Books on Macedonia
Update No: 126 - (26/11/07)
The forlorn cause?
The Macedonians are in a despondent mood. Their desire to join NATO is being met
with a positive response, as well it might. But that to join the EU is being
thwarted, for the while.
They are well aware that the EU is a far more important organisation for them,
and their need to join the West, rather than NATO. The former is a bread and
butter business - the latter is a matter of la gloire.
Still, membership of the latter enhances its credentials to join the former, and
is not to be despised.
Marathon to join NATO nears end
The Permanent Representative to NATO, Ambassador Victoria Nuland, called on
Macedonia to continue reforms that will secure an invitation to NATO membership
in April 2008.
At a joint press conference in mid-November with the Macedonian Prime Minister
Nikola Gruevski, Ambassador Nuland said "When you run a marathon, you
cannot relax when approaching the end of the long run, but sprint at the
finish". Ambassador Nuland said the U.S. Government interagency delegation
is visiting Macedonia to conduct the final training session to ensure that
Macedonia gets NATO membership invitation at the Alliance summit in Bucharest.
She stressed that Macedonia has made significant progress, and the authorities
should continue to work on reforms in judiciary, the rule of law, and the
multiethnic police. According to Ambassador Nuland, good neighbourly relations
are also a condition for NATO membership. She welcomed the pledges of the
Macedonian government to resolve name differences with Greece. Asked by a
reporter to comment on raids by Macedonian police in Shara Mountain, Ambassador
Nuland said she was pleased that the operation involved multiethnic police
forces. Prime Minister Gruevski said it was a professional operation aiming to
reinstate the rule of law on the entire territory. He added that Macedonia will
continue to invest in the strategic partnership with the United States. He
reiterated Macedonia´s stance on Kosovo status settlement, adding that the
country shares the position of the international community, but at the same time
the country will protect its own interests.
The visit of the U.S. Government interagency delegation, headed by Ambassador
Nuland, is part of a tour that also included visits to Albania and Croatia to
discuss issues related to NATO membership for the Adriatic Charter countries.
Critical EU report
But there is less encouraging news from Brussels. Frequent tensions and problems
in achieving constructive dialogue between major political actors have
undermined the effective functioning of political institutions and led to a
slowdown of reforms in Macedonia, according to the European Commission's latest
assessment of its EU candidature, which has yet to start accession talks.
The report says that the absence of communication between key leaders in the
country and the behaviour of the opposition have had a negative influence on the
work of political institutions. "The boycott of parliament by one of the
major opposition parties as well as the poor quality of cooperation between the
president and the prime minister hindered the effective functioning of the
political institutions", the report says.
The Commission notes that the fight against graft in the country has yielded
some results, but recalls "corruption is widespread and constitutes a very
serious problem". The coordination of activities among the different
institutions in the fight against organized crime is assessed as uneven. The
report notes that while large quantities of drugs have been seized, insufficient
progress has been made in the area of tackling human trafficking.
The political deadlock in Macedonia has been affecting the proper functioning of
the judicial system. "The political deadlock over remaining appointments to
the judicial council has reduced capacity to strengthen the independence of
impartiality of the judiciary", report says and evaluates that this has
also delayed key aspects of the reforms such as setting up the administrative
Further engagement is required to ensure the full independence, efficiency, and
accountability of the judiciary.
The report on Macedonia notes that the country has made some progress in
political criteria, while implementation of the 2001 Ohrid Agreement, which
brought an end to a six-month conflict between ethnic Albanian guerrillas and
the security forces, continues to contribute to the consolidation of democracy
and the rule of law. "Further efforts are needed to fully implement the
agreement and to consolidate confidence between the political parties,
representing the different ethnic communities", the report says.
Human rights and the protection of minorities, including inter-ethnic relations,
have improved in Macedonia, according to the document, which calls all the
parties to further develop trust between ethnic communities.
It is said that Macedonia has maintained full cooperation with The Hague
Tribunal, and Skopje is also praised for its constructive position towards the
Kosovo status process. The report notes that Macedonia has been fostering good
relations with the other countries of the western Balkans.
It said that the country has been gradually implementing administrative reform,
while it is confirmed that the second phase which relates to fiscal
decentralization, has begun. "Public administration remains weak and
inefficient, and civil service legislation is little used", the report
The economy in Macedonia has registered markedly accelerated growth, and the
Commission's assessment is that macroeconomic stability has been maintained as
structural reforms have made further progress. "But, the persistence of
very high unemployment remains a major cause of concern", the report says.
It acknowledges that Skopje has made further efforts to improve its ability to
assume the obligations of membership. However, it says that Macedonia still
faces major shortcomings in implementing and effectively enforcing legislation.
"Adequate human and financial resources to fully implement the SAA are
lacking. Large scale replacement of qualified staff following political changes
hampered efforts to improve administrative capacity", the report notes.
The report concludes that Macedonia cannot, as yet, participate fully in the EU
policies because its institutional and administrative capacity is insufficient
With Macedonia hoping for a NATO invitation in 2008 and Greece threatening to
block it, there are pressing reasons to resolve their decades-old name dispute.
But UN envoy Matthew Nimitz -- brokering negotiations between the two sides --
still faces a task akin to the labour of Sisyphus, the legendary king cursed to
roll a boulder up a hill for eternity.
Both countries are proving tough bargainers, with Greece prepared to exercise
its power within the EU and NATO, and its neighbour banking on getting enough
international recognition to put pressure on Athens.
Late last week, Macedonian Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski firmly rejected the
idea of a "dual name", under which the country would keep its
constitutional name but use a different one internationally.
Any name other than Republic of Macedonia -- the name given in the constitution
-- is unacceptable, Gruevski said.
The dual name idea is included in a new set of proposals presented by Nimitz at
the start of the month. The prime minister said that while the document contains
some good points, others pose a problem for Skopje.
"There is an item that is definitely unacceptable for us, which says that
the Republic of Macedonia is to accept for international use a name other than
the constitutional name of the Republic of Macedonia," Maxfax quoted him as
Earlier, Macedonian leaders issued a statement opposing any name change, even if
this means being denied NATO entry. The ruling VMRO party, its ally the
Democratic Party of Albanians and the opposition Social Democrats have presented
a united front on the issue. Polls show overwhelming opposition -- approaching
100% -- to a new name for international use.
Greece, however, argues that the name "Macedonia" implies claims on
Greek territory and distorts history. According to the Greek daily Kathimerini,
Athens is signaling that it would accept a composite name - such as Nova
Macedonia or Upper Macedonia -- that clearly distinguishes the country from the
Greek province of Macedonia.
Greek diplomats have already circulated proposals to this effect to members of
the UN Security Council, NATO and the EU, Kathimerini said.
"Greece wants to solve the problem -- it is making a sincere effort in this
direction," Nimitz said in an interview with the paper.
According to Denko Malevski, a former Macedonian foreign minister and UN
ambassador, Greece "wants a fast solution, fearing complication after the
recognition of the Republic of Macedonia's constitutional name by Canada"
and other states.
However, he added, the political situation in Macedonia and Greece makes such a
solution difficult to achieve.
Current Foreign Minister Antonio Milososki, meanwhile, hopes that "Greece
will give advantage to regional priorities. The resolution of the name dispute
is a factor for our stability, and our stability is beneficial for the Republic
of Greece," he says.