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International recognition of The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia's (FYROM) independence from Yugoslavia in 1991 was delayed by Greece's objection to the new state's use of what it considered a Hellenic name and symbols. Greece finally lifted its trade blockade in 1995, and the two countries agreed to normalize relations, despite continued disagreement over FYROM's use of "Macedonia." FYROM's large Albanian minority and the de facto independence of neighbouring Kosovo continue to be sources of ethnic tension.

Update No: 058

The Macedonians are amongst the main beneficiaries from the new climate in world politics since 9:11. There is still a serious security problem in the republic. The top ranking NATO force- commanders have committed themselves to keeping their troops in the troubled Balkan republic after the `Amber Fox ' mission ends in March.
The government in Skopje is really concerned to advance its cause with Brussels. It wants to become part of the European family of nations.
An ugly situation was defused in early autumn as a direct result of the campaign against terrorism. Unfortunately it is by no means certain yet that the worst is over.
Unidentified members of the National Liberation Army (UCK), the former ethnic Albanian secessionist movement, whose voluntary disbandment in the autumn raised hopes of a permanent end to discord, issued a threatening statement in mid- January.
The statement came as a major surprise to everyone involved in the peace process, including NATO officials on the spot and other former members of UCK. The statement indicated that certain disbanded members "will organise and reactivate their units" in preparation for renewed clashes with Macedonian forces. The statement was not made by any leader of UCK. But there are obviously discontented elements still around among the Albanians in Macedonia, who comprise about a third of the population.
The insurgency of the rebels began in February 2001 and lasted for nine months. It ended after more than 100 people were killed, including 60 Macedonian security forces, mainly due to the trust the Albanians came to repose in NATO, which had after all helped their kith and kin in Kosovo in 1999. The militia disbanded in September 2001 after a peace agreement granted the Albanians more rights. But clearly some feel that this has not been implemented fully enough.
In mid-January the ethnic Albanian underground group, the previously unknown Albanian National Army (AKSH) announced its intention to mount new offensives. AKSH representatives noted that the Macedonian security forces had been receiving reinforcements from Serbia, Russia, Ukraine and Croatia. They also accused the Slav-Macedonian fraction of the Skopje government of "legalising paramilitary units under the umbrella of the Orthodox church." This is likely to be true.
It was never going to be easy to bring about a permanent concord between the mainly Muslim Albanians and the Orthodox Slavs. But at least a coalition government is in place, with elements from both communities. The international community needs to remain deeply involved, as in Bosnia-Herzegovina. The former Yugoslavia is still not yet definitively pacified.
The Albanians are hoping for a flow of aid, as are the Macedonians. If the West cannot carry the burden of rebuilding a small, but vitally placed nation in the Balkans, then it has little chance of successful nation- building elsewhere.

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Donors' conference set for March 12th, says EU

The European Union and the World Bank will organise a donor's conference in Brussels on March 12th to raise funds for Macedonia, EU External Relations Commissioner, Chris Patten said recently, New Europe has reported. 
The decision to hold the meeting follows the Macedonian parliament's approval earlier of local government legislation. The legislation was the last of a long list of constitutional changes agreed at the Ohrid peace conference signed in Skopje on August 13th. The new law provides for significant decentralisation including the transfer of health care and education to local levels. EU diplomats said Macedonia urgently needed an estimated 190m euros (US$163m) backing for its budget and 45m euros in reconstruction aid.
The Macedonian government expected to get at least US$90m from funds raised at a donor's conference which would give an essential push for covering the deficit and ambitious reconstruction plans. The reconstruction plan includes repairing most of the private property and infrastructure which was destroyed or damaged during last year's clashes between the Macedonian security forces and ethnic Albanian rebels from the National Liberation Arm (UCK).
The donor's conference for Macedonia, originally scheduled for September, was delayed several times due to the number of disputes between Slavic-Macedonian and ethnic Albanian political leaders on implementing the Ohrid peace accord.
The donor's conference will be the fourth international fund raising meeting for Macedonia. So far Macedonia has receive over US$200m of foreign aid.

Macedonia accepts credits from Sweden for water projects

The Macedonian government held a regular session at which, among other things, it discussed and accepted the proposal to pass a law on taking a credit from the Kingdom of Sweden for completing the Lisice hydromeliorative system project. The credit is valued at 9.8 million euros, of which 70 per cent has to be returned within 31 years, with an 11-year grace period, and an annual interest rate of 0.3 per cent. The other part of the credit has a seven-year payback period with a 2.5-year grace period, Macedonian Radio has reported.
The project for building the dam, along with the auxiliary installations, began in 1991. Sixty-five per cent of the work has been completed so far, and its final completion is planned with the help of this credit. 
The government also accepted the proposal to take a credit from the Kingdom of Sweden for the Hetz-Lara project, which is part of the Strezevo hydro-system. The value of this water supply project is estimated at 7.3 million euros, with a 14-year payback period, including a four-year grace period and an interest rate of 1.5 per cent. This already approved credit is designed to enable the full hydro-energetic utilisation of the Strezevo system, which has multifaceted use. 
The government also accepted the draft national programme for curbing people trafficking and illegal migration in Macedonia, which is based on a multi-disciplinary and multidimensional methodological principle, structured according to foreign countries' experiences, cooperation and membership of international initiatives, as well as cooperation with various international and domestic non-governmental organisations and associations that are dedicated to tackling this problem...

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