Books on Macedonia
% of GDP
Update No: 094 (24/02/05)
Macedonian parliament approves sending new peacekeeping
The Macedonians are cooperating with the West in international peace efforts.
They clearly wish to lend their aspirations to join NATO and eventually the EU
The Macedonian Parliament approved on February 4th sending a new peacekeeping
contingent of Macedonian troops to Afghanistan. The new contingent comprising
two infantry units with 19 Macedonian Army troops will be under the command of
German forces in Afghanistan within the International Security Assistance Force
(ISAF) for six months.
It will be the sixth army unit sent by the Macedonian government to Afghanistan
for peacekeeping missions. The previous unit with the same number of troops as
the new one was sent in August last year.
Aftermath of the referendum
The November 2004 referendum in Macedonia concerned a law that was to begin
implementation of the Ohrid Agreement. The Ohrid Agreement was signed in August
2001 between the Macedonian government and Macedonian Albanian parties, and had
been brokered by the European Union (EU) and the USA. This came after several
months of fighting between the army and Albanian separatist groups, sparked in
March 2001 when Macedonian Albanian guerrillas in alliance with Kosovo Albanian
fighters began offensives in the Macedonian areas of Tetovo and Kumanovo. Under
NATO and EU pressure, in August 2001 the Macedonian government withdrew its
heavy weaponry from the areas of conflict (although the forces were blocked from
doing so for several days by residents of Tetovo who did not want them to go).
The Ohrid Agreement entailed a redivision of the country's internal
administrative units, creating fewer units with far greater autonomy. The
redivision also gave the Albanian minority more power in several areas - control
over education and health, for example, and ethnic quotas for the police,
judiciary and other institutions. NATO and the EU heralded the agreement as
vital for the stabilisation and peaceful development of the country, and as a
crucial step for the beginning of Macedonia's EU accession talks. However, this
agreement seems to have only increased tensions between Macedonia's Slav and
Albanian populations, with Macedonian Slav citizens seeing it as the first step
towards secession of Albanian majority areas.
In August 2004 the Macedonian government passed a law that would implement some
of the Ohrid Agreement and begin decentralisation. Demonstrations against the
law were held in Skopje, and a campaign grew for a referendum aiming to repeal
the law. It was this referendum, held on 7 November 2004, which precipitated a
flurry of activity in the international community.
The Presidency of the EU warned Macedonia that should the referendum be
successful in rejecting the law, Macedonia's chances of joining the EU would be
seriously threatened. Lawrence Butler, US ambassador to Macedonia, and Michael
Sahlin, the EU's special representative in Macedonia, also issued warnings,
while US defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld mentioned Macedonia's application to
'The success in becoming a NATO member will largely depend on the success in
implementing the Framework Agreement, which includes stronger and more effective
local self-government units. The legislation passed this August will certainly
help democracy strengthen in the grassroots. The Macedonian people are facing a
choice of a future with NATO and the EU where stability and economic growth can
thrive, or a return to the past."
The Macedonian government also announced that it would resign if the referendum
was successful, and urged the population not to vote. The Macedonian
Constitution requires a voter turnout of at least 50 per cent for a referendum
to be valid. But the case of this referendum, turnout was only 26 per cent, with
the Albanian population almost entirely boycotting the vote.
"It shows that the citizens have chosen to maintain the course towards the
European Union," said EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana. The
Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) welcomed the result,
as did US State Department spokesman Richard Boucher.
The British minister for Europe, Denis MacShane, likewise praised Macedonians:
"This is a clear signal that Macedonia wants to continue on its path
towards full membership of the European family of nations as well as NATO
membership. I congratulate the leaders of the Macedonian and Albanian parties
and communities who made clear that the clock should not be turned back and that
the Lake Ohrid agreement will be upheld and must now be fully implemented. We
look forward to cooperating with Macedonia over the nation's ambitions for
Albanian and Macedonian leaders in key meetings
Hence the importance of another set of meetings. Macedonia is a vital
partner for Albania, having an even larger Albanian minority in its population
than does Serbia in percentage terms. Macedonian Prime Minister Vlado
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.
