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MACEDONIA


 

Key Economic Data 
 
  2003 2002 2001 Ranking(2003)
GDP
Millions of US $ 4,705 3,712 3,400 118
         
GNI per capita
 US $ 1,980 1,700 1,690 111
Ranking is given out of 208 nations - (data from the World Bank)

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Update No: 121 - (27/06/07)

Government survives no-confidence vote
Ruling Macedonia is a thankless task, quite literally so. The fresh administration of the newcomer to Macedonian politics, Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski, is doing its best to improve the prospects for this poor and little known land. He himself has the vigour of youth and works fifteen hour-days, while expecting his young team to do the same. His government is generally agreed to be free of the besetting vice of previous ones, proneness to corruption. Gruevski said that as a result of hard work, the government has made significant reforms and economic gains in the nine months since it came to power, no idle boast.

Nevertheless, he faced a challenge to his authority in early June. Still Macedonia's Parliament, as was predictable, gave a vote of confidence to the VMRO-DPMNE party-led government on June 7th. Of 120 deputies, 65 supported the government and voted against a no-confidence motion, set by key opposition party the Social Democratic Union of Macedonia, or SDSM. Previously, VMRO-DPMNE and its coalition partners, the Democratic Party of Albanians and the New Social Democratic Party, had met to resolve differences and show unity.

The SDSM had justified their motion, by accusing the government of making bad policy decisions and generating ethnic tension, thereby bringing the country's EU aspirations under threat. During the parliamentary discussion, the leader of SDSM, Radmila Shekerinska, accused Prime Minister Gruevski of not delivering on the promises he had made to the people. "This challenge is not intended to cause the government to fall, but to show you that the policies you have been creating for ten months are failing," Shekerinska said. 

In his speech to Parliament, Prime Minister Gruevski argued that the no-confidence motion came at a bad time for the country's NATO integration; two days before his scheduled meeting with U.S. President George W. Bush, where Macedonia is hoping to gain encouragement for admission. Macedonia is close to receiving an invitation to join NATO, Gruevski said, and should concentrate on stepping up reforms rather than wasting time on such votes. 

Opposition lawmakers criticised the Gruevski administration on many issues, charging it with weakening the country's bids for EU and NATO integration and showing poor results in economic reform. A GDP of only 3.5% has been achieved, compared to the promised 6% to 8% rise, Gruevski's critics said. They are forgetting that it takes time to turn an economy round.

The government was also criticised for its draft bill on the public prosecutor, for failing to complete the Judiciary Council, and for poor co-operation with President Branko Crvenkovski. 

The prime minister countered these accusations by listing the new investments Macedonia has attracted in the last few months. It is reckoned that inward foreign investment will reach Euro 200m by the end of the year for 2007, a promising result for a small country. Macedonia is undergoing a strong investment cycle due to a more favourable business environment and lower taxes, he argued. 

Deputies who supported Gruevski noted his administration has faced no corruption scandal during its nine months in office. Ruling majority MPs cited a strengthened fight against corruption, reduced bureaucratic red tape, a decrease in debts owed to foreign banks, and an increase in exports as some of the administration's achievements.

President Crvenkovski awards MOC with "Decoration of the Republic of Macedonia"
Ceremony matters in Macedonia as much as anywhere else, its identity being under grave threat. Greece, its much bigger and better- known, neighbour, even disputes its right to its name, which should remain solely that of its own northernmost province in Athens' view.

The settlement reached at Ohrid in the autumn of 2001 is seared into every Macedonian's mind-set as the founding moment of a renewed state and country. The ethnic Macedonians and Albanians buried the hatchet and agreed to live as one nation, symbolised by the inclusion of the Democratic Party of Albanians in the coalition government. 

It was of particular significance, therefore, when President Branko Crvenkovski presented the "Decoration of the Republic of Macedonia" to the Archbishop of Ohrid and Macedonia HH Stefan on June 10 in St. Sofia Church in Ohrid on the occasion of the Macedonian Orthodox Church's (MOC) 40th jubilee. This was a bonding of the nation together, akin to Winston Churchill being given the Knighthood of the Garter by the new Queen Elizabeth II shortly after her accession.

