Books on Macedonia
% of GDP
Update No: 093 (28/01/05)
The new president
President Branko Crvenkovski, elected in June, has been a gritty successor for
someone who had been an outstanding success, former president Boris Trajkovski,
who was killed in a plane crash in February when the government plane, carrying
him and six other officials, went down in bad weather over Bosnia.
Trajkovski, a priest by vocation, brought peace to the troubled land in autumn
2001with the Ochrid Accord, reconciling the ethnic Albanian minority to
New premier and new government
The new president officially gave Buckovski -- Macedonia's defence minister --
the mandate to form a new government at the end of last year, after the ruling
Social Democratic Alliance of Macedonia (SDSM) elected him as its leader during
an extraordinary congress. Buckovski replaced Hari Kostov, who resigned as prime
The new government was put to parliamentary debate and confirmation in
Buckovski won 391 votes in the second round after all three candidates for the
post failed to garner an absolute majority. Deputy Prime Minister Radmila
Sekerinska was second with 265 votes. Parliament member Tito Petkovski also ran
for the post; he won 144 votes during the first round.
Consultation the key
Buckovski had key consultations with the parties in the outgoing SDSM-led
coalition government, the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and the Democratic
Union for Integration (DUI). The leaders of the LDP and DUI, Risto Penov and Ali
Ahmeti, then confirmed that they would remain in the SDSM-led coalition. They
also agreed that the coalition talks should be completed quickly, given some
pressing issues awaiting the formation of a new government, such as putting
together the country's 2005 budget.
Buckovski said there were also negotiations with VMRO-Makedonska leader Boris
Stojmenov on a possible alliance. "However, this would be a coalition for
the local elections, and not for the new government."
Difficulty of reform
Macedonia is pushing ahead with its reforms. It would be unreasonable to suppose
that this could be anything other than a very difficult process. For instance,
NATO's senior military representative to Macedonia, Brigadier General Dennis
Blease, cited corruption and judicial inefficiency as obstacles to Macedonia's
entry into NATO.
Blease praised the reforms in the Macedonian defence sector, but urged more
efforts to resolve the judicial deadlock.
Buckovski in Albania
Macedonia is a vital partner for Albania, having an even larger Albanian
minority in its population than does Serbia in percentage terms. Premier
Buckovski's two-day visit to neighbouring Albania was appropriately his first
official trip abroad since taking office late last year. Arriving in Tirana on
12th January, he met with President Alfred Moisiu, Prime Minister Fatos Nano and
Assembly Speaker Servet Pellumbi.
Regional issues and ways of boosting co-operation between Skopje and Tirana were
the focus of the talks. Buckovski and Nano both agreed that economic
co-operation should be the main priority for bilateral relations this year. They
expressed satisfaction with the level of co-operation between their interior
ministries in preventing transborder crime. They also agreed to work together to
resolve pending border issues, such as borderlines that split villages or
individual family properties.
"We requested Albania's assistance in the definition of the border between
Macedonia and Kosovo. For this we would need also the support of UNMIK and the
government in Belgrade," Buckovski told reporters during a joint news
conference with Nano, adding that the issue should be resolved before any
decision is reached on Kosovo's final status.
Welcoming Buckovski's initiative, Nano said UN resolutions for Kosovo should
serve as the basis for resolving any border problems. He also emphasised the
importance of US and EU participation in the process.
The dispute between Greece and Macedonia over the latter's constitutional name
was also discussed, with Buckovski receiving assurances from Nano that Albania
is ready to assist with efforts to reach a solution. Moving beyond such issues
would "contribute to the stability and the Euro-Atlantic integration"
of countries in Southeast Europe, Nano said.
Albanian-Macedonian relations are "excellent" and an "example for
the whole region," the prime ministers said.
During his meeting with Buckovski, Moisiu praised Macedonia's democratisation
process and its accomplishments in building a multiethnic society. He emphasised
the importance of bilateral agreements on economic issues, free trade, and
energy, as well as the two countries' joint efforts towards completion of
Transport Corridor 8 and the AMBO oil pipeline.
Missiles seized in Albania
In a disturbing development which shows how indispensable is close
coperation between the Albanian and Macedonian authorities, Albanian police have
arrested four people smuggling in surface-to-air missiles allegedly destined for
Albanian separatists in Macedonia. The seizure in Albania of three
shoulder-launched surface-to-air missiles allegedly destined for Albanian
separatists in Macedonia has sparked fears of a brewing security threat in the
region. The SA-7B Strela missiles were intercepted on 13 December. They are
believed to have originated in Bosnia or Serbia and may have been destined for
Macedonia, where ethnic-Albanian insurgents fought a brief war against the
authorities in 2001. Albanian police arrested four people - Sokol Mujaj, Ilim
Isufi, Armir Troshani, and Mentor Cani - in possession of the missiles shortly
after they entered the country from Montenegro. Bajram Ibraj, director-general
of the Albanian police, said, "Four men were caught travelling with the
missiles on the Rinas-Vlora road, in a van belonging to a company dealing in
sausages. This was a police operation prepared in advance. We are still
investigating the origin and destination of the missiles, and our counterparts
in Montenegro are also investigating."
