Financial scandal rocks the government
The government was rocked by a financial scandal involving Defence Minister Ljuben Paunovski. It has been revealed that money was transferred into accounts held by close family members for contractual work, which was not first offered out to tender (as stipulated by Macedonian law). DEM three million (USD 1.4 million) was transferred to the account of a company owned by the Defence Minister's father-in-law and brother-in-law for the construction of accommodation for military personnel. A further DEM eight million (USD 3.6 million) was transferred to company accounts of family members for projects that remain unfulfilled.
Paunovski has strenuously denied any suggestions of impropriety, saying it was a classic conspiracy, first blaming various co-workers dismissed from the Ministry of Defence earlier this year, and later Interior Minister Dosta Dimovska (the latter suggestion being widely believed in Macedonia). That there is no love lost between Paunovski and Dimovska is well known, and they have clashed recently over how to handle Tetovo and the related border incidents.
Paunovski denied any involvement in the deal and has promised to co-operate fully with the inquiry—led by Prime Minister Ljubčo Georgievski—established on 23 April, which will investigate the affair.
Apparently, blaming fellow cabinet members for his predicament, Paunovski gave several barbed interviews this week, most notably announcing that the government had been fully aware of the presence of armed extremists on its territory since last August. In the wake of the recent security crisis, this statement is loaded with implications. He also made accusations that, prior to the crisis, the army had been poorly equipped with food supplies, medicine and uniforms.
Population census to be postponed
After all party talks this week, the population census scheduled for 15 to 30 May has been postponed until 1 to 15 October. This request was made by Albanian parties, to allow the 30,000 people displaced (both internally and externally) by recent violence to participate in the count.
In a country so fanatical about demographics, censuses have caused much controversy since Macedonia declared independence—Albanians boycotted the 1991 census and have consistently disputed the results of the 1994 census. This year's will be first census since 1994 and its results are eagerly awaited to see whether they will support the claim of Albanians to be recognised as a constituent nation of the country. The government is emphasising that the delay will not actually defer the census as it will still be conducted in the appropriate year, but will simply give time for better preparation.
Final figures were also read in parliament for those displaced by the recent fighting; 9000 from the Skopska Crna Gora and Shar Mountain left their homes for Kosovo, 3000 of them crossing the border at border crossings and 6000 at other points. 6000 people entered Albania and 8000 travelled to Turkey. An unspecified number sought refuge in the West.
And in other news...
- Discussions have continued this week between Prime Minsiter Ljubčo Georgievski and Leader of SDSM (opposition) Branko Crvenkovski about expanding the governmental coalition. The media has been full of speculation as to what SDSM seek in return for their co-operation in the proposed coalition, and has focused in particular on the possibility of Interior Minister Dosta Dimovska ceding to the alleged demand of SDSM and resigning from the coalition.
- Prime Minister Georgievski marked the fifth anniversary of the Macedonian Stock Exchange by attending the start of the electronic trading. Emphasising the good results of the Stock Exchange over the past 12 months, Geogievski said that the newly adopted trading method would bring the approach in Macedonia in line with that of Western countries. The model of electronic trading was adopted from the Slovenian example, and representatives from the Ljubljana Stock Exchange and the Slovenian Ministry of Economy also attended the ceremony. Electronic trading will be carried out three times a week, on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.
- Chairman of the Macedonian Parliament Stojan Andov returned from Strasbourg this week and fed back the results of his meeting with the president of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Lord Russell Johnston. Having presented the situation in Macedonia as secure and calm, he reported that the Council of Europe recognises the development of Macedonia supports and the recently established all party talks led by President Trajkovski.
- The British Government donated equipment to the value of DEM 660,000 (USD 300,700) to the Macedonian Ministries of Defence and Internal Affairs on Wednesday. The equipment included 15 mine detectors, 200 Global Positioning Systems (GPS) for detecting mines, one mine detection vehicle and 500 bulletproof vests.
Eleanor Pritchard, 27 April 2001
- Archive of news reviews for Macedonia
- Browse through the CER eBookstore for electronic books
- Buy English-language books on Central Europe through CER
- Return to CER front page