Books on Macedonia
Update No: 122 - (26/07/07)
Macedonia Declares State of Emergency in Heat Wave
Global warming appears to have come to the Balkans with a vengeance. The whole
region is ablaze.
Macedonia, suffering a heat wave that is expected to get still worse, declared a
state of emergency on July 19th as forest fires raged across the country. A
government official predicted then that the state of emergency would last for
two weeks, with the possibility of an extension right into August.
Pande Lazarevski, the director of the government's Crisis Management centre,
told reporters an emergency action plan would be implemented. "A total of
217 fires have been registered so far. Roughly 2,500 hectares, which is mainly
forests, have been burned," he said.
Meteorologists from the Hydro-Meteorology Directorate warned that the country's
south was expected to suffer temperatures as high as 44 degrees, while
temperatures in the capital Skopje were expected to be two degrees lower.
The Macedonian Red Cross has already put emergency intervention health teams on
standby, while the State Institute for Health issued a warning to stay out of
the sun. Officials from the health and labour ministries were also expected to
announce preventative measures and guidelines for dealing with the heat wave.
Ohrid and Puglia Region to establish cooperation in economy, tourism and
Ohrid six years ago was the venue of the decisive accord that guarantees
peace and stability in the country, the Ohrid Agreement. Ohrid is now party to
another type of initiative in the economic and other spheres.
The Municipality of Ohrid, Macedonia and the Puglia Region, Italy, will
establish cooperation in the fields spanning economy, tourism and ecology. This
was agreed at a meeting between representatives of the local self-government and
of the Puglia Region, which took place in Ohrid in July.
The Italian delegation, including numerous businessmen and led by the Governor
of the Puglia Region, Nicola Vendola, arrived in Macedonia upon the invitation
of the President Branko Crvenkovski. After the meeting, the Mayor of Ohrid,
Aleksandar Petreski, said that representatives of the business communities of
Ohrid and of Puglia are due to gather in Bari this autumn to work out details on
After the official part of the visit, Vendola was taken on a sightseeing tour
around Ohrid. The Italians were fascinated by the town's natural beauties as
well as by the abundance of historical monuments, concluding that it has an
enormous tourist potential.
Nicola Vendola, who attended the opening of the 47th edition of the cultural
manifestation "Ohrid Summer," wrapped up his visit to Ohrid after the
working lunch staged by the President Crvenkovski.
Albanian parties play musical chairs
A year ago a new government was formed under the thrusting leadership of the
Benjamin of Macedonian politics, Nikola Gruevski. He was only able to persuade
one of the two Albanian ethnic parties to enter the VMRO-led coalition.
Gruevski has survived a recent confidence vote in parliament. After all the
hullabaloo, the government survived the confidence vote rather easily. DPA stood
by VMRO, and so has the third partner, the new social democrats (NSDP).
This is hopefully an introduction into a new phase of calmer political waters
after the return of the Democratic Union of Integration (DUI) in the national
legislature at the end of May. After several months of protracted negotiations
provoked by DUI, which has been tolling the bells of political crisis ever since
it failed to enter the new government after the July elections of last year, its
leader Ali Ahmeti finally agreed to end his party's boycott of parliament.
As soon as this happened, however, the DPA, the other major Albanian party and
current partner in government said - fine, if they are in, we are out. DPA's
second in command, Menduh Taci, announced DPA was leaving the government.
"We agreed to definitely opt out of the government coalition," said
Mr. Taci. "Clearly we couldn't agree...I will wish him (Gruevski)luck in
forming a new majority."
Early elections too unsettling
With DPA out, the VMRO government of Mr. Gruevski would not have the votes
necessary to stay in power. This could mean a number of options; change of
government through a new majority, or even call for early elections.
The international situation, with negotiations to enter the EU and NATO in the
offing, immediately sent the message that early elections would be devastating
for Macedonia. "Elections at this moment would be very unfavourable. It
would be the same as jumping from a fast moving train. The train speeds towards
its final goal, EU and NATO, and all political parties, above all things should
keep these goals in mind," said the EU Ambassador to Macedonia, Ervan Fuere.
Even more blunt was the message from EU MP Angelika Beer. In an interview with
Deutsche Welle, she said, "Early elections in Macedonia would mean goodbye
to the expected invitation for NATO and a move away from the EU."
After months of worrying that DUI's boycott of parliament threatens regional
stability in a crucial year for the decision on Kosovo, and an impending vote in
the UN Security Council, the EU realized that with DPA out of the government,
VMRO could decide to use its very high rating and go for early elections. The
rating of its rival, SDSM, is the lowest ever.
What the international community did not acknowledge enough perhaps is that
that early elections would be to a large part caused by their constant pressure
on the government of Mr. Gruevski over the last months. In their zeal for having
political stability, they achieved a counter-effect by applying constant
pressure which made the government less stable. A lesson in the possible
political ramifications of international political engineering.
Following the DPA announcement of leaving the government, opposition social
democrats, SDSM, reacted expressly and called for a vote of confidence in
parliament. Without the DPA vote, the government would fall easily. They
motivated the call for a no-confidence vote with, in their view, the fact that
the government generated internal instability, smeared the international image
of the country, and caused economic stagnation. They also said the government
didn't have the capacity to manage the interethnic relations.
"We do not know if VMRO is [still] in a coalition with DPA and what are its
relations with the other coalition partners? Is the agreement with DUI
valid?" asked the social democrats' spokesman, Jani Makraduli.
