name, the Macedonian A1 television reported.
“Encouraged by Sofia’s most recent positions presented publicly on Macedonia’s history, which according to some politicians there has Bulgarian roots, Athens proposes unreserved support for Bulgaria in Brussels where European funds have already been suspended for Bulgaria,” comments the television.
In exchange for the change in the stance, Athens suggests to Serbia support for its Euro-Atlantic integration, as well as lobbying for Kosovo, which is one of the reasons for Greece not to recognize Kosovo’s independence up to now. For now Athens has a positive answer neither from Sofia, nor from Belgrade. Unlike Serbia, which still awaits the decision of the new government in Skopje about Kosovo recognition, the Bulgarian government has replied that it has no dilemmas as to Macedonia’s constitutional name, the TV channel adds.

Greece issues ultimatum to Brussels over Macedonia name issue

Greece sets off for a quest to hamper the consequences of Macedonian PM Nikola Gruevski’s letter, which requires Brussels to take due measures about the violation of human rights of Macedonians in Greece, Macedonian Utrinski Vesnik writes.
Greece’s deputy Foreign Minister Yannis Valinakis met with his French counterpart Bernard Kouchner, Minister of European Affairs Jean-Pierre Jouyet, and EU Commissioner for Enlargement Olli Rehn. He assured them that Athens is open for discussion only about the name of Macedonia.

Barroso's response to Gruevski expected to be a slam in the face: Imerisia, Greece

The European Commission does not have the competency to respond to Gruevski's claims regarding the issue about Macedonian minority in Greece, the Greek Imerisia daily reads today. According to the newspaper, this would probably be the response of the EC President Jose Manuel Barroso, which is due to be sent tomorrow to FYROM's PM Nicola Gruevski.
According to the information, Mr Gruevski's letter has been accessed by the proper authorities of Commissioner Jacques Barrot and Olli Rehn. These authorities have come to the conclusion that the EC does not have the competency to look into issues regarding minorities residing in EU Member States.
Furthermore, the EC or any community report has never made any reference to a "Macedonian minority" in Greece. Mr Barroso's response will also refer to the name issue and call on FYROM's obligation to maintain good neighbourly relation with Greece.
Meanwhile, the edition stresses, the Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis, sent a message to FYROM yesterday, saying that the Balkans do not need nationalistic tensions, but a modern European vision.

Armed Greeks attack Macedonian citizen

Macedonian citizen was reportedly attacked by a group of Greeks carrying knives near Thessaloniki, Macedonian police said on Thursday.

Skopje resident P. B. (59) reported the case at police station situated on the border crossing Star Dojran.

The man was driving a truck packed with restaurant equipment. He was intercepted by another motor vehicle near the Greek city of Thessaloniki and was forced to stop.

Once he got out of the truck, three men took out knives and told him "Ohi Macedonia, Skopje".

The attackers grabbed the driver and took him behind the truck. One of attackers scrapped the MK plate and tored the truck's tarpauline.

Since the start of the year, this is a seventh consecutive case of maltreatment of Macedonian citizens while traveling in Greece.

Macedonian president investigated by tax authorities

Macedonian tax authorities have initiated an investigation into the properties of president Branko Crvenkovski, Macedonian daily Dnevnik said on July 24 2008.

According to the paper, as of the beginning of July banks and other financial institutions, as well as the Macedonian finance ministry, were sent strictly confidential requests to provide data about any financial operations of the Crvenkovksi family over the past five years. Similar requests were sent to institutions in all former Yugoslav republics, as well as other Balkan countries.

The tax authorities neither confirmed, nor denied, the information about the requests, saying that these issues were confidential, Dnevnik said.

Crvenkovski's office was quoted by Dnevnik as saying that the president supported the fight against corruption and had nothing against the checks, as long as they were carried out in an objective and non-selective way. At the same time, however, it described them as "tendentious" and requested to be informed whether the prime minister and other cabinet ministers were subjected to the same checks, as proof that he was not being singled out.

Upon becoming prime minister in 2002, Crvenkovski declared a 61 sq m apartment in Skopje, a 1995 Volkswagen Polo worth 270 000 denars (4400 euro), as well as a stock portfolio worth 619 000 denars (10 100 euro) in his name and a further 35 700 denars (580 euro) in a current account in his wife's name.

The monthly salary of the Macedonian president is 73 600 denars (1200 euro), Dnevnik said, noting that upon taking up the presidential office in 2004, Crvenkovski did not fill in a new declaration, but he did tell the relevant state institutions that the old one was still valid.

