Books on Macedonia
Update No: 121 - (27/06/07)
Government survives no-confidence vote
Ruling Macedonia is a thankless task, quite literally so. The fresh
administration of the newcomer to Macedonian politics, Prime Minister Nikola
Gruevski, is doing its best to improve the prospects for this poor and little
known land. He himself has the vigour of youth and works fifteen hour-days,
while expecting his young team to do the same. His government is generally
agreed to be free of the besetting vice of previous ones, proneness to
corruption. Gruevski said that as a result of hard work, the government has made
significant reforms and economic gains in the nine months since it came to
power, no idle boast.
Nevertheless, he faced a challenge to his authority in early June. Still
Macedonia's Parliament, as was predictable, gave a vote of confidence to the
VMRO-DPMNE party-led government on June 7th. Of 120 deputies, 65 supported the
government and voted against a no-confidence motion, set by key opposition party
the Social Democratic Union of Macedonia, or SDSM. Previously, VMRO-DPMNE and
its coalition partners, the Democratic Party of Albanians and the New Social
Democratic Party, had met to resolve differences and show unity.
The SDSM had justified their motion, by accusing the government of making bad
policy decisions and generating ethnic tension, thereby bringing the country's
EU aspirations under threat. During the parliamentary discussion, the leader of
SDSM, Radmila Shekerinska, accused Prime Minister Gruevski of not delivering on
the promises he had made to the people. "This challenge is not intended to
cause the government to fall, but to show you that the policies you have been
creating for ten months are failing," Shekerinska said.
In his speech to Parliament, Prime Minister Gruevski argued that the
no-confidence motion came at a bad time for the country's NATO integration; two
days before his scheduled meeting with U.S. President George W. Bush, where
Macedonia is hoping to gain encouragement for admission. Macedonia is close to
receiving an invitation to join NATO, Gruevski said, and should concentrate on
stepping up reforms rather than wasting time on such votes.
Opposition lawmakers criticised the Gruevski administration on many
issues, charging it with weakening the country's bids for EU and NATO
integration and showing poor results in economic reform. A GDP of only 3.5% has
been achieved, compared to the promised 6% to 8% rise, Gruevski's critics said.
They are forgetting that it takes time to turn an economy round.
The government was also criticised for its draft bill on the public prosecutor,
for failing to complete the Judiciary Council, and for poor co-operation with
President Branko Crvenkovski.
The prime minister countered these accusations by listing the new investments
Macedonia has attracted in the last few months. It is reckoned that inward
foreign investment will reach Euro 200m by the end of the year for 2007, a
promising result for a small country. Macedonia is undergoing a strong
investment cycle due to a more favourable business environment and lower taxes,
Deputies who supported Gruevski noted his administration has faced no corruption
scandal during its nine months in office. Ruling majority MPs cited a
strengthened fight against corruption, reduced bureaucratic red tape, a decrease
in debts owed to foreign banks, and an increase in exports as some of the
President Crvenkovski awards MOC with "Decoration of the Republic of
Ceremony matters in Macedonia as much as anywhere else, its identity being
under grave threat. Greece, its much bigger and better- known, neighbour, even
disputes its right to its name, which should remain solely that of its own
northernmost province in Athens' view.
The settlement reached at Ohrid in the autumn of 2001 is seared into every
Macedonian's mind-set as the founding moment of a renewed state and country. The
ethnic Macedonians and Albanians buried the hatchet and agreed to live as one
nation, symbolised by the inclusion of the Democratic Party of Albanians in the
It was of particular significance, therefore, when President Branko Crvenkovski
presented the "Decoration of the Republic of Macedonia" to the
Archbishop of Ohrid and Macedonia HH Stefan on June 10 in St. Sofia Church in
Ohrid on the occasion of the Macedonian Orthodox Church's (MOC) 40th jubilee.
