Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Sanctions for six banks in Macedonia

The Macedonian anti money laundering and terrorism financing administration (USPPFT) will sanction those banks that have been uncooperative towards this institution.

The administration’s press release states that the success in tackling money laundering and terrorism financing largely depends on banks’ cooperation and it will not allow any improvisations in this field.

As uncooperative banks, USPPFT listed Eurostandard banka, Alfa banka, Uni banka, Izvozna i Kreditna banka, Poštanska banka, and Capital banka.

These banks do not submit enough reports and do not separate analyses of suspicious transactions.

UN secretary general tells Macedonia to focus on name issue

In a letter sent to Macedonian prime minister Nikola Gruevski on August 19 2008, United Nations secretary general Ban Ki-moon reiterated the world body's stance that the name issue that has been poisoning the relations bewteen Greece and Macedonia had to be solved first before turning to any other issues.

“I am aware there are other issues you think should be subject to discussion between Skopje and Athens. I hope that, by solving the name issue, the road to better relations will be traced, which will contribute towards handling these other issues, as well as finding possible solution of them,” Ban wrote, as quoted by website Balkan Insight.

Ban's letter comes as a reply to the letters that Macedonia's prime minister sent earlier this summer to the European Union, Nato and the UN, requesting that the issue of the Greek recognition of the Macedonian minority in Greece be discussed along with the name issue. Later, he also brought up other issues to be discussed on the sidelines of the name dispute, such as Greece recognising the Macedonian Orthodox Church.

However, Macedonian president Branko Crvenkovski slammed this move as counter-productive and following the last round of UN-mediated talks in New York City held last week, after meeting separately with both sides, UN special envoy Matthew Nimetz said that it was his responsibility to help resolve only the name row and that no other issues were to be discussed.

In spite of these developments, over the weekend of August 15-17, the speaker of Macedonian parliament Trajko Veljanovski again brought up the Macedonian minority issue in letters he sent to a number of states and organisations in Europe and around the world.

The name dispute between the two Balkan neighbours has been going on for 17 years now. It focuses on Greek demands that Macedonia change its name since its coincides with that of the northern Greek province. According to Athens, this implies Skopje's territorial claims towards Greece.

The climax of the name issue came in April 2008, when Greece vetoed Macedonia getting invited to join Nato at a summit of the military alliance in Bucharest. Since then, ties between the two have been exacerbated and now Athens is threatening to block the launch of the official accession talks of Skopje with the EU.

Nimetz is expected to visit Skopje and Thessaloniki on August 21 and 22, respectively, in a new effort to try and reconcile the two parties.

Head of Macedonian diplomacy extend his rights

The head of Macedonian diplomacy had extended his rights, Macedonian Utrinski Vesnik newspaper reports.
Ministry of Interior Act, which had been passed two years ago, had been implemented, which means not that diplomacy will have party membership but also centralization of Ministry of Interior’s role, the newspaper reports. One of the main implementations has been the decrease of the percentage of the ambassadors, which will be chosen by the professionals in the Ministry of Interior.

Repetition of a flawed policy

The failure of a policy is not measured by one mistake, but by the constant repetition of that mistake, and this is something that the US State Department has failed to understand when dealing with the complex affairs of Southeast Europe.

Around our Balkan neighborhood, Condoleezza Rice’s constant repetition of the rigid stance held by the United States prior to the summit in Bucharest will not help the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia’s bid for entry into NATO. “The hope is that the name issue can be resolved very quickly now,” Rice commented during an official visit to France last week. She added that the dispute between Athens and Skopje over FYROM’s constitutional name “should not get in the way of the admission of Macedonia to NATO.” This fresh pressure from Washington comes as the UN mediator for the Macedonia name dispute, Matthew Nimetz, calls a new round of talks.

All Rice’s stance achieves is to encourage intransigence in young leaders, and now, with the events in South Ossetia, we have all seen where this can lead.

Gruevski’s letters

“Macedonian President Nikola Gruevski had sent letters to several international institutes but he hasn’t expect any answers. He had already known them or he had heard them many times. They were not so good, Georgi Spasov, former secretary of Macedonian Social Democratic Union and former ambassador of Macedonia in London had written in an article, published in Macedonian Dnevnik newspaper.
“These letter looks like the activity of the communists from Nikšić. When the forces of the Warsaw Pact, had occupied Czechoslovakia one organization of the Communists Union from Nikšić, Montenegro had organized a meeting of the management. There head been two points in the agenda: considering of the situation after the occupation of the Warsaw Pact forces in Czechoslovakia and the second one was about many different things. After the debate it had been decided that the Warsaw Pact forces would withdraw.

Skopje Ups Ante on Macedonian Minority

Macedonia’s Parliament Speaker has urged the EU and the international community to up the pressure on Greece over its ‘unrecognised’ Macedonian minority.

Trajko Veljanovski sent letters to his counterparts in European Union countries and other countries round the world as well as international organisations asking for their involvement in the matter, local media reported on Saturday.

In his letter, Veljanovki points out that Macedonians in Greece are subjected to “systematic discriminatory politics” such as prohibiting the use of the Macedonian language and practicing their culture, changes to the names of their settlements and a ban on organised activities for Macedonians.

“Athens’ practice violates the European Human Rights Convention and the Framework Convention for Protection of National Minorities, which Greece has signed,” Veljanovski wrote.

The speaker sent the letter to countries such as the United States, Russia, China, Brazil, Canada and Australia as well as to the Council of Europe, NATO, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe and the European Parliament among others.

This is the latest in a series of attempts by Skopje to highlight its concern at an international level.

In July and August, Macedonia’s Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski sent a similar letter to the United Nations, the European Union and NATO as well as to the Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis.

“There is no Macedonian minority in Greece,” the Greek Premier replied to Skopje’s letter.

Skopje is also asking for the inclusion of its concerns in the ongoing UN-sponsored talks between the two countries for resolving their differences on Macedonia’s name.

In April, Greece blocked Macedonia’s bid to join NATO arguing that the name of its smaller neighbour implies Skopje’s territorial claims over Greece’s own northern province, which is also called Macedonia.

Since then the talks have intensified but so far have failed to provide a solution.

The UN mediator in the talks, Matthew Nimetz, who media in Skopje say is to visit the country this week, has said that his mandate does not cover the issue of the Macedonian minority.

The Government’s initiative to include this issue into the ‘name row’ talks has been criticised by Macedonia's President Branko Crvenkovski as "counterproductive."

Macedonia Ministers Face ‘Toilet Paper Fines’

Macedonian Ministers would be fined up to €1000 if they do not provide enough toilet paper in the ministry buildings they run.

