As of 1 December, almost all Macedonian products can be exported to the 15 EU countries free of customs duties. This is not a reciprocal arrangement at present, and Macedonia is under no obligation to revoke customs duties on goods imported from West European countries. For goods not incorporated in the liberalisation package, quotas have been discarded. This will benefit not only the agriculture industry but also products as diverse as steel and tobacco.
The new measures are expected to come into effect with the signing of the Stabilization and Association Pact scheduled for next year. The Macedonian press has commented this week how Macedonian products will now have to meet the same rigorous standards and quality control procedure as goods produced within the EU, and noted how few products at present satisfy these standards. It has been grudgingly concluded that because of this no export boom is expected in the near future.
Fears of mad cow disease
Macedonia banned cattle, beef and meat-and-bone meal imports from eleven European countries (Germany, Britain, Romania, Spain, Greece, Belgium, France, Ireland, Portugal, Switzerland and Denmark) due to concerns over the possible spread of mad cow disease to country.
An Agriculture Ministry spokesperson said there was very little chance that the disease would spread to Macedonia, which so far has imported beef from countries that were not on the list. However, Reuters reports that between January and August this year Macedonia imported around 20 tonnes of frozen beef from Spain, a country that has recently reported cases of the disease.
Fears of destabilisation from southern Serbia
The Macedonian media has noted with concern this week that KFOR has no mandate to intervene in the ongoing situation in southern Serbia. This has led to a resolution from the government to intensify dialogue with the new government in Belgrade, in order to prevent the conflict spreading southwards.
This is compounded by the fear that the situation in the Preševo Valley is being sustained by Albanians who have crossed from Kosovo rather than being of that area; and are therefore a potential future threat to the internal security of Macedonia.
Macedonia to join NATO?
This week, President Boris Trajkovski met NATO Secretary General George Robertson to discuss the ongoing reform activities and the second action program for NATO membership. According to President Trajkovski, this is a positive step towards joining the Alliance, but Lord Robertson stressed it is still too soon to give any solid promises for NATO membership. Macedonia and the other eight candidates still have lot of hard work ahead of them.
And in other news...
- Around 2000 university students staged a protest on Wednesday, blocking some of the main streets in Skopje to demand better living conditions.
- Srgan Kerim, the new foreign minister, said steps would soon be taken to normalise relations with China, which were broken off after Macedonia established diplomatic relations with Taiwan.
- A French military vehicle collided with a civilian bus on the road between the towns Veles and Stip, injuring four KFOR soldiers and one Macedonian in the bus.
Eleanor Pritchard, 8 December 2000
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