This was a bonding of the nation together, akin to Winston Churchill being given
the Knighthood of the Garter by the new Queen Elizabeth II shortly after her
The "Decoration of the Republic of Macedonia" is awarded to all past
and current members of the church: archbishops, bishops, metropolitan,
priesthood and monks. But the Archbishop of Ohrid and Macedonia is no ordinary
The 18-carat gold decoration is made up of a decoration symbol on a necklace and
a decoration star.
President Crvenkovski and MOC Head HH Stefan addressed the formal ceremony,
which was broadcast live on the Macedonian Radio and Television. Moreover,
members of MOC synod, top state officials and representatives of the diplomatic
corps were present at the ceremony.
MOC representatives said at the briefing that the Decoration was the first major
state recognition awarded to the Church in independent Macedonia. The decoration
was presented by the President on the behalf of the state and all the citizens
The following interview is of obvious interest both for what is said and who is
Macedonia and the status of Kosovo
Author: Nikola Gruevski
Macedonian premier outlines to a Belgrade weekly the reasons for his country's
approval of the Ahtisaari Plan for resolving Kosovo's status
Nikola Gruevski, prime minister of the Republic of Macedonia and leader of the
centre-right VMRO, which governs in coalition with the country's second largest
ethnic Albanian party DPA led by Arben Shaferi, is interviewed by Rua Cirkovic
for the Belgrade weekly NIN.
NIN: You say that you have your own national interests, and we have ours. People
in Serbia think that Serbia and Macedonia have some common regional and
political interests. Do you think so?
Gruevski: Certainly they have. Both states, for instance, have the strategic aim
of joining the EU and NATO. That's a big task. Entry into NATO and the EU is
often viewed on their part in a regional perspective, and cooperation in that
respect is very important. For instance, for the purposes of NATO entry we're
part of the so-called Adriatic group, together with Albania and Croatia. This
grouping has embarked upon close collaboration and frequent contacts. Serbia is
unfortunately not included. Perhaps in the future it will be.
You mean that even at government level you have more intensive contacts with
Albania and Croatia than with Serbia?
Yes, that is the case. The Balkan states are small, and NATO does not usually go
in for individual entry but prefers packages. That's why the Adriatic group was
set up. It's not just our own invention, but a joint agreement between NATO and
those three states. But there is more space for collaboration with Serbia too,
and it should be exploited.
Recently you met Mr Agim Çeku at prime-ministerial level in Prishtina, and your
ministers had before that on several occasions more or less explicitly stated
that Macedonia would recognize the status of Kosovo based on the Ahtisaari Plan.
You are well aware that you make many people in Serbia angry by this, while our
answer is to alarm you: if Kosovo acquires a status unacceptable to Serbia,
Macedonia will not survive for longer than six months, some of our analysts and
politicians maintain. Well, what do you say: are we right to be angry, and you
to be alarmed?
Well, what I should like to say is that neither do we want to make you angry,
nor are there any grounds for alarming us. Macedonia is not a factor that will
decide what happens in Kosovo. We are not a great power, and it does not depend
on us whether Kosovo in future will be an independent state or something else.
It's obviously the big powers who will decide that. In this context, we look to
the interests of the Republic of Macedonia. For instance, the Ahtisaari Plan
among other things contains an element that is important for the Republic of
Macedonia, and that is demarcation of the frontier. Such a demarcation has still
not been carried out, although it has been dragging on for years. Though we
treat it as a technical question, we are nevertheless concerned that for someone
it might cease to be a technical question, might become a potential source for
problems, for a crisis. The Ahtisaari Plan contains a precise temporal
framework: in which period, through which mechanism and with which methodology
the demarcation of our border with Kosovo should be carried out. For we have a
number of questions that have remained open for so many years and which create
uncertainty. Apart from the failure to define our frontier with Kosovo, there's
the problem with the Greeks about our name, and to some extent also the problem
with the church. One uncertainty, a second uncertainty, and a third
Has the Serbian side avoided demarcation of the border?
