% 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: 082 (01/03/04)
Death of the president
A most unfortunate turn of events has occurred. President Boris Trajkovski and eight other people on board perished on February 26th in an air crash on route to a conference in Mostar, Bosnia. Premier Fatos Nano of Albania cancelled his own attendance at the conference because of the treacherous weather conditions, which seem to have been responsible for the fatalities. Foul play is not suspected.
Trajkovski was a great force for peace and reconciliation. A former Methodist minister, he was a firm advocate of the path of peace and had a good deal to do with brokering the peace accord in autumn 2001, which still holds, even if rather frailly.
There will be elections within 40 days for his replacement. The Speaker of Parliament, Ljubco Jordanovski, will perform presidential functions until then, which are largely ceremonial in nature. There is no obvious replacement for the 47-year old former president. He will be sorely missed.
The key question is whether Macedonia will now be plunged into renewed civil war. The answer is most likely not. The two years that have elapsed have made a difference. The various world events since then have underlined the merits of avoiding war, namely those in Afghanistan and Iraq. To add one further conflict to them would make no sense. The Albanian minority have had their grievances addressed, Albanian now being an official language of the country and Albanians being represented in an even more comprehensive way than before in the government. This is so thanks not a little to Trajkovski. The Macedonians have every reason to mourn him in a state funeral.
Macedonian diaspora speaks and rewards
The World Macedonian Congress, as the only international, non-partisan and non-profit organisation that is the informal 'World Parliament' of the FYR Macedonians throughout the world, originating from all parts of FYR Macedonia, inaugurated on January 28th at the Hotel du Louvre in Paris the honorary title of a "Macedonian Senator" and the medal "Solem Imperii Macedoniae" by awarding it to Robert Badenter. Badenter is one of the most important figures in contemporary FYR Macedonian history.
He presided over the Arbitration Commission of the European Community which in 1991 concluded that out of all the newly independent states of the former Yugoslavia, only FYR Macedonia and Slovenia had fulfilled all the criteria to be internationally recognised as independent states. The title "Macedonian Senator" and the medal "Solem Imperii Macedoniae" is the highest award of the WMC, and were inaugurated in honour of the 105th anniversary of the establishment of the World Macedonian Congress on January 12th in Geneva, Switzerland.
The ceremony of the award was undertaken by the Ambassador of FYR Macedonia to France, Jordan Plevnesh, and the head of the WMC Permanent Mission to the European Union in Brussels, John Todorovski, as well as many representatives from the FYR Macedonian Diaspora and businessmen.
Badinter would make a good successor to Trajkovski. But it is not yet known whether he is going to stand.
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.
Skopje government has made a formal request for the extradition of the leader of the Albanian National Liberation Army, Khemail Hiseni, who conducted the struggle in 1991. He was captured in Kosovo in December. Hiseni was known by his nom-de-guerre Commander 'Jamie
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 Macedonian government, which was formed in September last year, was reshuffled in November. In the first major reshuffle of Premier Branko Crvenkovski's government, he replaced four ministers. The ministers of finance, economy, transport and justice were changed as the government faced a tide of criticism for stalling in the reform process and reducing inflows of FDI. Only $16m of FDI was reported to come in during the first half of 2003. The premier pledged to secure $200m in 2004.
Other criticisms of the government concern its inability to counter the radicalism of those who openly undermine the Ohrid peace deal, some even arguing for ethnic partition. Poor relations between Macedonians and ethnic Albanians in the country will take time to heal.
FOREIGN ECONOMIC COOPERATION
Macedonia, Greece sign cooperation memorandum
By July 2004 Macedonia and Greece will open offices for consular, economic and commercial affairs in Thessaloniki and Bitola, as agreed on 22nd January by the directors of SEE [Southeast European] offices of both countries, Nikola Todorcevski and Aleksandros Malyas, signed a memorandum, MIA news agency reported.
"Signing of the memorandum will boost the political relations and overall cooperation between the two countries," spokesman of the Macedonian Foreign Ministry, Dusko Uzunovski, said.
