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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: 073 (27/05/03)

The Skopje - Belgrade border agreement
In 2001 there was a border agreement between Skopje and Belgrade that is causing tensions. It is a continuing source of frustration for ethnic Albanians on both sides of the border. The deal saw Kosovo lose around 12 sq kms to Macedonia, and about 2.5 sq kms to Serbia.
A recent US investigation has defused some criticism of the arrangements, but the Kosovo prime minister, Bajram Rexhepi, continues to oppose them. Others dislike the new borders because they make smuggling harder to operate, notably the Vitina municipality in south-east Kosovo.
The new borders give the Macedonian security forces commanding views of smuggling routes, which frustrates the criminals and creates more tension. Such is life in the southern Balkans.

Political coalition is working
The government coalition of Macedonian and ethnic Albanian parties is holding up reasonably well for the while. The prospect of full-blown civil war, which looked menacing in 2001, has receded. The Albanians are still hoping for a lessening of discrimination against them, which has been agreed as desirable in principle by the government. 

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Bulgaria, Macedonia sign electricity supply agreement

By April 2004, Bulgarian electricity exports to Macedonia will total 400m kWh, the Press Centre of the National Electricity Company [NEC] said, BTA web site has reported. 
The export agreement was signed in Skopje on 25th April by NEC Executive Director, Vasil Atanassov, and Pande Lazarov, director-general of the Macedonian Electricity Company, ESM. It is to be implemented from June 2003 to April 2004. Two other companies were also awarded contracts by participating in the tender. They are Atel of Switzerland and EFT of Britain. The parties also signed an emergency supply contract, which is to be executed by request of the party in need; the electricity supplied will be paid for by the user. The amounts of electricity that the two parties may exchange amount to 100 megawatts.

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Finance minister notes Macedonia's obligations under IMF stand-by arrangement

"The IMF Board of Directors approved the stand-by arrangement for Macedonia on 30th April, and now the fulfilment of our obligations follows, which is a condition of the arrival of the funds," Finance Minister Petar Gosev stated, MIA News Agency has reported. 
The obligation of Macedonia is for the realization of political and economic reforms, i.e. firm fiscal policy that will enable relaxation of the monetary policy and gradual decrease of interest rates, but also greater savings in the public consuming, thus creating more room for investments in the economy, which would result in a 9.6 per cent decrease in the public consumption, along with 100m euros in the economy. 
The arrangement, worth 27.6m denars, will be realized in the upcoming 14 months, and some of the funding is already coming into the country. It requires a stable exchange rate of the denar, 3 per cent inflation rate and 3 per cent GDP growth.

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President affirms interest in EU membership

Macedonian President, Boris Trajkovski, termed membership of the European Union as his country's "most important objective," during a speech given at the European Parliament recently, New Europe reported. There was accord throughout FYR Macedonia on the issue, he said, adding that everything possible would be undertaken to fulfil membership criteria of the EU.
Trajkovski hoped for a strong signal of support from the EU summit mid-June in the Greek city of Thessaloniki, which will also focus on further rapprochement with Balkan countries. Additional financial aid would be only a small burden for the EU, but significant for countries in the region, he said.
Trajkovski stressed at a press conference that he was aware that the requirements were linked to certain demands such as co-financing projects from FYR Macedonia's own resources. "We do not want to be treated as an urgent, humanitarian case but are keen on real partnership with the EU," he said. The government has already announced that it intends applying this year for membership of the EU.

Macedonian government greets "significant progress" in oil refinery sale talks

The Macedonian government greeted on 12th May the significant progress in the process of overcoming some contentious issues in the selling agreement of OKTA refinery, MIA News Agency has reported. 
"The solution of such disputes in a direct, open and constructive manner demonstrates the firm determination for strengthening of good neighbouring relations and cooperation," the government said at the session, after the presentation of the information of the results of the recent visit of Greek Minister for Development Apostolos-Athanasios Tsokhatzopoulos to Macedonia, as well as the initiatives and pledges of both governments for enhancement of the cooperation in all spheres. 
According to the Macedonian government, the high level of cooperation in the field of economy, the interest of the Greek investors and the significant regional initiatives is a guarantee for long-term and positive political relations. 
The cabinet of Prime Minister Branko Crvenkovski also greeted the priorities of the Greek Presidency with the EU, which refer to the western Balkans.

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