It is a warning issued by the government as it introduced a freshly prepared bill on public hygiene.

Heads of public institutions will also be held responsible and face fines climbing up to €500 if the buildings where they work lack waste bins or hand dryers in toilets.

Penalties up to €150 are foreseen for people caught throwing litter or spitting on the street.

So-called ‘public sergeants’ will be recruited for monitoring hygiene in public properties, the government said. Police officers will also have right to issue penalties on the spot.

People caught littering could replace their penalties with community service, the bill envisages.

The average salary in the country is roughly just over €250 so the Government hopes that the draconian fees will encourage people to act more responsibly.

Macedonia's future is in NATO and EU

Macedonia has no alternative but to join NATO and the EU, for which it should unite internally and demonstrate political maturity, state capacity and unified vision of the long-term development.

Branko Crvenkovski, President of Macedonia and supreme commander of the armed forces said this in his speech at the central celebration of the Day of The Army, held Monday in Skopje.

The central celebration was also attended by army leaders, Government and Parliament representatives, the first president of Macedonia Kiro Gligorov and the diplomatic corps in the country.

In the special address, President Crvenkovski said he doubts Macedonia could develop inner democracy, inter-ethnic relations and implement high-quality reforms if it remains outside Euro-Atlantic integration process for extended period of time.

"It is clear that only stable Macedonia, with stable inter-ethnic relations and fully integrated into international organizations, can have economic progress and provide prosperity to all citizens", Crvenkovski said.

The Defense Minister Zoran Konjanovski said that Macedonia expects to finally receive the NATO invitation and become member soon.

"We expect Macedonia to enter NATO and participate at the celebration of the Alliance's 60th anniversary in 2009 as a full member", Konjanovski said.

Crvenkovski and Konjanovski sent a message that Macedonian Army remains a part of the international peace missions and has the intention to have strong morale and be respected.

Within the central manifestation on the occasion of the Day of the Army, a tribute with one-minute silence was paid to the 11 Macedonian peacekeepers that were killed in an accident while returning from the Althea mission in Bosnia.

A 12-gun artillery salvo was fired from the "Ilinden" barracks in honour of the Day of ARM.

Also, a General Staff delegation laid a wreath at the partizans' cemetery, at the tomb of late President Boris Trajkovski and at the tomb of General Mihajlo Apostolski.

Chairman of Macedonian Parliament requested rights for the Macedonian minority in Greece from Great Powers

The Chairman of the Macedonian Parliament Trajko Veljanovski requested from the Great Powers rights for the Macedonian Minority in Greece by sending letters to Chairmen of Parliaments in Russia, USA, China, Brazil, Canada, Australia and many others, the correspondent of FOCUS News Agency in Skopje announced.
The same letters have been sent to Parliamentary Assemblies of International Organizations Council of Europe, OSCE, NATO, European Parliament, etc.
The letter puts forward the issue for the situation of the so-called Macedonian Ethnic Minority in Greece.

Purchase price of milk in Macedonia will depend on quality

Milk producers in Macedonia and the Ministries of Agriculture and Finances agreed for the purchase price of milk to depend on its quality and be paid according to quality rules, the Macedonian TV channel Kanal 5 reports. The farmers’ Federation expressed satisfaction with the agreement but added that they would not accept purchase price below 20 denars (61 denars = 1 EUR).

Macedonia enacts Singapore like littering laws

Parliament passed new laws regarding littering. Steep fees apply to individuals, businesses and local governments who fail to obey the law.

Throwing a chewing gum, spitting, or dropping cigarette butts will set you back 50 euros. If the individual doesn’t pay the fee on the spot, their case is forwarded to the Courts where the fee is increased three times, to 150 euros.
However, the punishment for individuals can vary anywhere from 50 to 500 euros. For instance the fee is higher for someone spilling motor oil on a greenery.

If you can’t pay your fee, you will work for the Government, anywhere from three to six days (probably cleaning the city).
Local Institutions, Commercial buildings will be fined 500 euros if they are missing trash bins.

Government Ministers will be fined 1000 euros if their Ministry doesn’t have trash bins or is missing toilet paper in their bathrooms.

Heavy fines will apply to citizens who throw garbage next to city trash containers, burn the trash in the container or park their cars at a distance smaller than 10 meters to the trash container.

Local municipalities will take care of their own greeneries as well as cleaning. Each county will have the freedom to decide how much money will they invest in cleaning and maintaining city streets. In winter time severe fees will apply for any municipality who within six hours fails to clean up their streets from snow falls.

Bitola police briefly helds Bulgarian Journalists

Last night Bitola's police briefly booked a TV crew from Bulgaria for filming the Building that houses Bitola's detention center.

The case was confirmed by the Ministry of Interior spokesperson, Ivo Kotevski.

According to Mr. Kotevski, in presence of the Bulgarian consul to Bitola as well as the Police Sector for Foreigners, poloce seized the equipment of the TV crew and ordered them to show what they had filmed.

After the analysis, the Bulgarian TV crew was ordered to erase the material. The journalists had not obtained nor requested a permission to film Macedonian Governmental properties, which is something a foreign journalist must have.

After the filmed material was erased, the police returned their equipment after which the journalists were released.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Human rights violations persist in Macedonia

In the first half of 2008, NGOs report that most human rights complaints in Macedonia cite brutal beatings by urban intervention units -- Macedonia's Alfa and the Special Rapid Deployment Unit of the interior ministry.

A high number of police human rights abuses go unreported. Reasons vary, reflecting the public's lack of confidence in the police and judicial system.

Most discouraging is the low number of cases that go to court and an even lower number of rulings in favour of the plaintiff. Many victims are reluctant to sue because of personal or family fears or the threat of harassment. Notorious judicial inefficiency and massive bureaucracy also discourage individuals from seeking justice.

However, the All for Fair Trials Coalition, Citizens' Initiative Centre, Democratic Development and Election Centre and the Roma Women's Rights Forum – Arka, in co-operation with the UN's Anti-Torture Committee, are some of the NGOs implementing a project to support human rights.

Since 2004, they have provided free legal assistance to victims. Assistance in filing complaints with the Internal Control Division of the interior ministry, meetings with the public ombudsman, filing of lawsuits, presentation of the necessary medical documentation in court and other activities are how NGOs assist victims.

"In 2006, 62 complainants reported bodily harm by the police, along with rude and unprofessional behaviour. In 2007, there were 51 cases of police abuse, and in the first half of this year, there were 27 new cases. Although we see a downward trend, it is still a long way from elimination," said Anica Tomic Stojkovska of the All for Fair Trials Coalition.

