Trajkovski to be impeached?
Macedonia is bracing for possible impeachment proceedings against President Boris Trajkovski.
Rumours are now circulating that MPs from the ruling Democratic Action (DA) and VMRO-DPMNE are preparing the proceedings over the President's establishing diplomatic relations with Taiwan and offering of congratulations to an opposition party leader before the results of last month's local elections had been made public (suggesting that Trajkovski might not be entirely impartial).
This Sword of Damocles has prompted interesting reconsiderations of alliances and allegiances within the government. The Social Democratic Party (SDSM), the party Trajkovski is accused of congratulating, has until recently refused to recognise Trajkovski as the rightful President of the country. In the past week, the party issued a statement praising Trajkovski and acknowledging him as the undisputed leader of Macedonia.
This is not a sentiment shared unilaterally among SDSM members. Indeed, Tito Petkovski, Trajkovski's main rival in the presidential race last year, still refuses to acknowledge him as legitimate. Media have speculated that the improvement in relations between Trajkovski and the SDSM owes to recent announcements that a new majority parliamentary coalition is being pieced together. Relations with the head of state are thus very important to the SDSM, since it is the president who authorises the formation of a new government.
As far as the announced impeachment is concerned, the presidential cabinet rejected the speculation out of hand, saying that both VMRO-DPMNE and DA had confirmed they were not involved in such plotting.
EU readmission criteria
Minister of Foreign Affairs Aleksandar Dimitrov said in an interview with A1TV that the government has accepted the European Union's (EU) readmission criteria, saying that all countries aspiring to EU membership must assume the responsibility of preventing illegal migration.
The clause is a requirement for the Stabilisation and Association Agreement that Macedonia is expected to sign at the November Zagreb Summit between the EU and former Yugoslav successor states. It is designed to protect EU member states against illegal immigrants and encourage candidate states to tighten their "external" borders. Under its provisions, Macedonia must agree to readmit persons who, illegally or as refugees, entered EU territory through Macedonia.
The readmission clause has sparked a great deal of controversy in Macedonia. According to A1TV's sources in Brussels, it has been denounced by the EU committees for foreign and legal affairs, who allegedly maintain that the term "readmission" is not accurately defined as it fails to state clearly whether it refers to refugees or illegal immigrants.
Local political analysts have cautioned that the country should consider all the implications before accepting the readmission clause. The media has been less reserved, and the daily Večer commented that Western nations are reluctant to host Kosovar emigrants, and that Europe wants to transform Macedonia into a "humanitarian organisation" to shelter refugees, asylum-seekers and people with no citizenship.
This panders to fears evoked during the Kosovo crisis, as Macedonia saw itself left under-supported and under-funded by the international community. The fears have been compounded by this week's announcement of the distribution of EU funding.
EU monetary aid to Macedonia
There has been uproar in the domestic press this week regarding unofficial reports on the distribution of EU funds for South-Eastern Europe. The distribution allocates DEM 4.6 billion (USD two billion) to Serbia, while Macedonia, Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo and Montenegro will share DEM 5.4 billion (USD 2.3 billion).
The six-way division of funds has met with angry reactions in Macedonia. The daily Vesti highlights that Macedonia, allegedly referred to in Brussels as "the best student in the class," expected to be properly rewarded for its performance—and no one sees this package as a worthy reward.
Adding fuel to an already raging fire, the EU Council of Ministers set a number of conditions for Macedonia and the other nations to achieve before funds will be released—unlike the money for Serbia, which does not depend on performance. This has been interpreted as showing that, despite the EU's protests to the contrary, Balkan states are not regarded equally.
Macedonia has not yet been officially informed about the latest EU decision, and so there were no official reactions. However, on the tail of what is perceived as a string of disappointments and letdowns for Macedonia from the international community, speculation is rife that the proposal will fall through.
Informal Balkan summit
Macedonia will host an informal meeting of South-East European president and prime ministers on 25 October. The meeting falls within the framework of the SEE Stability Pact and will be hosted by Macedonia due to the country's position as president of the co-operation initiative, a position Skopje has held since 1 March this year.
Participants will be drawn from Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, Romania, Turkey, Greece and Albania, while representatives from BiH and Croatia will attend as observers. The summit will address the situation in the region, co-operation between South-East European states and implementation of the Stability Pact.
The meeting is laden with symbolism, as it will be the first time a Yugoslav leader has met with heads of regional countries in such a forum since the collapse of Yugoslavia and the start of the wars in the region.
As Yugoslav President Vojislav Koštunica's visit to Biarritz signalled the return of Yugoslavia / Serbia to the international fold, so this meeting signals the completion of the regional diplomatic jigsaw, indicating that for the first time in ten years, genuine regional initiatives can be addressed. European Union Commissioner Chris Patten and Stability Pact Co-ordinator Bodo Hombach are also expected to attend.
And in other news...
- The inevitable increase in fuel prices has finally hit Macedonia. The government announced this week that due to high crude oil prices on the international market, the OKTA refinery had requested a price hike to deflect further financial losses sustained due to the current low domestic price of oil. Fuel prices have increased by an average of 7.5 per cent, but the move has been deemed unlikely to trigger inflation.
- President Boris Trajkovski paid a two-day visit to Ukraine as the guest of his Ukrainian counterpart, Leonid Kuchma. The two presidents signed a joint statement on enhancement of bilateral co-operation.
- Macedonia's gross domestic product (GDP) rose a preliminary 10.4 per cent in the first half of this year, compared with the same period last year, the National Bank of Macedonia (NBM) said on Tuesday. The main growth generators in January-June were trade, industry, transport and telecommunication services.
- The Ministry of Transport and Communications announced that the first phase of the privatisation process in the Macedonian Telecommunications Company has been completed. Three companies have submitted applications to become the majority shareholder: the Hungarian telecom operator Matáv (itself owned by Deutsche Telecom), Greece's Otte Telecom and Slovenian Telecom.
- Macedonian police and border patrol troops detained a truck carrying over 500 kilograms of marijuana worth around DEM 1 million (USD 430,000) into Macedonia from Albania.
Eleanor Pritchard, 21 October 2000
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