Gjeorgjevski in Israel
Prime Minister Ljubčo Gjeorgjevski travelled to Israel this week for a five-day private visit. There was much speculation in the press as to the source of funding for the trip, initially believed to be private donations from businessmen to Gjeorgjevski and from an organisation called Blagovestie, of which Gjeorgjevski's wife, Snežana, is director.
This has been vociferously denied, and government spokesman Antonio Milososki confirmed that the cost of the trip was being borne entirely by the prime minister and his wife. Such suggestions of financial mismanagement are highly unwelcome in this run-up to municipal elections.
It is believed the prime minister is visiting Israel because of that country's agreement to allow the Macedonian Orthodox Church to build a church in Jerusalem. Some newspapers speculate that negotiations for construction are now underway.
Canadian behind Gligorov attempt?
On Friday 31 June, Sitel, a private television channel in Skopje, reported that police had found the apartment in which the assassination attempt on Kiro Gligorov was planned in October 1995.
The report also said that police had identified four individuals assigned to carry out the assassination, the source of funding (an arms dealer in Canada) and the three people who ordered the assassination - two of whom are current Macedonian politicians. No names were given.
The entire report was immediately denied by the Interior Ministry, but it has reawakened debate about the assassination attempt. On 4 July, the pro-government Macedonian-language daily Nova Makedonija announced that "Foreign intelligence agencies are involved in former President Kiro Gligorov's assassination attempt," based on information gathered from sources inside the Macedonian National Security and Counterintelligence Agency.
Interestingly, it specifies that the agency responsible is not based in one of Macedonia's neighbouring states.
On the same day, Gligorov acknowledged that he had conducted a private investigation into the attempt and had collected circumstantial evidence implicating a "highly influential local politician." He continued that he had intended to publicise the results of the investigation during the presidential elections (leading to speculation that the politician was a presidential candidate) but had changed his mind.
Responsibility for the investigation into the assassination now lies with the Macedonian Intelligence Agency, which has reportedly reached a deadlock due to what Nova Makedonija identifies as a lack of experience both as an organisation and at the level of individuals.
No school blessings
A controversial decision by the Ministry of Education to engage priests to bless the start of each school year was reversed by the Macedonian Constitutional Court, officials announced on Thursday.
The reversal is in line with European principles of religious freedom and with the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Freedoms (ECPHRF), Voice of America's Macedonian-language programme reports Chris Patten, the European Commissioner for External Relations, as saying.
Patten stressed that Macedonia is signatory of the ECPHRF and, consequently, the people of Macedonia have been granted freedom of speech and confession. The Constitutional Court's decision has been positively received by minority citizens of Macedonia, the vast majority of whom are Muslim.
The executive committee of the governing VMRO-DPMNE announced a collective resignation on Monday 3 July to allow Prime Minister and party leader Ljubčo Gjeogjevski to appoint a new team to take the party into the municipal elections.
More cigarette smoke
The daily newspaper Večer offered statistics this week on the profits generated by the cigarette-smuggling racket. The manufacturing price for a packet of domestic cigarettes was given as MKD (Macedonian Denara) 14.28 (approximately DEM 0.5), and the selling price at around MKD 28 (about DEM one). This means that one ten-ton truckload of cigarettes provides smugglers with a profit of DEM 122,000.
As of Thursday 6 June, the paperwork necessary to allow Macedonian farmers to sell their produce in Kosovo was complete. This is seen as a very positive step for the agricultural economy, which has suffered greatly since independence with the collapse of all "internal" export markets (Bosnia, Serbia, etc). The move could inject much-needed capital into this sector of the flagging economy.
Like every other country in Southeast Europe, Macedonia is experiencing a crippling heat wave at present. Temperatures have reached 110 degrees Fahrenheit (43 Celsius) for much of the week, and rumours abound of children leaving thermometers in the sun and obtaining readings of 122 degrees Fahrenheit (50 Celsius). The weather pattern is caused by winds from Saharan Africa and is expected to last until the middle or end of next week.
In, out and passing through
German Foreign Minister Wolfgang Ischinger visited Skopje on Monday 3 July. Ischinger met with President Boris Trajkovski, Prime Minister Gjeorgjevski, Arben Xhaferi, head of the Albanian coalition party DPA (PDSh) and Branko Crvenkovski, head of the SDSM opposition party.
Eleanor Pritchard, 8 July 2000
Start - weekly magazine
Forum - fortnightly magazine
Dnevnik - daily
Vecer - daily