Books on Macedonia
% of GDP
Update No: 109 - (29/06/06)
Macedonia's relations with Greece are ticklish, indeed
sometimes rebarbative. The issue of the name of the country still bedevils the
relationship, the Greeks objecting to the Macedonians appropriating the name,
'Macedonia,' which is also that of their northern adjacent province.
There is little that Athens could really do about it except impose economic
sanctions. But that would be cutting off their nose to spite their face, since
they are the largest investors in the Balkans in general and in Macedonia in
Turkey and Greece also have a touchy relationship, which is not in the best of
shape right now (see Greece). Athens must be apprehensive about the closer
relations between Ankara and Skopje, cemented by the recent meeting of the
Turkish and Macedonian leaders in Albania in mid-June.
The Macedonians have much less resentment at having been under Ottoman rule for
centuries than do the Greeks, who had to wage a decade-long war to obtain their
independence. Occupying the land where Western civilization began, they feel
that it was an unmitigated disaster for them to have been ever under the Turkish
Prime Minister Erdogan Meets His Macedonian Counterpart
Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, met his Macedonian
counterpart, Vlado Buckovski, in Tirana on June 13th. Following the meeting,
Erdogan and Buckovski held a joint news conference.
Speaking at the news conference, Prime Minister Erdogan said, ''we have
discussed our economic, commercial, military and cultural cooperation, and
measures to enhance our cooperation. We also discussed regional and
international developments.'' Prime Minister Erdogan extended support to
Macedonia's membership to NATO.
Referring to economic relations, Prime Minister Erdogan said, ''our economic and
commercial relations have improved considerably in the recent years. Also, we
aim at further increasing our trade volume with Macedonia.''
''We are planning to establish a Turkish culture centre in Skopje to help
Macedonian authorities in their efforts to restore Ottoman-era buildings,'' he
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Buckovski said for his part that they aimed at further
developing their cooperation with Turkey. He called on Turkish businessmen to
invest in Macedonia.
Later, a cooperation agreement was signed between Turkey and Macedonia in the
area of standardization of customs and excises.
The spectre of independence cast by Montenegro
International observers are worried that the recently gained independence of
Montenegro from Serbia might encourage a move towards secession by Macedonia's
Albanians. This would be especially so if Kosovo leaves Serbia too as a
consequence. There would then be a temptation, they fear, that the Kosovar and
Macedonian Albanians would want to join up in a common state of their own.
They are probably unduly apprehensive. The Albanians are better integrated now
with the Macedonians than in the 1990s, just after independence. The Kosovo War
of 1999 put Macedonia on the map in a decisive way. Washington and other Western
capitals became aware of the vital importance of preventing an Albanian
secessionist movement getting out of hand in Macedonia.
The terrible events of 9:11 saw to that, with the Albanian guerrilla movement
voluntarily giving up their arms. They became aware that they could no longer
run the risk of being branded as terrorists by the West, the saviour of the
Albanian Kosovars two years earlier. By October 2001 the Ochrid Agreement had
been signed, to which both sides still adhere - peace between the two
Moreover, the Macedonian Albanians lack the governmental structures and separate
institutions that the Montenegrins had all along. The outcome of the Montenegrin
referendum was simply acknowledging an already largely accomplished fact of
independence. It was a matter of making a de facto condition de jure as well.
Nothing of the sort obtains with the Albanians in Macedonia.
Macedonia Vows to Clean Up Elections
Macedonia has entered an electoral season. Aware of EU scrutiny, Skopje is
anxious that this summer's poll is not marred by the usual scandals.
Macedonia 's has tightened up the penalties for election irregularities amid a
flurry of warnings that any repetition of old blemishes could scupper its
chances of joining the European Union and NATO.
Parliament amended the Criminal code only two days before the official start of
the campaign for the July 5 poll.
The changes introduced much harsher sentences. Minor electoral offences, which
once resulted in financial penalties, now carry three-year prison terms.
The election is likely to be the tightest since independence in 1991, with the
leftist governing parties and their nationalist opponents running neck-and-neck.
NATO's secretary general, Jaap De Hoop Schefer, told Macedonians they could not
afford any more election irregularities if they want to get into NATO and the EU.
"I want to stress the importance of free and fair elections," he said
in Skopje on June 12, standing beside the country's Social Democratic premier,
Vlado Buckovski. "This is one of the criteria to assess Macedonia, to see
whether the country could conduct such elections."
