Skopje informal summit
The informal summit between the heads of state and government of Stability Pact nations, held in Skopje on 25 October, has occupied much of the domestic media this week. Macedonia has interpreted this as a clear sign that it is the "creator of peace and stability in the region."
President Boris Trajkovski announced that the Skopje Regional Summit is of historic significance as the first meeting between heads of Balkan states after ten years of armed conflicts and misunderstandings. Participants at the Skopje Summit pledged support to a wide-ranging program for regional co-operation and integration into European structures.
Trajkovski indicated that Macedonia's approach to Belgrade is marked by patience and support, saying, "I see no reason to send bills to Belgrade on a short notice. President Koštunica has to be given additional time." Further, he highlighted that Koštunica's attendance was not the only important 'first' at the summit, noting that the presence of Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis was equally significant for Macedonia, because he is the first Greek premier ever to visit Macedonia.
Simitis met his Macedonian counterpart, Ljubco Georgievski, on the margins of the Summit to discuss the question of Macedonia's use of its constitutional name versus the internationally accepted "Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia." The Greek Prime Minister said that the name dispute must be resolved within the next two years, in accordance with the interim agreement of 1995.
Regional media have also commented on the proceedings. Albanian media praised the summit and said the Balkans needs regional meetings such as this one. It was deemed less important by Greek daily newspapers, which said it was overshadowed by the latest disagreements between Greece and Turkey.
Turkish media reported the summit as a gathering to welcome the re-entry of Yugoslavia to the Balkans and a chance to offer support to newly elected Yugoslav President Vojislav Koštunica. However, they expressed discontent with the attitude of Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis, whom they believe did not share the view that issues should to be resolved through dialogue, but rather presumes that they need to be resolved through the Hague Tribunal (ICTY).
The domestic press reports were, in general, very positive, with negative sentiments reserved for individuals' statements and peripheral issues. Typical headlines included: "A new page in regional relations," "Time for love" and "No more wars, it is time for a better life."
IMF agreement delayed
Finance Minister Nikola Gruevski said this week that the signing of the Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility (PRGF) arrangement between Macedonia and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has been postponed because the head of the IMF mission is overworked. According to the new timetable, the contract is to be brought before the IMF Board of Directors early in December.
Within Macedonia, speculation is rife that the real cause of the delay lies in the IMF's need to reconsider Macedonia's budget progress for the current year. Relying on unnamed Washington sources, A1 TV reported that the IMF program in Macedonia is to be reconsidered too, which would further delay the signing of the contract.
To support their story, A1 TV offered as evidence a statement issued by Ian Michelsen, the IMF's Skopje representative, saying, "the IMF negotiations with Yugoslavia are not the major cause of the delay. The arrangement is to be analysed once again by experts of the Fund, which is likely to take a little longer than scheduled. I cannot even promise that the arrangement will be brought before the board in December."
The Macedonian negotiating team has explained that the implementation of all parameters determined by the experts of the IMF and Macedonia have improved considerably, which means that the budget and the foreign exchange reserves are increasing at a faster rate than scheduled. Therefore, the IMF has to revise the arrangement—because Macedonia is progressing so well—and so implementation is not being endangered. This has been decried by the opposition, which is accusing the government of insubstantial and unsatisfactory reforms.
And in other news...
- Parliamentary debate continues on irregularities during the local elections, which resulted in one killed and several injured.
- A two-day meeting of a co-ordination group within the framework of the Southern Balkan Development Initiative (SBDI) of the US Trade and Development Agency (TDA) was held in Skopje. It was attended by representatives of US Agencies, a delegation from the US Development Agency and delegations of Macedonian, Albanian and Bulgarian Transport Ministries.
- Macedonia will help Albania resolve its current electricity crisis by allowing water from Lake Ohrid to be used to create hydroelectric power. This has prompted criticism from Macedonian environmental activists, who say such a project could damage the delicate balance of the ecosystem in the lake.
- Following the Veliu extradition case, prominent jurists have laid responsibility at the door of Justice Minister Xhevdet Nasufi. They say the government needs to decide whether to protect its ministers or to replace Minister Nasufi, thereby stripping him of immunity.
- Macedonia's industrial output for the first nine months of 2000 rose 5.3 percent over the same period a year ago. Monthly output in September was 9.4 percent higher than in August.
- The government is expected to appoint a privatisation team to prepare the sale of state electricity monopoly Elektrostopanstvo na Makedonia.
Eleanor Pritchard, 29 October 2000
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