The "Decoration of the Republic of Macedonia" is awarded to all past and current members of the church: archbishops, bishops, metropolitan, priesthood and monks. But the Archbishop of Ohrid and Macedonia is no ordinary prelate.

The 18-carat gold decoration is made up of a decoration symbol on a necklace and a decoration star.

President Crvenkovski and MOC Head HH Stefan addressed the formal ceremony, which was broadcast live on the Macedonian Radio and Television. Moreover, members of MOC synod, top state officials and representatives of the diplomatic corps were present at the ceremony.

MOC representatives said at the briefing that the Decoration was the first major state recognition awarded to the Church in independent Macedonia. The decoration was presented by the President on the behalf of the state and all the citizens of Macedonia.

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The following interview is of obvious interest both for what is said and who is saying it:-

Macedonia and the status of Kosovo
Author: Nikola Gruevski
Macedonian premier outlines to a Belgrade weekly the reasons for his country's approval of the Ahtisaari Plan for resolving Kosovo's status

Nikola Gruevski, prime minister of the Republic of Macedonia and leader of the centre-right VMRO, which governs in coalition with the country's second largest ethnic Albanian party DPA led by Arben Shaferi, is interviewed by Ruža Cirkovic for the Belgrade weekly NIN.
                                              

                                            ***

NIN: You say that you have your own national interests, and we have ours. People in Serbia think that Serbia and Macedonia have some common regional and political interests. Do you think so?
Gruevski: Certainly they have. Both states, for instance, have the strategic aim of joining the EU and NATO. That's a big task. Entry into NATO and the EU is often viewed on their part in a regional perspective, and cooperation in that respect is very important. For instance, for the purposes of NATO entry we're part of the so-called Adriatic group, together with Albania and Croatia. This grouping has embarked upon close collaboration and frequent contacts. Serbia is unfortunately not included. Perhaps in the future it will be.

You mean that even at government level you have more intensive contacts with Albania and Croatia than with Serbia?
Yes, that is the case. The Balkan states are small, and NATO does not usually go in for individual entry but prefers packages. That's why the Adriatic group was set up. It's not just our own invention, but a joint agreement between NATO and those three states. But there is more space for collaboration with Serbia too, and it should be exploited.

                                           ***
Recently you met Mr Agim Çeku at prime-ministerial level in Prishtina, and your ministers had before that on several occasions more or less explicitly stated that Macedonia would recognize the status of Kosovo based on the Ahtisaari Plan. You are well aware that you make many people in Serbia angry by this, while our answer is to alarm you: if Kosovo acquires a status unacceptable to Serbia, Macedonia will not survive for longer than six months, some of our analysts and politicians maintain. Well, what do you say: are we right to be angry, and you to be alarmed?
Well, what I should like to say is that neither do we want to make you angry, nor are there any grounds for alarming us. Macedonia is not a factor that will decide what happens in Kosovo. We are not a great power, and it does not depend on us whether Kosovo in future will be an independent state or something else. It's obviously the big powers who will decide that. In this context, we look to the interests of the Republic of Macedonia. For instance, the Ahtisaari Plan among other things contains an element that is important for the Republic of Macedonia, and that is demarcation of the frontier. Such a demarcation has still not been carried out, although it has been dragging on for years. Though we treat it as a technical question, we are nevertheless concerned that for someone it might cease to be a technical question, might become a potential source for problems, for a crisis. The Ahtisaari Plan contains a precise temporal framework: in which period, through which mechanism and with which methodology the demarcation of our border with Kosovo should be carried out. For we have a number of questions that have remained open for so many years and which create uncertainty. Apart from the failure to define our frontier with Kosovo, there's the problem with the Greeks about our name, and to some extent also the problem with the church. One uncertainty, a second uncertainty, and a third uncertainty...

