Books on Macedonia
% 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
The Macedonians are still experiencing a serious security problem where
the Albanians are concentrated. A small number of still active guerrillas
are causing incidents that threaten an autumn 2001 ceasefire. But, as we
shall see, after setting out what is going on and the history behind it, a
new solution is being tried out.
The Macedonians greatly benefited at first from the anti-terrorist
campaign since 9:11. The top ranking NATO force- commanders committed
themselves to keeping their troops in the troubled Balkan republic after
the `Amber Fox ' mission ended in March, 2001.An ugly situation was
defused in early autumn of that year as a direct result.
But the Albanians still form a disaffected minority of one third or more
(nobody quite knows).Unfortunately it is by no means certain yet that the
worst is over. There have been recent incidents involving Albanian
activists in Kosovo, about which the world now knows so much. Unidentified
members of the National Liberation Army (UCK), the former ethnic Albanian
secessionist movement, whose voluntary disbandment in the autumn of 2001
raised hopes of a permanent end to discord, subsequently issued a
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 and came as a
surprise to many of its former members. But there are obviously
discontented elements still around among the Albanians in Macedonia.
History of the conflict
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, 2003, the ethnic Albanian underground group, 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 quite 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 has been in place, with elements from both
communities. The international community needs to remain deeply involved,
as in Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Update No: 086 (30/06/04)
New president, premier and government
The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia's Parliament voted in a new government, led by ex-interior minister Hari Kostov, after a three-day debate in early June. Kostov, an economist by training who has no political party affiliation, replaces Branko Crvenkovski in the post of prime minister. Crvenkovski vacated the PM's role when he was elected president of FYROM In May.
There is likely to be continuity of policy, given the change in government was due, not to any domestic crisis, but to the tragic death in February of President Boris Trajkovski in an air crash in Bosnia.
A monumental blunder
The Macedonians in their new-found pro-Western zeal have committed a misdeed which recalls Tallyrand's famous remark on hearing of Napoleon's execution of the Bourbon prince, Le Duc d'Enghein, for plotting his own death, a baseless charge, as all historians now agree;- " it is worse than a crime: it's a blunder."
Macedonian officials have admitted that the government lured seven innocent immigrants from the Indian sub-continent to Macedonia, gunned them down and claimed they were al-Qaeda terrorists plotting to attack the U.S. Embassy -- all to prove Macedonia's worth to the U.S.-led war on terror. "It was a monstrous fabrication to get the attention of the international community," says Macedonian Interior Ministry spokeswoman Miryana Kontevska.
The deaths of the six Pakistanis and one Indian marked a grotesque turn in the war on terror. Just over two months after Sept. 11, 2001, according to internal Macedonian police investigations, top officials and police commanders met at the Interior Ministry to chart a course of action aimed at demonstrating Macedonia's commitment to President Bush's call to bring in Osama bin Laden and his supporters dead or alive.
Macedonia (officially the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, or FYROM) has been struggling to assert itself after leaving the Yugoslav federation in 1991. The smallest of the former Yugoslav republics - its population is about 2 million - Macedonia escaped the early 1990s bloodshed that pitted Bosnia, Serbia and Croatia in a bloody civil war, only to see a vicious guerrilla war erupt with minority ethnic Albanians seeking greater rights and representation in 2001.
The conflict left Macedonia's economy shaken and its reputation sullied by allegations that the government had employed legally questionable tactics to fight the insurgency.
The officials at the Interior Ministry meeting were convinced that they had contrived a masterly plan. They believed it would establish little-known Macedonia as a world player in the fight against terrorism.
Police commanders afterwards contacted the chief of police in Delcevo, a town close to the Bulgarian border, and requested him to help find potential victims. The police chief, Vlatko Ristov, contacted area traffickers, one of whom eventually produced the seven South Asians.
Officials put a special police unit, the Lions, into training for an antiterrorist operation. Believing they were on their way to Greece, the seven immigrants crossed the Bulgarian border into Macedonia and spent one night in Delcevo. The next day they were taken to an apartment in the capital, Skopje, where their handlers provided food and clothing.
Early on the morning of March 2, 2002, the Muslim migrants were driven to a farm on the outskirts of Skopje. After parking the minivan, the driver fled. Within seconds, the Lions opened fire, killing all who remained aboard.
Hours later, Interior Minister Ljube Boskovski appeared outside the U.S. Embassy with an armoured personnel carrier and members of the Lions to announce that Macedonia had thwarted plans by seven mujahedeen (holy warriors) suspected of connections with al Qaeda and ethnic Albanian rebels to carry out attacks on the U.S., British and German embassies.
