Stabilisation and Association Agreement
The Stabilisation and Association Agreement between Macedonia and the EU, signed on 9 April, was unanimously ratified by the Macedonian Parliament on the 12 April. This includes the ratification of the PDP MPs, who had boycotted all state institutions following the arrest of some of their supporters during the recent crisis, but returned to Parliament on the 12th for the vote. The symbolic session was attended by President Boris Trajkovski and representatives of the diplomatic corps.
Prime Minister Ljubčo Georgievski addressed the gathering on the immediate impact of the Agreement, citing improvement of interethnic relations, democratisation and harmonisation of domestic legislation with European standards as priority activities for Macedonia en route to European integration. This will include the modification and adjustment of over 10,000 laws and regulations.
Powell in Macedonia
US Secretary of State Colin Powell's visit to Macedonia was recognised more for the meeting held at the Alexander Palace hotel with Kosovo Albanian leaders (after bad weather prevented him travelling on to Kosovo) than for the statements directed at Macedonia itself.
Powell met with Ibrahim Rugova, Hashim Thaçi, Ramush Haradinaj, Serb Representative Rada Trajkovic and Hans Haekkerup, and asked them to condemn the recent violence in Macedonia. Powell said if it were internationally perceived that Kosovar Albanians were in support of the unrest, it would significantly weaken international aid and sympathy.
During his visit, Powell stated explicitly that the recent unrest in Macedonia appeared to be the work of both Macedonian extremists and Kosovar Albanians who had crossed the border to participate.
He also repeated a promise from US President George W Bush to promote stability in the Balkans and support that stability with military force if necessary. This appears to have been in response to concerns that President Bush wanted to recall troops stationed in Kosovo and Bosnia.
Macedonian media were particularly interested in Powell's talks with Ramush Haradinaj whom they believe to be one of the leaders of the UÇKombëtare. When asked to comment on the inferences in the media, Haradinaj replied that the press has both the right and freedom to write that. He confirmed that his discussions with Powell had related to the security situation in Macedonia and Kosovo.
Preparations to discuss expanding the governing coalition in the interest of further national stability have continued this week between VMRO-DPMNE and the opposition party, Social Democratic Alliance of Macedonia (SDSM). VMRO-DPMNE Central Committee has approved the concept of a "big coalition" and party president PM Georgievski to lead the negotiations.
The current coalition comprises VMRO-DPMNE, PPDSh-PDP* and the Labour Party (LP). The possible expansion would be to incorporate SDSM and possibly PDP within a larger coalition. The next round of talks is believed to be scheduled for next week, and SDSM are expected to request early parliamentary elections. Arben Xhaferi of PPDSh-PDP and Imer Imeri of PPD* are reported to have discussed the idea of expanding the coalition, and are expected to publish a joint programme on Albanian issues soon.
In the wake of Tetovo
Dnevnik reported on Thursday that the total cost of the military offensive in Tetovo to ARM (Armija na Republika Makedonija) was DEM 29 million (USD 13.4 million). It is unclear whether this figure covers expenses incurred by the joint MVR (Macedonian Interior Ministry) operation. The paper went on to report that over 200 civilian houses were damaged during the fighting.
On Wednesday 18 April, Tetovo police chief Rauf Ramadani, who had been temporarily replaced by an ethnic Macedonian during the conflict, was dismissed from his position. No official reason was given for the action, but domestic media has speculated that it resulted from possible connections to the extremists.
And in other news...
- A week of talks between Minister of Finance Nikola Gruevski and Chief of the IMF Mission for Macedonia Bishvaxit Banerjee were concluded on Wednesday. The talks had focused on the impact of the security situation on the macro-economic process in the country. Banerjee said that the events of the past two months would impact the long-term macro-economic situation of the country and necessitated a redesign of the IMF programme, which is expected to be completed by the end of June. The talks will continue at the end of April when Minister Gruevski visits Washington.
Close of trading this week marked the end of floor trading on the stock exchange. The system, which has been used for the past five years, will be replaced by electronic trading when the bourse reopens next week. Executive Director Evgenij Zografski said that the new system, which will be introduced in response to the growing volume of transactions, would provide more transparency in trading and better information.
Electronic trading will be carried out three times a week, on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. A Memorandum on Co-operation with the Ljubljana Stock Exchange is scheduled to be signed on 25 April. This is seen as representing an important a step forward in the regional co-operation of stock exchanges.
A new icon gallery was opened at the Museum of Macedonia in Skopje. The opening was attended by a wide range of influential people including the Head of the Macedonian Orthodox Church, Archbishop Stefan of Ohrid and Macedonia, Prime Minister Ljubčo Georgievski, Minister of Culture Ganka Samoilovska-Cvetanova, the Head of the EU delegation Ambassador Jose Pinto Teixeira and Academician Cvetan Grozdanov.
During his opening speech, Prime Minister Georgievski said the gallery was a project to assure the permanent presentation of the cultural inheritance of Macedonia. Further, he pledged that the Government would allocate DEM 2.5 million (USD 1.6 million) for the protection of other cultural heritage sites, including conservation of the Old Bazaar in Bitola and the ten most important archaeological projects in the country.
Eleanor Pritchard, 20 April 2001
*Albanian Parties in Macedonia have names in Albanian language. When they refer to themselves, they abbreviate the Albanian words. However, when Macedonian media or politicians refer to them, they translate the Albanian words into Macedonian and therefore abbreviate the Macedonian words. Political parties and their abbreviations in this news review:
- Albanian Party for Democratic Prosperity - People's Democratic Party
Albanian: Partia për Prosperitet Demokratik të Shqiptarëve - Partia Demokratike Popullore (PPDSh-PDPN)
Macedonian: Partija za Demokratski Prosperitet na Albancite - Narodna Demokratska Partija (PDPA-NDP)
Party leader: Arbën Xhaferi
- Party for Democratic Prosperity
Albanian: Partia për Prosperitet Demokratik (PPD)
Macedonian: Partija za Demokratski Prosperitet (PDP)
Party leader: Imer Imeri
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