EU representatives have pointed out that all eyes will be on the July 5th
election, as the first such poll since Macedonia won EU candidate status.
Erwan Fouere, EU ambassador, told Balkan Insight the poll would be a golden
opportunity to demonstrate that, unlike the past, Macedonia had the capacity and
the will to hold elections that met EU standards. "Unfortunately, the
record of Macedonia 's past elections is not good, but bad, with various degrees
of irregularities," said Fouere. "So it's a test case, and if the
country fails the test then I'm afraid this would certainly delay the process
toward EU integration." Brussels told Macedonia, when it gained candidate
status last December, that organising fair democratic elections was the
Most elections in Macedonia, whether local, presidential or parliamentary, have
been marred by proxy voting, ballot-stuffing, forgery of various kinds and
Parties are notorious for resorting to security agencies and other
"enforcers" to intimidate voters and blackmail employees.
In the last local elections in March 2005, these irregularities prompted sharp
criticism from international observers - increasing the pressure on Macedonia
not to repeat the same picture.
Jillian Milovanovic, US ambassador, warned that attempts to cover up
irregularities would be foiled.
"We are not stupid," she said. "It is of crucial significance how
people are chosen in the forthcoming elections. If they are elected with
fraud... it would have a negative impact on Macedonia 's commitments for NATO
and EU membership."
In response to these not-so veiled warnings, Macedonia has tidied up it election
law with a view to professionalising the entire process.
Dane Taleski, of Skopje 's Institute for Democracy, a local NGO, said any
violation of the process would be noted in the forthcoming report on Macedonia
by the European Commission.
"There is no doubt the EC's report on Macedonia , due to be released this
autumn, would not be positive if there are any inconsistencies," he said.
"No date for a start to the negotiations would be given."
Macedonians know a negative report would be seized on by those elements in the
EU that oppose all enlargement.
Ambassador Fouere said there was a danger of playing into the hands of those
opposing Macedonia 's entry. "The best response to them is to show that the
country does have capacity to prove different," he said.
However, not everyone is certain Macedonia is up to the challenge of conducting
One international observer said it was not clear the political leadership always
controlled the situation on the ground.
"Even if we assume political leaders are honest in their intention... it is
uncertain whether the local activists will seriously understand this," he
Sonja Kramarska, editor of the daily newspaper Utrinski vesnik, agreed.
"Considering the level of political culture, I'm not sure the leaders can
control developments," she said.
Besides continuing fears about the conduct of the elections, the small
difference in the ratings of the main players makes the outcome very uncertain.
The premier and his supporters appear about equal in the polls to their main
A recent poll by the Institute of Democracy said 17.6 per cent intended to vote
for the Macedonian bloc's main party, VMRO-DPMNE, and 13.2 per cent for the
Social Democrats, SDSM.
In the 1998 and 2002 elections, the success of the then opposition parties was
almost guaranteed. When the Social Democrats took power in 2002, for example,
their ratings were two and a half times higher than those of VMRO-DPMNE.
Natasa Gaber, of the Institute for Political, Sociological and Legal Research,
said a landslide by one side or the other looked unlikely. "The electorate
is almost equally divided in its support for the main political parties,"
One international observer said this might encourage the activists to resort to
their old tricks. They might get "a bit carried away and apply tried and
tested methods for election victory", he said.
One reason behind this uncertainty is a series of splits from the main parties,
which had led to the formation of the New Social Democrats by the former SDSM
presidential candidate, Tito Petkovski, and to the creation of VMRO-NP, by the
former founder of VMRO-DPMNE, Ljubco Georgievski.
Analysts said the newcomers would create a headache for the big parties by
targeting their core voters. "Neither Petkovski nor Georgievski are
newcomers in politics, so some voters from SDSM and VMRO-DPMNE will surely join
them," said Kramarska.
Political experts believe that even if they fail to make a major impact, they
could still emerge as king-makers in the fluid post-election negotiations.
Both big parties count on Albanian partners - the SDSM on the Democratic Union
for Integration, and VMRO on the Democratic Party of Albanians. However, even
the support of Albanian allies may not grant either big party a majority.
Much will depend on which way the many undecided voters, estimated at 40 per
cent, swing in the end.
"For the first time at these elections, the comfortable position
traditionally held by SDSM and VMRO is at stake," said Aneta Jovevska, of
the Institute for Political, Sociological and Legal Research.
