To Zagreb, or not to Zagreb,
that is the question
The upcoming regional summit in Zagreb, scheduled for 24 November, added fuel to the merrily blazing fire of political infighting and accusations this week.
Among the many hypothetical arguments postulated was an alleged disagreement between President Trajkovski and Prime Minister Georgievski as to who should attend for Macedonia; Trajkovski as a symbolic head of state, or Georgievski as representative of the government which is to sign the Stability and Association Agreement.
The media interpreted the late announcement of Trajkovski's representing Macedonia as a clear sign of internal wrangling within the government, although both men denied rumours of a rift between them.
A second area of speculation was related to who had received the invitation of the conference, and how it was addressed. It emerged that two invitations had been sent, one from Stipe Mesić addressed to "The Republic of Macedonia" (the name by which Croatia recognises Macedonia) and the second from Jacques Chirac as acting president of the European Union (EU) (in their capacity as conference organisers) addressed to "FYROM" (Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia).
The conference is seen as highly important in Macedonia, as the Agreement on Stabilisation and Association between Macedonia and the EU will be signed there. This is seen as a major advance in foreign policy and a great symbolic achievement for the VMRO-DPMNE-led coalition government.
Trouble and strife
If it is not one thing, it is another. On top of the Zagreb summit, domestic affairs are also casting a smouldering glow over the political landscape. There is the renewed threat of a vote of no confidence in the government. This is called for by the SDSM (Alliance of Democratic Forces in Macedonia) opposition. The danger for the VMRO-DPMNE is that it leads a coalition government, and this government is threatening to fracture. Or, elements of it could defect.
This ongoing situation was exacerbated by events surrounding the parliamentary sitting to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the founding of the Macedonian Parliament. Parliamentary Speaker Savo Klimovski caused a furore in his celebratory speech by accusing Macedonia of having failed to develop a real parliament and genuine democracy, and by making explicit accusations of nepotism, greed and subversion of national interests for personal gain.
Prime Minister Georgievski reacted angrily to these accusations, using uncharacteristically strong language. The occasion was further marred by Klimovski's deliberately not inviting the first speaker of the parliament, Stojan Andov (who it is known Klimovski dislikes), to join the proceedings.
Macedonia's largest copper producer, Bucim, is now owned by a joint American-British company, Euro-Am, which is registered in the US.
The donor conference held in Washington this week allocated USD 140 million to bolster and develop Macedonian infrastructure this week. Unfortunately, this allocation was later postponed due to the absence of Ljubcho Geogievski, which was taken to indicate a lack of commitment to the ideals of the conference.
Macedonia will receive DEM 29 million (USD 12.6 million) financial assistance from Germany through the framework of the Stability Pact. The Greek government will also contribute, with USD 85 million, to Macedonia's economic development. The latter is to be allocated through donations and loans.
Mermeren Kombinat Prilep will sell Macedonia's largest marble producer for DEM 520 (USD 225) per share to Greek company Kiriyakidis. This provoked some discussion with former premier Kiril Gligorov, saying later in the week that Greek Prime Minister Simitis is not aiming to destabilise Macedonia but rather to gain control through economic and political influence in the country.
And in other news...
- The Yugoslav Ambassador to Macedonia, Zoran Janačković, is reportedly in Belgrade. A replacement is awaited in Macedonia. Janačković was recently implicated in accusations of diplomats conducting activities outside the realms of their jurisdiction.
- Aleksander Dimitrov, Foreign Minister of Macedonia is visiting Norway at the invitation of his Norwegian counterpart, Thorbjorn Jagland.
- Yannos Papantoniu, Greek Minister of Economy visited Macedonia at the end of a Balkan tour this week.
- Capital belonging to Macedonian Telecommunications was transferred from Stopanska Banka to Balkanska Banka on the orders of government officials. The transfer commenced in 1999 and thus far DEM 30 million (USD 13 million) has been moved. The reasoning behind the gradual transition was that the governments desire to avoid media attention. Balkanska Banka was founded on Bulgarian capital; this has clear political implications for the current political situation.
- The Council of Europe's Congress of Local and Regional Authorities (CLRAE) is meeting in Macedonia this week in co-operation with the Foundation for the Economy and Sustainable Development of the regions of Europe, to hold a Forum for the Cities and Regions of South Eastern Europe.
- Tobacco manufacturer Philip Morris has called for a halt in the production of fake "Partner Lights" cigarettes within Macedonia. The request has been addressed to the Macedonian Finance Ministry.
Eleanor Pritchard, 17 November 2000
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