There are a great many uncertainties and we wish to reduce their number. That is
one of the reasons why the Republic of Macedonia thinks that this plan is a good
basis for a final solution. And to date we haven't seen any other well
thought-out proposal better than that of Ahtisaari. The only proposal to have
been seriously prepared and seriously presented is that of Mr Ahtisaari.
Do you personally, and does your government, envisage a scenario for Macedonia
for the eventuality that the Security Council resolves the status of Kosovo, and
for the other eventuality that Prishtina makes a declaration of independence
that would be followed by individual acts of recognition? Do you have a scenario
for how you would act, or do you think that for Macedonia there will be no
consequences in either eventuality?
We follow developments carefully and analyse every move in depth, because our
direct neighbourhood is involved. We endeavour to maintain good relations with
all our neighbours. We should not like to damage our relations with Serbia, nor
to complicate them with Kosovo. On the other hand, we have 25 per cent of
Albanian population in the Republic of Macedonia, and we have to respect that.
They are part of this state, they are our coalition partners, our colleagues in
parliament, they have close links with Kosovo. That is something to which we
cannot close our eyes. So we're in a situation where we have to - and wish to -
build good relations on both sides. It's not possible to achieve the maximum in
this respect, but however much is possible we wish to achieve. During the past
three months I have met three times with Çeku, and I hope that I shall soon
meet with politicians from Serbia too.
So if it comes to individual decisions to recognize Kosovo, what will your first
steps be? You'll wait for - whom?
We shall not decide that for the moment.
Who will you wait for - America or the EU?
I cannot answer.
Don't you know yet?
No, I can't answer such questions. They are hypothetical, and this is too
weighty a matter for me to give any hypothetical reply.
You say that Macedonia cannot influence the status of Kosovo, but can Kosovo
influence the situation in Macedonia?
In the situation currently prevailing in Kosovo, I think that the authorities
there are aware that, if Kosovo were in any sense to become a generator of
crisis, it would be against them themselves. That is the first thing. Secondly,
Kosovo is too preoccupied with itself to concern itself with Macedonia. And for
many years to come it will be preoccupied with itself, if it wishes to build
strong institutions whatever its status may be. Thirdly, it seems that radical
structures in Kosova do not have the support of the authorities, and will find
it hard to make any moves. Radical structures do not have any serious support
among Albanians in the Republic of Macedonia either, and without that they will
find it hard to do anything. And finally, the international community is very
focussed upon this region, and it is too important for this last open question
in the Balkans to be resolved and for the region to move towards the EU and
At your recent meeting Mr Agim Çeku repeated that his next aim is not the
independence of the Albanians in Macedonia but membership for Kosovo in the EU
and NATO. Mr Ali Ahmeti regularly repeats this too. Do you believe them?
It is clearly written down in the Ahtisaari Plan that, if the Plan is accepted,
Kosovo will not have the right to change its frontiers with other territories,
especially ones with an ethnic Albanian population.
I know, but I'm asking you, do you believe Mr Çeku and Mr Ahmeti?
Do I believe them? Çeku and Ahmeti? You know, I listen to what they say and I
analyse the overall situation and, in such a context, I believe that the
Republic of Macedonia has good chances to become a member of NATO next year, and
to begin negotiations about full membership in the EU, and between 2011 and 2013
to become a full member of the EU. At the latest in 2014. The precise year
cannot be predicted, but starting from 2011, which is four years from now.
You mean the Republic of Macedonia in its present borders?
You've already mentioned our problem in relation to the church. The first thing
I'd like to ask is whether you're a believer.
Well, our premier is too. Fine. Do you think that as a government you should
become more involved in solving the problem related to the church, instead of
both sides misusing it as you do?
First, I don't think that we misuse it.
Don't you think that arresting a priest was misuse for political ends?
In Macedonia the courts are independent, you know.
I do know, and ours too...
The court thinks that he committed a criminal act according to Macedonian law, a
criminal act of a financial nature, and that's all there is to it. The
government does not meddle in the work of the court.
Do you think that the two governments could do more to settle this disagreement,
and how much influence do you have over the Macedonian Orthodox Church?
