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Key Economic Data 
  2003 2002 2001 Ranking(2003)
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)

Books on Macedonia

Update No: 126 - (26/11/07)

The forlorn cause?
The Macedonians are in a despondent mood. Their desire to join NATO is being met with a positive response, as well it might. But that to join the EU is being thwarted, for the while.

They are well aware that the EU is a far more important organisation for them, and their need to join the West, rather than NATO. The former is a bread and butter business - the latter is a matter of la gloire. 

Still, membership of the latter enhances its credentials to join the former, and is not to be despised.

Marathon to join NATO nears end
The Permanent Representative to NATO, Ambassador Victoria Nuland, called on Macedonia to continue reforms that will secure an invitation to NATO membership in April 2008. 

At a joint press conference in mid-November with the Macedonian Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski, Ambassador Nuland said "When you run a marathon, you cannot relax when approaching the end of the long run, but sprint at the finish". Ambassador Nuland said the U.S. Government interagency delegation is visiting Macedonia to conduct the final training session to ensure that Macedonia gets NATO membership invitation at the Alliance summit in Bucharest.

She stressed that Macedonia has made significant progress, and the authorities should continue to work on reforms in judiciary, the rule of law, and the multiethnic police. According to Ambassador Nuland, good neighbourly relations are also a condition for NATO membership. She welcomed the pledges of the Macedonian government to resolve name differences with Greece. Asked by a reporter to comment on raids by Macedonian police in Shara Mountain, Ambassador Nuland said she was pleased that the operation involved multiethnic police forces. Prime Minister Gruevski said it was a professional operation aiming to reinstate the rule of law on the entire territory. He added that Macedonia will continue to invest in the strategic partnership with the United States. He reiterated Macedonia´s stance on Kosovo status settlement, adding that the country shares the position of the international community, but at the same time the country will protect its own interests.

The visit of the U.S. Government interagency delegation, headed by Ambassador Nuland, is part of a tour that also included visits to Albania and Croatia to discuss issues related to NATO membership for the Adriatic Charter countries.

Critical EU report
But there is less encouraging news from Brussels. Frequent tensions and problems in achieving constructive dialogue between major political actors have undermined the effective functioning of political institutions and led to a slowdown of reforms in Macedonia, according to the European Commission's latest assessment of its EU candidature, which has yet to start accession talks.

The report says that the absence of communication between key leaders in the country and the behaviour of the opposition have had a negative influence on the work of political institutions. "The boycott of parliament by one of the major opposition parties as well as the poor quality of cooperation between the president and the prime minister hindered the effective functioning of the political institutions", the report says.

The Commission notes that the fight against graft in the country has yielded some results, but recalls "corruption is widespread and constitutes a very serious problem". The coordination of activities among the different institutions in the fight against organized crime is assessed as uneven. The report notes that while large quantities of drugs have been seized, insufficient progress has been made in the area of tackling human trafficking.

The political deadlock in Macedonia has been affecting the proper functioning of the judicial system. "The political deadlock over remaining appointments to the judicial council has reduced capacity to strengthen the independence of impartiality of the judiciary", report says and evaluates that this has also delayed key aspects of the reforms such as setting up the administrative court.

Further engagement is required to ensure the full independence, efficiency, and accountability of the judiciary.

The report on Macedonia notes that the country has made some progress in political criteria, while implementation of the 2001 Ohrid Agreement, which brought an end to a six-month conflict between ethnic Albanian guerrillas and the security forces, continues to contribute to the consolidation of democracy and the rule of law. "Further efforts are needed to fully implement the agreement and to consolidate confidence between the political parties, representing the different ethnic communities", the report says.

Human rights and the protection of minorities, including inter-ethnic relations, have improved in Macedonia, according to the document, which calls all the parties to further develop trust between ethnic communities.

It is said that Macedonia has maintained full cooperation with The Hague Tribunal, and Skopje is also praised for its constructive position towards the Kosovo status process. The report notes that Macedonia has been fostering good relations with the other countries of the western Balkans.

It said that the country has been gradually implementing administrative reform, while it is confirmed that the second phase which relates to fiscal decentralization, has begun. "Public administration remains weak and inefficient, and civil service legislation is little used", the report says.

The economy in Macedonia has registered markedly accelerated growth, and the Commission's assessment is that macroeconomic stability has been maintained as structural reforms have made further progress. "But, the persistence of very high unemployment remains a major cause of concern", the report says.

It acknowledges that Skopje has made further efforts to improve its ability to assume the obligations of membership. However, it says that Macedonia still faces major shortcomings in implementing and effectively enforcing legislation. "Adequate human and financial resources to fully implement the SAA are lacking. Large scale replacement of qualified staff following political changes hampered efforts to improve administrative capacity", the report notes.

The report concludes that Macedonia cannot, as yet, participate fully in the EU policies because its institutional and administrative capacity is insufficient for that.

With Macedonia hoping for a NATO invitation in 2008 and Greece threatening to block it, there are pressing reasons to resolve their decades-old name dispute. But UN envoy Matthew Nimitz -- brokering negotiations between the two sides -- still faces a task akin to the labour of Sisyphus, the legendary king cursed to roll a boulder up a hill for eternity. 

Both countries are proving tough bargainers, with Greece prepared to exercise its power within the EU and NATO, and its neighbour banking on getting enough international recognition to put pressure on Athens. 

Late last week, Macedonian Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski firmly rejected the idea of a "dual name", under which the country would keep its constitutional name but use a different one internationally. 

Any name other than Republic of Macedonia -- the name given in the constitution -- is unacceptable, Gruevski said. 

The dual name idea is included in a new set of proposals presented by Nimitz at the start of the month. The prime minister said that while the document contains some good points, others pose a problem for Skopje. 

"There is an item that is definitely unacceptable for us, which says that the Republic of Macedonia is to accept for international use a name other than the constitutional name of the Republic of Macedonia," Maxfax quoted him as saying. 

Earlier, Macedonian leaders issued a statement opposing any name change, even if this means being denied NATO entry. The ruling VMRO party, its ally the Democratic Party of Albanians and the opposition Social Democrats have presented a united front on the issue. Polls show overwhelming opposition -- approaching 100% -- to a new name for international use. 

Greece, however, argues that the name "Macedonia" implies claims on Greek territory and distorts history. According to the Greek daily Kathimerini, Athens is signaling that it would accept a composite name - such as Nova Macedonia or Upper Macedonia -- that clearly distinguishes the country from the Greek province of Macedonia. 

Greek diplomats have already circulated proposals to this effect to members of the UN Security Council, NATO and the EU, Kathimerini said. 

"Greece wants to solve the problem -- it is making a sincere effort in this direction," Nimitz said in an interview with the paper. 

According to Denko Malevski, a former Macedonian foreign minister and UN ambassador, Greece "wants a fast solution, fearing complication after the recognition of the Republic of Macedonia's constitutional name by Canada" and other states. 

However, he added, the political situation in Macedonia and Greece makes such a solution difficult to achieve. 

Current Foreign Minister Antonio Milososki, meanwhile, hopes that "Greece will give advantage to regional priorities. The resolution of the name dispute is a factor for our stability, and our stability is beneficial for the Republic of Greece," he says.

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