According to Macedonian law, elected officials are required to declare any acquisitions of wealth or property, both concerning themselves and their first-degree relatives, that exceeds in value 20 average salaries for the preceding quarter, Dnevnik said.

Macedonian Defence Minister Awards Special Operations Troops for NATO Efforts

Minister of Defence Lazar Elenovski visited Thursday [ 24 July] the Special Operations Regiment in the Skopje- based Ilinden barracks, upon his initiative, to award 10 soldiers with decorations for their contribution in Macedonia's NATO accession process.

Elenovski noted the Special Operations Regiment had given the biggest contribution towards NATO membership through its constant participation in peacekeeping missions, where it showcased its readiness and professionalism.

Speaking to reporters, he said that a reply to the second letter sent to EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana, demanding official annulment of the order for removal of the MKD [Macedonia] insignia from uniforms of the Macedonian peacekeepers in the Bosnia & Hercegovina mission, hadn't arrived yet in the Ministry of Defence.

-It is expected the EU high representative to respond in an adequate manner, either with a letter or by revoking the order, Minister Elenovski told the press in Ilinden barracks.

Second Skopje bypass highway to be put into operation

The second Skopje bypass highway from Orizari to Saraj section at length of 11,8 kilometres will be put into operation Thursday.
PM Nikola Gruevski will attend the opening ceremony, his Cabinet told.
Entire length of the highway is 26,5 km with two lines, which passes under south slopes of Skopska Crna Gora and villages of Stajkovci, Smilkovcki, Brnjanci and Kuceviska Bara.
The complete bypass starts at the "Hipodrom" loop where it branches off from the Veles-Skopje highway, and its northern section ends near Orizari.
This western half starts North of Suto Orizari. Leading westwards, the route passes the Konjski Rid hill lying to the South and continues West crossing the Stenkovec loop (junction to Pristina), followed by the Lepenec River. Here, the road bends slightly northwards, running through the agricultural region of Gornopal, where it eventually curves to the South, passing the residential area of Vucidol. The route continues southwards winding through a hilly landscape. At Kondovo, it connects to the Skopje-Tetovo Highway.
The designed bypass will be a four-lane highway with a maximum vehicle speed of 120 km/h. The Skopje Bypass is part of Corridor VIII.
The Fund for National and Regional Roads of Macedonia (FNRR) is the investor of this project and is financed by European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), which granted a loan to Macedonia with 7-year grace period and 18 years repayment period. The value of the entire bypass is Euro 135 million.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Albania Can Learn From Macedonia's "Bravado" Towards Greece

In this corner of southeastern Europe, the letter that Macedonia's Prime Minister Gruevski addressed to his Greek counterpart Karamanlis a few days ago, came for many as a bolt from the blue, especially considering Macedonia's problems over its name with Greece which, by its veto, has excluded it from NATO membership and threatened to do the same with Macedonia's EU membership unless an agreement is reached over this problem on Athens' conditions.?

However, there is logic to Gruevski's apparent bravado? Following Macedonia's early election which returned Gruevski in triumph to the head of the government with a solid majority, which was mainly due to a populist and nationalist electoral platform, he needed this tactical move for two reasons:? He needs both to give further guarantees to his Macedonian Slav electorate that brought him back to power and to test the international waters to see the extent of backing that he can claim from the US Big Brother [two preceding words in English], who has been the constant and consistent supporter of the tiny Balkan state.

Couched in half-threatening terms, his letter to Karamanlis was intended to defend, as he says, the interests of the ethnic Macedonian minority in Greece, calling for the opening of Macedonian- language schools for emigrants from this country in Greece and the recognition of dual citizenship for a minority which the Greek state does not recognize.

At the same time Macedonia's President Crvenkovski was having a one-on-one meeting with Albania's President Topi.? This was no mere coincidence if one reads the press release issued thereafter, in which Albania again voices its readiness to put the facilities of the port of Durres at Macedonia's disposal, a measure that insures Macedonia against any eventual economic blockade on the part of Greece, which closed the port of Thessaloniki to Macedonia a few years ago.

Despite the strained relations between Macedonia's prime minister and president, which, only a few days ago, led to the latter's declaring that he would not run again for president precisely because of these differences, there is an admirable solidarity between them when it is a question of major national interests or the coordination of their state's moves with regard to a third party.

This should serve as a lesson for the Albanian Government which, in its official pronouncements, at best, deals with Albanians' property in Greece, or the rights of the ethnic Albanian minority there, as technical problems, if it does not ignore these problems altogether, which it does for the sake of certain petty personal interests of the moment.?