"Post-election coalitions will be a necessity."
Ambassador Fouere agrees. "It could be very tight, which means coalition
building might be more complex," he said.
Seven companies interested in buying Negotino plant
Seven companies participating in the tender for the acquisition of the Negotino
thermal power plant, which runs on fuel oil in Macedonia, include two Austrian
firms: EVN and Verbunt, two Canadian firms: Hatch and Energem Resources INC,
Russian RAO UES, Ukrainian White Church, and Israel-Macedonian company, Feni
Industry, New Europe reported.
The companies which pass the preliminary rounds will submit new offers with a
price for the plant's purchase. They have already been allowed to view
conditions within the energy facility to form their offer price. Within the
second part of the tender procedure, Macedonia's government will also determine
the lowest sale price, below which the plant cannot be privatised, though this
information will be available only to the interested buyers. The companies with
assets over 300 million Euro and with both annual income and annual profits of
over 200 million Euro in the last three years can take part in the tender for
Negotino TPP. The Consortia comprising one or more companies are also allowed to
participate in the tender. Negotino TPP has an installed power of 200 megawatts,
is the second biggest producer of electric power in the country and has had the
status of spare capacity because it works on fuel oil, which in recent years has
been as expensive as oil.
Greece's ELPE starts operating 10 fuel stations
Hellenic Petroleum has begun operating 10 first fuel stations in Macedonia under
the brand name of OKTA and has plans for 10 additional stations by the end of
third quarter of 2006, in line with a management strategic plan to expand its
retail business abroad, the news agency reporter.gr reported.
The public company Makpetrol dominates the market - which annually absorbs
700,000 tonnes - with 120 fuel stations. Hellenic Petroleum plans to establish a
total of 40 stations in Macedonia within the next two years, it was reported.
International retail sales account for 15 per cent of the group's total
marketing sales volume and represent 37 per cent of the respective EBITDA.
Joint energy project launched with Bulgaria
In the future Macedonia can continue to rely on Bulgaria and integration into
the EU, Bulgarian Prime Minister, Sergei Stanishev, said after meeting with his
Macedonian counterpart, Vlado Buckovski, the news agency reporter.gr reported.
The government officials from the two countries discussed the further
development of the commercial and economic relations, as well as the ties in
culture and science, news reports said. The trade volume between Bulgaria and
Macedonia amounted to US$320 million last year and Bulgarian investment in
Macedonia accounts for US$30 million. Bulgaria and Macedonia also launched a
joint energy project, as the two leaders opened the construction of an electric
transmission network for 400 kW voltage. The EBRD gave 40.5 million for the
funding of the project, which will have 150 kilometres long facilities.
Govt hopes to start EU entry negotiations in 2007
Macedonian Prime Minister, Vlado Buckovski, said that he hopes membership
negotiations will start next year after the EU-applicant country receives a
positive progress report from the European Commission in October 2006, news
agency reporter.gr said recently.
The European Council granted candidate country status to Macedonia in December
2005 but hasn't set a date for the beginning of accession negotiations. The
Macedonian government has a set of priority projects to carry out. The key
economic challenges will be the acceleration of the economic growth from the
current four per cent to at least five-six per cent. The government has
projected economic growth at 3.8 per cent for 2005, up from 2.6 per cent in
2004, and is targeting economic growth of four per cent for 2006.
Industrial production up 0.6% in April 2006
The industrial production in Macedonia in April 2006 in comparison with the
March 2006 increased by 0.6 per cent and in comparison with April 2005 decreased
by 4.4 per cent, according to data released by the National Statistics Bureau
Production of industries' intermediate goods - except energy - increased by 25.1
per cent and of capital goods by 1.2 per cent. Industrial production increased
2.4 per cent in April 2006 compared with average production in 2003.
Second telecom package for sale
Macedonia's government recently offered for sale the second package of its
shares in "Macedonian Telecommunications" comprising 9.9 per cent of
the company's portfolio, a day after gaining 60 million Euro for the first
package, the news site SEEurope.net reported.
The minority shares package in the telecom company owned by the government
totalled 45 per cent. These shares were expected to be sold for an estimated
price of 270 million Euro, it was reported. In addition to the remaining
packages intended for financial investors, 5.5 per cent of the state-owned
shares will be put on open sale. The starting point for shares was reportedly
set at 389 denars.