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MACEDONIA


 

 

In-depth Business Intelligence

Key Economic Data 
 
  2003 2002 2001 Ranking(2003)
GDP
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)

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REPUBLICAN REFERENCE

Area (sq.km) 
25,333

Population 
2,071,210

Capital 
Skopje 

Currency
Dinar 

President
Branko Crvenkovski

Private sector 
% of GDP 
45%




Update No: 094 (24/02/05)

Macedonian parliament approves sending new peacekeeping forces
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 credibility.
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 join NATO:
'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 Euro-Atlantic integration." 

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 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 broadcasts.

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 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.

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BANKING

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 recently. 
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 pension fund. 

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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 Agency reported.
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 Macedonia (ESM).
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 cooperation

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.

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