Macedonia to Zagreb for historic signing
A Macedonian delegation has travelled to Zagreb this week for the Summit of EU and South East European countries. The delegation, comprising President Trajkovski, Prime Minister Georgievski, Head of Diplomacy Alexander Dimitrov and Minister of Labour and Social Welfare Bedredin Ibrahimi, was to sign the Stabilisation and Association Agreement between Macedonia and the EU in the margins of the conference.
This agreement, whilst scantily understood by the population at large, is generally accepted to be a "good thing," and the government has laid great emphasis on Macedonia being the first country in the Balkans to conclude such an agreement. It is seen as a great proof of the current government's commitment to reform and European integration, particularly in light of the present domestic upheaval.
The final round of negotiations for the agreement was concluded in Skopje at the beginning of the week and resolved issues of the evolution clause that had previously caused controversy among certain groups in Macedonia. The agreement should be approved in April, and completely implemented by 2003. In the treaty, Macedonia is referred to as FYROM (Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia), while in the Macedonian language version its constitutional name is used: The Republic of Macedonia.
The government of Ljubčo Georgievski has struggled this week following confirmation of the speculation that the Democratic Alternative (DA) party under the leadership of Vasil Tupurkovski will leave the governing coalition due to concerns about the reform process stagnating; socially, economically and inter-ethnically.
It seems that the DA will realign with the largest opposition party, the Alliance of Democratic Forces in Macedonia (SDSM), which is about to call for a vote of no confidence in the VMRO-DPNE-led government. This will be a body blow to the failing coalition weakened by friction during the local elections that led to several prominent MPs leaving VMRO-DPMNE and creating a new party (VMRO-VMRO).
Macedonia has developed a new proposal for the division of gold reserves from the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (SFRJ), currently held in the Bank for International Settlements in Brussels and valued at approximately USD 400 million. The reserves need to be divided between the five former Yugoslav republics. This would mark the beginning of the succession of Federation property.
According to the Governor of the Macedonian National Bank, Ljube Trpevski, the decision to divide the reserves comes as a result of the announcement by the new Yugoslav administration that it will abandon the principal of continuity. This means that Serbia and Montenegro no longer consider themselves the only successor to former SFRJ's property.
The IMF has proposed that the reserves be divided according to each republic's share of the GDP within SFRJ. This process would allot 5.4 per cent of reserves to Macedonia—some USD 21.6 million. Macedonia and Bosnia-Hercegovina have proposed an alternative system of allocation, which would increase the Macedonian share of the reserves to eight per cent—approximately USD 30 million.
Russia to have KFOR station in Macedonia?
Russia has this week requested permission to station military engineers in the KFOR mission in Macedonia, according to Dnevnik newspaper. The engineers will provide logistics and technical support for Russian troops stationed in Kosovo. Dnevnik reports plans for the logistics base to be developed into a military unit and a resort for Russian soldiers in Kosovo.
The paper believes that the action can be interpreted as a test of friendship between Russia and NATO. The Russian Embassy in Skopje has denied these allegations, saying that so far no official request has been made by Moscow, but Dnevnik claims that such a request has indeed been submitted to Defence Minister Ljuben Paunovski by Russian officials.
In, out and passing through
Deputy Director-General of European Commission External Relations Catherine Day visited Skopje as the head of the EU delegation participating in the third round of negotiations for the Stabilisation and Association Agreement.
Macedonian Foreign Minister Aleksandar Dimitrov visited Athens to meet his Greek counterpart, George Papandreou, and Prime Minister Costas Simitis. He held discussions on the opening of diplomatic offices in Thessaloniki and Bitola to ease the process for visa applications for citizens of both countries.
And in other news...
- A two-day international meeting of European Project Corridor No 8 took place in the Italian city of Bari, attended by the Minister of Transport and Communications Ljupco Balkovski. This meeting aims to review the development of projects in fields such as transport, energy, building industry and environmental protection, across the region.
- Macedonian police discovered 36kg of pure heroin worth USD 3.1 million hidden in a truck near the Bulgarian border. Both the driver and passenger of the were both Slovenian nationals, and it is believed that the drugs were passing through Macedonia on the way from Turkey to Italy. The seizure was a result of a two-month international operation to break a drugs ring in Macedonia.
- Marc Good, Chairman of the American "Eur-Am Partners" and new owner of Macedonian gold mine Bucim visited the mine this week. He stressed he was not responsible for the government's failure to inform employees that the mine was being sold.
- Germany's LHB Internationale Handelsbank AG is expected to buy 25.2 per cent of Macedonia's Tutunska Banka for a 15 million mark (USD 6.6 million) investment, a bank official said on Friday. The deal awaits approval from the National Bank of Macedonia and comes on the heels of last month's sale of 26.76 stake in Tutunska Banka to Nova Ljubljanska Banka of Slovenia.
- Delegations of Macedonian Orthodox Church (MPC) and Serb Orthodox Church (SPC) met to continue negotiations on mutual relations. This is the second round of negotiations following restoring of communication between the Macedonian and the Serb Church in July. The Serb Church remains adamantly opposed to recognising Macedonian Church.
- The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) report published this week on the October local elections says that Macedonia showed improvement in some areas, but failed to meet all of the international standards for a democratic election.
- Macedonian Prime Minister Ljubčo Georgievski and Foreign Minister Aleksandar Dimitrov were among the attendees of the meeting of prime ministers of Central European Initiative (CEI) member-states. The meeting, focusing on Euroregions, was held in Budapest.
Eleanor Pritchard, 24 November 2000
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