A meeting of Macedonia and France's ombudsmen, Idjet Memeti and Jean-Paul Delevoye, and the EU representative in Macedonia, Erwan Fouere, generated some statements that could serve as future guidelines for protecting human rights.

"Transparency is the most efficient tool against torture. When one is arrested, it shouldn't mean the loss of human rights. For example, in France, the ombudsman appoints citizens who inspect prisons and penal institutions weekly," said Delevoye.

"In this country, many reforms in justice, freedom and security are under way, but in order for real changes to occur, a shift must take place in the attitude of police officers, administration and prison personnel. An appropriate legal framework is of crucial importance, but real improvement will happen only when laws are upheld and when personnel practices and customs change," said Fouere.

The Internal Control Division of the interior ministry refused several opportunities to provide its view of the human rights situation.

Adding Church to Macedonia Talks “Counterproductive”

Macedonia's President dismissed the Prime Minister's initiative to add the issue of the Macedonian Orthodox Church to the "name" talks between Athens and Skopje as counterproductive.

"We are giving Greece a reason to think that Macedonia is opening new questions and that it wishes to block the negotiations," President Branko Crvenkovski said on Thursday.

Crvenkovski said a solution to the row over recognition of the Macedonian Church should be sought within the frameworks of current talks between the Macedonian and Serbian Orthodox churches. The Serbian Orthodox Church has refused to recognise the independent status of the Church in Macedonia, blocking its wider recognition in to the Orthodox world.

Macedonia’s Prime Minister, Nikola Gruevski, argues that the real problem lies within the Greek Church, and that the Serbian Church is only acting as a satellite Athens.

On Tuesday, Gruevski sent a letter to the UN mediator in the “name” row asking him to put the church issue into the negotiations with Greece about Macedonia’s name

U.S. supports Macedonia’s NATO bid

U.S. Secretary General Condoleezza Rice believes nothing should stop Macedonia’s bid for NATO membership.

In an interview with the Voice of America’s Macedonian language service, Rice said that the U.S.’s view was that Macedonia should be accepted into NATO, regardless of the “name” dispute between Skoplje and Athens.

“That was our stance in Bucharest (at the NATO summit). I hope that the name dispute will be resolved soon…That is something that must not be an obstacle to Macedonia’s NATO accession, and we are working on that,” she said.

Rice compared relations between Macedonia and Greece to the current relations between Georgia and Russia.

“One reason for the existence of the Action Plan for NATO Membership and Accession is to help countries under the auspices of the Collective Security Organization overcome long-term problems, differences and conflicts,” she explained.

Today’s International Herald Tribune also draws parallels between the dispute between Macedonia and Greece and that of Georgia and Russia.

“Macedonia must be given an invitation to join NATO immediately, which will send a decisive message to Moscow, while NATO will show that it is intent on enlarging and will stress the right to protect the territorial integrity of small countries,” IHT writes.

“In that way, Moscow will understand the West’s decisiveness when it comes to ‘frozen conflicts’, whether in Georgia, Macedonia or Kosovo, where Russia supports Serbia which is against the newly-proclaimed state’s independence,” the IHT states.

Another round of talks between Macedonian and Greek negotiators in New York is currently under way regarding the “name” dispute, mediated by United Nations official Mathew Nimetz.

Everyone will recognize Macedonian minority except for Greece

The Greek Foreign Ministry did not understand and neither did react when the foundations of the recognition of the Macedonian language as a regional or minority language was created in the Council of Europe after Romania’s decision to grant this statute to the language, the Macedonian daily Dnevnik reported, citing the Greek Pontiki.
On May 1st Romania joined the European charter for regional or minority languages of the Council of Europe by recognizing the existence and the necessity of protection of the Macedonian language on its territory.
Diplomats in Strasburg note that the time, when the Macedonian language, i.e. the Macedonian minority, which speaks this language, would be recognized by neighbors and other states, it not too far. And Greece will remain the only country to support the position that there is neither Macedonian language, nor Macedonian minority on its territory.

Another robbing of Komercijalna Banka

Two masked bandits robbed a branch office of Komercijalna Banka located in the Skopje's District of Jane Sandanski on Friday morning.

This is the second armed robbery of a branch office of the same bank in two days, after yesterday's holdup in the branch office in the District of Gjorce Petrov.

According to unofficial information, today's incident took place at about 10:00 hrs, when several clients were present in the bank's premises.

Police teams have already conducted an inspection at the site. The amount of stolen money and other details are expected to be revealed soon.

Komercijalna Banka robbed for a second time in two days

Two masked bandits robbed Friday morning a Komercijalna Banka branch at Jane Sandanski boulevard in Skopje's Aerodrom settlement.
Thus far, there are no immediate information on the amount of money that were taken away. At the moment, police teams are investigating the site.

Moreover, a branch of Komercijalna Banka was also robbed yesterday in Skopje-based Gjorce Petrov settlement. Three masked robbers, armed with guns, stormed the bank taking away about 2.600.000 denars from the Bank and another 80.000 denars from the bank's customers. Afterwards, they fled the scene in an unknown direction.

"North Macedonia" in five versions

Diplomatic sources pointed that the UN envoy on the name dsipute between Greece and Macedonia Matthew Nimitz has proposed the name "North Macedonia" in five versions at the last round of the negotiations, the Macedonian daily Vecer reported.
After talks Nimitz stated that the name is a subject of negotiations. The newspaper however stresses that it was not only ideas about the name discusses, but also issues referring to the Macedonian minority in Greece and the Macedonian Orthodox Church.
In reference to including of issue about the Macedonian Orthodox Church, Macedonia's President Branko Crvenkovski pointed that this pace could be contra productive and could cause damage.

Greek citizens get "return to sender"

Greek citizens are a bit in a pickle after sending and then seeing their letters to Macedonia sent back to them. It's the 17th Olympic games between the Macedonian and Greek Government.

Greek postal service wont let their citizens write anything other than the acronym as a destination, while Macedonian postal service sends back to original sender everything that contains the acronym. Greece is the only country that forces their citizens to use the acronym to send their mail, otherwise the postal service refuses to send the mail.

Though Greek citizens are the loosers in this case, there are certain cases where Macedonian citizens struggle to get their important mail. A lady who wished to stay anonymous said she was expecting very important documents from her Greek attoney regarding property in Greece, but she didn't received it.

"My attorney from Solun called me up and told me, 'guess what, the letter I sent you with the documents, I just got it back'. I mean what is this, now I can't get letters?! I already complained to the Macedonian Postal Service, but there was no response from there. This is important documentation, I need to include my property in their Cadastral and the procedure is already in place. This is just needlesly making my job more difficult." says frustrated Macedonian citizen.