In addition to regular services, the offices will contribute to intensifying the cooperation of businessmen in the area of Thessaloniki and Bitola.
The memo text is based on the decisions of the Macedonian and Greek foreign ministers and principles of bilateral agreements and international conventions in this sphere.
FOREIGN ECONOMIC RELATIONS
Macedonia, Moldova sign free trade agreement
The Republic of Macedonia and the Republic of Moldova signed a free trade agreement recently, which meant the fulfilment of Macedonia's obligations envisaged with the Southeast Europe Stability Pact, i.e. the obligation of Macedonia to sign free trade agreements with all Southeast Europe countries. Minister of Economy, Stevco Jakimovski, and official from the Moldova government, Vasile Sturza, signed the agreement, MIA News Agency reported.
Minister Jakimovski emphasized that the agreement opened the possibility for cooperation between the two countries, especially in the field of industrial production. Jakimovski stated that Moldova was interested in the field of pharmaceuticals, agriculture and textile.
According to the minister, the prior exchange was at a level of US$300,000 with a deficit on the Macedonian part, adding that both governments must think on increasing the cooperation. The agreement enables full liberalization of industrial products, which customs tax will be gradually annulled by 2008, while agricultural products are protected with full customs tax, except for certain products, which have determined contingents.
According to Sturza, the agreement will enable Macedonian businessmen to also cover the Ukrainian, Belarus and Russian markets, while Moldova businessmen will be enabled entrance at the Balkan market. "Macedonian products have no need for advertising in Moldova, because they are already well known by their quality," Sturza emphasized.
Furthermore, President, Boris Trajkovski, will visit Moldova in the course of the year, along with a business delegation. Macedonia has signed 12 free trade agreements, which open a potential market of over 500m consumers, which encompass 85 per cent of the total foreign exchange.
Macedonian deputy premier looks forward to enhanced EU relations at conference
The partnership between Macedonia and EU can only be successful if internal partnership is guaranteed. The official start of the TEMPUS project shows that we will build the Euro-Macedonian relations with the presence of all our partners," deputy premier, Radmila Sekerinska, said in the address at Conference "Towards EU Together", which ws held in organization of the Skopje Faculty of Economy and the Government Sector for European Integration, MIA News Agency reported.
"The timing for the promotion of this project overlaps with the end of the ratification process of the Stabilization and Association Agreement in the parliaments of the EU member-countries, as well as the current debate on the upcoming Macedonian application in the EU," Sekerinska stated. She informed that the new things in the training process begin firstly with the fact that most of the trainers are Macedonians, who in cooperation with some of our European partners, have already passed specialized training, emphasizing that the training does not include only state officials, but also local authorities, the judiciary and the academic world.
"Programme 'TEMPUS' is one of the rare programmes which was accessible as a result of Macedonia's engagement in the Stabilization and Association Process. The Thessaloniki summit opened the possibility for additional participation in other programmes of the community, which are even more significant," Sekerinska said, adding that full opening of some of the more significant programmes of the Union is expected by 2005.
Project Coordinator, Biljana Sekulovska-Gaber, emphasized that its objective is to create a local nucleus of experts-trainers, which will be specialized in certain Euro-Integration areas. According to her, another project's objective is building of wider knowledge on European issues, at all levels of the Macedonian society. The Conference is part of the initial activities of TEMPUS project "Establishment of Centre for Continual EU Training". The objective of the conference is promotion of the project, an open discussion on the needs for establishment of such a centre, as well as the needs for training in regard to the European issues for the state administration, nongovernmental organizations [NGO] sector, business subjects and media in the Republic of Macedonia.
Skopje Faculty of Economy is the project carrier, in partnership with the Skopje Law Faculty, Prilep Faculty of Economy, Government Sector for European Integration and NGO European Movement of the Republic of Macedonia. The project will be realized with the expert support of the College of Europe from Belgian city Brugge and the Centre of European Studies from Limerick, Ireland, which are its partners.
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