Has the Serbian side avoided demarcation of the border?
There are a great many uncertainties and we wish to reduce their number. That is one of the reasons why the Republic of Macedonia thinks that this plan is a good basis for a final solution. And to date we haven't seen any other well thought-out proposal better than that of Ahtisaari. The only proposal to have been seriously prepared and seriously presented is that of Mr Ahtisaari.

Do you personally, and does your government, envisage a scenario for Macedonia for the eventuality that the Security Council resolves the status of Kosovo, and for the other eventuality that Prishtina makes a declaration of independence that would be followed by individual acts of recognition? Do you have a scenario for how you would act, or do you think that for Macedonia there will be no consequences in either eventuality?
We follow developments carefully and analyse every move in depth, because our direct neighbourhood is involved. We endeavour to maintain good relations with all our neighbours. We should not like to damage our relations with Serbia, nor to complicate them with Kosovo. On the other hand, we have 25 per cent of Albanian population in the Republic of Macedonia, and we have to respect that. They are part of this state, they are our coalition partners, our colleagues in parliament, they have close links with Kosovo. That is something to which we cannot close our eyes. So we're in a situation where we have to - and wish to - build good relations on both sides. It's not possible to achieve the maximum in this respect, but however much is possible we wish to achieve. During the past three months I have met three times with Çeku, and I hope that I shall soon meet with politicians from Serbia too.

So if it comes to individual decisions to recognize Kosovo, what will your first steps be? You'll wait for - whom?
We shall not decide that for the moment.

Who will you wait for - America or the EU?
I cannot answer.

Don't you know yet?
No, I can't answer such questions. They are hypothetical, and this is too weighty a matter for me to give any hypothetical reply.

You say that Macedonia cannot influence the status of Kosovo, but can Kosovo influence the situation in Macedonia?
In the situation currently prevailing in Kosovo, I think that the authorities there are aware that, if Kosovo were in any sense to become a generator of crisis, it would be against them themselves. That is the first thing. Secondly, Kosovo is too preoccupied with itself to concern itself with Macedonia. And for many years to come it will be preoccupied with itself, if it wishes to build strong institutions whatever its status may be. Thirdly, it seems that radical structures in Kosova do not have the support of the authorities, and will find it hard to make any moves. Radical structures do not have any serious support among Albanians in the Republic of Macedonia either, and without that they will find it hard to do anything. And finally, the international community is very focussed upon this region, and it is too important for this last open question in the Balkans to be resolved and for the region to move towards the EU and NATO.

At your recent meeting Mr Agim Çeku repeated that his next aim is not the independence of the Albanians in Macedonia but membership for Kosovo in the EU and NATO. Mr Ali Ahmeti regularly repeats this too. Do you believe them?
It is clearly written down in the Ahtisaari Plan that, if the Plan is accepted, Kosovo will not have the right to change its frontiers with other territories, especially ones with an ethnic Albanian population.

I know, but I'm asking you, do you believe Mr Çeku and Mr Ahmeti?
Do I believe them? Çeku and Ahmeti? You know, I listen to what they say and I analyse the overall situation and, in such a context, I believe that the Republic of Macedonia has good chances to become a member of NATO next year, and to begin negotiations about full membership in the EU, and between 2011 and 2013 to become a full member of the EU. At the latest in 2014. The precise year cannot be predicted, but starting from 2011, which is four years from now.

You mean the Republic of Macedonia in its present borders?
Yes.

You've already mentioned our problem in relation to the church. The first thing I'd like to ask is whether you're a believer.
Yes.

Well, our premier is too. Fine. Do you think that as a government you should become more involved in solving the problem related to the church, instead of both sides misusing it as you do?
First, I don't think that we misuse it.

Don't you think that arresting a priest was misuse for political ends?
In Macedonia the courts are independent, you know.
I do know, and ours too...
The court thinks that he committed a criminal act according to Macedonian law, a criminal act of a financial nature, and that's all there is to it. The government does not meddle in the work of the court.

