Books on Macedonia
% of GDP
Update No: 098 (01/07/05)
Albanians in Macedonia; elections held peacefully
Voting began in Macedonia on June 19th in the first local elections under a
2001peace deal to give the country's 25 percent Albanian minority greater power.
The move to decentralize power is the final, and key, pillar of the Ohrid accord
brokered by the West with Albanian rebels more than three years ago to prevent a
new Balkan civil war. This last clause of the accord has infuriated opposition
nationalists who say it will encourage Albanian separatists; and analysts say
opposition parties may do well, given voter dissatisfaction with the government
over jobs and growth.
A seven-month insurgency in 2001 pushed Macedonia to the brink of civil war.
With the Ohrid accord, Albanian rebels laid down their arms and went into
politics, joining the Socialist-led ruling coalition.
Albanians make up a quarter of Macedonia's 2 million people, living mainly in
the north and west of the country on the borders with Albania and Kosovo,
Serbia's Albanian-dominated province run by the United Nations since 1999. The
West wants a stable Macedonia ahead of a potentially explosive decision expected
later this year on whether Kosovo becomes independent, as Kosovo Albanians
The vote takes place in 84 municipalities, cut down from 123 by a deal within
the multi-ethnic ruling coalition to redraw boundaries and shift the balance of
power in some areas. The elected officials are responsible for the
implementation of the agreement, devolving power over education, health and
The West is impatient to see the Ohrid accord in place. NATO and the European
Union have conditioned Macedonia's integration on its full passage and want a
peaceful vote. "This is a hugely important and significant step opening the
final chapter of the Ohrid Accord," Michael Sahlin, the EU's envoy to
Macedonia, told Reuters.
Violence has flared over the deal in the past, but Sahlin said he did not expect
any major incident on voting day. The OSCE has sent 350 observers.
Macedonia regulates the use of Albanian national symbols
The government in Skopje adopted draft legislation to regulate the display of
the Albanian flag in the former Yugoslav republic, Deutsche Presse-Agentur (dpa)
Ethnic Albanians, who compose roughly a quarter of Macedonia's two million
population, are to be allowed to post their flags and other national symbols in
17 municipalities where they make up more than 50% of total population,
according to the new legislation.
The move is expected to prompt protests from Macedonian nationalists, as the
Albanian flag is seen locally as a sign of Albanian territorial pretensions on
neighbouring countries. It has led to great emotional upheavals in the past. It
is above all, an emotive issue.
The Albanian flag is red and features a black two-headed eagle. The new law,
which is yet to pass parliament, is a part of the Ohrid peace deal. Several
smaller Albanian parties have already opposed the law, saying that the
regulation should be expanded to municipalities where Albanians compose more
than 20% of the population.
The lack of legislation on the use of Albanian national symbols led to a series
of often-violent incidents throughout the southern Balkans in the past,
especially in Kosovo and Macedonia. In the worst such incident in Macedonia,
four people were killed and more than 130 arrested during Albanian
demonstrations in Skopje's Bit Pazar district in 1992.
NATO ahead; But the EU much further away
Macedonia defence Minister Jovan Manasijevski said in an interview with
Radio Free Europe recently that the NATO report on Macedonia's annual progress
on the road to the alliance was prepared and positive, particularly as regards
reforms in the defence sector. "However, NATO is a political organisation
and one has to follow precisely defined political criteria," the minister
was quoted as saying. "They apply for all, but each country has certain
specific conditions," he added, noting that his country is responsible to
ensure the full implementation of the framework agreement.
Other conditions are functionality of institutions, efficient and independent
judicial system, Radio Free Europe said, citing the minister. "But NATO
will not base its final assessment only on plans and programmes, but their
successful realisation. If we complete these activities, the invitation for
alliance membership is inevitable," Manasijevski said.
The crisis in the EU, however, with France and Holland voting 'no' to the new
constitution and huge problems with the EU budget, must leave Macedonia's
chances of entry into it doubtful for the moment or at least delayed. It was
always going to be a long haul anyway.
Macedonia, Montenegro, Albania highlight regional issues
Macedonian Prime Minister, Vlado Buckovski, Montenegrin counterpart, Milo
Dujkanovic and Albanian Deputy Premier, Namik Kokle, met recently to discuss key
issues for the region, Makfax reported.
