The coalition survives; but with what prospects?
Following his discussions with Vice-Premier and Democratic Alternative (DA) leader Vasil Turpurkovski, Prime Minister and VMRO-DPMNE leader Ljubčo Georgievski said both sides agreed that changes must be made in the electoral legislation. VMRO-DPMNE asked DA to increase their participation in negotiations with financial institutions, in particular the IMF, so that the coalition partners could share the responsibility for the decisions they made.
Expressing his optimism regarding the outcome of these talks, Premier Georgievski underlined that both VMRO-DPMNE and DA are open to talks with other political parties over crucial matters. According to Vasil Turpurkovski, VMRO-DPMNE accepted the DA initiative for changes in the electoral legislation. Progress was made regarding their differing opinions on the method of carrying out reforms, and outstanding differences in this area are expected to be resolved soon.
The meeting was supposed to be crucial for the survival of the coalition. Before this meeting took place, SDSM categorically announced that they would submit an interpellation for a vote of no confidence in the Government early next month. They are already in the middle of negotiations about forming a new parliamentary majority with other political parties, including DA. Later in the week, SDSM stated that the interpellation would only be submitted as long as there were firm indications that the governing coalition was disintegrating; otherwise, the move would be futile.
It was reported this week that the financial policy of this government, the reduction of the black economy and crime, successful privatisation and foreign donations have resulted in the largest ever budget surplus so far, amounting to USD 176 million. Georgievski denied speculations that the budget surplus is a result of the Value Added Tax (VAT) at the expense of the economy, underlining that it was purely the government's economic policy that has caused the influx.
The surplus will be used to fund a programme to fight poverty; compensate depositers for their blocked foreign currency deposits; help settle outstanding pension and social security debts; and fund the health care service, education and the economy in general, by means of credits allowed through Narodna banka na Makedonija (People's bank of Macedonia). Georgievski added that the readjustment had been made with the help of the IMF and the World Bank.
Macedonia and the EU
The Dnevnik daily writes that Macedonia and the other countries of the "Western Balkans" will be considered simply neighbours of the EU for the next 20 years. The statement stems from the European Commission's "Enlargement Strategy Paper," released on 8 November along with the annual Progress Reports of candidate countries. When referring to the countries that wish to enter the European Union, the report labels Macedonia and the rest of the Western Balkan countries as potential candidates for membership in the Union. However, it goes on to state that the "Balkans" do not deserve the evaluation to which other candidates are entitled and thus remain in the category of "neighbours."
The document also commits the EU to explaining to its neighbours the advantages of the Union's expansion, which the Balkans could capitalise on, while emphasising the concerns caused by the growing corruption in the countries of this region, the trafficking of women and children and the position of the Romani population. Macedonia is explicitly mentioned in only one sentence of the document: "Negotiations for stabilisation and association with the FYROM are drawing to a close."
SAA Pact—on, off, on again
Negotiations between the EU and Macedonia entered the final stage this week and an agreement between the two sides will be confirmed at the Balkan summit in Zagreb on 24 November. It was agreed that all the contentious issues of the agreement should be tackled by EU structures in the interim period, Macedonian Radio reported.
The Macedonian delegation informed the EU representatives of the country's current economic and political circumstances, drawing special attention to the reform process, the process of privatisation, financial arrangements with the IMF and the World Bank and the enforcement of the Value Added Tax Act. The EU representatives welcomed Macedonia's active role in the region, the specifics of which will also be officially assessed at the summit in Zagreb.
MAT and AvioImpex to merge
Macedonian Air Transport (MAT), Macedonia's flagship carrier, announced on Tuesday it would start merger talks, ordered by the government, with its rival, Avioimpex, the country's second airline. The government assigned MAT as flagship carrier last month on the proviso that it merge with Avioimpex in order to become more competitive with international airlines.
According to officials from both airlines, the talks should be completed in six months. Avioimpex transported 312,000 passengers in the first ten months of this year and has six planes, one of which is used for cargo. MAT has transported 268,000 passengers in the same period with four leased planes. MAT does not fly cargo.
And in other news...
- Police arrested seven teenagers of the Macedonian Skinheads group, who were responsible for destroying the historical Jewish cemetery in the town of Bitola.
- Despite being well trained and prepared, Macedonian officers cannot participate in peace-keeping operations due to financial constraints, a Defence Ministry spokesman said this week.
- Police discovered one tonne of horse meat in the town of Kumanovo, destined for use by restaurants in Skopje.
- The Macedonian government has approved the sale of Macedonia's largest metal plant, Feni, to the French Societe Commerciale de Metaux et Mineraux.
- Macedonia's monthly consumer price inflation slowed to 0.5% in October, from 0.8% in September, the State Statistics Institute said on Wednesday. Cumulative inflation for the first ten months was 5.2%, below the government's 6.1% target for the full year 2000 but higher than last year's 2.3%.
Eleanor Pritchard, 10 November 2000
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