Do you think that the two governments could do more to settle this disagreement, and how much influence do you have over the Macedonian Orthodox Church?
Well, any political will may be useful. And we have good relations with the Macedonian Orthodox Church. As a party and as a government we back the autocephaly of the Church.

Do you think that the question of the Church's autocephaly is part of the question of your statehood?
Yes, we do think that. The Macedonian Orthodox Church has for centuries been a bastion of our statehood, including in periods when we were under various forms of occupation, so we think that the problem of the Church is not just a church matter, but has a political dimension too. There are states interested in escalating this church problem, but I won't mention which they are at present.

Translated from a longer interview in NIN (Belgrade), 24 May 2007

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FOREIGN DEBT

Italy agrees to wrap up old debt repayment


Italian Ambassador, Donatino Marcon, and Macedonia State Secretary at the Finance Ministry, Snezhana Kostadinovska, signed an agreement on repayment of Macedonia's debt amounting roughly to 19 million Euro with interest rates included.
This marks Macedonia and Italy entering the final stage of the process of repayment of Macedonia's debt stemming from the Former Yugoslavia-era, MRTOnline reported. 
This document is important given the fact that once it becomes effective it will enable a new credit line for small and medium-sized enterprises for procurement of goods from Italy, amounting 10-12 million Euro.
The document is subject to ratification by parliaments in both countries. The entire process is to be completed by the end of the year. Macedonia's old debt has been succeeded from financial operations carried out in the old Yugoslav federation. The commercial part of the debts totals 15.6 million Euro plus interest amounting to 6.1 million Euro. The debt arising from unpaid loans, for which Macedonia was a guarantor, totals 1.8 million Euro plus interest of 1.6 million Euro. The second loan is linked to supply of machines to Bitola-based company Rade Konchar. 
In January 1998, Macedonia and Italy reached an initial agreement referring to part of former Yugoslavia's debt to Italy, on the basis of allocation of responsibility for the external debt of the Former Yugoslavia. Macedonia is regularly servicing its obligations set out in the bilateral agreement on debt restructuring. In 2005 and 2006, both countries launched talks to settle a certain amount of the debt that was not included in the negotiations and the agreement signed in 1998. Macedonia and Italy have significantly increased trade exchange in the first quarter of 2007, with Macedonia marking a positive balance of trade of 23 million Euro.
The trade exchange in the first quarter of 2007 marks a 45 per cent jump comparing to the same period in 2006. Macedonia exported goods and commodities to Italy worth 104 million Euro, 43 per cent more than the same period last year.

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FOREIGN INVESTMENT

Rafajlovska invites Chinese companies to invest in Macedonia

During her visit to the Chinese Ministry of Commerce, Macedonian Economy Minister, Vera Rafajlovska, met the Chinese Vice Minister of Commerce and Head of the Department of European Affairs, Yu Guangzhou. Rafajlovska called on Chinese companies to invest in the Macedonian duty free zones. "I believe China will find an interest to invest in our free economic zones, which will bring it closer to the European market," Rafajlovska said, New Europe reported.
Rafajlovska acquainted Guangzhou with the conditions and possibilities for investments in Macedonia. He also presented the tenders for small hydroelectric plants and several projects including Vardar Valley, construction of highways and skyscrapers. Marija Vesova, the spokeswoman of the Macedonia Economy Ministry, told MRTOnline that the Minister insisted on persuading the Chinese side that Macedonia's population should not serve as a basis for assessing the market, as it broadens significantly when taking into consideration the country's membership in CEFTA and agreements with EU. The Macedonia Minister readily accepted the Chinese offer to send experts to Macedonia to convey Chinese experiences in attracting foreign investments, having in mind the fact that over 600.000 foreign companies are registered in China. Macedonia has gladly accepted the offer to take part at the Agriculture Fair slated for November in China. The Economy Minister also briefed the Vice Minister of Commerce that Macedonia is preparing intensively for participation at the EXPO 2010, due to take place in Shanghai. During his stay in China, Rafajlovska visited several high-tech industrial zones.

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