Security sources said that an Albanian separatist group operating in Kosovo and
Macedonia is believed to have ordered the missiles. The deal was allegedly
brokered by a Bosnian national, who sourced the weapons from a group with links
to Islamist and criminal networks. The Russian-made Strela and other
surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) pose a significant threat to both civilian and
military aircraft. Similar shoulder-launched missiles were launched -
unsuccessfully - against an Israeli airliner in Mombasa in 2002 and a more
advanced version, Strela 3, hit a DHL cargo plane on approach to Baghdad airport
in 2003. According to IWPR's security source, ethnic Albanian extremists in
Macedonia have dramatically stepped up military activities in the last three
months. They have attempted to obtain SAMs from several sources, possibly for
use against surveillance drones and Macedonian attack helicopters. There has
also been an upsurge in recruitment, local and international funding and the
purchase of medical supplies. The source also claims that insurgent radio
communication networks silent since 2001 have recently been heard making test
Unfinished political business
Tension has been rising in Macedonia since mid-November, when up to 300
armed ethnic Albanians appeared in the village of Kondovo near Skopje. The men
have since taken control of the village, digging trenches apparently unhindered
by security forces. Their intentions are unclear, as are their loyalties. The
Interior Ministry has dismissed the men as a group of criminals, while
speculation in the local press says they are Islamists linked to a
foreign-funded madrassah or religious school in the village. Some local sources
claim they are simply unemployed men airing their frustration with the leader of
the Albanian party now in the country's governing coalition, Ali Ahmeti, over
the poor state of the economy.
Whatever the explanation behind the Kondovo incident and the arms intercept,
which may have nothing to do with each other, analysts warn that the combination
of unfinished political business, porous borders, weak law enforcement and a
plentiful supply of weapons continues to pose a threat to the stability of the
Balkans. However, international attempts to step up efforts against organized
crime in the region, including arms trafficking, are bearing some fruit. The
announcement of the missile seizure came during a regional conference in Tirana,
hosted by Albania's ministry of public order, on tackling small arms and light
weapons trafficking in south-east Europe. The conference was organized by the
Southeast European Co-operation Initiative (SECI), a Bucharest-based centre for
regional co-operation on organized crime, and was attended by law enforcement
officers from around the region.
As well as SECI, there are numerous police training, liaison and assistance
schemes in the region run by Interpol, the UN, the Organization for Security and
Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), and the EU. It is clear, however, that the task of
combating arms trafficking is huge. One conference delegate, who did not want to
be named, pointed out that as no Balkan country grades its criminal intelligence
according to the reliability of its sources, it is hard for SECI to assess it.
"The idea of doing serious analysis of criminal organizations - the kind
that would allow one to take down a whole network rather than just individuals -
is also new," he added. Not only is there considerable mistrust between
different national police forces, there is also limited co-operation between the
various law-enforcement agencies within the same country.
Yet many southeastern European countries are working to limit the trafficking of
weapons through their territory, partly to meet strict membership criteria laid
down by the EU, and also to show the West that they are serious about tackling
organized crime gangs. There is no doubt that Albania and others in the region
are making progress, but the improvements sometimes run in parallel to criminal
activity that allegedly reaches the highest levels of government. Erion Veliaj,
leader of the Albanian civic protest movement Mjaft! (Enough!), told IWPR,
"Everything the government doesn't traffic itself, it intercepts to impress
the international community."
Earlier in 2004, Premier Nano was accused of facilitating the trafficking of
arms to the ethnic Albanian Kosovo Liberation Army, KLA, on the strength of
allegedly incriminating conversations he had in 1997. He subsequently said that
assisting the KLA was morally justifiable. "[Nano's] Kosovo trafficking
admission proves people at the top of government know how to traffic arms, and
so it may have happened in other incidents. I've seen Albanian-made Kalashnikovs
in Rwanda with my own eyes," said Veliaj. Moving weapons, drugs, human
beings or contraband across Balkan borders is slowly becoming a riskier
business, but it will be many years before trans-national criminals decide that
the likelihood of being captured and successfully prosecuted outweighs the
attractiveness of illicit profits.
Macedonian premier, World Bank official discuss structural reforms
The new Macedonian government will keep working on structural reforms, Prime
Minister, Vlado Buckovski, said at a meeting with Head of the World Bank Mission
for Development Polices Loan, Bruce Corthney, MIA news agency reported.
The government was ready to speed up the reforms of the judicial system, public
administration, health care, Macedonian Railways, Macedonian Radio and TV (MRTV),
Electric Power Supply Company (ESM), labour marker and improving the business
climate, Buckovski said.
The government-World Bank cooperation in 2005 will focus on realization of
projects - part of a three-year strategy for supporting Macedonia. Signing of a
new structural arrangement, worth US$30m, is expected in the second half of this
Skopje and Bucharest focus on bilateral ties
Macedonian Ambassador to Romania, Tihomir Ilievski, met recently with Romanian
President Ion Iliescu, MIA reported.
Ilievski gave credit to Iliescu for his personal contribution to developing the
Macedonian-Romanian relations, expressing belief in the future bilateral
cooperation on Macedonia's road to the European Union and NATO. Iliescu referred
to Romania's achievements that resulted in the country's accession to NATO and
forthcoming completion of its process for the EU membership.