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MACEDONIA


 

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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Update No: 119 - (30/04/07)

Macedonia played host to a most important summit of Balkan leaders on April 20th. It took place suitably at Ohrid, the site of the agreement in 2001, which ended an explosive situation and averted full civil war between the Macedonians and the ethnic minority of Albanians. 

The West was able to exert a very positive influence here because it had just rescued the Albanian Kosovars in 1999.

Kosovo status issue dominates Ohrid Summit
But there is still of course a running issue concerning Kosovo. Although dedicated to energy issues, the status of Kosovo dominated the summit of South-Eastern European (SEE) Head of States that took place in Ohrid. At the press conference staged after the signing of the Joint Declaration, journalists' questions were focused on the future status of Kosovo, instead of the main topic of the summit.

Serbian President Boris Tadic reiterated the stance that the proposal of the UN, put forward by Martti Ahtisaari, is unacceptable for Serbia and that negotiations should continue.

Albanian President Alfred Mojsiu responded by saying that a one-year period for negotiations on the form of Ahtisaari's plan was absolutely sufficient and now it was in the interest of the whole region to finally close the issue.

Tadic responded by saying that Serbia is a European country with a European culture, therefore, the issue on the future status of Kosovo should be solved in a European manner. "We are defending the legitimate rights of our country, its sovereignty and integrity without endangering the rights of the Albanian minority in Kosovo," Tadic said.

The President of BiH Presidency, Nikola Radmanovic, said that Kosovo was a subject for bilateral talks. He stated that BiH did not discuss Ahtisaari's plan as the issue is one of Serbia's internal affairs.

Macedonian President Crvenkovski repeated that Ahtisaari's plan serves as a good basis for resolving the issue, which offers a satisfactory solution on demarcation of Macedonia's northern border as well. Crvenkovski also noted that Macedonia is not a part of the Kosovo problem, but as an internationally recognized entity and a member of international organizations, it would respect the UN's position.

Regional Cooperation for South Eastern Europe
The ostensible reason for the meeting did come up of course as well. Regional cooperation is a prerequisite for long-term energy stability among South East European countries, regional heads of states have concurred at the Ohrid Summit. Balkan leaders pledged to press for greater energy investment to ensure their countries could have more stable power supplies while reducing their reliance on foreign energy. 
A secure energy supply is "critical...and an essential component" in maintaining stability in the region, which has seen several wars in the past decades, Macedonian President Branko Crvenkovski said during the regional summit. 

However, he admitted energy supplies were a critical problem in a country reliant on imports for 60% of its power. "Macedonia has limited and insufficient resources," Crvenkovski said, adding his country would "spare no efforts" to ensure it becomes a major transit route for oil and gas pipelines, including a proposed oil link between Bulgaria and Albania and gas projects linking Europe with central Asian suppliers via Turkey. 

Countries in the region rely heavily on Russian oil, while domestic supplies consist largely of low-quality lignite. Bulgaria can no longer cover its energy deficits after the closure of two units of its Kozloduy nuclear power plant, leading to chain-reaction power shortfalls in neighbouring countries. 

Albanian President Alfred Moisiu said his country, which is 50% energy dependent, suffered shortages this winter made worse by a lack of regional cooperation. "The crisis became even more serious when...it was impossible to find a regional market of power buying and supply," he said. If the Balkan countries fail to boost supply, he said, "we will always have energy crises." 

Bosnian President Nebojsa Radmanovic said his country's main aim was to increase its capabilities for electrical power and to create a common market with other Balkan countries in order to attract investors. 

The lakeside summit also included the presidents of Croatia, Serbia and Montenegro along with the vice president of Bulgaria. Romanian President Traian Basescu canceled his appearance after parliament voted to suspend him amid a political crisis in his country. 

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The following has an obvious interest, both because of what is said and who is saying it:-

The views of a predecessor
Vlado Buckovski, former defence minister and former PM of Macedonia in an interview with FOCUS News Agency. 

FOCUS: Mr. Buckovski, what is your evaluation of the cabinet of Nikola Gruevski who took over the post of PM of Macedonia from you? 
Vlado Buckovski: He works hard, but without any results. I think his personal rating is more important to him than the concrete results. Unfortunately, only a few projects are worked on towards attracting foreign investments. They were started by the previous government. The funds in the currency reserves are being ridiculed, as well as the sale of Macedonia's electric company (ECM); there are gaudy press conferences, which speak of return of old debts, whereas these are populist ideas hinting that for the time being Gruevski's cabinet cannot fulfill the tasks lying ahead of the Republic of Macedonia - to assume Croatia's pace and start negotiating with the EU. We will wait and see how the last agreements with the Democratic Union for Integration will go and whether they will manage to show for the first time ever that personal rating is of no importance to them before the interests of the Republic of Macedonia. 
In any case the expectations of the citizens of Macedonia are great, so he has a high rating. 

FOCUS: What mistake of yours as Macedonian PM wouldn't you admit making today? If there is such, of course. 
Vlado Buckovski: Of course, the mistakes I wouldn't admit making and that were admitted in these 18 months while I was in office are in the combinations of official positions: the reshuffling of separate ministers was supposed to be much more energetic that it was. What is happening now and can be termed 'positive' in Gruevski's cabinet is the fact that the law has its say again, which means ministers held responsible before the PM, not the party leaders who had nominated them in a coalition-based government. 