Faced with the possibility of losing power, VMRO and DPA quickly repaired
relations. After several days of a stalemate they announced reconciliation. The
crisis was caused, they said, by the misunderstanding over the content of the
agreement between Mr. Gruevski and Mr. Ahmeti, which brought DUI back in
parliament. According to Mr. Ahmeti, DUI realized all of its demands, including
the controversial equal status for the former NLA fighters. Mr. Gruevski said
this was not true.
After a few days of mystery over the content of the deal, and calls from the
opposition to the prime minister to reveal the agreement, it turned out there
was no signed deal between VMRO and DUI. Mr. Taci called the paper that came out
of the negotiations "minutes" of leftover assignments from the
previous government, and congratulated the international factor for forcing DUI
back into parliament without major concessions being made.
"Problems can not be solved by acting from home, or the mountains, but in
the institutions. DPA is a member of the government coalition and possesses all
the means necessary to work on the problems," said Mr. Taci. "DPA
proved" added he "that the Albanians are not a turbulent and
problematic people." Mr. Taci's party boss, Arben Xhaferi, also called the
agreement "non - binding" since it didn't entail signatures. "The
relations between DPA and VMRO have always been good, and the contamination was
caused by DUI, which tried to disrupt them," said Mr. Xhaferi.
Equally invidious comments arrived from the third party of the Albanians, PDP,
which switched sides, from allying with DUI, to DPA, in the last period. Its
president, Abduladi Vejseli, demeaned DUI's deal with VMRO by saying that its
only outcome was changes in the membership of a committee dealing with ethnic
issues. "That is their major success in the negotiations with the
government. They do not have other achievements because they do not have a
political vision. They are not so concerned with the rights of the Albanians and
the OFA. They were in power for four years and said the implementation of the
OFA was almost complete, but now from opposition they say there is still a lot
left," said Mr. Vejseli.
Too few statesman; too many politicians
All the big noises welcomed the end of the political dialogue and the return
of DUI in parliament with the standard phrase that it is a step further in the
country's international integration. First Xavier Solana, and then Enlargement
Commissioner Olli Rehn welcomed the deal. Mr. Rehn's cabinet however couldn't
comment on whether this positive development would be reflected in this year's
EC report on Macedonia, through possible mentioning of a date for start of
Political analyst Denko Malevski blames the political dynamics of the previous
period partly on the parties' quest for short-term political profits.
"Macedonia has a deficit of statesmen and surplus of politicians" says
he. "A statesman is somebody who is ready to confront public opinion in
pointing what is the long term benefit for Macedonia."
FOREIGN ECONOMIC RELATIONS
Good economic relations shared with Croatia
Macedonian foreign minister, Antonio Miloshoski, met Croatian president, Stjepan
Mesic, in Zagreb on June 18th, MRTOnline reported.
During the talks, both sides agreed that Macedonia and Croatia have good
economic relations and share similar views on the current regional issues.
"The two countries have almost identical positions on the current regional
challenges, including the Kosovo status and stabilization of
Bosnia-Herzegovina," says the announcement released after Mesic-Miloshoski
Putin hopes to strengthen Macedonia's ties with Russia
Russian President, Vladimir Putin, has met with Macedonia President, Branko
Crvenkovski, within the framework of the Balkan energy summit on June 24th,
Interfax News Agency reported.
"Relations between our countries are friendly," the Russian president
said, expressing hope that bilateral partnership will grow. At the same time,
Crvenkovski thanked Putin and Russia on behalf of Macedonia for "consistent
and crucial support given over the past several years." Macedonia hails
Russia's assistance very much, the president said. "Relations with Russia
are of the highest priority to Macedonia," he said. Putin believes that the
memorandum of understanding signed last December between Gazprom and Serbia on a
main pipeline to cross the territory of the country is an important step towards
continuous deliveries of Russian gas to the Balkans, Interfax News Agency
Such work is being carried out in Hungary now, Putin said. "We look into
possibilities of further cooperation on the most rational and effective
route," the president said. "Russia is interested in continuing talks
on gas sales and further using the transit capacities of the region, as well as
the construction of underground gas storage facilities in a number of Balkan
states," the president said. "The gasification of Macedonia and the
extension of pipeline networks to Albania, South Serbia and Kosovo is
interesting as well," the president said. "All of this will make the
region even more important and attractive from the point of view of energy
problems in Europe in general," Putin said.
Clean water from Hydro-system
The construction of the Zletovica Hydro-System would resolve the water
problems of populations in Stip, Probistip, Kratovo, Sveti Nikole, Lozovo and
Karbinci, according to Macedonia's government. Although the idea for such a
hydro-system was proposed about 50 years ago, it was only put into a first
design 20 years ago, and thereafter stalled over a lack of funding. The
hydro-system is scheduled to be completed by 2010. More than 10,000 people in
eastern Macedonia would be supplied with clean water. Zletovica General
Director, Stojan Milanov, said, MRTOnline reported that he expects construction
to be completed on schedule.
Overall, the project costs 150 million Euro. The hydro-system will be
constructed in three phases. The first will entail the construction of a 75
metre-high "Knezevo" dam on the Zletovica River, and a water supply
system consisting of a water supply pipeline and purification stations for
several municipalities. The artificial lake in the Osogovski Mountains, created
by the dam, will contain 23.5 million cubic metres of water. An irrigation
system for 3,100 hectares of arable land in Probistip will be constructed in the
second phase. Experts say this is an important part of the investment project
because higher agricultural yields will be produced. The third part of the
system includes the construction of hydropower plants that are expected to
produce 56 million kilowatts of electricity annually. The construction costs of
the hydro-system would be financed by the Japanese government and international
banks; and the Macedonia government will create jobs and provide work for
domestic construction companies.