% of GDP
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: 074 (19/06/03)
Civil war averted
The Macedonians have averted civil war to the relief of everyone in the region, bar a few fanatics in Kosovo. They belong to the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) of the Albanians, but have no support from the Tirana government. A Greater Albania is not a welcome idea to the Albanians in Albania.
The ethnic secessionists in Macedonia, where 30% of the population is Albanian, have discredited themselves by being involved with organised crime, those engaged in drug-running, human trafficking and arms smuggling. President Boris Trajkovska realised that the criminal activities of the secessionists are their Achilles' heel, despite also being their bread-line. For a concerted campaign against them is now justified especially after the assassination of Zoran Djindjic, clearly the work of mafiosi elements in Serbia.
The Concert of the Balkans
An excursion into European history can help - at this point. British Foreign minister Viscount Castlereagh was the key figure at the Treaty of Vienna in 1815, ending the Napoleonic Wars. This was in many ways the most successful peace treaty ever signed. For nearly one hundred years Europe had peace, excepting the Crimean War of 1854-56 and the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71, brutal, but brief, wars.
This remarkable performance can be attributed to Castlereagh's insight that the Great Powers, the UK, France, Prussia, Russia and Austria at the time (the US being then isolationist and Italy and Germany disunited), should replace the idea of the Balance of Power, which had underlain the eighteenth century pattern of peace and warfare, by that of the Concert of Europe. Great Britain as the natural leader was to establish peaceful relations with the defeated foes of the wars by extremely lenient terms of peace. Even after the Hundred Days and Waterloo, France was offered very generous terms at Castlereagh's insistence, being allowed to keep Alsace-Lorraine. The US was offered such generous terms by the Treaty of Ghent to conclude the 1812-14 war (in which the British sacked Washington) that to this day American schoolchildren believe that the US won it! The Great Powers were to be brought into a Concert of Peace, definitively putting behind them the idea of a Balance of Power, inherently unstable as it always is, as different parties to it change their degrees of power over time. 1914, however, was to show this to be somewhat premature.
All this might not seem relevant to the Balkans now. But it is highly so. For the leaders of the region are entering into a Concert of the Balkans against the crooks and ethnic secessionists who plague it. President Trajkovski, along with President Stipe Mesic of Croatia, Premier Fatos Nano of Albania and Premier Zoran Zivkovic of Serbia wrote an article in the International Herald Tribune of May 22nd in which they argued for the idea suggested by its title "The EU and Southeastern Europe need each other."
They need each other to combat crime and terrorism (meaning in the Balkans secessionist violence). The wars that rent the former Yugoslavia apart in the early 1990s and in the Kosovo war need to be ended for good. A Concert of Peace for the Balkans is the goal, coordinated by its main powers as represented in the article's authorship.
The article notes that the way forward against the criminal and divisive elements is of course economic. "To rid ourselves of the scourge of organised crime, we need to deprive criminals of their most valuable resource - human capital. And to do that we need to find jobs for ordinary people who want a decent living wage for honest work. We have an educated and resourceful work force, but we need to know best how to deploy their skills."
After pointing out that the Balkans need not more money, but money better spent, the four leaders remark in a telling paragraph: "The EU has a remarkable record of triggering economic success by helping poorer regions - Ireland, Greece, Spain and Portugal, have experienced veritable revolutions in social and economic development in the last 20 years. This has been achieved following a triple policy prescription: integration into a larger market, sound macroeconomic and fiscal policies and direct EU and structural funds."
Greece has proposed bringing forward the latter for debate at the EU summit it is chairing in June in Thessalonika. Macedonia and others may be about to be integrated, ahead of their formal inclusion into the EU, into an EU-inspired Concert of Europe, an idea different from, but derivative, of
Governor receives Nikola Gruevski
The Governor of the National Bank of the Republic of Macedonia, Ljube Trpeski, received the leader of the largest opposition party in the Parliament VMRO-DPMNE, Nikola Gruevski, at his request, the National Bank of the Republic of Macedonia's website reported. At the meeting, Gruevski was interested in the realization of the monetary and the foreign exchange policies agreed with the stand-by arrangement with the International Monetary Fund, and supported the determination for low inflation and stable exchange rate set in the arrangement.
Gruevski was also interested in the situation in the banking sector. Governor Trpeski said that the assessment of the stability of the banking system made by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank during their last joint mission was highly positive. Also, the activities of the Supervision Department of the National Bank of the Republic of Macedonia are evaluated with the highest grade. Governor Trpeski stressed that speculations harm not only the banks which are mentioned, but also the economic stability as a whole.
Gruevski informed Trpeski about the latest changes in the Party, as well as about his determination together with the representatives from his party to represent a constructive opposition in the Parliament.
Macedonia to develop regional cooperation
The Republic of Macedonia attaches great importance to developing sound and effective regional cooperation, which is our common political capital and joint investment for our European future, Macedonian Foreign Minister, Ilinka Mitreva, stated recently at the meeting of Foreign Ministers of states within the Southeast Europe Cooperation Process in Sarajevo, the Macedonian Information Agency reported.
"The cooperation process in Southeast Europe is different from the other regional initiatives due to its authenticity. The process has given tangible results that have directly influenced the life of the citizens of our countries," Mitreva said.
According to her, results have been achieved in the fields of trade liberalization, transportation, telecommunication, energy markets, combat against organized crime and border management.
"The Ohrid Conference on Security and Border Management, urged communication and cooperation among the countries in the region," Minister Mitreva assessed.
"Macedonia is preparing to host another conference in Ohrid in September, as part of the implementation of the Charter of Partnership that Macedonia, Albania and Croatia signed with the USA," she added.
As she said, the September Conference will explore ideas on democratic reform and strengthening civil society, and should result in developing a common approach to mutual challenges and furthering the goals of membership in EU and NATO.
"We are fully aware that the battle for Brussels is to be won at home, but we should also expect the Thessaloniki Summit to result in a clear political decision about the European clear perspective for the countries in the region," Mitreva underlined.
FOREIGN LOANS & DEBT
Japan reschedules 800,000 Euros of Macedonian debt
The Japanese embassy in Vienna announced on 10th June that an agreement has been signed for rescheduling Macedonia's debt to Japan. The agreement refers to alleviating the payoff of the interest for 1999 and 2000, which Macedonia has not yet paid, Macedonia Radio has reported.
The agreement envisages that the debt of about 800,000 Euros should be paid back in 10 half-year instalments over a period of five years.
The statement from the embassy says that this is the second time since 1997 that the debt has been rescheduled. Japanese Ambassador Hiroshi Hashimoto and Macedonian Ambassador to Vienna, Ognen Maleski, exchanged notes in the meeting.
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