The same childish behaviour is seen in its relations with the Macedonians, who, only a little time ago, well nigh closed the door in our face by imposing high visa tariffs for Albanians going to Macedonia, although they knew that they would be the losers in this absurd move.

Reverting to Gruevski's letter and the response to it, the immediate answer from Greece's Prime Minister Karamanlis is worth mentioning? Not only did he reject the allegations of the Macedonian side as unsubstantiated but, moreover, he accused his Macedonian counterpart of letting himself be carried away by his emotions, which would be fatal for Macedonia's course toward NATO and the European Union, while at the same time referring to the European Court of Justice and the Strasbourg Tribunal of Human Rights as institutions of arbitration that the Macedonian side might resort to over its juridical claims.

The fallout from this tactical move of Gruevski's, the benefits that may or may not, accrue from it as compared to their cost, would require an extensive and substantial analysis, as would Greece's official reply, which expresses a certain political and diplomatic stance.

Albanian diplomacy should carefully study these moves which, if taken into consideration, may ensure that Albania plays an important role in this area of the Balkans, a role which would be incompatible with the petty interests of its political parties.

National interests are expressed through tactical moves in bilateral and multilateral relations, with every tactical move being made as a function of strategies that are worked out following preliminary consultations with experts, so as not to be taken unawares by international contingencies.

Macedonian Trucker ‘Attacked’ in Greece

A Macedonian truck driver was attacked by several people carrying knifes near the northern Greek town of Thessaloniki, police in Skopje have announced.

The 59 year-old man’s truck was intercepted by another truck and forced to stop.

After this three people with knives forced the driver out of the vehicle.

The attackers scratched the MK markings on the back of the vehicle and then slit the rear cover of the truck (see picture). They shouted to the driver that his country’s name is not Macedonia but Skopje.

Since the beginning of the year this is the seventh case of reported abuse of Macedonian citizens in neighbouring Greece, police said.

The driver reported the incident to the Macedonian police upon his arrival on Macedonian soil.

Athens has previously said that any cases of abuse should be reported the right away and not after victims cross the border in order for Greek police to be more efficient.

In June four Macedonian truck drivers reported they were forced by Greek policemen to sweep the Dojrani border crossing with brooms in order to be given permits to leave Greece and return home to Macedonia.

Relations between the two countries hit a new low in April when Greece blocked Macedonia’s invitation to join NATO arguing that the country should change its name first. Athens argues the name Macedonia implies Skopje's territorial claims over Greece's own northern province of the same name.

So far the United Nations-sponsored talks which have been ongoing for 15 years have failed to provide a solution to the row.

EC to give Gruevski short shrift on ‘Macedonian minority’ – Greek media

Greek media reports on July 24 2008 suggested that the letter to European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso from Macedonian prime minister Nikola Gruevski attempting to raise the issue of a “Macedonian minority” in Greece was set to backfire.

Amid the dispute between Skopje and Athens on the use of the name Macedonia, Gruevski in recent days first sent a letter to his Greek counterpart Costas Karamanlis and then to Barroso raising the question of the Macedonian minority and other issues not immediately related to the dispute.

The move by Gruevski, however, has been condemned by Greece as an attempt to muddy the waters of the name dispute.

On July 23, Matthew Nimetz, the United Nations mediator charged with the mediating the dispute between Athens and Skopje – the use of the name by the former Yugoslav republic is rejected by Athens which says that this reinforces Macedonia’s territorial claims in northern Greece – was reported to have said that the negotiations would remain confined to the name issue.

Greek media reported that Nimetz, in an interview with NET, Nimetz made the statement in reply to a question about the “Macedonian minority” in Greece. Greek news reports interpreted Nimetz’s reaction as a move to pressure Skopje indirectly to ease tensions.

Macedonians were irked last week when a statement on the name issue by Nato secretary-general Jaap de Hoop Scheffer was interpreted as implying that the onus was greater on Skopje to compromise.

German chancellor Angela Merkel, speaking on July 23, said that the UN-mediated negotiations should be confined to the name issue.

Greek daily Apogevmatini said that Gruevski had been “slapped” by Merkel and Barroso. The online version of Athens-based daily Kathimerini quoted diplomatic sources as predicting that Barroso would reiterate EU summit decisions that endorsed Greece’s position on the name.

Kathimerini said that the Gruevski letter to Barroso had “irritated” EC officials.

“According to diplomatic sources, a letter from Brussels will explain that the EC does not have the competency to respond to Gruevski’s appeal. High-ranking EC officials, such as Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn and Jacques Barrot, who is responsible for internal affairs, are said to have refused to oversee a response to the letter.”