At the moment this is how it functions. It is fairly simple, actually. Mail from Greece is sent with the acronym, as shown on the image above, Macedonian postal service crosses out the acronym, writes 'Greece' underneath, and it goes back to Greece.

As Macedonia and Greece perform poorly at the Olympics, we have our own Olympic games with Airlines, Tourists, Postal Services. Lots of medals up for grabs, no need for Beijing and more importantly for the Greek side, no need for steroid use.

Macedonia’s Border Authorities Hassle “Unpatriotic” Travellers to Greece

Macedonians headed to Greece for the holidays complained that they are being singled out and harassed by Macedonian border authorities, national media reported on Thursday.

All buses with Macedonian tourists entering or exiting Greece are being stopped on the border and people’s baggage gets thoroughly checked, the Dnevnik newspaper reported. While Macedonians face delays of about three hours, Serbian and other foreign tourists entering Greece through Macedonia are being let across the border without any hassle.

Greek border authorities, according to information published in the national newspaper Express, are letting through all visitors, including Macedonians, without any problems.

The Macedonian border authorities’ move is part of the long-running dispute between Greece and Macedonia over the latter country’s constitutional name, which has been a thorn in Greece’s side since the People's Republic of Macedonia was established as part of the newly proclaimed Federal People's Republic of Yugoslavia in 1946.

The dispute resurfaced again when the country became independent in the early 1990s and has gotten even more heated in the past several months. A failure to find a name that is acceptable to both Macedonia and Greece led to Greece’s veto over the Macedonian NATO candidacy earlier this year. Negotiations between the two countries recommenced in July in New York and are still on-going.

Although Macedonian authorities are in the spotlight for their actions now, Greece has also had its fair share of strong reactions against Macedonia and Macedonians. For example, as reported in May, the country put an embargo banning trains coming from Macedonian territory on average every other day for 80 work days.

Gruevski raises issue of Macedonian church

Macedonia’s PM wants the mediators in the “name” dispute to address the issue of the Macedonian church.

Nikola Gruevski has sent a letter to UN mediator Mathew Nimetz asking him to include the issue of Greek recognition of the Macedonian Orthodox Church (MPC) as part of the talks.

Macedonian media report that Gruevski proposed that the matter be part of the entire package of solutions in the long-running dispute between Macedonia and Greece.

"After long discussions and negotiations, according to the information I have received from the MPC, it can be concluded that the roots of the problem again lie in the dispute that Greece has imposed, and which is linked to the Constitutional name,” he said.

"The Serbian Orthodox Church [SPC], among other things, backs the Greek Orthodox Church because a significant segment of the SPC’s leadership was educated and has spent a lot of time in Greek churches and monasteries, and has received grants from Greek Orthodox Church funds, remaining under its influence to this very day. That’s why moderate SPC bishops are known as the Greek wing,” Gruevski wrote.

The Macedonian prime minister also explained that the reason he had written the letter was that in Greece, the state and church were not divided and that they had close ties.

"Messages that the MPC will be recognized only if it changes its name clearly show that this problem has nothing to do with the church, but with politics and with the name of this country, and with the Greek refusal to acknowledge Macedonia’s identity,” Gruevski concluded.

Macedonian Wages Among the Highest in the World

"Invest in Macedonia", implored the government's campaign, because wages here are among the lowest in Europe. Are they?

The average salary in Macedonia is c. 200 euros per month and the cost to the employer - what with wage taxes and contributions to the pension and health funds thrown in - is c. 320 euros. That translates to c. 4000 euros a year.

What does the typical Macedonian worker give in return? In other words, what is the value of the goods and services that each and every Macedonian employee produces?

Easy: simply divide the country's GDP by the size of its workforce.

According to the IMF, Macedonia's GDP this year would be c. 8 billion USD (or 5 billion euros). The World Bank and the CIA largely agree with this estimate. That's 2500 euros per every Macedonian, man, woman, and child (=GDP per capita).

Of course, only 20% of Macedonia's population are employed, so GDP per employee is c. 15,000 euros (excluding the 10% of those who do not get paid).

It looks like a good business: invest 4000 euros a year in your employee and get back 15,000 euros worth of (pretax) product.

But, how does it compare to other countries?

Start with the region.

Albania's and Bosnia-Herzegovina's GDP per capita are equal to Macedonia's, but rising fast with impressive flows of FDI. Bulgaria's and Serbia's are 40% higher. Croatia's is three times Macedonia's. But, since the rate of employment in Croatia is double that of Macedonia, a Croat worker produces only 1.5 times as much GDP as a Macedonian one. Every Greek, Czech, and Slovene worker is four times as productive as a Macedonian worker (these countries' GDP per capita is 8 times Macedonia's) while the Romanians are almost twice as plentiful and the Russian workers beat the Macedonians 1.7:1 (Russia's GDP per capita is 3 times Macedonia's).

Of course, such a comparison is unfair. The Czech average salary is 722 euros and in Serbia it touches 400 euros. We should, therefore divide the GDP per capita by the cost of labor. This is known as GDP unit labor cost.

Even then, Macedonian workers are spectacularly unproductive. The Macedonian costs 4000 euros a year and produces 15,000 euros of GDP annually. The Serb costs pretty much the same (c. 5300 euros a year), but produces 20,000 euros of GDP every 12 months. The Czechs, Greeks, and Slovene employees do even better: they each cost between 9000 euros (Czech Republic) and 20,000 euros (Greece) a year, but give in return 60,000 euros of GDP!

Here's a riddle for you:

An unskilled Russian factory worker earns (gross) 1.60 euros per hour. A German - 13 euros per hour. Where is it better to open a factory?

Let's see: the Russian costs 310 euros a month and the German costs 2500 euros a month. Case closed?

Not yet. The Russian produces 2,000 euros a month. The German produces 8,000 euros a month. An investor is left with 4 times more production in Germany than in Russia. He pays more - but, he definitely gets more.

The Macedonian, by comparison, produces a paltry 1200 euros a month. This is why Macedonia is not an attractive destination for foreign direct investors. Salaries here are actually way too high. Judging by this meager output, to render it attractive, the average wage in Macedonia should not exceed 50 euros a month, all included.

Are Macedonian workers lazier or more stupid than their counterparts elsewhere? Not so. Labor productivity does depend on the existence of a work ethic (longer hours and more effort and initiative). But, more importantly, it reflects the workers' level of education and skills, the age and quality of machinery and other capital goods and equipment used in the production process, the availability of knowledge and technology, and the proliferation of better management. Macedonia needs to work hard in all these spheres merely to catch up with the rest of the region, let alone the world.