Well, any political will may be useful. And we have good relations with the
Macedonian Orthodox Church. As a party and as a government we back the
autocephaly of the Church.
Do you think that the question of the Church's autocephaly is part of the
question of your statehood?
Yes, we do think that. The Macedonian Orthodox Church has for centuries been a
bastion of our statehood, including in periods when we were under various forms
of occupation, so we think that the problem of the Church is not just a church
matter, but has a political dimension too. There are states interested in
escalating this church problem, but I won't mention which they are at present.
Translated from a longer interview in NIN (Belgrade), 24 May 2007
Italy agrees to wrap up old debt repayment
Italian Ambassador, Donatino Marcon, and Macedonia State Secretary at the
Finance Ministry, Snezhana Kostadinovska, signed an agreement on repayment of
Macedonia's debt amounting roughly to 19 million Euro with interest rates
This marks Macedonia and Italy entering the final stage of the process of
repayment of Macedonia's debt stemming from the Former Yugoslavia-era, MRTOnline
This document is important given the fact that once it becomes effective it will
enable a new credit line for small and medium-sized enterprises for procurement
of goods from Italy, amounting 10-12 million Euro.
The document is subject to ratification by parliaments in both countries. The
entire process is to be completed by the end of the year. Macedonia's old debt
has been succeeded from financial operations carried out in the old Yugoslav
federation. The commercial part of the debts totals 15.6 million Euro plus
interest amounting to 6.1 million Euro. The debt arising from unpaid loans, for
which Macedonia was a guarantor, totals 1.8 million Euro plus interest of 1.6
million Euro. The second loan is linked to supply of machines to Bitola-based
company Rade Konchar.
In January 1998, Macedonia and Italy reached an initial agreement referring to
part of former Yugoslavia's debt to Italy, on the basis of allocation of
responsibility for the external debt of the Former Yugoslavia. Macedonia is
regularly servicing its obligations set out in the bilateral agreement on debt
restructuring. In 2005 and 2006, both countries launched talks to settle a
certain amount of the debt that was not included in the negotiations and the
agreement signed in 1998. Macedonia and Italy have significantly increased trade
exchange in the first quarter of 2007, with Macedonia marking a positive balance
of trade of 23 million Euro.
The trade exchange in the first quarter of 2007 marks a 45 per cent jump
comparing to the same period in 2006. Macedonia exported goods and commodities
to Italy worth 104 million Euro, 43 per cent more than the same period last
Rafajlovska invites Chinese companies to invest in Macedonia
During her visit to the Chinese Ministry of Commerce, Macedonian Economy
Minister, Vera Rafajlovska, met the Chinese Vice Minister of Commerce and Head
of the Department of European Affairs, Yu Guangzhou. Rafajlovska called on
Chinese companies to invest in the Macedonian duty free zones. "I believe
China will find an interest to invest in our free economic zones, which will
bring it closer to the European market," Rafajlovska said, New Europe
Rafajlovska acquainted Guangzhou with the conditions and possibilities for
investments in Macedonia. He also presented the tenders for small hydroelectric
plants and several projects including Vardar Valley, construction of highways
and skyscrapers. Marija Vesova, the spokeswoman of the Macedonia Economy
Ministry, told MRTOnline that the Minister insisted on persuading the Chinese
side that Macedonia's population should not serve as a basis for assessing the
market, as it broadens significantly when taking into consideration the
country's membership in CEFTA and agreements with EU. The Macedonia Minister
readily accepted the Chinese offer to send experts to Macedonia to convey
Chinese experiences in attracting foreign investments, having in mind the fact
that over 600.000 foreign companies are registered in China. Macedonia has
gladly accepted the offer to take part at the Agriculture Fair slated for
November in China. The Economy Minister also briefed the Vice Minister of
Commerce that Macedonia is preparing intensively for participation at the EXPO
2010, due to take place in Shanghai. During his stay in China, Rafajlovska
visited several high-tech industrial zones.