According to the officials, economic prosperity is the main priority for the
region. A joint declaration issued at the end of their trilateral talks stressed
the need for building a modern infrastructure and interconnection in southeast
Europe and reiterated their commitment to completing Pan-European Transport
Corridors 8 and 10, the report said. The three officials also expressed
satisfaction with efforts against organised crime, particularly trafficking.
In another development, the foreign minister of Macedonia told reporters
recently that she hopes negotiations on her country's eventual entry into the
European Union will begin in the first half of 2006, when Austria holds the EUs
Ilinka Mitreva told reporters at a news conference with her Austrian
counterpart, Ursula Plassnik, that the desired negotiations on Macedonia's entry
"will be an acknowledgment of the reforms" the nation has tried to
implement over the past few years. The government of Macedonia submitted answers
recently to additional questions from the European Commission that supplemented
a massive questionnaire aimed at assessing the country's readiness to become an
official EU candidate. Deputy prime Minister, Radmila Sekerinska said the new
questions mainly concerned the fulfilment of economic criteria.
Kosovo, Macedonia hold trade accord talks, most contentious issues resolved
Experts and officials from the Kosovo side were optimistic after recent talks
with the Macedonian side on a free trade agreement and custom duties between
Macedonia and Kosovo, Fakti, Skopje reported.
Skender Ahmeti, a state secretary in the Ministry of Trade and Industry, said
that most of the contentious issues were resolved during the meeting, with the
exception of Article 8 and the annexes, which were still to be defined. The
annexes, according to Ahmeti, contain a list of industrial and agricultural
products on which the Kosovar side wants to impose custom duty. Also, the issue
of a custom duty rate of 10 per cent was discussed. The rest of the meeting,
according to Ahmeti, discussed industrial, agricultural and food products that
the Kosovo side wants to protect. This also includes oil derivatives.
The Kosov side stressed that this round of talks would be successful, although
they added that the talks were expected to be more "severe" because of
the agreement's annexes, which concern the interests of both parties.
According to Ahmeti, there is no deadline for reaching the free trade agreement,
but the Kosovo side is quite optimistic that an agreement will be reached soon,
given that all articles of the agreement have already been harmonized.
The annexes that have been proposed by the Kosovo side will affect products such
as petrol, fruits, detergents and seasonal agricultural products. With regard to
custom duties, the Kosov side says that the duties will be reciprocal. With
regard to the current regime of trade, which is conducted according to the Free
Trade Agreement with Serbia-Montenegro, Ahmeti said Kosovo was not interested in
that agreement at all. He said that he wanted the talks to reach an agreement on
free trade between Kosovo and Macedonia.
Kosovo experts say that the first annex is about the custom duty rate of 10 per
cent on petrol imported from Macedonia. We have learned from unofficial sources
that Macedonian experts headed by Bilall Kasami, a state secretary in the
Ministry of Economy, have come up with the proposal that the duty rate on petrol
should be 10 per cent, which should be fully liberalized by 2007 under the rules
of the World Trade Organization.
As for agricultural products, the Ministry of Economy has proposed that the duty
rate on these products should be brought to 3 per cent by 2007 because WTO rules
do not provide for liberalization of trade for agricultural products, and it
also proposes exempting tomatoes and watermelons from duty altogether.
Macedonian, French ministers discuss future investment
Macedonian Minister of Economy, Fatmir Besimi, met on May 26th in Paris with
French Minister for Foreign Trade, Francois Loos, MIA News Agency reported.
Loos told Besimi that France would support Macedonia's Euro-integration process,
would lobby in the European Commission for Macedonia to receive a candidate
status for EU membership and would improve the country's credit rating in the
French institution for foreign trade (COFAS).
"We have informed Loos on the country's interest to attract French
investments and we have demanded support for improving Macedonia's present
rating into COFAS," Besimi said.
Macedonia has been ranked into COFAS as a most risky country for investments.
Besimi asked that Macedonia be exempted from that category and be put in the
group along with Croatia, Bulgaria and Romania.
"A positive signal for French investors would be the internationally
defined credit rating from BB+, which is a relatively good position,"
Meeting Besimi, Loos also focused on possibilities for investments in the energy
sector, such as the ESM [electricity company] privatisation and possibilities
for investing in ahydroelectric power station, where according to Besimi, there
was a favourable business climate.