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
cooperation 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
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
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,
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
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.
DZI interested in Macedonian acquisitions
Bulgarian financial group DZI is reportedly holding talks for acquiring 3
Macedonian banks and the largest Macedonian insurer QBE, New Europe reported
The reports indicate that talks were held with Macedonia's 5th largest bank
Ohridska Banka as well as with the lenders Rado Banka and Makedonska Banka. The
Bulgarian group also held initial consultations with QBE, which was privatised
in 1998 and presently holds more than 50% of the car and general insurance
markets in Macedonia. In Bulgaria the financial group DZI is comprised of a
commercial bank (the country's 10th largest), a general insurance company, a
life insurance company (both insurers rank second in their segments) and a
FOREIGN ECONOMIC RELATIONS
Macedonian premier holds talks with Czech, Croatian counterparts in Prague
Prime Minister, Vlado Buckovski, participated recently at the "Microsoft
Government Leaders Forum - Europe 2005" conference in Prague, MIA News
Buckovski met the prime ministers of Croatia and the Czech Republic, Ivo Sanader
and Stanislav Gross, EU Commissioner for Information Society and Media, Viviane
Reding, and Microsoft vice president, Jean-Philippe Courtois.
Buckovski and Gross agreed that there were no political problems between the two
countries, but there were numerous unused potentials in the area of economic
cooperation, such as the trade exchange and investments.
The Czech PM expressed interest for investments in the energy sector in
Macedonia by the CEZ company, one of the leading companies in Southeast Europe
which was interested for the privatisation of Electric Power Company of
According to Buckovski, there are possibilities for cooperation between
Macedonia and Czech Republic in the areas of infrastructure, environment,
signing an agreement for readmission, and visa regime liberalization. PM Gross
accepted the request for visa regime liberalization for Macedonian citizens that
study in the Czech Republic.
Buckovski also proposed the establishing of a mixed commission for economic
cooperation between the two countries within the Macedonian government, which
would develop into a Macedonian-Czech economic forum that would contribute to
the strengthening of the economic relations between both countries.
Gross, on the other hand, initiated the opening of a Czech trade office in
Skopje, as a department of the embassy in Belgrade, as well as the opening of a
Macedonian trade office in Prague in the near future. Both prime ministers also
agreed on cooperation in the defence sector and the preparations for NATO
membership. Czech Republic is also prepared to support the modernization of the
Macedonian military air force.
Buckovski, at the meeting with his Croatian counterpart, Ivo Sanader, welcomed
the positive recommendations by the European Commission and candidate status of
Croatia for EU membership.
The Buckovski-Sanader meeting also focused on modalities on furthering the
economic cooperation through investments of Croatian companies in Macedonia,
joint performances at third markets, and higher forms of joint investments.
PM Buckovski informed the EU Commissioner Viviane Reding on Macedonia's
preparations for EU membership and the activities and standards that are being
implemented in education, science, and media. The Buckovski-Courtois talks
focused on the cooperation based on the Agreement for Strategic Partnership.
Microsoft will work in future on the project for issuing passport and ID cards
via the Internet.
Macedonian, Latvian premiers discuss bilateral relations, economic
Macedonian Prime Minister Vlado Buckovski met in Prague with his Latvian
counterpart Aigars Kalvitis, MIA News Agency reported.
Both interlocutors agreed that bilateral relations should be enhanced, along
with greater dynamics in economic cooperation, which is currently at a very low
level, not reflecting the realistic needs and objective possibilities.
As stated in the prime minister's cabinet press release, Buckovski and Kalvitis
believe that there is mutual interest for urging of activities for promotion of
the Macedonian and Latvian economy, through organization of business forums,
fair presentations and investments.
Premier Buckovski asked for Latvian engagement in Macedonia's promotion
regarding NATO/EU accession. Furthermore, the discussions focused on the
alleviation of the visa regime.
According to the Macedonian prime minister, Baltic countries are a model for
successful cooperation and building of a mini-regional system, which Macedonia
is trying to copy in the Balkan region.