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: 084 (29/04/04)
Death of a great president
The Macedonians remain in a state of deep shock after the loss of their president, Boris Trajkovski, killed in a plane crash in Bosnia on February 26th. Nevertheless, he had done his work well and leaves a country at peace.
The key moment came in 2001, when trouble was brewing in the spring and summer. Albanian secessionist elements were waging a low-key guerrilla war, which threatened to hot up at any time. Then came 9:11. The tragedy in the US may be said to have had beneficial consequences in Macedonia. The Albanians did not want to be seen as terrorists at such a grave moment and readily handed in their weapons. Trajkovski played a key role by bringing NATO leader Lord Robertson into the picture in a big way. NATO after all had come to the aid of the Albanians in Kosovo in 1999.
Trajkovski helped to bring about a reconciliation subsequently between Macedonian nationalists and the Albanian guerrillas in the National Liberation Army, whose former rebel forces are now in a coalition government.
Premier to succeed
The premier is standing for the presidency in succession to Trajkovski. He is Branko Crvenkovski, the leader of the Macedonian Social Democratic Party (known by its Macedonian abbreviation as SDSM),who has been leading a coalition government with the Albanians since September, 2002. He won 48% in the first round on April 14th, giving him a strong position to clinch the matter in the second round on April 28th.
But he is unlikely to have the same stature as the former president who made out of his largely ceremonial post a crucible of peace and reconciliation, becoming as it were the Macedonian Mandela.
The main opposition party, VRMO-DPMNE, or Macedonian Internal Revolutionary Organisation, which lost in 2002, has apparently changed its tactics. It had until recently accused the government of betraying ethnic Macedonians by making too many concessions to the Albanians. More recently, it has muted this line of criticism, intensely unpopular in the West, for a focus on the government's handling of the economy. Unemployment is at 30% and foreign investors have been shy of the remote, mountainous republic, the poorest in the former Yugoslavia.
Ethnic tension continues
The Macedonians are still having security problems in the tense border region close to Kosovo in the north. At least a dozen of the peacekeeping soldiers and several Polish ones were killed in clashes there earlier this year, a fact not widely reported.
About 200 EU police officers have been dispatched to Macedonia to help restore order and combat crime.
Nevertheless, the election campaign was remarkably free of debate about ethnic issues, partly no doubt out of respect for the shade of Trajkovski, who would certainly have wanted it that way. Maybe, just maybe, he has quietened interethnic tensions for good!
The tensions will only really abate once the minority rights of the Albanians are thoroughly respected. This is now more likely with a new Albanian representation in the coalition government.
The exclusion of two ardent nationalists from the political arena has been welcomed in the West. Ljubce Boskovski, interior minister in 2001, and Menduh Thaci, the deputy leader of the second largest Albanian party, have both been placed on a US list of persons seen as threatening to peace and stability in the Balkans. Neither competed in the presidential elections.
There is concern that Crvenkovski's elevation to the presidency will create a vacuum in government. A new premier and government will be required, a process that could take up to 60 days to complete.
Skopje government has made a formal request for the extradition of one of the leaders of the Albanian National Liberation Army, Khemail Hiseni, who conducted the struggle in 1991, and held out against the peaceful conclusion. He was captured in Kosovo in December. Hiseni was known by his nom-de-guerre Commander 'Jamie
Czech Hidropol invests in FYR Macedonia
In May Makhidro, respectively the Czech concessionaire Hidropol, will start with renovating seven small water power plants, which is a part of the obligations from the agreement signed with the Electrical Power Company of FYR Macedonia (ESN), reports New Europe.
Hidropol will invest 21m Euro for the renovation of the old equipment and will get in return a concession right for the water power plants for a period of 11 years. The restart of the small water power plants will not solve the shortage of electricity, but it will moderate the general condition of the electrical power system in Macedonia.
Power Machines to modernise Bitola power station
The Russian company Power Machines and the FYR Macedonian Energy Minister recently signed a contract for the modernisation of three power units belonging to the FYR Macedonian electric power station Bitola, New Europe reported.
Rosbalt, the press office of the Russian concern, reported that the contract is worth more than US$20m. The entire project will be financed on the basis of debt owned by the former USSR to the former Yugoslavia, and now held by FYR Macedonia. The modernisation of the first unit will be completed by the end of this year, while work on the second and third units will be carried out between May and September 2005. As a result of the revamp, the energy output of each unit will be increased by 10 megawatts to 235 megawatts.
FOREIGN ECONOMIC COOPERATION
Macedonian, Croatian prime ministers discuss EU membership, relations
Macedonian Prime Minister, Branko Crvenkovski, met Croatian President, Ivo Sanader, recently in Bratislava in the margins of the conference "Towards a wider Europe: the new agenda," MIA News Agency reported
They talked of the Eurointegration of their countries, as Croatia welcomed the forthcoming Macedonian application for EU membership, in Dublin. Crvenkovski and Sanader also exchanged information on the current situation in both countries.
Sanader accepted the invitation to pay an official visit to Macedonia.
Meetings of the Macedonian and Croatian ministries of economy will precede Sanader's visit to Macedonia which aims at further strengthening of the cooperation in the economic sphere.
MINERALS & METALS
World leading steel producer enters FYR Macedonia
LNM Group - the world's largest and most global steel producer, announced recently that LNM Holdings NV has signed a share purchase agreement with Balkan Steel International to acquire a majority of the shares for two steel companies in FYR Macedonia. The companies to be acquired by LNM operate a 1.2m tonne hot-strip mill and a 1 million-tonne cold rolling mill, both located near Skopje. These companies currently export their products to the European Union, the United States and all of the republics of the former Yugoslavia.
According to a statement released by LNM Holdings NV, the closing of the agreement is subject to various conditions, including, but not limited to, approval by the relevant competition authorities. Although the closing has not yet occurred, LNM has already begun to become involved in the recovery of the companies, mainly to make a bridge loan to the companies to allow them to settle some past-due wages and social charges currently owed by the companies, Makfax reported.
As soon as the closing takes place, LNM intends to make its first priority bringing the mills up to design capacity within a short period of time by sourcing slabs from LNM's nearby facilities.
The LNM Group is the world's second largest steel producer with integrated steel making facilities in 13 countries with estimated annual production forecast to exceed 42m tonnes and revenues to exceed US$15bn in 2004.
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