Macedonian Minority No Threat to Greece

Greece's recognition of its ethnic Macedonian minority will not harm Greece in any way, since the Macedonians there are loyal citizens who only seek their basic rights, Macedonia’s Foreign Minister said.

Athens has “double standards” when it comes to the Macedonian minority, Antonio Milososki said, in an interview for the Greek newspaper, Kathimerini, on Sunday.

If Athens sees the small Greek minority in Turkey as no threat to Turkey, how can several thousand people who declare themselves as Macedonians in Greece pose a threat to that country? Milososki asked.

The Skopje government asked Athens to grant formal recognition to its Macedonian minority in Greece in July. It also asked for the restitution of the property of Macedonians who fled the 1946-1949 Greek civil war. The government forwarded similarly worded requests to the UN, European Union and NATO, requesting their engagement. Read more:

Greece's position remains that no such community even exists. “There in no Macedonian minority in Greece nor ever was there,” the Greek Prime Minister, Costas Karamanlis, wrote in his answer to the letter from Skopje.

Regarding the ongoing dispute over the country's name, Miloski said Macedonia's position remained firm, adding that the chances for a compromise solution looked small, as long as Greek pressure towards Macedonia continued.

In April, Athens blocked Skopje’s NATO accession, citing the unresolved row, and Greece has threatened to repeat the same tactics over Macedonia's EU bid if Macedonia refuse to change its name. Greece says the name "Macedonia" implies a territorial claim to the northern Greek province of the same name.

Milososki’s interview came days before Greek and Macedonian negotiators were to meet on Thursday in New York to resume ongoing UN-sponsored name talks.

On Friday, the Macedonian Prime Minister, Nikola Gruevski, said that he hoped the UN mediator, Matthew Nimetz, would came up with a “much better” proposal than his last one.

Kathimerini said the compromise name “Northern Macedonia” was still in the game, however, adding that Nimetz believed a final solution to the row could still be reached by September.

Reconstruction of Uranija House to begin in September

Reconstruction of Ohrid's Uranija House, where the Macedonian Academy of Sciences and Arts (MANU) was established, will begin in September. MANU president, academician Georgi Stardelov said Sunday after meeting with Vice Premier Ivica Bocevski that the Government has allocated the reconstruction funds.

"This 19th-century cult building is to be put into function as of next summer, with the main task of scientific research of Macedonia's medieval period, i.e. the Ohrid literary center, where the first Slavic letter was created", said academician Stardelov.

According to him, MANU's intention is to turn Uranija House into the head office of the association of Balkan academies of sciences and arts, where institutions would focus on the region's crucial issues, along with ways towards Balkan's European integration.

Vice Premier Bocevski stressed that the Government intensively resumes with activities on enhancement of cooperation with MANU.

"The Secretariat for European Affairs will intensify MANU-related projects in several areas. Cooperation with the MANU Center for Geo-Strategic Research will focus on series of projects related to Macedonia's Euro-integration, i.e. interpretative dictionaries in Macedonian language, then in the sphere of politological, law and economic sciences", stated Bocevski.

Moreover, the Vice Premier emphasized that the cooperation with MANU on harmonization of the national legislation with the EU Acquis would intensify, whereas the Government would continue to support all projects for equipping the Academy and its centers.

The Uranija House is a building that has endured a number of interventions since 1953, but to no avail. The conservation project envisages toppling of the building to the stone walls, whereas upper parts will be entirely reconstructed in line with the authentic image.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

NBC Changes Macedonian Web page Under Greek Pressure

The original text on NBC's Olympic page about Macedonia:

A small, landlocked country in the heart of the Balkans in Southeast Europe, bordering Bulgaria, Greece, Albania and Serbia. Declared its independence from Yugoslavia in September 1991.

When Macedonia became independent in 1991, Greece objected to the use of the name "Republic of Macedonia" because "Macedonia" is the name of a region in Greece. In 1993, the United Nations (followed by the European Union, NATO, the IOC and others) recognized Macedonia by the temporary name "Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia," which remains the country's name according to those organizations.

However, the United States has referred to Macedonia by its constitutional name, Republic of Macedonia, since 2004. Negotiation between Greece and Macedonia to resolve the name dispute are ongoing.

Olympic Tradition:
Macedonia will be making its fourth appearance in the Olympic Games. Magomed Ibragimov is the only medalist in the nation's history - he won a bronze medal in the 85kg/187.25 lbs freestyle wrestling division at the 2000 Sydney Games.

Philip II, King of Macedon and father of Alexander the Great, won three Olympic titles at the ancient Games.

Beijing Outlook:
Macedonia is not expected to contend for a medal at the Beijing Games.

After Greek pressure (again), the content of the page was changed.

A small, landlocked country in the heart of the Balkans in Southeast Europe, bordering Bulgaria, Greece, Albania and Serbia. Declared its independence from Yugoslavia in September 1991.

When Macedonia became independent in 1991, Greece objected to the use of the name "Republic of Macedonia" because "Macedonia" is the name of a region in Greece. In 1993, the United Nations (followed by the European Union, NATO, the IOC and others) recognized Macedonia by the temporary name "Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia," which remains the country's name according to those organizations.

However, the United States has referred to Macedonia by its constitutional name, Republic of Macedonia, since 2004. Negotiation between Greece and Macedonia to resolve the name dispute are ongoing.

Olympic Tradition:
Macedonia is competing at its 4th Olympic Summer Games in Beijing as an independent nation. Magomed Ibragimov is the only medalist in the nation's history - he won a bronze medal in the 85kg/187.25 lbs freestyle wrestling division at the 2000 Sydney Games.

Beijing Outlook:
Seven athletes in five sports are trying to join freestyle wrestler Magomed Ibragimov (2000) as medal winners for the Balkan nation.

The webpage can be found here.

Monday, August 11, 2008

FYROM parades under official name in Beijing

The Olympic delegation of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) yesterday paraded in the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympiad under a banner with the initials of its official name FYROM, used by the United Nations and the International Olympic Committee (IOC). This followed Greek representations to the IOC and the organizers to stop the neighboring country from using its constitutional name of “Republic of Macedonia.” The Hellenic Olympic Committee also complained regarding a reference to FYROM athletes on the official Games website as “Macedonians.” Separately, FYROM Premier Nikola Gruevski snubbed a suggestion that UN mediator Matthew Nimetz might propose “New Democratic State of Macedonia” to resolve the name dispute with Greece. “It will have the same fate as his last proposal,” he said.

Greek Olympic committee protests over Macedonia name entry

Greece said Friday it had filed a complaint with the Beijing Olympic committee over the use of the name ""Macedonia"" in relation to Skopje's entry to the Olympic Games on its official website.

Greece and its northern neighbor are locked in a bitter dispute over the right to use the name ""Macedonia,"" which applies to both the former Yugoslav state and a northern Greek province.

Athens claims that Skopje's use of the name implies territorial ambitions beyond its existing borders.

""There has been an official protest to the Bocog president, Liu Qi, and the vice president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), Lambis Nikolaou, has raised the issue with the IOC chief Jacques Rogge,"" Greek Olympic committee head Minos Kyriakou said in a statement.

Macedonia, which gained independence in 1991, was made a member of the United Nations in 1993 under the temporary name of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM).

Subsequent negotiations on the name dispute, under UN auspices, have so far been fruitless.

In Skopje after the opening ceremony, the Macedonian government urged Athens to back off.

""The government of the Republic of Macedonia is appealing on Greece to leave politics out of sport fields,"" the Deputy Prime Minister Ivica Bocevski told reporters in Skopje.

""We appeal (to) our southern neighbor to let the spirit of Olympics and sport competitions to find its place at the Olympic Games in Beijing. The disputes we have are bilateral ones and are being solved through usual forums and dialogues,"" Bocevski said.

More than 120 states have recognized the former Yugoslav republic under the name ""The Republic of Macedonia,"" including China, Russia, the United States and Turkey, although no European Union member has.

Seven-year anniversary of Karpalak attack

Seventh anniversary of the Karpalak attack, which claimed the lives of 10 army reservists from Prilep during the 2001 conflict, will be marked Friday on the Tetovo-Skopje highway at Karpalak site.

Delegations of the Ministry of Defense, led by deputy minister Emil Dimitrievski and the Macedonian Army (ARM), led by General Major Zoran Dimov, commander of the Joint Operations Command, will lay flowers nearby Karpalak commemorating this tragic event.

The reservists who survived the ambush attack, together with a delegation of the Prilep Assembly will also pay their respect in Karpalak and in the Prilep cemeteries, where they are laid to rest.

Delegations of the local self-government, Karpalak Association of Soldiers and citizens on Thursday evening laid flowers and paid respect to the killed reservists at the monuments erected in barracks "Mircev Acev" and Leniste village near Prilep. In honor of the ARM reservists, a memorial plaque will be unveiled in Prilep downtown, thus heralding the procedure for renaming 13 streets in Prilep after the town's ARM reservists.

On August 8 seven years ago, a Prilep convoy made up of five vehicles and 120 reservists was ambushed near Karpalak. Defending the independence, territorial integrity and sovereignty of the state, Nane Naumovski, Saso Kitanoski, Branko Sekuloski, Goran Minoski, Marko Despotoski, Erdovan Sabanoski, Ljube Grujoski, Darko Veljanoski, Pece Sekuloski and Vebi Rusidoski, all ARM reservists, lost their lives in the attack.

Athens willing to negotiate only name dispute, not Macedonian minority

Athens doesn't accept to negotiate with Skopje for issues other than the name dispute, Greek newspapers write Wednesday, commenting the forthcoming fresh round of Macedonia-Greece talks in New York, the first one after Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski has sent letters to several international organisations and representatives in which he emphasised the existence of a Macedonian minority in Greece.

"Naftemboriki" reports the statement given by Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis that solely the name and its application is the focal point of the negotiations being led under UN auspices. The newspaper pinpoints that Gruevski has sent letters to EU, NATO, UN, OSCE, the Council of Europe and to G-8 countries. It is Skopje's planned tactics for incorporating the issue of the Macedonian minority in Greece into the UN-brokered name talks, estimates "Naftemboriki".

Athens is alarmed that Skopje could press the talks to cover the minority issue and therefore it wants to warn mediator Matthew Nimetz on time not to expand the meeting's agenda, reports "Ethnos". Greece, it adds, says no progress is expected from the new round of talks, scheduled on August 14-15.

"Ta Nea" daily, citing diplomatic sources, states "the situation is not very favourable" and the outcome of the coming meeting between Nimetz and countries' negotiators, Nikola Dimitrov and Adamantios Vassilakis, is widely anticipated.

Moreover, "Elefteros Typos" says Greece's MoFA conducts a name dispute tactics of "not even a step backwards", whilst "Kathemirini" daily stresses Greece has the backing of France, the current EU presidency holder, regarding the issue.

Athens protests over use of names Macedonia, Macedonians at Olympic Games in Beijing

The Government and the Olympic Committee in Greece have sent a protest letter to the Organizational Committee of the Olympic Games in Beijing over the use of the words ‘Macedonia’ and ‘Macedonian’ during the formal presentation of the sportspeople from the Republic of Macedonia and in texts, published on the Internet page of the Olympic Games, the Macdeodnian TV channel Sitel reported.
The Greek Minister of Foreign Affairs Dora Bakoyannis said that Macedonia should be called by the name, registered in the UN as it was at the last Olympic Games in Athens and in Sydney.

Macedonia opposition ends Parliament boycott

Macedonia's opposition Social Democrats and allied parties have ended an 18-day boycott of Parliament after the president pardoned a party official accused of corruption.

President Branko Crvenkovski says his weekend pardon of Social Democrat deputy leader Zoran Zaev was justified because the boycott was hurting the Balkan country's prospects of joining NATO and the European Union.

The party and its allies ended their boycott on Monday.

The party maintains that Zaev's July 17 arrest on suspicion embezzling millions in public funds was politically motivated by the country's conservative government.

Macedonian Defence Minister, French Envoy Discuss Relations, Name, NATO

French Ambassador to Macedonia Bernard Valero conveyed Monday [4 August] to Defence Minister Zoran Konjanovski the messages of official Paris on strengthening of the cooperation between the countries' Defence Ministries, reiterating France's support to Macedonia's NATO accession.

"I reiterated our support to the Defence Ministry and army reforms in recent years, along with France's support to Macedonia's NATO integration," said Ambassador Valero after the meeting.

Interlocutors focused on bilateral cooperation and participation in international EU-led peacekeeping missions, where according to Valero "Macedonia sets an example through its engagement."

"France-Macedonia relations are exceptional, and in this context we referred to enhancement of several projects," added Ambassador Valero.

Minister Konjanovski voiced the ministry's commitment to continuation of the reform process. In the context of bilateral cooperation, he mentioned training of military personnel by the year- end, along with new projects and expert assistance.