The Macedonian conspirators might have gotten away with it if the ruling coalition hadn't lost elections in mid-2002, ushering in a new government.
The former interior minister, Boskovski, a right-wing nationalist who was suspected of approving illegal tactics to put down a rebellion by ethnic Albanian guerrillas in 2001, fled the country just hours before the new government announced indictments. He is now hiding in neighboring Croatia.
Six others, including police commanders and a businessman, are expected to face charges carrying possible sentences of 10 years to life.
Officials believed the war on terror was Macedonia's chance to redeem itself. Instead, it created a horrifyingly stark example of how a war on terror can go badly wrong.
NATO opening up to the Southern Balkans
US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld sought to encourage Balkan nations to press on with their efforts to join NATO, saying the alliance's door "remains open." In a letter sent to a regional defense ministers' meeting in Skopje, Rumsfeld told three NATO hopefuls - Albania, Croatia and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) - that their ties with the alliance would be discussed at an upcoming NATO summit in Istanbul.
"Earlier this year, seven new members joined the NATO alliance," Rumsfeld wrote. "The door remains open for others."
The economy so-so
The economy is faring quite well in difficult circumstances. The policy framework still being adhered to was enunciated by the late President Boris Trajkovski, speaking to the American Chamber of Commerce in Macedonia in June of 2001. He said "First, the highest ambition of our government's economic policy should be a policy of "Do no harm." Maintain a stable money supply, control budget deficits, and ensure that individuals comply with the law but other than that, stay out. Government cannot and should not be involved in every detail of an individual's business." Continuing he said "...it is not enough to accept some of the liberties of capitalism and the free market economy while leaving our favorite constraints of the old system in place. This creates a few wealthy at the expense of the many - and it is wrong. Instead, not only must we institute the needed reforms in our government but we must also carry through on those reforms in our own individual lives. In other words, we must practice what we preach. By doing so, we will create the well off many, the middle class. This is the key to our success. I would add Macedonia needs to streamline the process of creating a new business, increase competition and liberalize your trade laws. This, in turn, will create greater competition and bring in foreign direct investment. That would then complete the key to your success."
Three Macedonian banks - Tutunska Banka, Stopanska Banka-Bitola and Export-Credit Bank - signed an agreement with the Macedonian Foundation for Development of Enterprises on providing financing for companies from the country's former crisis regions. The banks established a fund with 500,000 euros in initial capital, which will serve as guarantee for the disbursed loans.
Macedonia and Albania in coop deal
The Ministers of Education and Science of Macedonia and Albania, Azis Polozhani and Luan Memushi, signed, in Skopje recently, the Executive Education Cooperation Programme between the two countries, New Europe reported.
According to Polozhani, the programme will be realised in the next two years. "Macedonia and Albania are going together through the path of Euro-integration, and the cooperation between the countries from the region in the sphere of education and science is just additional contribution in the realisation of that goal," said Polozhani. Memushi pointed out that the signing of the programme is a realisation of the agreement signed three years ago. He agreed with Polozhani that the cooperation in the field of education and science would boost the integration processes. The two ministers informed that in the framework of the cooperation in those spheres, the process of validation of the diplomas between the students of the two countries is going under the reciprocity principle.
FOREIGN ECONOMIC COOPERATION
Macedonian, Slovene economy ministers sign cooperation agreement
Macedonian and Slovenian Ministers of Economy, Stevce Jakimovski, and Matej Lahovnik, signed a cooperation agreement during the visit of a Slovenian delegation to Macedonia, led by Prime Minister, Anton Rop, MIA News Agency reported.
"We have agreed that there has been a high level of cooperation between Macedonia and Slovenia in all spheres. Macedonia expects Slovenian support of its process for integration with the European Union and NATO," Macedonian PM, Hari Kostov, said after his meeting with Rop.
Both countries were interested in intensifying economic cooperation and all activities of businessmen would be focused in that direction, Kostov said.
"Slovenia's accession to the EU brings new instruments of cooperation, i.e. expectations for more Slovenian investments in Macedonia and vice versa," he added.
Saying that political and economic relations between both countries are good, Rop added that Slovenia would support Macedonia's road to the EU and welcomed its commitment to carry out necessary reforms for the Union's membership.
Rop extended gratitude to the Macedonian government for its readiness to lift visas for Slovenian citizens, saying that Slovenia for its part would simplify the visa regime for Macedonian citizens, i.e. cut the visa price. Slovenia would do its best to offer the simplest procedure to Macedonian citizens for travelling to the EU, Rop said. Slovenia would also grant full support of usage of Macedonia's constitutional name, he added.
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