The letter, expected to bear Barroso’s signature, would probably include a reference to a paragraph from an EC report that refers to the importance of Athens and Skopje “maintaining good-neighbourly relations, which includes agreeing on a mutually acceptable solution on the name issue,” the report said.

"Greece's position is known and firm. We seek a mutually acceptable solution to the name issue within the framework of the negotiating process held under the UN auspices," stated alternate government spokesman Evangelos Antonaros when asked to comment on the statements made by UN special envoy Matthew Nimetz to NET public television on the FYROM issue.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Gas Prices Down, Heating Up

The retail prices of gasoline will be reduced by 2,5 denars, diesel by 1,5 denars and household oil by 2 denars per liter as of Monday midnight.

According to the Energy Regulatory Commission, the new price of MB-96 is 78,00 denars per liter, of EUROSUPER-95 - 75,00 denars per liter, of EUROSUPER-98 - 76,00 denars per liter, whereas Euro diesel will be sold for 75 denars per liter, extra light household oil for 63,50 denars per liter and extra light household oil-1 (EL-1) - 64 denars per liter.

The price of crude oil M2 will jump by 0,614 denars, to reach 38,896 denars per kilogram.

Heating price Up

Energy Regulatory Commission decided Monday to increase heating price in Skopje by 60.35 percent for beneficiaries of "Toplifikacija-Skopje", and by 30.25 percent for beneficiaries of "Toplifikacija Skopje-Sever".

The new price amounts to Denar 4,4556 per kWh and Denar 3,7537 per kWh respectively.

The new prices will be applied as of August. The Commission justifies the decision due to the crude oil price increase, as well as the Constitutional Court decision for prevention of the retroactive heating price increase.

Macedonian Commentary Urges Construction of Nuclear Plant As Solution for Energy Crisis

Even though it would significantly strengthen our role in the region, I do not propose the development of Macedonian nuclear weapons. There is something else on which we should focus our attention in the years to come - energy. In addition to the regular leaps in the price of oil, the subsequent increase in the price of central heating and almost all other products whose production is linked to the price of oil would be logical, too.

Macedonia's dependence on foreign energy sources will merely increase in the ensuing period, but its choice of possible solutions is limited. The implementation of European environmental protection standards will further restrict potential energy sources, so we will be "lingering about" when it comes to what to do and how to do it. It would be no surprise if we sought the solution for this in electricity restrictions, just like in the early 1990s. When it is our district's turn to face a blackout, we will go and visit people who have electricity and we will go to bed early, which will certainly contribute to an increase in the birth rate.

Bad memories of Chernobyl are no argument against nuclear energy, because a potential nuclear power plant would not be built with Soviet technology. As early as in the SFRY [Socialist Federative Republic of Yugoslavia] the Krsko nuclear plant was constructed in compliance with US standards, that is, safe, like in most Western states.

An increase in the construction of nuclear power plants throughout Europe was notable after the 1970s oil crisis, under energy circumstances similar to the current ones - with daily increases in the price of oil to unbearable limits. For example, nowadays about 80 per cent of France's electricity is provided by 59 nuclear plants, whereas the percentage in other European states ranges from 20 (in the United Kingdom and Romania) to 50 (in Sweden).

More than 400 nuclear power plants are successfully operating worldwide. There are 50 in Japan and about 100 in the United States. In the central and eastern European states, new nuclear power plants are being built in Bulgaria, Hungary, Slovakia, and there is a joint project by the Baltic states and Poland. At a global level, in addition to the existing nuclear power plants, new ones are being constructed in the United States, China, India, Russia, Japan, Brazil, and so forth. It is no accident that most of these states have had the greatest economic progress over the past few years, and their development will resume in the coming period, too.

The ideas for the construction of the first nuclear power plants in a number of states in North Africa and the Middle East have reached an advanced stage. When it comes to Europe's nuclear map, the only places power plants have not been built are the Western Balkans, Norway, Ireland, Portugal, and Luxembourg.

What are the advantages of nuclear energy? Lower maintenance costs, which implies cheaper energy for final consumers; a cleaner environment, instead of the coal that is poisoning everyone, especially the Bitola residents; and the state's greater independence in energy terms, which will certainly affect its regional role and its economic potential. Judging by the turn of events, the price of oil will not return to its former level, at least not soon. On the contrary, it will continue to rise. We can hope that there might be an oilfield in our country or that we will be privileged to pay lower prices to those who have an energy surplus. The only thing we have left is to provide subventions to the so-called major consumers with the taxpayers' money, although somehow it has still not "dawned" on them that they are no longer state-owned firms, so they are whining to the government every time the electricity price goes up.