"We resume in our efforts to further professionalize the military personnel, so that our forces remain a significant part of NATO's peacekeeping operations," added Konjanovski.

Moreover, Konjanovski and Valero confirmed the meeting also tackled the name dispute with Greece.

"Pertaining to the name issue, I cannot say anything new, except repeat France's expectation that a solution to the problem is found as soon as possible," said Valero.

Minister Konjanovski said the Bucharest NATO Summit events would not discourage Macedonia.

"On the contrary, this will motivate us to accelerate the reform tempo, and I am certain this injustice brought upon the Republic of Macedonia will be mended in the upcoming period," underlined Konjanovski.

Mystery surrounds Barbara's death

Eighteen years old Barbara Lazarova, died on Sunday at 22:00hrs at Skopje's Nephrology Clinic. The director of Nephrology Dr Aleksandar Sikole says doctors have a diagnosis, however are waiting for the autopsy results.

"The kidneys were damaged, the heart, blood, brain damages... It's the law to make an autopsy in this case because it is very unusual for a young woman to have such serious complications with so many of her organs." says Dr. Sikole.

Barbara had been admitted at the Skopje Clinic on July 29th with diarrhea and a fever like temperature. The doctors did not get an indication that Barbara had menninghitis. It's not clear yet, what caused the poisoning, however 'spoilt meat' is the primary suspect. Barbara had eaten meat at a Budva Restaurant, and later drank water from a fountain outside.

Monetengro Authorities have performed inspection at the restaurant where Barbara ate, however the inspection was done two days after the incident was reported!

The owner of the Restaurant says it was impossible for the food poisoning to have come from his Restaurant. Serbian Media had also written of menninghitis cases in Podgorica and Danilovgrad, but Montenegro denied this.

Barbara's parents have blamed Montenegro in part for not helping her at their Hospitals. Barbara had been charged 80 euros for her hospital visit in Budva, and later was charged 100 euros for a 30km taxi ride. This slowed down Barbara's return to Macedonia, because she had waited money from her parents so she could come back.

The Macedonian Government has issued Alert for all citizens traveling to a different country.

- Consume water from bottles only.

- Consume foods that are kept on safe temperatures

- Double wash any vegetables or fruits.

Macedonian President Pardons Strumica Mayor, Opposition Back to Assembly

President Branko Crvenkovski signed decision to pardon Strumica Mayor Zoran Zaev and his five associates, suspected of misuse of official power regarding the construction of shopping mall "Global."

Cabinet [office] of President Branko Crvenkovski said in a press release that, after the consultations with the leaders of SDSM [Social Democratic Alliance of Macedonia] and DPA [Democratic Party of Albanians - PDSh in Albanian] Radmila Sekerinska and Menduh Thaci, he was informed that two political parties accepted his proposal for surpassing the political crisis in the country. SDSM and DPA return in the Macedonian Parliament, in ZELS [Association of Self-Government Units], and establish normal cooperation with institutions in the country.

Also, President Crvenkovski passed decision for not signing the decrees proclaiming the Law on Use of Languages, Law on Lobbying, Law on changes and supplements to the Law on Labour Relations, Law on changes and supplements to the Law on Expropriation, Law on changes and supplements to the Law on Practice of Law, and Law on changes and supplements to the Law on Energy.

SDSM through announcement confirmed that it accepted the proposal of President Crvenkovski for return in the parliament and also accepted the decision to pardon Zaev.

VMRO-DPMNE [Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization- Democratic Party for Macedonian National Unity] late Saturday [2 August] assessed the President Crvenkovski's decisions as coup d'etat against the institutions in the Republic of Macedonia.

VMRO-DPMNE considered that with this Crvenkovski maximally misused his position exclusively in the interest of the party it belongs. This is the first case in southeastern Europe of passing a decision to pardon persons suspected of crime.

Macedonia Ministry of Justice: Decision to pardon Zoran Zaev is act against justice

Skopje. The decision of the head of state to pardon the Mayor of Strumica and the five suspected is a violent attack against the judiciary. This was announced by the Macedonian Ministry of Justice today in relation to the decision of the President of the country Branko Crvenkovski to pardon the Mayor Zoran Zaev and the other people suspected in relation to the Global trade center case in Strumica, the Macedonian agency Makfax reported.

Eleftheros Typos: For Skopje nationalism is not choice, but necessity

The nationalism is not a choice for Skopje, it is a necessity, the Greek daily Eleftheros Typos reports. Skopje is not the typical example of a nationalistic country. It is more a peculiar state formation without national uniformity, and with population without unified identity.
To be more precise, the daily notes, FYROM consists of population with different national identities, to which it is trying to assign false ‘Macedonian’ identity.
The daily concludes that ‘all this has no connection to Greece, nor the naming dispute. If FYROM stops being a ‘national country’, then a large part of the ‘Slav-speakers’ will start feeling themselves Bulgarians and will leave for Sofia – a process, which has, by the way, already started’, the article reads.

Controversial solutions for return of opposition

Macedonian President Branko Crvenkovski warned that the country won't receive date for membership negotiations with the European Union if the opposition does not return to the Parliament, for which he offered a solution.

In order the opposition to return to the Parliament, he offers to SDSM abolition of Strumica mayor Zoran Zaev and his associates, in relation to the "Global" case.

The President guarantees to DPA that he won't sign the decree on the Law on Languages Use and that there will be repeated Parliament procedure on this issue. Otherwise, the President said this Law is good.

To bring the opposition back to the Parliament, the President also said he won't sign the laws on lobbying, on labour relations, on expropriation and on law Bar, causing them to be returned to the Parliament.

In the October report, the European Commission won't give recommendation for starting the accession negotiations with the Union", Crvenkovski said, stating that the failure to meet the eight criteria set forth by the EU and election irregularities are the cause.

However, according to the President, the most serious problem is opposition's boycott of the Parliament and other state bodies.

"We are not receiving negotiation date from the EU with this defective Parliament, and halfway democracy", Crvenkovski said.

The President also said he will try to talk with SDSM and DPA presidents, Radmila Sekerinska and Menduh Thaci. He added that if the opposition does not stop the boycott, his proposals are pointless.

Crvenkovski also pointed out that, according to him, politics is involved in crime-fighting.

"I am convinced that the combat against crime and corruption... is used for political settlements with opponents of the government", the President said.

When asked by journalists about eventual election of the President by the Parliament, Crvenkovski replied: "I have no intention to resign before the end of my term".

