Name negotiations with Greece
The dispute over the possible new name of Macedonia with Greece has occupied much of the domestic media this week. Speculation has abounded as to the state of the negotiations, but as the week drew to a close, some general consensus could be made out.
The first important point is the shame attached by Macedonia and the ruling coalition to the name Former Yugoslav Republic Of Macedonia (FYROM). From the start, it was clear that the retention of this title was unacceptable to the Skopje delegation. There are two strong suggestions circulating at the moment. The first (believed to be a Greek offer) is that the country adopt the name "Northern Macedonia." The Macedonian government has denied that this offer is on the table, but an anonymous employee of the International Crisis Group (ICG) reiterated that it was, adding fuel to the fire.
The second possibility (and that favoured by the government) is that Macedonia adopts a dual name policy—its constitutional name (Republic of Macedonia) for all internal and international dealings, while retaining FYROM for dealings with Greece. This was originally proposed by former president Kiro Gligorov and has remained the government's preference ever since. Pressure has been heaped upon both sides by the international community to reach a conclusion to the talks soon, but there has been no official statements on the progress of negotiations.
Border with Yugoslavia confirmed
After ten years of disagreement and the refusal of the Serb authorities to discuss the issue, the border between Serbia and Macedonia has finally been defined. Negotiations were complicated due to the extensive section that runs along the southern border with Kosovo. Security Council resolution 1244 stipulates that Kosovo is part of Serbia, and, therefore, the Macedonian negotiating team could negotiate only with the Serb government, not with United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) or the Albanian council in Priština.
However, these obstacles have been overcome, and the agreement will be signed on 23 February at the Balkan Summit in Skopje. Both sides have agreed to implement the agreement within two years.
This is considered a great success for the Macedonian negotiating team who have brought to a close a complex issue. Both parties stated they believe it to be a great step forward for regional security and harmony.
Upcoming Balkan summit to be held in Skopje
A summit of Balkan leaders and European Union officials will meet next week in Skopje to discuss regional security, currently threatened by violence in Kosovo and southern Yugoslavia. A spokeswoman for President Boris Trajkovski said that presidents or other "top officials" of Albania, Bulgaria, Greece, Yugoslavia, Bosnia and Macedonia were to meet on 23 February. Croatia was likely to be represented by an observer.
The summit should be attended by EU Head of Foreign Policy Javier Solana, EU Commissioner for External Affairs Chris Patten and Stability Pact co-ordinator Bodo Hombach.
Van der Stoel University underway
The construction of the Van der Stoel University or, as its more formally known, the University of South Eastern Europe, started on Sunday on the outskirts of Tetovo. The University, conceived to reduce tension over the issue of minority education for Albanians in Macedonia, is scheduled to open in October. A ceremony was held to lay the foundation stone, attended by Max van der Stoel (UN High Commissioner for National Minorities), Prime Minister Ljubčo Georgievski and notable Albanian academics, including Zamir Dika.
Over the weekend, several thousand ethnic Macedonians protested in central Tetovo at the foundation of the University, chanting slogans about it being a threat to the safety of their children, and that minorities should not have education in their mother tongues. This relatively small group of extremists, however, was unable to prevent the start of the realisation of a highly ambitious project and testament to the diplomatic skills and work van der Stoel invested in the institution.
And in other news...
- The Ministry of Transport and Communications has closed over 40 radio and TV stations operating without a license in the country.
- Figures released this week show last year's average net salary was MKD (Macedonian denar) 10,228 (USD 150).
- The first private gynaecology hospital in Macedonia opened this week.
- Macedonian television has shown footage this week of a man after he was arrested in connection with the Tearce attack. Signs of extensive beating are clearly visible over his body, with particular injury to the upper inner thigh and the back in the kidney region.
- UNHCR and the Macedonian government have made contingency plans to accept a possible inflow of refugees in the event of an escalation of conflict in southern Serbia.
- After a four-year search, police arrested a man believed to have raped over 15 girls in the towns of Strumica, Valandovo and Radoviš.
Eleanor Pritchard, 16 February 2001
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