Shoot to kill
On 6 June, two northern border guards stationed at a mountain lookout tower at Dolno Blace were shot at from inside Kosovo. One was hit in the leg, while the other took a round to his bullet-proof jacket and was shot once in the arm as he tried to assist his colleague.
Both are now in the Military Hospital in Skopje (Shkup) and, having been released from intensive care, are said to be stable and recovering. Government spokesman Antoni Miloševski has said that the cause of the shooting is not yet known, and investigations continue.
The incident prompted President Boris Trajkovski to call a meeting with the ambassadors of all NATO countries on 7 June. At the meeting, he expressed Macedonia's concern for the security and integrity of its northern border, which meets both Kosovo and southern Serbia. Trajkovski asked the NATO and the UN to improve security on the Kosovo side of the border, and said that if measures were not taken to improve the situation, Macedonia would act independently to secure its "serenity and integrity" as a country.
Reports of the meeting were sent to NATO Headquarters in Brussels. Trajkovski also wrote directly to NATO Secretary General George Robertson. In the interim, a "no warning, shoot-to-kill" policy is in effect on the northern border.
The shoot to kill policy and border situation are to be reassessed on 15 June.
When sex becomes politics
Few European countries watch the publication of demographic statistics with quite the grotesque fascination that Macedonia does.
Prompted by the present dominance of the Albanian question in Macedonian politics, statistics in Forum magazine this week reported the growth rates of the Macedonian and Albanian communities over the past thirty years. They indicate that, in 1970, Macedonians comprised 52.3 percent of new births, while Albanians made up 30.3 percent of the same. By 1998, Macedonian births had dropped to 12.5 percent nation wide, Albanians counted for 64.5 percent of new births.
This has been a gradual trend which shows no sign of slowing down, and has roused comment from some corners.
Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou has asked the European Union to guarantee the territorial integrity and survival of Macedonia, highlighting the potential ethnic unbalance of the country as the cause of his request. In 10 years, he said, Albanians will constitute a majority of the Macedonian populace and may wish to unite with Albania.
Kiro Gligorov, Macedonia's former president, said just before his retirement last year that he believes the ethnic populations will be equally sized by 2015, which will cause changes in national affairs and will raise questions about the future unity of Macedonia.
For his part, one of the country's foremost geographers, Professor Mitko Panov, predicted in Dnevnik that the 2011 census will record the two populations as being nearly equal, while they will be fully equal in numbers by the 2021 census.
Underground Albanian army?
Observers of the Macedonian press are now heartily sick of the photo. It shows an underground room, with UÇK (Ushtria Çlirimtare e Kosovës or Kosova Liberation Army) logo painted on the wall and a handful of machine guns.
Note the "K" for "Kosova" here - it is important. Not "M" for "Maqedonia."
The photo has been in circulation since pre-Kosovo crisis days, and was apparently taken in an abandoned mine called Lojane in Macedonia, although it bears no distinguishing marks to indicate this. Every month or so, a different news magazine runs a story under a headline that usually runs along the lines of "Is there an underground paramilitary Albanian army? Isn't there? Is anyone really interested?"
This month, the Macedonian language magazine Start took its turn. Start's variation on the theme of random speculation was that an officer in the Macedonian Army had reported to the government that an Albanian National Army (or Armata Kombëtare Shqiptare - AKSh) was operating in his zone of command. Its stated objective, he said, was the liberation of all Albanians currently under Slav control.
Speculation aside, the facts, such as they are, show no sign of a paramilitary army in Macedonia. When asked to comment on Start article at a recent regular press call, government spokesman Miloševski said officials are aware of the article but had not discussed it because only regular army and police existed in the Republic of Macedonia.
Furthermore, Arben Xhaferi and Ljubço Gjorgjevski, representatives of the coalition partners PDSh and VMRO-DPMNE respectively, dismiss the existence of such an organisation, citing their coalition as a source of stability within the country.
This week saw one industrial dispute resolved and another commence in the seemingly endless string of strikes across the nation, all prompted largely by overdue wages.
Some 3000 workers from the Skopje construction company Mavrovo went on strike on 6 June, claiming they were owed four months in back wages. At a press conference the next day, a spokesman for the strikers said that they will not go back to work until February's wages are paid, adding that they demand full payment of all wages by September.
Meanwhile, on 8 June, 80 workers took down the tents in which they had passed the previous 20 days outside the Frotirka factory in Delcevo. Their strike was prompted by the government's announcement that it would slowly phase out the factory.
Ohrid hosts ecology conference
An international ecology conference was held in Ohrid 4 and 5 June, organised as part of the "Europe - Our Mutual Inheritance" campaign of the Macedonian delegation to the Council of Europe. The conference, held within the framework of the First International Festival ECO2000, addressed the protection of cultural inheritance and the environment.
Death threats against Albanian party leader
Government spokesman Miloševski agreed this week that death threats had been made against Albanian Democratic Party (PDSh) second in command Menduh Thaçi. He said that police investigations had indicated that Thaçi had been the target of radical Marxist-Leninist groups anxious to disrupt Macedonian-Albanian cooperation, to remove Albanians from the apparatus of state and to restructure borders to create ethnically exclusive states.
Eleanor Pritchard, 12 June 2000
Start (weekly magazine)
Forum (fortnightly magazine)