Security concerns in the Southern Balkans

The Southern Balkan region has been characterized by a pervasion of organized crime syndicates over the past decades due to the dramatic political developments and their geographical placement close to Turkey and the Asian-European contraband routes. The state of FYR-Macedonia is situated on the traditional “Balkan axis” that is being used for the heroin transfer of heroin to Central Europe. Over the past few years there is also the emerging trend of hashish exports from the Albanian dominated areas of the country, to Turkey due to the formation of strong international contraband networks that facilitate such transportation to Istanbul which is one of the main consumption centers of this narcotic in Europe.

The main groups active in the country apart from the local ones, are Albanian, Bulgarian and Turkish ones.

The developments in FYR Macedonia are inexorable related to those in Kosovo. Thus the Kosovo-Albanian “15 families” which constitute the main core of the organized crime in Pristina are cooperating with their brethren in the other side of the borders and especially those residing in the Sar Mountains and Tetovo.

Moreover between the Kosovo cities of Pec, Priznen and the city of Bayram Kouri there is an almost daily connection referring to the illegal narcotics trade and the arms trade which is a main cause for alert for the international authorities because of the alleged existence of Islamic extremists that may want to take advantage of the market weaponry that has been created there.

Over the past 3 years a new phenomena has been observed by the international police authorities and that is the human trafficking from Kosovo to Greece via FYR Macedonia. It is estimated that smugglers charge 3,000 Euros per head in order to organize a transfer from Kosovo to Greece and they have formed an extensive network of collaborators including taxi drivers, small transport companies and corrupt border officials.

A Jane’s Intelligence Review report revealed that in May 2007 a group of 19 people were arrested in FYR Macedonia that were responsible for the transfer of more than 100 people and charged 5,000 Euros for the services per person including the forgery of an entrance visa and the transportation with a taxi for the whole ride. Furthermore an international security operation apprehended another 16 Croatians and 2 Bosnian citizens that were related with the previous group and they were responsible for managing the transportation of immigrants from the Central Balkan region.

It is estimated that in Skopje a nascent market for forged passports is being created. For instance in July 2007 17 Kosovo Albanian immigrants were arrested carrying fake Swedish passports on their way to that country, which they bought for approximately 4,000 Euros.

EUROPOL estimates that in FYR Macedonia there are at least 200,000 illegal hand guns and rifles in the hands of the citizens and there is a booming weapons market, albeit mostly for exports to neighboring countries. In December 2007 a Greek was arrested because he was carrying illegally purchased weapons in his specially designed automobile crypt. In general there is a strong demand for handguns in Greece that until recently that was met by Southern Albania, although that seems to be overtaken by the FYR Macedonian market. A very notable example for the above was the attack against the American Embassy in Athens in January 2007.

According to the Greek media at that time who took their information from the Athens police; the RPG rocket that hit the Embassy was bought most probably from Tetovo for as little as 2,000 Euro including the rocket launcher. A team of the Greek anti-terrorist unit allegedly ventured there in coordination with the FBI, but no other data were made available to the public and no arrests have been made until now.

Cigarette smuggling is a traditional organized crime activity with an annual yield of at least 100 million Euros of illegally exported cigarettes, mostly to Greece and Serbia. Although it is difficult to speculate without concrete evidence; there is a prevalent attitude amongst members of the European police authorities that the groups involved in this activity have the backing of influential public officers in the country that profit through this kind of activity.

On the other hand, tobacco smuggling seems less threatening that drugs and weapons, therefore it is safe to assume that this kind of activity will continue well into the future in order for the authorities to be able to contain the reach of the organized crime groups. It is a shared knowledge for analysts that the different kinds of illegal goods (Tobacco, narcotics, weapons, trafficking, etc) are being exploited by the same criminal syndicates and in most cases they are being transferred via the same paths and routes. Therefore when one expands the other tends to decrease, and in essence the battle against organized crime is a far more complicated procedure than it appears at first glance. In FYR Macedonia the existence of multitude social inequalities and unemployment, coupled by low salaries (300 Euros per month average), tends to create an ideal scene on where human resources are recruited for this kind of operations. The parallel economy in the country runs around 100% in comparison to the legal one, therefore it is improbable to expect the eradication of these activities any time soon.

The past 2 years have witnessed a 40% increase in arrests related to organized crime activities in the country and the “internationalization” of the above, since the arrests include people from across the Balkans and beyond.

Another interesting recent development was the arrest of the Imam Bekir Halimi, by the authorities in Skopje due to his involvement in illegal funding by pro-terrorist organization. The Albanian descent Halimi received 2,115 euros payments from the Kuwaiti Organization "Revival Islamic Heritage Society" – RIHS-.

The Revival Islamic Heritage Society has been blacklisted by the United Nations “Because of their close ties to terrorist organizations, including Al Qaeda”, said the Interior Ministry's spokesperson, Ivo Kotevski. The money transfer through a swift account was done via Kuwaiti and two German banks eventually ending up on Halimi’s account.

RIHS has been accused of financing Al Qaeda in Afghanistan, as well as extremist groups in Pakistan, under the pretext of humanitarian care and since the 11th of January 2002 it was classified in the UN’s black list of international organizations.

The organization operated over the previous years in Kosovo, Bosnia and Albania, whilst it seems that it aimed at penetrating FYROM through Bekir Halimi’s actions. According to reliable information himself was under supervision by the local security agencies and he was also about to complete his work by importing into the country, radical Islamic figures from the Middle East.

It seems that he was a part of a larger plan of destabilization in the Southern Balkans.

Moreover there are indications of a recent strong interest by countries such as Italy, UK and Israel in the developments due to the nexus between extremists and organized crime networks in the country that covers a crucial geopolitical zone in the Balkans and it could be used as a springboard for the orchestration of attacks against European metropolises.

Organized crime remains a main concern for the authorities in Skopje. Islamic extremism illegal immigration and ethnic divisions are another three dimensions that contemplate the overall picture and are all interrelated due to the existence of strong interpersonal networks in this small country. Therefore any development should be analyzed through a wider prism and in a holistic approach and it should not be forgotten that the country’s placement as a transition route in the Balkans greatly affects its stability by decisions made by the global organized crime syndicates that are still very influential in the region.

Ljubisa Georgievski appointed adviser for Southeastern Europe with Macedonian Foreign Ministry

Former Speaker of the Macedonian parliament Ljubisa Georgievski has been appointed adviser for Southeastern Europe with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Focus News Agency’s correspondent in Skopje reported.
In a statement the ministry says that Georgievski has long-time diplomatic and political experience, which will be important when Macedonia achieves its foreign policy aims.
From 2000 to 2004 Georgievski was Macedonia’s ambassador to Bulgaria.