FOCUS: Do you think Macedonia will be invited for a NATO membership or you share the opinion that Macedonia is getting further from its NATO membership? 
Vlado Buckovski: We were very close to getting invited for a NATO membership. Unfortunately, things tumbled down. Croatia is now the favourite, Macedonia must show in the next three months that it knows why it was positioned that way on the international scene, because of the stabilization in the inter-ethnical societies, because of the successful reading of the Ohrid Framework Agreement. If the Democratic Union for Integration stays out of parliament, if there are no judiciary reforms, then I think we are on our way to 'muddling' things. I don't want this to happen, what's more, a lot of work has been invested in the defense reforms to stabilize the Republic of Macedonia. This historic chance shouldn't be missed. 

FOCUS: Why has Macedonian President Branko Crvenovski started talking about identity crisis and is there such a crisis? 
Vlado Buckovski: Firstly, I think the president slightly but steadfastly is getting into his presidential campaign. The debating on issues that were tackled in other smaller countries prior to their EU accession and whether one's identity would be lost with the EU accession is just the beginning of his presidential campaign. 

FOCUS: How independent is Kosovo for Macedonia - danger, challenge or opportunity? 
Vlado Buckovski: As a whole Marti Ahtisaari's plan is very good for Macedonia, as it infers the last open-ended question, viz. the border demarcation. The government has not alerted us of any planned changes in the policy conducted in the past period, so the Republic of Macedonia is ready for whatever decision. Kosovo's independence though is not an issue to be solved by the Republic of Macedonia. 

FOCUS: Will the Albanian community in Macedonia grow in terms of population? 
Vlado Buckovski: I think the Albanian ethnic community in Macedonia know their unity can happen only in the EU and they will do anything possible for the Republic of Macedonia to take that step. I think the ideas of a Great Kosovo or Great Albania are only in the heads of a few extremists. Their number has reduced with time, there are such extremists in Serbia, in Macedonia, in Bulgaria, but they have no support - this is the new time. The new time, when all in the Western Balkans have one strategic interest - to become EU and NATO members in the shortest run. 

FOCUS: When will the Ohrid Agreement be too narrow for Macedonia and could it be amended and when? 
Vlado Buckovski: The Ohrid Framework Agreement has been "flown" in the Constitution. The last demands of the Democratic Union for Integration mean opening new issues related to the government selection. That means there are demands beyond this frame. How things will go in the future remains to be seen, but I have expressed an opinion - it was very simple when there was a framework. 

FOCUS: What is your attitude to Bulgaria? You were not a great supporter of Bulgaria when your term of office started. What has changed to make your standpoint about Bulgaria evolve? 
Vlado Buckovski: The standpoint hasn't been changed. I still think Bulgaria is the greatest ally of the Republic of Macedonia and that we should do anything for that friendship group, because… Next to me is an experienced politician, who is part of the ruling power - Mr. Stoyan Andov. So we should work for friendship between Bulgaria and Macedonia by means of this group. The more we talk about what is common and what relates us, the less we pay attention to the provocations by one or the other side. In any case, Vlado Buckovski keeps saying Bulgaria is one of our greatest allies and that anything possible should be done to use Bulgaria in this key moment for Macedonia relating to NATO membership. If the news that NATO's advisory team in Skopje will be headed by a Bulgarian general is true, then this is another confirmation that NATO signals us to be more reliant on Bulgaria as a strategic partner. 

FOCUS: Do you share the opinion that the discussions between Bulgaria and Macedonia are not about the past, but about the future? 
Vlado Buckovski: Unfortunately, we spoke much more about the past than about the common future, so this is the message from this meeting we had here, in Bulgaria with Bulgarian Vice President Angel Marin and with Parliament Chairman Georgi Pirinski and with regional development minister Asen Gagauzov and transport minister Petar Mutafchiev that we should talk much more about mutual projects, about European projects, about our European - Atlantic future and leave aside provokers, who try to get us to the past, to be a minority. 

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FOREIGN DEBT

Macedonia to repay US$137m debt ahead of schedule


Macedonia will repay US$137 million in external debt to the World Bank and the European Investment Bank ahead of schedule, and it will also repay the entire debt to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Makfax reported on April 11th.
Prime Minister, Nikola Gruevski, said that along with the previous tranche one month ago, Macedonia's external debt repayments total US$240 million. 
According to Gruevski, through external debt repayments ahead of schedule, Macedonia will no longer be classified as a medium-indebted but as low-indebted country.
Gruevski said the early foreign debt repayment is rarity in the international finance, and only a few countries can show off with early repayments - Russia, Brazil, Argentina, Peru and Mexico. 

Macedonia, World Bank sign grant agreements

The World Bank and Macedonia signed two grant agreements worth several millions Euro on April 11th, Makfax reported. 
The agreements were signed by the World Bank's Country Manager, Sandra Bloemenkamp, and Macedonia's Finance Minister, Trajko Slavevski. The first grant agreement worth 4.55 million Euro will finance the implementation of the actions specified in the Country Strategy and Action Plan on Corporate Financial Reporting. The second grant aims to assist the necessary preparations for the launch of a project on conditional cash transfer. The strategy was developed by Macedonian Steering Committee, which was established in 2005 and comprised key public and private stakeholders with an interest in corporate sector financial reporting. The Royal Netherlands Embassy contributed 3.7 million Euro and the Austrian Development Cooperation contributed the remaining 850,000 Euro. The second grant agreement, financed by Japanese Government, will assist the preparation of a new Project on Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT).

 

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