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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: 072 (17/04/03)
EU for NATO forces
The Macedonian situation has been changed by a substitution of EU for NATO forces, which took place on March 31st. In fact this was in many cases little more than certain troops taking off their NATO badges and putting on EU emblems in their place. But the symbolism of the switch is important, especially to the locals affected.
The forces involved are small, with about 350 EU troops now present, representing its new peace-keeping force. But it is able to call on reinforcements from Brussels if needed. That the EU and NATO both have their headquarters in the Belgian capital has greatly facilitated the hand-over.
Generally, the minority ethnic Albanians are fiercely pro-NATO and pro-US since the 1999 Kosovo War, completely aware that Washington is the best guarantor of their safety that they have got. Out of gratitude they have been pro the US line in Iraq. The majority Slav population of Macedonia prefer the European umbrella if there is to be an international peace-keeping force at all, not least because they aspire to EU entry.
Local US-French rapprochement
The most remarkable aspect of the change-over is that it involved smooth cooperation between the Americans, who were pulling out, and the French and Belgians who were coming in, the new EU force having a French commander, Brigadier-General Pierre Maral, most top officers being French and 40% of its personnel being French, all with Washington's approval. This when the presidents of France and the US were hardly on speaking terms.
True enough that the deal was worked out at an official level lower than the ministerial one. As in 'Yes, Minister,' the UK satirical TV series, on how Whitehall works, the permanent officials look on their political masters as often a lot of vain peacocks and deride them usually for the sort of spat which the latter allowed themselves over Iraq recently. A few level-headed professionals can settle things proficiently in a manner the politicos might not find so easy. But still any deal would have had to get clearance from them all the same, if not Chirac and Bush, at least Dominique de Villepin and his equivalents Jack Straw and Colin Powell, all as it happens on friendly terms, unlike Chirac and Bush who until mid-April had not spoken together for over two months. The spirit of the TransAtlantic alliance still lives on for all that, a great relief to the officials.
General ideal for the job
Brig-Gen Maral is an ideal officer for the job, an army engineer skilled in reconstruction work, who says that it was exactly the kind of nation-building needed in Macedonia that drew him to a military career. Born in Marakesh, Morocco, where his father worked as an English teacher, he witnessed France's gradual withdrawal from the country and the efforts the French colonists made to develop a local police force and military as they left. "A lot of crisis-management principles come from our experience as colonists, which was not all bad," says the general. "We share that with the British."
That is a history that the US doesn't share to anything like the same extent. But it is certainly now engaged in nation-building. As in Afghanistan, it would be wise for it to become a multi-national effort. There are lessons to learn here from Bosnia too - and Macedonia.
FOREIGN ECONOMIC RELATIONS
Macedonian, Slovene finance ministers sign memorandum of understanding
Macedonian Finance Minister, Petar Gosev, met on 4th April in Ljubljana with his Slovene counterpart, Dusan Mramor, discussing possibilities for intensifying bilateral cooperation, the exchange of experiences on tax and other polices that led to economic growth, MIA News Agency has reported.
The ministers signed a Memorandum of Understanding, by which Slovenia will grant assistance to Macedonia in the sphere of public finances.
Gosev also had a meeting with Slovene Minister of Economy Tea Petrin, focused on both countries commitment to reduce the trade exchange deficit, foster investment of Slovenian enterprises in Macedonia and activities for joint presentation on third markets.
Macedonian premier, Greek development minister discuss cooperation in Athens
Macedonian Prime Minister Branko Crvenkovski met on 4th April in Athens with Greek Minister of Development, Apostolos-Athanasios Tsokhatzopoulos. The officials noted that the two countries have exceptionally good economic cooperation, MIA News agency has reported.
They emphasized the common interest of the two countries in constructing a 400-kWh electricity line between Macedonia and Serbia and between Macedonia and Greece, as part of the project for connecting the energy systems in the European Union.
Crvenkovski and Tsokhatzopoulos discussed many environmental projects, including the protection of Vardar River, Dojran and Prespa Lakes as well as the project on filtering the technological waste from Veles Smelter. They agreed that it was necessary to analyse all options for utilizing EU and Greek funds.
During the visit to Athens, Macedonian Prime Minister Branko Crvenkovski addressed the International Forum focusing on "Leadership strategy for the strengthening of Trans-Atlantic ties. The role of Europe and United States." He also had meetings with Greek, Serbian and Albanian Premiers Konstandinos Simitis, Zoran Zivkovic and Fatos Nano and leader of major Greek opposition party "New Democracy" Konstandinos Karamanlis.
Macedonia to be WTO's 146th member
Macedonia will shortly become the World Trade Organisation's 146th member, nearly a decade after launching negotiations to join the global trade body, trade sources have said.
Macedonia's government notified the Geneva-based WTO on March 5th that its parliament had ratified the protocol setting out the terms and conditions of the country's membership.
Under WTO rules, a country officially enters the trade organisation 30 days later.
Macedonia is the third country from the ex-Yugoslavia to join the WTO, following Slovenia and Croatia. It traded about US$2.8bn in goods with the rest of the world in 2001, and traded US$631m in services in 2000.
Another 27 countries, including Russia and Saudi Arabia are in the throes of negotiating their accession to the WTO. Requests for accession have also been received from Syria, Iran and Libya but working parties have not yet been set up.
Finance minister discusses cooperation with IMF, World Bank officials
During the first two days of his visit to Washington for the Spring Assembly of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, Finance Minister Petar Gosev met with the vice- presidents, executive directors of boards, and the managers of the teams for Macedonia of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, MIA News Agency reported on 14th April.
The interlocutors expressed satisfaction with the economic policy and reforms of the Macedonian government in the first six months of its functioning.
The high-ranking officials of these institutions gave their firm promise that Macedonia would receive the financial package from the IMF, the World Bank
and the Netherlands amounting to US$80m in the following two months, followed by the implementation of the promises of other bilateral donors and creditors.
The meetings also focused on the cooperation with the IMF and the World Bank in the following three years, resulting in an agreement with the World Bank for financial support of US$165m. These funds are intended for the development of education, health, infrastructure, expansion of exports, reforms in the public administration and other projects.
As the announcement from the Finance Ministry stated, a more dynamic development, investments and new jobs is the objective of the IMF and World Bank arrangements.
The IMF and the World Bank agreed with the proposed concept, expressing readiness for concrete negotiations.
OTE's MTS gets licence for FYROM market
Greece's leading telco OTE said its mobile subsidiary in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), MTS, and the country's fixed-line services company, Mak Tel, have signed a deal interconnecting their networks and opening the way for MTS's expected launch of operations in May. MTS, for which OTE received a licence in 2001, will be the second mobile operator in Macedonia, New Europe reported.
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