Yes, the realization of a project of this kind will be very costly, but it will not be expensive in the long run. Its advantages will be visible after a number of years, when the price of oil and natural gas will increase further and when there will be a small quantity of Suvodol [mine] coal. Given the potential global energy crisis, a nuclear power plant will provide us with a stable energy source that will be more than essential to us in the next decade.

Growth of poverty in Macedonia

The rate of unemployment in Macedonia is increasing and the poverty is widespread, delegation of the World Bank that met with Macedonian President Branko Crvenkovski in Skopje stated, Vecer newspaper writes today
The meeting of the Macedonian President and deputy – chairperson of the World Bank for Europe and Central Asia was focused on the current and future cooperation.

Athens, Skopje vie for EU support in name dispute

Macedonian prime minister Nikola Gruevski has attempted to raise the stakes in his country’s name dispute with Greece by writing to European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso complaining about the plight of a “Macedonian minority in Greece” – irking Athens and sparking a diplomatic counter-offensive by Greece at European level.

Negotiations between Skopje and Athens on the use of the name “Macedonia”, to which Greece objects because it says that it reinforces Skopje’s territorial claims in northern Greece, appear to be making no progress. Gruevski’s attempts, in letters to Greek prime minister Costas Karamanlis and now Barroso, to introduce other issues have sparked allegations that Skopje is trying deliberately to obstruct the negotiations process.

In his letter to Barroso, Gruevski raises the same issues that he put in his earlier letter to Karamanlis, including the recognition of a “Macedonian minority” in Greece and the granting of rights and compensation to citizens of the former Yugoslav republic who left Greece during the 1946/49 civil war.

On July 23 2008, Macedonian newspaper Utrinski Vesnik said that Greece was setting off on a quest to hamper the consequences of Gruevski’s letter to Barroso, Bulgarian news agency Focus reported.

Macedonian and Greek media noted on the same day that Greek deputy foreign minister Yannis Valinakis has met French foreign minister Bernard Kouchner, French European affairs minister Jean-Pierre Jouyet (France currently holds the rotating presidency of the EU) and European Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn to tell them that Athens was prepared for talks only on the name of Macedonia, and rejected attempts to introduce other issues.

The online version of Greek newspaper Kathimerini reported that Greek foreign minister Dora Bakoyannis “appeared unconcerned” when asked about Gruevski’s letter to Barroso. “The EU and all its members already have a full and detailed briefing on Greece’s position,” Bakoyannis said.

Macedonian news agency Makfax reported that the EC was delaying responding to the Gruevski letter.

“All I can tell you for the moment is that Commission has received it on Friday last week and currently it’s being looked at, among other things to determine whether any issues raised in the letter are within the competency of the EU or not,” Makfax quoted an EC spokesperson in Brussels as saying.

The same source said that “it’s a Commission policy never to respond off the cuff to subjects that haven’t been looked at in great detail, technically or politically speaking”.

Kathimerini said that diplomats in Athens said they would be surprised if Barroso honoured the letter with a response as “the supposed existence of a ‘Macedonian minority’ – in Greece or anywhere else – has never been debated in Brussels”.

Greece’s main opposition party PASOK criticised the Greek government’s strategy, saying that it had been wrong of Karamnalis to honour Gruevski with a response in the first place.

“The government has managed to open a dialogue on a non-existent issue,” said PASOK’s shadow minister for foreign affairs, Andreas Loverdos.

After Gruevski wrote to Barroso, the Greek media reacted with indignation.

On July 20, Eleftheri Ora wrote: “Gruevski’s letter changes recipient – they were awaiting it in Athens, but the postman took it to Barroso in Brussels. The newspaper said that on the pretext of the name issue, Skopje was bringing to light “its irredentist claims, the territorial demands, the “Macedonian”' language, and everything else entailed”.

The same day, Eleftheros Typos described it as “Gruevski's new, provocative lies against Macedonia, in letter to Barroso,” adding that Skopje was seeking backing in the EU, resorting to “blatant lies and ungrounded claims in speaking of a ‘political assimilation’ of the ‘Macedonians’ by the Greek state, systematic measures prohibiting the use of the ‘Macedonian’ language, and of discrimination”.

Greece has not limited its diplomatic moves to Europe. In Washington, Greek ambassador to the US Alexandros Mallias briefed the White House, secretary of state Condoleezza Rice, members of the US congress and the presidential campaigns of Barack Obama and John McCain on the Greek positions. Greek media reported that a letter also had been sent to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon.