December 3, 2004 Defense Minister Buckovski to Become New Prime Minister Washington, D.C. - President Branko Crvenkovski on November 26 gave Defense Minister Vlado Buckovski a mandate to form a new government after the ruling Social Democratic Alliance of Macedonia (SDSM) elected him as its leader. Buckovski, a senior figure in the SDSM, will replace Hari Kostov, who resigned on November 15 after six months as prime minister over a dispute with the ethnic Albanian party in the ruling coalition, the Albanian Democratic Union for Integration (DUI). Kostov had no party affiliation while in office. The prime minister-designate has entered the final stage of negotiations with the coalition of the SDSM, the DUI, and the Liberal Democrats (LDP), which has a slight majority in the parliament, concerning the composition of the cabinet. Buckovski said a priority in his government would be progress on economic issues, which Kostov said had been stalled by the coalition. He plans to introduce four deputy prime minister positions for strategic sectors: implementation of the 2001 Ohrid peace agreement, EU integration, the economy, and the political system. The new cabinet and government program are expected to be approved by the parliament by mid-December. Reforms in the Defense Ministry, including those concerning the ministry's budget system and the revamping of the armed forces in preparation for NATO membership, have progressed well during Buckovski's tenure as minister. On a visit to Skopje, the new European Commissioner for Enlargement, Olli Rehn, urged Macedonian authorities to adhere to the terms of the Ohrid agreement, including the decentralization process that grants more rights to the ethnic Albanian minority at the municipal level. He reiterated that full implementation of the agreement was critical to Skopje's goal of attaining membership in the EU. November 19, 2004 Government Strained by Ethnic Albanian Issues Washington, D.C. - Eight days after the failure of a referendum that would have revoked greater representation for ethnic Albanians at the municipal level, Macedonian Prime Minister Hari Kostov resigned, saying that critical reforms were being stalled because of the preoccupation with minority rights of the ethnic Albanian party in his coalition government. Kostov stated that there was no “will in the coalition for genuine teamwork” that would promote the Skopje government’s strategic goal of furthering political and economic reforms as a means toward the country’s integration into Euro-Atlantic institutions. The government applied for EU membership in March. Accusing the Albanian Union for Integration (DUI) party of promoting nepotism, corruption, and short-term national and political ends, Kostov said the party had placed “conditions and obstacles” in the way of the reform process. He noted that the DUI had blocked the passage of two key economic laws, which were not approved by parliament because of the DUI’s condition that the government grant 15 new administration positions to ethnic Albanians. Judicial and structural reforms, he said, had also been stalled. In addition, Kostov asserted that he felt as if he had no authority over the ethnic Albanian ministers in the government. The DUI party is led by Ali Ahmeti, the former leader of the National Liberation Army (NLA), which fought government security forces for seven months up to the signing of the Ohrid peace agreement in August 2001. A key provision of the agreement, brokered by the United States and the EU, was proportional employment of the 25-percent ethnic Albanian minority in government jobs. Ermira Mehmeti, a spokeswoman for the DUI, said the party was “surprised” by Kostov’s accusations. “We have pointed out many times in the past that cooperation with the prime minister has been good and that problems in the government were solved through discussion and agreement, not clashes,” Mehmeti said. Kostov, an economist and former banker, became prime minister in May. He succeeded Branko Crvenkovski in the position after Crvenkovski was elected president to replace Boris Trajkovski, who was killed in a plane crash in February. President Crvenkovski is expected to name a new prime minister by December 1, without calling early elections. November 12, 2004 Referendum Blocking Ethnic Albanian Rights Fails Washington, D.C. - A November 7 referendum aimed at blocking a law granting the ethnic Albanian minority greater rights at the municipal level failed due to low voter turnout, opening the way for the establishment of a more multi-ethnic democracy and further steps toward the country's integration into NATO and the European Union. A 50-percent turnout was required for the referendum to pass, but only 26 percent of the country's 1.7 million voters cast ballots. It was organized by the nationalist opposition to prevent implementation of legislation passed in August that redraws municipal boundaries, giving the 25 percent ethnic Albanian minority greater administrative control in areas where they predominate. The number of municipalities will be reduced from 123 to 84. The law also establishes Albanian as an official language in the capital, Skopje, and in other areas where Albanians make up over 20 percent of the population. Putting the legislation into effect will be the final step in the full implementation of the 2001 Ohrid peace agreement, which ended a seven-month conflict between ethnic Albanian guerrillas and government security forces. Both the United States and the European Union made it clear that the country's progress toward membership in the EU and NATO, sought by its leadership, would be thwarted if the referendum succeeded. The EU and the coalition government in Skopje, which includes an ethnic Albanian party, had urged voters to boycott the referendum. Macedonian Defense Minister Vlado Buckovski said, "We have sent a strong message to the EU and NATO . . . that the citizens know the way ahead, and they are counting on your support for integration." EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana, during a visit to Skopje, welcomed the outcome of the referendum, stating that it "shows that the citizens have chosen to maintain the course toward the European Union." November 5, 2004 Washington Recognizes Country's Name as Republic of Macedonia Washington, D.C. - The United States unilaterally recognized the name "Republic of Macedonia," a decision timed as a show of support for the Skopje government just four days before a critical November 7 referendum called for by opposition nationalists, in which Macedonians will decide whether to overturn or implement a decentralization law passed by parliament in August. The United States is concerned that derailment of the law, which gives ethnic Albanians greater representation at the municipal level, could trigger civil unrest among ethnic Albanians in the country, located just south of Serbia's Kosovo province. Implementation of the legislation would be the final step in carrying out all the provisions of the 2001 Ohrid peace agreement, brokered by U.S. and EU mediators, which ended a seven-month conflict between ethnic Albanian guerrillas and government security forces. (See Country Updates, F.Y.R. Macedonia, November 5, 2004, "NATO, EU Closely Monitor Political Referendum.") Macedonian President Branko Crvenkovski hailed Washington's decision as a "great day" for the country, adding that "the Republic of Macedonia is strongly determined to continue to build friendly and good-neighborly relations" with Greece. The U.S. decision drew a sharp rebuke from Athens, which had agreed to accelerate negotiations with the Skopje government to arrive at a mutually acceptable alternative to the name "Republic of Macedonia." Greek Foreign Minister Petros Molyviatis summoned U.S. Ambassador to Greece Thomas Miller to the Foreign Ministry to lodge a formal complaint over the matter and told him that Washington's decision would result in "multiple negative consequences." Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis said, "The possibility of FYROM [the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia] acceding to the EU and NATO is not contemplated without a mutually agreed solution" on the name issue. In a congratulatory message to President Bush concerning his re-election, Greek President Costis Stephanopoulos noted that Washington's decision had "caused the Greek people deep disappointment." U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said Washington had decided to grant recognition to the country's constitutional name in support of Skopje's efforts to implement the decentralization legislation. This recognition, he said, would "underscore the U.S. commitment to a permanent, multi-ethnic, democratic Macedonian state within its existing borders," which would be advanced by the Ohrid agreement, "the key to Macedonia's future." Boucher also stated that, by supporting the decentralization plan, Washington wanted to move the country closer to NATO and EU membership. "We're trying to show that the path that the government has followed brings stability," both internally and in the region, he said. "Macedonia is an important and steadfast partner of the United States in the global war on terrorism, contributing troops to coalition efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan," Boucher asserted, adding that the country's "success" was in the interests of its neighbors and of Washington. He said the U.S. decision concerning the country's name was made "without prejudice to the negotiations [between Athens and Skopje] under U.N. auspices" on the name issue, noting that Washington hoped these talks would reach "a speedy and mutually agreeable conclusion." On November 3, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell signed off on the recognition decision, which Boucher said had been under discussion within Washington "for a long time." The same day, Ambassador Miller informed the Greek Foreign Ministry of the decision, followed by a call to Molyviatis by Powell on November 4. The U.S. ambassador in Skopje, Lawrence Butler, also met with President Crvenkovski on November 4 to inform him of the decision. That day the Greek public learned of the news through the media before the Greek or U.S. governments had announced it publicly, creating a firestorm among the people of Greece. Crvenkovski announced the decision in a broadcast on November 4 after news reports on the matter swept Greece. Both Boucher and Greek Foreign Ministry spokesman George Koumoutsakos stated that Powell had telephoned Molyviatis to assure him "that the decision is not a turn against Greece and is not linked to the U.S. elections." Boucher stated that Washington had previously contacted the European Union to inform it of the forthcoming decision. Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende of the Netherlands, which currently holds the EU rotating presidency, said the European Union was not planning to follow Washington's lead in recognizing the name "Republic of Macedonia." He said, "The European Union, at this moment, has a position that the official name is the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, and I think, for the time being, we can use this name, but we will look into the consequences." On October 28, the lower house of the German parliament adopted a resolution calling on the German government to urge the adoption of the name "Republic of Macedonia" within the European Union, citing Skopje's "significant progress on the path towards political stability and further approximation towards the European Union." During a visit by German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder to Skopje on November 2, Macedonian Prime Minister Hari Kostov thanked Germany's lower house for passing the resolution. Schroeder stated that "the distinction of powers exists in Germany by which parliament is responsible for legislation, while the exercising of foreign policy belongs to the duties of the government." He added, "Of course, we take the opinion of parliament into serious consideration." Since 1991, Greece has objected to the adoption of the name "Republic of Macedonia" by the country that emerged through the break-up of Yugoslavia, maintaining that it referred to a regional province in northern Greece and that its use by Skopje had implied historical and territorial claims on Greek Macedonian territory as recently as the 1940s. An interim agreement signed by the Macedonian and Greek governments under the auspices of the United Nations on September 13, 1995, provided a framework for resolving the name issue by conducting discussions to find a mutually acceptable name. In early 1994, Greece imposed an economic embargo on the country that ended in October 1995. Recognizing the differences between Athens and Skopje over the name, the United Nations admitted the country into its ranks in 1993 under a provisional name, the "Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM)," through a Security Council resolution. The United States has officially referred to the country as FYROM since then. On October 24, both Molyviatis and Macedonian Foreign Minister Ilinka Mitreva, following talks in Skopje, agreed that both countries wanted to intensify the pace of bilateral negotiations on resolution of the name issue under the auspices of the U.N. Mitreva described the issue as one of "paramount national interest." Greece is the largest investor in the country. November 5, 2004 NATO, EU Closely Monitor Political Referendum Washington, D.C. - NATO Deputy Secretary General Alessandro Minuto Rizzo characterized a critical decentralization law as "an essential element to ensure the integration of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia into euro-Atlantic institutions" and cautioned Macedonians not to reject it in a November 7 referendum designed by opponents of the legislation. Parliament, which passed the law in August, scheduled the referendum following the collection of the required 150,000 signatures calling for the vote by the VMRO-DPMNE main opposition party and more than 30 other groups opposed to the legislation. Opponents view the law as a step toward federalization of the country along ethnic lines. VMRO-DPMNE leader Nikola Gruevski said, "We have a historical responsibility to protect the state against division." The law, which is the final step in the implementation of the August 2001 Ohrid peace agreement that ended a seven-month conflict between the ethnic Albanian National Liberation Army (NLA) and government security forces, alters municipal boundaries to give ethnic Albanians greater local representation. In addition, the legislation, backed by both the U.S. and the European Union, makes Albanian a second official language in the country's capital, Skopje. Macedonian Prime Minister Hari Kostov has threatened to resign if the law is defeated in the referendum. Deputy Prime Minister Radmila Sekerinska, who is responsible for the country's European integration, said voter rejection of the law would lead the country into an institutional and political crisis, and would result in a delay in meeting the political criteria set by the European Union for membership. Skopje submitted its application for EU membership in March 2004. British Minister for Europe Denis MacShane called on Macedonians to boycott the referendum so that the minimum voter turnout requirement would not be met. The European Union's special representative in Skopje, Michael Sahlin, said the country's accession to both the EU and NATO will be delayed if the decentralization law is rejected through passage of the referendum. The country will "find itself in a very difficult political, constitutional, and maybe also security-related situation" if the law is defeated, Sahlin said. In addition, U.S. Secretary of State Donald Rumsfeld, during an October 18 visit to Skopje, cautioned Macedonians against voting to abandon the legislation. The ethnic Albanian political parties, including the governing coalition's Democratic Union for Integration (DUI) of Ali Ahmeti, the former guerrilla leader of the NLA, also urged a boycott of the referendum. A turnout of at least 855,000 voters, or 51 percent, will be required to defeat the legislation, a move that could rekindle the tensions between ethnic Albanians and Macedonians over equal rights for Albanians that prompted the 2001 conflict. October 22, 2004 Macedonian Troops to Remain in Iraq Despite Civilians Killed Washington, D.C. - Foreign Minister Ilinka Mitreva said F.Y.R. Macedonia would not withdraw its 32 troops from Iraq, despite reports that two Macedonian civilians working in the country for Soufan Engineering had been kidnapped and killed by a group called the Islamic Army in Iraq. She said the incident "does not put in question . . . our participation in the international allied coalition," adding that Skopje will "continue contributing to the global fight against terrorism." The Macedonian troops are stationed in Taji, north of Baghdad. Following Mitreva's statement, it was confirmed that a third Macedonian employee of Soufan Engineering had died in Iraq under circumstances that were not clear. Mitreva said Skopje was "redoubling efforts" to bring home some 16 Macedonians still working in Iraq for the company, a construction firm based in the United Arab Emirates that caters to the needs of the U.S. military and private contractors. She said the government also "appealed to [Macedonian] citizens to refrain from traveling to Iraq if it is not absolutely necessary and to be well aware of possible security implications." The three men were kidnapped south of Baghdad in August. The Islamic Army in Iraq accused the two men it killed of working as spies for U.S. forces in the country. The group has previously claimed responsibility for the kidnappings of two French journalists, six Iraqis, two Lebanese citizens, and two Indonesian women. October 15, 2004 Rumsfeld Reaffirms U.S. Support for Skopje's NATO Membership Washington, D.C. - U.S. Secretary of State Donald Rumsfeld, during a visit to F.Y.R. Macedonia, said the country's progress toward NATO membership would depend largely on its implementation of the 2001 Ohrid peace agreement that ended the nation's seven-month conflict, including its call for "the creation of a stronger and more effective local government." "The decentralization legislation passed in August provides the basis for this and will certainly help strengthen democracy here at the grassroots level," Rumsfeld said. The secretary was referring to a law that gives ethnic Albanians more authority in municipal governments in areas primarily near the country's borders with Albania and Kosovo. The legislation, which sparked demonstrations in opposition to its passage, will be put to a referendum on November 7 as a result of a nationwide petition spearheaded by opponents of the law. The Macedonian people "face a clear choice between a future with NATO in which stability and economic growth will flourish, or a return to the past," Rumsfeld stated. The secretary said the United States supported F.Y.R. Macedonia's "vision to become part of NATO" and looked forward to working with the country to strengthen bilateral military cooperation, noting that Skopje's overall defense reforms were "solid." Rumsfeld stated that Skopje's participation in NATO's Partnership for Peace program and the May 2003 Adriatic Charter, which commits F.Y.R. Macedonia, Albania, and Croatia to achieving reforms that will facilitate their integration into NATO, was "helping to improve stability in the region." During his October 11 visit, Rumsfeld and Macedonian Defense Minister Vlado Buckovski signed a bilateral agreement increasing joint efforts against the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD). Through the agreement, the U.S. will provide F.Y.R. Macedonia with equipment and the training of personnel to operate the equipment in order to enable authorities to detect the presence of chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons within the country, as part of an effort to prevent the spread of WMD in the Balkans. Rumsfeld also took part in a ceremony to honor three Macedonian soldiers who helped save the lives of American service members in Iraq, where Skopje has deployed about 32 troops, including Special Forces. Buckovski said Skopje was "part of the anti-terrorist coalition," noting that its goal is to "become a full-fledged NATO member as soon as possible." He also said he hoped that the current U.S. support for the country's defense modernization process would increase the capacity of F.Y.R. Macedonia to send more troops to NATO and U.S.-led missions in the future. The Macedonian defense minister attended an October 9 meeting of 27 defense ministers of countries participating in the U.S.-led multinational coalition in Iraq, which was held by Rumsfeld aboard the U.S. aircraft carrier John F. Kennedy off the coast of Bahrain. At the request of Macedonian Prime Minister Hari Kostov, the mandate of the European Union's police mission, Proxima, in F.Y.R. Macedonia has been extended to December 15, 2005, instead of expiring on December 15, 2004, after being in the country for one year. The goal of the mission, comprised of 180 police officers and 20 officials, is to help F.Y.R. Macedonia develop a professional national police force based on EU norms. After his meetings in Skopje, Rumsfeld visited Romania, where he attended an informal meeting of NATO defense ministers on October 13 and toured the Mihail Kogalniceanu air base near the Black Sea port of Constanta, as well as an adjacent army base. Military installations in both Romania and Bulgaria are being considered for the stationing of U.S. troops as part of a post-Cold war realignment of U.S. forces overseas. In February and March 2003, 3,500 U.S. troops carried out air transportation and logistics operations from the Mihail Kogalniceanu base in support of the war in Iraq. Romania has about 700 troops in Iraq. October 8, 2004 Skopje Advances in Preparations for EU Membership Washington, D.C. - European Commission President Romano Prodi, during a visit to Skopje, asked the government to supply answers to some 3,000 questions on a Commission questionnaire that will serve as the basis for the preparation of an opinion on F.Y.R. Macedonia's March application for EU membership by the bloc's executive body. The material provided will help the Commission determine if the country is ready to assume the obligations related to membership, as requested by the EU Council of Ministers. Prodi stated that the delivery of the questionnaire to Macedonian officials was "a new, important stage in the process of [Skopje's] European integration," characterizing it as "the first concrete step" in this process. The answers must be submitted to Brussels by the end of January 2005. The questionnaire covers a chapter on the political criteria for EU membership, including factors concerning the functioning of democracy, the rule of law, human rights, and the protection of minorities; one on the economic criteria, such as the existence of a market economy and the capacity to deal with competitive pressure and market forces within the bloc; and 29 other chapters covering all areas of EU legislation. In February 2004, Skopje's Stabilization and Association Agreement with the European Union entered into force, and the initial meetings of the Stabilization and Association Council and Committee have been held in Brussels. In addition, a European Partnership with the country, a relationship designed to further intensify ties between the European Union and the Western Balkans, has been adopted by the EU and is being implemented. The Partnership lists short- and medium-term priorities for the country's further integration into the EU and serves as a checklist against which to measure progress toward this goal. In his talks in Skopje, Prodi made clear that an essential condition for further progress in the country's relations with the EU was the continued implementation of the Ohrid peace accord concluded in August 2001, particularly the decentralization legislation that grants greater municipal authority to the ethnic Albanian minority in towns primarily near the country's borders with Albania and Kosovo. A referendum on the legislation will be held on November 7. October 1, 2004 Skopje, Athens Ready to Intensify Talks on Name Issue Washington, D.C. - Officials from Skopje and Athens, in consultations with Ambassador Matthew Nimetz, Special Representative of the U.N. Secretary General, in recent weeks, have indicated that F.Y.R. Macedonia and Greece would like to intensify discussions on the resolution of the name issue between the two countries, which remains the only significant bilateral difference between them. An interest in moving in this direction was expressed by Greek Deputy Foreign Minister Yiannis Valinakis in talks with Amb. Nimetz on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly meeting in New York. In addition, Macedonian Foreign Minister Ilinka Mitreva and Greek Foreign Minister Petros Molyviatis, meeting at the U.N., also said they were ready to proceed with discussions. Representatives from both countries have met four times a year in New York to discuss the name issue under the mediation of Amb. Nimetz through 2003. In 2004, only one meeting has taken place, early in the year, owing to events such as the death of Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski in February and subsequent elections in the country, Greece's March parliamentary elections and hosting of the summer Olympics, and the April referendum on the Annan plan for the reunification of Cyprus. An interim agreement signed by the Macedonian and Greek governments under the auspices of the United Nations on September 13, 1995, provided a framework for resolving the name issue by conducting discussions to find a mutually acceptable name for Greece's northern neighbor. Greece objected to the adoption of the name "Macedonia" by the country that emerged in 1991 to its north following the dissolution of Yugoslavia, maintaining that the name referred to a province in northern Greece and that its use by Skopje implied historical and territorial claims by the Macedonian government. Recognizing the differences between Athens and Skopje over the name, the United Nations admitted Greece's northern neighbor into its ranks in 1993 under a provisional name, the "Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM)," through a Security Council resolution. Greece and F.Y.R. Macedonia have good relations, with Greece having expressed support for Skopje's application to join the European Union, submitted in March. Greece is F.Y.R. Macedonia's largest trading partner. (See Country Updates, F.Y.R. Macedonia, September 20, 2002, "Skopje, Athens Allow Interim Agreement on Name Issue to Remain in Force.") September 3, 2004 Referendum to Be Held on Law Giving Ethnic Albanians Municipal Authority Washington, D.C. - The Macedonian parliament set November 7 as the date for a referendum on a law that gives the ethnic Albanian minority more authority on a municipal level in certain towns primarily near the country’s borders with Albania and Kosovo. The decision was in response to a nationwide petition, spearheaded by the World Macedonian Congress, to hold a referendum to overturn the law. The legislation redraws municipal boundaries so that ethnic Albanians become the majority population in 16 out of 80 municipalities. Macedonian Prime Minister Hari Kostov said he would resign if the law, a key element of the 2001 Ohrid peace agreement ending five months of conflict, is rejected in the referendum. August 27, 2004 Referendum Sought to Limit Albanian Political Role Washington, D.C. - Opponents of laws that will grant ethnic Albanians in F.Y.R. Macedonia greater representation at the municipal level and transform the country's capital, Skopje, into a bilingual city said they had collected enough signatures on a petition to force a referendum on whether the legislation should be implemented. Following the submission of the petition to the government on August 23, Ali Ahmeti, the ethnic-Albanian leader of the Democratic Union for Integration, a party that is part of the governing coalition, stated that passage of such a referendum, if the government determines that the petition is valid, would result in a "civil war." Ahmeti was the leader of the ethnic-Albanian National Liberation Army, which fought Macedonian security forces for seven months in 2001 until the conflict ended with the signing of the Ohrid agreement in August of that year. The hardline World Macedonian Congress (SMK), led by former parliamentarian Todor Petrov, launched the referendum initiative and is among the opponents of the legislation, which redraws municipal boundaries, primarily in towns bordering Albania and Kosovo, so that ethnic Albanians become the majority population in 16 out of 80 municipalities. VMRO-DPMNE and other opposition parties have endorsed the SMK's initiative. Romeo Dereban, the mayor of the southwestern Macedonian town of Struga, where ethnic Slavs make up the majority of the population, has threatened to declare the town independent to protest the legislation. Struga will become predominantly ethnic Albanian if the municipal boundaries are re-drawn. Passage of the legislation was called for in the Ohrid agreement, and the EU has stipulated that its implementation, as part of the provisions of the accord, is essential if the country wants to advance toward EU membership, following the submission of its application for membership in May 2004. In August, in preparation for eventual EU membership, the Agricultural Ministry announced a new strategy for the country's agricultural and food sectors, and the government drafted legislation to establish more transparency and accountability in state-run institutions by providing free access to public information. August 13, 2004 Decentralization Law Gives Ethnic Albanians More Local Authority Washington, D.C. - The Macedonian parliament passed a decentralization law giving the country's ethnic Albanian minority, comprising 25 percent of the population, an increased role in local government. The law removed the last obstacle to full implementation of the Ohrid peace agreement that ended seven months of conflict between ethnic Albanian guerrillas and government security forces in August 2001. The legislation, approved by parliament on August 11, reduces the number of municipalities from 123 to 80, mostly by merging predominantly ethnic Albanian communities with municipalities in which Slav Macedonians are in the majority. The redrawing of town boundaries gives Albanians control of 16 of the country's municipalities, while Albanian will be recognized as the official second language in areas where ethnic Albanians comprise at least 20 percent of the population. Some Albanian communities will be integrated into Skopje, the capital, increasing the city's Albanian population from 15 to 20 percent, while street signs and official documents in the city will be printed in both the Albanian and Macedonian languages. Authority over education, health care, and economic development will be shifted to local governments. Supporters of the law say it will improve the country's chances of moving toward European Union and NATO membership. Those opposing the legislation assert that it will create artificial ethnic Albanian enclaves, leading to a de facto division of the country along ethnic lines. May 14, 2004 Police Border Patrols Installed As Part of Reforms for NATO, EU Membership Washington, D.C. - Police began replacing the army along F.Y.R. Macedonia's border with Greece as part of the government's plan to eliminate military personnel from border control duties throughout the country in conformity with NATO and EU practice. Skopje is a member of NATO's Partnership for Peace and applied for EU membership in March. The securing of six posts along the Greek border by police will be completed by November, when the changeover will begin along the border with Bulgaria. The installation of police will continue along the borders with Serbia, including Kosovo, and Albania next year, with November 2005 being the target date for completion of the process along all borders. The border project is one of a series of measures being carried out under NATO's Membership Action Plan, which is aimed at preparing the country for membership in the alliance. It is being supervised by the "Proxima" EU police advisory mission in F.Y.R. Macedonia, which succeeded the EU's "Concordia" peacekeeping force in December 2003. Proxima's goal is to help Skopje develop its police force in line with European and international standards through mentoring, monitoring, and inspecting the management and operations of the police. The mission is part of the EU's strategy of supporting the country's reform process aimed at administrative and judicial reform, institution-building, and the fight against organized crime and corruption. April 30, 2004 Pro-Western Crvenkovski Elected President Washington, D.C. - In an April 28 run-off election, F.Y.R. Macedonia's center-left prime minister, Branko Crvenkovski, was elected president with 63 percent of the vote, defeating his center-right rival, Sasko Kedev, who received about 37 percent. Crvenkovski, the leader of the Social Democrats, vowed to work toward Skopje's membership in the European Union, which it applied to join in March. He also said he would continue to consolidate the peace established three years ago following an ethnic Albanian guerrilla insurgency against government forces. The European Commission welcomed the election of Crvenkovski, saying that it was an "important and positive step on the road for stability" in the country and was indicative of a commitment to the "legacy of unity" of the late Macedonian president, Boris Trajkovski, who was killed in a plane crash in Bosnia in February. Trajkovski had been largely credited for the avoidance of civil war in the country in 2001. Kedev, a member of the VMRO-DPMNE party, alleged that there had been widespread election fraud at the polls. He demanded a re-vote and said Crvenkovski was not the "legitimate president of Macedonia." European election monitors said the vote had met international democratic standards, despite some "serious" irregularities, including "ballot box stuffing and intimidation." Crvenkovski is expected to appoint a political ally as prime minister, with Interior Minister Hari Kostov and Defense Minister Vlado Buckovski seen as likely candidates. April 16, 2004 Crvenkovski in Lead Going into Presidential Runoff Washington, D.C. - Branko Crvenkovski, who has been prime minister since October 2002, won the first round of the presidential election over Sasko Kedev, a heart surgeon and member of parliament with little political experience, and two ethnic Albanian candidates. Crvenkovski is expected to be elected president in the runoff ballot against Kedev, who won the second-largest number of votes, on April 28. In the April 14 polling, Crvenkovski, the leader of the left-of-center Social Democratic Alliance of Macedonia (SDSM), received 42 percent of the vote, while Kedev, of the center-right main opposition VMRO-DPMNE, garnered 34 percent. A key element in the outcome of the runoff will be which candidate the one-quarter ethnic Albanian minority decides to support, following the elimination of the ethnic Albanian candidates: Gezim Ostreni, the secretary general of the ruling coalition's Democratic Union for Integration (DUI), with 15 percent, and Zudi Xhelili, a parliamentarian of the opposition Democratic Party of Albanians (DPA), with 9 percent. Crvenkovski's critics have cited his failure to improve the economy and reduce the country's 35 percent unemployment rate, a major concern of voters along with fear that the recent violence in Kosovo could spill over the border. Although political power rests primarily with the government, the president is the commander in chief of the armed forces and head of the Security Council, while also having special powers in times of war or emergency. President Boris Trajkovski, who was up for re-election in November 2004 but was killed in a plane crash in February, was largely credited with brokering the peace accord that brought stability to the country following an ethnic Albanian insurgency against the government in 2001. He was a member of VMRO-DPMNE. March 26, 2004 Skopje Submits EU Membership Application Washington, D.C. - Macedonian Prime Minister Branko Crvenkovski on March 22 delivered Skopje's application for accession to the European Union to Prime Minister Bertie Ahearn of Ireland, which currently holds the rotating EU presidency, in Dublin. The submission had been scheduled for February 26 but had been cancelled due to the death of Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski in a plane crash the same day. F.Y.R. Macedonia becomes the third former republic of Yugoslavia to apply for EU accession after Croatia, which filed its application in February 2003, and Slovenia, which will become an EU member along with nine other countries on May 1. EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana called Skopje's move "a signal of remarkable achievement as well as a sign of hope for the whole region." The European Commission is expected to respond to Skopje's application within 12 months. About 87 percent of Macedonians support the country's bid to become part of the EU. On February 23, the EU approved the conclusion of its Stabilization and Association Agreement with Skopje, following ratification of the agreement by the 15 current EU member states. March 5, 2004 Country Moves Toward Presidential Elections Following Leader's Death Washington, D.C. - With movement toward scheduling presidential elections on hold until after the March 5 funeral of the late president, Boris Trajkovski, parliament was expected to begin tackling the issue during the week of March 8, as the country remained calm in the wake of the president’s death in a plane crash. As Parliament Speaker Ljubco Jordanovski takes over as acting president, the first matter to be handled will be passing legislation to rectify a contradiction between the constitution and the election law concerning the timeframe within which elections must be held following a president's death. The constitution sets the time limit at 40 days, while the election law states that the limit is 60 days. Parliament is expected to change the law to conform to the constitution, which would place elections in mid-April. In addition, a state electoral commission must be formed. Senior officials stated that it would be difficult to organize the nomination of candidates, the campaign, and the actual voting process in time to meet a 40-day deadline. February 27, 2004 President Dies in Plane Crash Washington, D.C. - Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski, a moderate leader who was widely credited with helping to diffuse tensions and lay the groundwork for the peace agreement that ended a 2001 uprising by the country’s ethnic Albanian minority, died February 26 when his plane crashed in bad weather in southern Bosnia. His death, along with the deaths of eight others on the plane, occurred the same day that Macedonian Prime Minister Branko Crvenkovski was to submit the country’s formal application for membership in the European Union in Ireland, which currently holds the rotating EU presidency. The presentation in Dublin was cancelled as Crvenkovski left for Skopje to attend an emergency session of the government amid the imposition of a state of alert as a security precaution, with increased police patrols throughout the country. Parliament Speaker Ljubco Jordanovski will serve as acting president. Trajkovski, who was en route to an international investment conference in the western Bosnian city of Mostar when he died, was elected in November 1999 to a five-year term as president and was widely expected to win a second term later this year. Only the country’s second president, his handling of the influx of refugees from neighboring Kosovo in 1999, when he was deputy foreign minister, helped him win the presidential election the same year. December 19, 2003 European Union Police Mission Replaces EU Peacekeepers Washington, D.C. - The European Union launched a 200-member police training mission in F.Y.R. Macedonia on December 15, marking the end of Operation Concordia, the EU's first peacekeeping mission, in place in the country since April 2003. At a ceremony installing the police mission, known as Proxima, EU High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana stated that criminality had replaced armed conflict as the primary threat to the stability of the country. Therefore, he said, the emphasis of the EU's support must be providing police rather than military personnel. He said Proxima was a “milestone on the path leading Macedonia away from conflict and toward integration with, and eventually into, the European Union.” It signaled, he added, that “the process toward stabilization and normalization” had reached a point where the country no longer required foreign peacekeepers. The 350-member Operation Concordia had replaced NATO peacekeepers that had been in the country since 2001, following the end of a seven-month conflict between ethnic Albanian guerrillas and Macedonian government troops. Ten of the police in Proxima will work in the Macedonian Interior Ministry, advising officials on ways to combat organized crime and further transform the local police force into a multi-ethnic force. Thirty will be stationed at border crossings, particularly along the frontiers with Albania, Kosovo, and southern Serbia. The rest will be placed in police stations in the western and northwestern parts of the country, among sizable ethnic Albanian communities. Only about 30 members of the force, commanded by a Belgian officer, will carry weapons. By the end of January, Proxima will also include 150 Macedonian police officers. Proxima, with a mandate of 12 months, is the second mission of its kind in the Balkans since the EU also has a police mission in Bosnia, where NATO peacekeepers remain. Criminals and political extremists continue to present a security threat in F.Y.R. Macedonia. Multi-ethnic police units struggle to impose law and order, with murders up by one-third over the last three years, resulting in one of the highest murder rates in Europe. December 5, 2003 Powell Expresses U.S. Support for Skopje's Entry into NATO Washington, D.C. - During a late November visit to Washington by Macedonian Prime Minister Branko Crvenkovski, Secretary of State Colin Powell said the United States would help Skopje in its efforts to become a member of NATO and other Euro-Atlantic organizations. He encouraged F.Y.R. Macedonia, which is already a member of NATO's Partnership for Peace program, to continue working toward meeting requirements for membership in the alliance. Powell hailed the Macedonian government's support for the U.S.-led war on terrorism. He noted that, although the contingents contributed by the country to the stabilization forces in both Afghanistan and Iraq are small, "the symbolism is huge." F.Y.R. Macedonia has 34 troops in Iraq and 10 in Afghanistan. The secretary of state also noted that the withdrawal of the EU peacekeeping force from F.Y.R. Macedonia on December 15, leaving the country without an international military presence, was a milestone demonstrating that the country had reached "a degree of political stability" that allowed it to handle its own security needs with some "outside assistance." Powell thanked Crvenkovski for Skopje's decision to sign and ratify an Article 98 agreement with the United States, a bilateral accord exempting Americans on F.Y.R. Macedonia's territory from prosecution by the International Criminal Court (ICC). The Macedonian delegation, which included Deputy Prime Minister Mousa Xhaferi and Foreign Minister Ilinka Mitreva, also met with Vice President Richard Cheney and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, with whom the officials discussed bilateral cooperation in the war on terrorism; Skopje's preparations for NATO candidacy through the Membership Action Plan, including military reform; and implementation of the 2001 Ohrid agreement that ended the conflict between Macedonian security forces and the National Liberation Army, an ethnic Albanian guerrilla group. October 24, 2003 IMF Releases First Installment of Loan Citing Sound Economic Policies Washington, D.C. - The International Monetary Fund (IMF) completed the first review of F.Y.R. Macedonia's economic performance under a 14-month $28.6 million loan agreement approved in April, opening the way for the immediate release of a $5.7 million installment of the funds. The IMF stated that Skopje's economic stabilization program for 2003 was based on sound fiscal and monetary policies, restoring the country's fiscal balance to a sustainable level after two years of high deficits. Inflation has been low, interest rates have dropped significantly, foreign exchange reserves are accumulating, and the credibility of the central bank has been enhanced, it said. The Fund urged the government to accelerate reforms to increase the flexibility of the labor market, tackle corruption and money laundering, create a predictable business environment in order to encourage investments, and revamp the judicial system. It also called for the establishment of a government securities market and for structural measures to address obstacles to growth and reduce unemployment. October 3, 2003 EU Police Force to Be Deployed in December Washington, D.C. - The European Union will send a 200-member police force to Macedonia for one year to help authorities in Skopje develop their own police service, as they work to incorporate more ethnic Albanian officers into the service. The "Proxima" police mission, commanded by Belgium, will be operational by December 15 and will replace the 400-strong EU peacekeeping force, "Concordia," whose mandate ends on that date. The aims of the EU police force, deployed at the request of the Macedonian government, will be to assist the Macedonian police in fighting organized crime, reforming the Interior Ministry, creating a border police unit, and enhancing cooperation with other police forces in the region. Proxima will be the second EU police mission of its kind, following the deployment of 500 EU police officers in Bosnia in January 2003. The EU is also being asked to help train a police force in the Democratic Republic of Congo and may carry out the same function in Afghanistan. Concordia, which replaced a NATO-led peacekeeping unit in Macedonia on March 31, was the EU’s first peacekeeping mission and was deployed to protect international observers monitoring compliance with the August 2001 accord that ended a six-month conflict between Macedonian security forces and the National Liberation Army (NLA), an ethnic Albanian guerrilla group. September 12, 2003 U.S., NATO Back Crackdown on Ethnic Albanian Militants Washington, D.C. - Both the United States and NATO stated that they supported the actions of Macedonian police in their gunfight with about 25 militants of the Albanian National Army (ANA) that resulted in two fighters being killed. The gunfire erupted when a police patrol was attacked by the militants near the northern village of Brest close to the country’s border with Kosovo. Macedonian officials stated that the police had helped a group of about 100 villagers to temporarily leave Brest, about 20 miles north of Skopje, after the fighting began, a factor that contributed to the lack of civilian injuries. The clash resulted in no injuries to Macedonian security personnel and caused limited property damage. According to Macedonian officials, no arrests were made by the police unit, which included ethnic Albanians inducted into the ranks of the police force as a result of reforms outlined in the August 2001 Ohrid agreement ending the six-month conflict between ethnic Albanian guerrillas of the National Liberation Army (NLA) and government forces. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said that the United States supported "legitimate and targeted action by the [Macedonian] government against entrenched armed groups that seek to undermine peace and stability in Macedonia." "We wish to see the lives and property of all civilians protected with a minimum of force. We will continue to work with the government and governing coalition parties toward these goals," Boucher added. Admiral Gregory Johnson, the commander of NATO-led troops in southern Europe, stated that the Macedonian police action in the Brest area "was an important effort" to stop criminal activity in northern Macedonia, where the possibility of renewed fighting between ethnic Albanian militants and government forces, similar to that which occurred two years ago, is feared. The week before the clash near Brest, police had sealed off the village while searching for Avdil Jakupi, the self-declared commander of the ANA. Jakupi has threatened to launch a separatist war in Macedonia to further the ANA’s goal of establishing a "Greater Albania," which would link to Albania the areas in Serbia and Montenegro and Macedonia that have ethnic Albanian majorities. During the gunfight, the 400-member European Union peacekeeping force (EUFOR), which took over the NATO mission in the country in March, moved close to the area to observe the operation. The force completes its first term of duty at the end of September. The Macedonian government has invited EUFOR to remain in the country until December 15. September 5, 2003 Ethnic Tensions in North Bring Fears of Renewed Fighting Washington, D.C. - Tensions flared in the northern villages of Vaksince and Lojane as a standoff occurred between Macedonian police and a small number of heavily-armed gunmen from the Albanian National Army (ANA) who had taken control of the villages. The standoff began after the police launched a manhunt in the villages in pursuit of Avdil Jakupi, the alleged commander of the ANA, who is being sought for briefly abducting a Macedonian policeman and a civilian. Jakupi is also known as Commander Chakala. Hundreds of people from the villages fled, fearing renewed fighting similar to that which occurred during the 2001 conflict between Macedonian security forces and the National Liberation Army (NLA), an ethnic Albanian guerrilla group. The ANA rejects the Western-brokered peace plan that ended the 2001 conflict and has taken responsibility for attacks in Macedonia, Kosovo, and the Presevo Valley in southern Serbia. It is a shadowy group whose members are believed to be former NLA guerrillas, as well as members of the disbanded ethnic Albanian guerrilla groups in Kosovo and southern Serbia. The U.N. administration in Kosovo has declared that the ANA is a terrorist organization. Minister of Interior Hari Kostov and police authorities traveled to the north for talks with Albanian officials from Vaksince and Lojane in an attempt to defuse the standoff. On August 28, some 24 hours after the abductions by Jakupi, unknown attackers tossed grenades at a government building, a courthouse, and a military barracks in Skopje. No one claimed responsibility for the incidents, which caused no injuries. (See related story in Country Updates, Serbia and Montenegro, "Ethnic Tensions Heightened by Kosovo, Presevo Valley Violence," September 5, 2003.) August 1, 2003 Target for Multi-Ethnic Police Force Achieved Washington, D.C. - A key goal of the August 2001 peace agreement, which aimed at increasing the number of ethnic Albanians in government institutions and the general work force, has been fulfilled through the training of 1,065 multi-ethnic police cadets in an effort to achieve a balanced representation of minority communities in law enforcement. The training program was carried out jointly by Macedonia’s Ministry of the Interior and the Police Development Unit of the mission of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in the country, which is monitoring the implementation of the agreement ending the conflict between the ethnic Albanian National Liberation Army (NLA) and Macedonian security forces. The late July graduating class of 350 cadets from a Macedonian police academy, the fifth and final group to be trained, consisted of 251 ethnic Albanians, 52 Slav Macedonians, 20 ethnic Turks, 11 Bosnian Muslims, and people representing six other minorities in the country. Fifty-one of the cadets were women. August 1, 2003 Cooperation with Serbia Against Organized Crime Washington, D.C. - The police chiefs of Macedonia and Serbia have agreed to improve bilateral cooperation in fighting organized crime. In an accord signed by Macedonian Interior Minister Hari Kostov and his Serbian counterpart, Dusan Mihajlovic, the two countries stated that they would work together to target criminal enterprises such as prostitution and human and drug trafficking through means that included more efficient mechanisms for the exchange of information. June 27, 2003 Skopje Exempts Americans from ICC Prosecution Washington, D.C. - Macedonia announced that it would join Balkan nations Albania, Bosnia, and Romania in signing its own bilateral accord with the United States exempting Americans on its territory from prosecution by the International Criminal Court (ICC). More than 30 countries globally have agreed to sign such accords with Washington. Among the other Balkan nations approached by the U.S., Croatia has refused to sign one, while Serbia and Montenegro has not yet arrived at a decision. The European Union strongly supports the ICC and has urged countries that want to join the bloc not to conclude exemption agreements with the United States. June 13, 2003 Troops to Work with U.S. Soldiers in Iraq Washington, D.C. - Macedonia sent a contingent of 28 troops to Iraq for six months to work with U.S. forces in securing facilities and roads near the town of Taji, 6 miles northwest of Baghdad. Nine members of the contingent, composed of both ethnic Albanians and Slav Macedonians, are medical personnel who will treat patients as necessary. Defense Minister Vlado Buckovski stated that the dispatch of the troops to Iraq was an indication of Skopje’s determination to work toward membership in NATO and strengthen its partnership with the international coalition against terrorism. Skopje has also sent two liaison officers to Kuwait. June 6, 2003 Balkan Countries Unite in Push for EU Membership Washington, D.C. - At the initiative of President Boris Trajkovski, the presidents of four Balkan nations joined him in the Macedonian town of Ohrid to discuss a joint strategy for intensifying their countries’ efforts to achieve membership in the European Union, while also pledging to step up economic and political reforms. Alfred Moisiu of Albania, Stipe Mesic of Croatia, Svetozar Marovic of Serbia and Montenegro, Borislav Paravac of Bosnia, and Trajkovski agreed to press their case for firmer timetables for the integration of their countries into the European Union at the meeting between EU and Balkan leaders to be held in Thessaloniki during the June 20-21 EU summit. With Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou present at the meeting as the current chairman of the EU Council of Foreign Ministers, the leaders also called on governments of EU nations to waive visa requirements for nationals of Balkan countries. In addition, they vowed to work jointly to combat international terrorism and fight organized crime and trafficking in drugs, weapons, and people. Macedonia and Croatia have signed Stabilization and Association Agreements (SAAs) with the EU, while Bosnia began negotiating one in March. Since January, Albania has been negotiating an SAA, which is expected to be signed in 2004 at the latest. The SAA is considered the first step toward EU membership since it promotes reforms that must be implemented before accession negotiations can begin. Among the five Balkan countries represented at the Ohrid meeting, Croatia is the only one that has submitted an application to join the EU. May 23, 2003 ANA Guerrillas Attack Military Installation Washington, D.C. - The Albanian National Army (ANA) has claimed responsibility for the mid-May firing of mortar rounds against a military barracks near Tetovo in northwestern Macedonia that resulted in no injuries. The group stated on its website that the attack had been staged to “damage the military potential of the Macedonian leadership,” which it accused of preparing to take violent action against ethnic Albanians in the country. The ANA also claimed responsibility for the mid-May killing of a Serb professor who taught Russian in Kosovo. The ANA, which claims to have units both in Serbia’s Presevo Valley and in Macedonia, was placed on a list of terrorist organizations in April by the U.N. mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) after the group claimed responsibility for an explosion that damaged a key railway bridge in northern Kosovo linking the province with the rest of Serbia. The ANA asserts that it is fighting for a Greater Albania in the Balkans and is opposed to the peace agreements in both Macedonia and the Presevo Valley. April 25, 2003 Troops to Serve in Iraq as Peacekeepers Washington, D.C. - The Macedonian parliament authorized the dispatch of a military contingent to Iraq for six months to assist with peacekeeping. The contingent will be comprised of 37 personnel, including 28 members of special army units, three doctors and six nurses. Two liaison officers will be stationed in Qatar. Macedonia also contributed troops to the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan. April 11, 2003 World Trade Organization Membership Expected to Enhance Trade Washington, D.C. - Macedonia became the 146th member of the World Trade Organization (WTO) on April 4, some eight years after launching negotiations for membership. It is the third former Yugoslav republic to join the body, after Slovenia and Croatia. Albania became a member in September 2000, while Bulgaria joined in 1996. Greece and Turkey have been members since 1995. Once the accession agreement becomes effective in January 2004, all import quotas in Macedonia will be revoked, with the exception of the quota for the importation of wheat. By 2010, duties on all imports will be reduced from an average of 14 percent to 8 percent. In the textile sector, which accounts for the highest volume of the country's exports, export duties will be gradually reduced over the next eight years to 17.5 percent. The agricultural sector will benefit from a reduction in export duties on its products to 1 percent. By 2007, import duties on cars will decrease from 22 percent to 5 percent, while the current duties on the importation of beer, now about 35 percent, will be completely abolished. Duties on the importation of sugar will slide from 80 percent to 30 percent. Macedonia's major trading partners are Germany, Greece, Serbia and Montenegro, and the United States. The WTO is the only international organization that deals with global rules of trade between nations. Its primary function is to ensure that trade moves as smoothly and freely as possible through measures such as administering trade agreements, settling trade disputes, and reviewing national trade policies. Members are obligated to keep their trade policies within agreed limits, and each member nation receives guarantees that its exports will be treated fairly and consistently in other countries' markets. The WTO's agreements have been negotiated and signed by a large majority of the world's trading nations and have been ratified in their parliaments. These agreements are the legal ground rules for international commerce. The WTO was established in 1995 as the successor to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), established after World War II. Over three quarters of WTO members are developing or least-developed countries. March 21, 2003 EU-NATO Accord Lays Groundwork for EU Peacekeeping Washington, D.C. - The European Union and NATO signed an agreement that authorizes the sharing of classified information, facilitating the takeover of the NATO peacekeeping operation in Macedonia by the EU rapid reaction force on April 1. Greek Foreign Minister George Papandreou, in his capacity as chairman of the EU’s Council of Ministers under Greece’s EU presidency, and NATO Secretary General Lord Robertson, signed the agreement in Athens during a meeting of EU defense ministers. About 320 troops are expected to participate in Operation Allied Harmony, the EU’s first military mission under the European Security and Defense Policy (ESDP). The bloc’s rapid reaction force is expected to be fully operational by the end of 2003 and is slated to take over the NATO-led12,000-member SFOR peacekeeping mission in Bosnia in 2004. The defense ministers agreed that the delay between defining a mission and deploying the European Union force should be 30 days rather than 60, as previously stipulated, if the EU is to play a decisive role in defense operations. NATO peacekeepers in Macedonia have supported international observers monitoring the peace accord between government forces and ethnic Albanian guerrillas since 2001. The peacekeeping force was requested by Macedonian authorities, who also endorsed the transfer of the operation to the European Union. NATO will continue to maintain representatives in Skopje, who will assist the government with reforming the country’s security sector and help to adapt it to alliance standards. February 7, 2003 Militant Group Threatens Renewed Violence Washington, D.C. - Armed members of the shadowy Albanian National Army (ANA) have been seen in towns in western F.Y.R. Macedonia, raising fears that the guerrilla group may be preparing to carry out its January threat through the Albanian-language media to launch a spring offensive in areas of the country controlled by ethnic Albanian guerrillas of the National Liberation Army (NLA) in 2001. The ANA, believed to include former National Liberation Army fighters, has accused former NLA leader Ali Ahmeti of betraying Albanian national interests by entering mainstream politics following the August 2001 peace agreement that ended a six-month NLA insurgency against Macedonian government forces to gain greater rights for ethnic Albanians. Ahmeti’s political party, the Albanian Democratic Union for Integration (DUI), now holds five ministries in the new center-left government of Prime Minister Branko Crvenkovski. The ANA has stated that it does not recognize the peace agreement and believes that the political compromises between ethnic Albanians and Slav Macedonians that emerged following conclusion of the accord have not resulted in adequate rights for ethnic Albanians. In late January, DUI offices in Skopje and Gostivar were hit by a rocket launcher and gunfire, respectively. No one has accepted responsibility for the attacks. The Macedonian government stated that the ANA did not pose a serious threat, asserting that it consists of several armed groups of 20 to 30 people who are involved in crime, racketeering, and other illegal activities. (Read:Macedonia Redux: Uncertainty in the Slav-Albanian Partnership.) January 24, 2003 Skopje Asks EU to Take Over NATO Peacekeeping Mission Washington, D.C. - Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski formally asked the European Union to take over NATO's peacekeeping mission in F.Y.R. Macedonia, laying the groundwork for a planned transfer of authority by March 2003. It will be the first time the EU takes on a military operation as part of its European Security and Defense Policy (ESDP). While the current NATO "Allied Harmony" mission is comprised of about 450 troops, the EU plans to reduce the number of troops to about 250. The purpose of the mission is to protect international observers monitoring implementation of the 2001 peace accord that ended a six-month conflict between Macedonian government forces and the ethnic Albanian National Liberation Army (NLA). November 8, 2002 Party of Former Guerrilla Joins Coalition Government Washington, D.C. - In a move aimed at consolidating the August 2001 peace agreement between the government and the former guerrillas of the now-disbanded National Liberation Army (NLA), the Macedonian parliament approved the inclusion of an ethnic Albanian party led by former NLA commander Ali Ahmeti in the country’s new government headed by Prime Minister Branko Crvenkovski. The Together for Macedonia coalition, comprised of Crvenkovski’s Social Democratic Alliance of Macedonia (SDSM), the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), and a number of small parties, asked Ahmeti’s Democratic Union for Integration (DUI) to join its ranks since DUI won 16 of the 120 seats in parliament. This number exceeded those won by each of the two main ethnic Albanian parties that have been part of past government coalitions, the Democratic Party of Albanians (DPA) of Arben Xhaferi and the Party of Democratic Prosperity (PDP) of Abdurrahman Aliti. Since F.Y.R. Macedonia’s independence in 1991an ethnic Albanian party has always been asked to join the governing coalition to represent the interests of the one-third ethnic Albanian minority, even if the participation of the party is not needed to achieve a parliamentary majority. Although DUI has been given 5 of the 18 cabinet ministries -- justice, health, education, transport, and communications -- Ahmeti will not be serving in the cabinet, and it is not yet clear whether he will assume the parliamentary seat he was elected to. DUI’s vice chairman, Musa Xhaferi, was voted deputy prime minister. He was a former treasurer of the NLA, which fought Macedonian security forces from February to August 2001. SDSM stipulated that no former NLA members who were directly involved in the fighting could be included in the new government. The lobbing of a hand grenade toward the parliament building hours before legislators were to vote on the inclusion of DUI in the government coalition, causing damage to several cars but no injuries, was an indication of the fragility of the peace accord. Responsibility for the attack was claimed by the Albanian National Army (ANA), believed to be an offshoot of the NLA. October 18, 2002 Greek-Turkish Dispute Leads to Extended NATO Command of Peacekeeping Force Washington, D.C. - The dispute between Greece and Turkey over the use of NATO planning, logistical, and intelligence assets by the European Union's rapid reaction force has prevented the EU from meeting an October 26 deadline to take over the peacekeeping operation in F.Y.R. Macedonia from the alliance. NATO announced that, at the request of Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski, it would extend its leadership of “Operation Amber Fox” from October 26 to December 15, with the Netherlands, which currently commands the 700-member force, at the helm. The peacekeeping operation was set up in September 2001 to protect monitors from the EU and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), who are observing the return of Macedonian government forces and displaced people to areas formerly controlled by the National Liberation Army, an ethnic-Albanian guerrilla force. The takeover of Operation Amber Fox by the EU force, declared provisionally operational in December 2001 for peacekeeping and humanitarian operations, was to have been the force's first mission. Greece, a member of both NATO and the European Union, opposes a demand by Turkey, an alliance member and EU candidate, that it be consulted by EU military planners concerning deployment of the rapid reaction force when a mission it is undertaking is related to Turkey's national security. Turkey would also like guarantees that the EU force will not act militarily against a NATO country. The Greek government seeks reciprocal assurances that the alliance will not take military action against an EU country, eliminating the possibility of action by Turkey against Greece or Cyprus, which is expected to be an EU member by 2004. EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana and NATO Secretary General George Robertson are working with Greece and Turkey to resolve the Greek-Turkish standoff before the November 21-22 NATO summit in Prague or, if this is not possible, before the December EU summit in Copenhagen to enable the EU to take over the Macedonian operation at the end of the year. Athens assumed the chairmanship of the EU's defense portfolio on July 1, 2002, and will hold it until June 30, 2003. The EU plans to create a fully operational force of 60,000 troops by the summer of 2003. Referring to the recent U.S. proposal to set up a NATO rapid reaction force to enable the alliance to respond more quickly to emergencies and conflicts outside of Europe, Robertson said the proposed force would complement the EU rapid reaction force rather than compete with it for the same missions. The force proposed by Washington would be designed for contingencies ranging from evacuations to war, and would be aimed in part at strengthening readiness against terrorism. September 20, 2002 Strength of Former Rebel Leader’s Party in Elections Poses Challenge to New Coalition Washington, D.C. - A strong showing in the September 15 parliamentary elections by the party of Ali Ahmeti, the former leader of the ethnic Albanian rebel group that fought the Macedonian Army last year, introduced a significant new player into the country’s political landscape, one that will be an object of controversy if it is included in the ruling coalition expected to be formed by main opposition leader Branko Crvenkovski, whose coalition resoundingly defeated the nationalist forces of Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski. Although Ahmeti is expected to take his seat in parliament, he announced that he will not seek a post in the country’s new government. The “Together for Macedonia” coalition headed by Crvenkovskia moderate former communist who was defeated as prime minister by Georgievski in 1998, received 40.46 percent of the vote. This coalition is comprised of Crvenkovski’s Social Democratic Union of Macedonia (SDSM), the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), the Democratic League of Bosniaks the United Party of Roma, the Democratic Alliance of Vlachs, and several other small parties. The coalition of Georgievski’s VMRO-DPMNE and the Liberal Party (LP) received 24.40 percent. The “Together for Macedonia” victory was seen as a protest against corruption, poor economic conditions, including 40 percent unemployment, and continued outbreaks of ethnically motivated violence. This coalition will take 60 of the parliament’s 120 seats, while the coalition of VMRO-DPMNE and the Liberal Party will take 33. The Democratic Union for Integration (DUI), founded by Ahmeti, won 11.85 percent of the vote, taking 16 seats, while the Democratic Party of Albanians (DPA) of Arben Xhaferi, which was part of Georgievski’s government coalition, received 5.20 percent, taking 7 seats. Two other ethnic Albanian parties will have a total of 3 seats. It is customary for the parties of the majority Slav Macedonians to include an ethnic Albanian party in any governing coalition, even if its inclusion is not needed to attain a parliamentary majority, since the country’s ethnic Albanians comprise about one-third of the population. Crvenkovski will be under international pressure to form a coalition government with Ahmeti. Although Ahmeti’s National Liberation Army (NLA) disbanded and disarmed last fall, many Slav Macedonians consider him to be a terrorist, whose goal was the division of the country. They are opposed to his becoming a parliamentarian, along with other former NLA members who will take about half of DUI’s seats. Since the August 2001 Western-brokered peace agreement was signed, Ahmeti has worked toward implementation of the accord, which mandated greater social and political rights for ethnic Albanians, the stated goal of the NLA campaign. Most of the former NLA members were included in an amnesty issued by the government last fall. The outgoing government had issued a warrant for Ahmeti’s arrest for genocide, war crimes, and terrorism offenses that were not covered by the amnesty, but it had agreed not to take him into custody before the elections. Crvenkovski has not yet made clear how he intends to deal with Ahmeti, who has stated that he advocates ethnic reconciliation. U.S. financial sanctions are in effect against Ahmeti since he remains on a June 2001 list, compiled under a presidential executive order, of persons or groups “engaged in, or assisting, sponsoring, or supporting extremist violence” in the Balkans, as well as acts obstructing the implementation of the Dayton accords or U.N. Security Council Resolution 1244 in Kosovo. For the first time, as a result of the elections, the Turkish minority will be represented in the Macedonian parliament. Despite a spate of pre-election killings and kidnappingsthe elections were free of major violence. Read Statements from U.S. Department of State and NATO Secretary General. September 20, 2002 Skopje, Athens Allow Interim Agreement on Name Issue to Remain in Force Washington, D.C - A seven-year interim agreement signed by the Macedonian and Greek governments under the auspices of the United Nations on September 13, 1995, to provide a framework for the normalization of bilateral relations and the resolution of the name issue between the two countries, will automatically remain in force since neither country has indicated that it wishes to pull out of the agreement. The seven-year discussion on finding a mutually acceptable name for Greece’s northern neighbor will continue. The issue remains the only significant bilateral difference between the two countries. Representatives from both countries meet four times a year in New York to discuss the matter under the mediation of Ambassador Matthew Nimetz, Special Representative of the U.N. Secretary General. Greece objected to the adoption of the name "Macedonia" by the country that emerged in 1991 to its north following the dissolution of Yugoslavia, maintaining that the name referred to a province in northern Greece and that its use by Skopje implied historical and territorial claims by the Macedonian government. Recognizing the differences between Athens and Skopje over the name, the United Nations admitted Greece’s northern neighbor into its ranks in 1993 under a provisional name, the "Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM)," through a Security Council resolution. This move by the U.N. and the signing of the interim agreement two years later, which resulted in the lifting of a 1994 embargo against Skopje by Athens, paved the way for the establishment of good relations between the two, including broadened defense cooperation. Greece is currently the country’s largest foreign investor. Under the interim agreement, Greece and Macedonia maintain Liaison Offices in their respective capitals, rather than embassies. Widespread diplomatic speculation has hinted at a treaty-based compromise between Skopje and Athens on the name issue, which would include special concessions to Greek concerns, commitments by European Union and NATO members to consult with Athens on appropriate measures to take if Skopje does not honor its treaty promises, and the use of the name "Republic of Macedonia" by the United Nations and other international organizations. Greek officials have opposed a proposal involving the use of a second name, such as "Upper Macedonia," to be applied specifically in bilateral relations with Greece. September 6, 2002 Volatile Atmosphere Leading into Elections Washington, D.C. - Heightened tension between ethnic Albanians and Slav Macedonians that began with the late August killings of two Macedonian policemen by members of an ethnic Albanian rebel group has set a volatile stage for the September 15 parliamentary elections. Macedonian authorities arrested three ethnic Albanians on charges of killing the officers, who died in a drive-by shooting in the predominantly ethnic-Albanian town of Gostivar, 40 miles west of Skopje. Responsibility for the shooting was claimed by the Albanian National Army (ANA), believed to be a splinter group of the National Liberation Army (NLA), which disbanded and disarmed in 2001 following its six-month insurgency against the Macedonian Army. Following the arrests, ANA members abducted five Slav Macedonians from a bus on the Tetovo-Gostivar highway and held them hostage in the village of Zerovjane for three days, demanding the release of the three arrested in conjunction with the shooting of the police officers. As police deployed to deal with the situation, two ethnic Albanians were shot and killed and another was injured in two separate incidents. Macedonian authorities did not meet the demand of the hostage-takers, who escaped after the hostages were released and threatened to carry out more abductions. The ANA opposes the August 2001 peace agreement, which was brokered by the West and ended last year’s insurgency. Ali Ahmeti, the former NLA commander, has actively supported the agreement. He formed a party named the Democratic Union for Integration (DUI) after the NLA disarmed and is a candidate for parliamentarian in the upcoming elections. Adding to the current tension, the Interior Ministry, headed by the ultra-nationalist Ljube Boskovski, announced that it had issued an arrest warrant for Ahmeti on charges that include war crimes, genocide, and terrorism during his participation in last year’s insurgency. The government stated that some of the crimes Ahmeti had been charged with were not covered by the government’s amnesty law, which gave most NLA members immunity from prosecution for their participation in the conflict. The Interior Ministry asserted that Ahmeti was linked to the recent hostage-taking, a charge Ahmeti denied. The arrest of Ahmeti, whose Skopje office has been attacked several times, could unleash renewed fighting in the country. He is a new political force among ethnic Albanians due to his leadership of the insurgency, which led to broader rights for this minority that makes up one-third of the country’s population of 2 million. In a poll conducted in late July, Ahmeti’s DUI received 12 percent support. Support for the two main ethnic Albanian parties -- the Democratic Party of Albanians (DPA) of Arben Xhaferi, which is part of the current government coalition, and the Party for Democratic Prosperity (PDP), led by Abdurrahman Aliti -- stood at 5 percent and 2 percent, respectively. To be viable, the government that emerges through the elections will have to include an ethnic Albanian party, as does the current government of Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski. The elections will pit Georgievski’s VMRO-DPMNE party against the main opposition party, the Social Democratic Alliance of Macedonia (SDSM), led by former prime minister Branko Crvenkovski. SDSM has entered into a coalition, Together for Macedonia, with the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and other small parties. In the July poll, SDSM and LDP received 23 percent and 3 percent, respectively, while VMRO-DPMNE’s support stood at 9 percent. Tackling the economy will be a major post-election issue in a country where 40 percent of the population lives under the poverty line. The elections are being held as part of the peace agreement and are considered a key test of whether the country can remain united. August 23, 2002 Skopje Contributes Soldiers to Afghanistan Peacekeeping Force Washington, D.C. - F.Y.R. Macedonia has sent two officers to Kabul to participate in the 20-nation, 5,000-member International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). The move marked the first time the country has contributed troops to an international peacekeeping force other than the Southeastern Europe Brigade (SEEBRIG), a seven-nation peacekeeping force currently based in Plovdiv, Bulgaria, that has not yet been deployed on a mission. The command of ISAF is held by Turkey. The Macedonian officers and 28 troops from Albania are working under the 1,400-member Turkish contingent of ISAF. One of the Macedonian officers, who has been the platoon commander for the Macedonian troops participating in SEEBRIG, is serving as an operational officer in the headquarters of the Turkish contingent. F.Y.R. Macedonia has participated in Partnership for Peace exercises since 1995 and was a founding member of SEEBRIG in September 1998, along with Albania, Bulgaria, Greece, Italy, Romania, and Turkey. June/July 2002 Civil Order Incomplete, Ethnic Albanians Hesitant The establishment of government authority in the formerly rebel-held northwestern region of the country, as part of the August 2001 peace plan, has been accomplished in all but a handful of villages through the introduction of mixed ethnic Albanian and Slav Macedonian police patrols. However, in late April, the work of the patrols was temporarily hindered by the erection of roadblocks in nearly 20 villages by ethnic Albanians, who claimed they were being harassed by Macedonian authorities at checkpoints leading into the villages. The ethnic Albanians were also protesting the detention of prisoners they said should be released under an amnesty law that applied to former members of the National Liberation Army (NLA). The government said the crimes of those in detention were not related to the seven-month NLA insurgency. Authorities also denied that harassment had taken place at the checkpoints, but moved some of them to more neutral ground to end the standoff over the roadblocks. In addition, a request by two towns that their police patrols be limited to ethnic Albanians was granted by Skopje. The roadblock standoff raised the question of the ability of the police patrols, who are under orders to avoid violence, to maintain order in the northwestern region, where many areas have never had police patrols before. As a result of a shortage of trained mixed patrols, violent incidents in the region, such as gunfights, abductions, and gang violence, have not been dealt with by the police. In late April, one ethnic Albanian was killed and two others were wounded in a gun battle with Macedonian soldiers inside F.Y.R. Macedonia near the Kosovo border. The incident occurred when an army patrol came under fire from a truck it had tried to stop from entering the country, while a group of gunmen on the Kosovo side of the border also opened fire on the patrol. Five people arrested in conjunction with the incident were handed over to representatives of the NATO-led KFOR peacekeeping force in Kosovo. The fragile peace being maintained in F.Y.R. Macedonia, monitored by observers placed in the country by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), is expected to be tested further over the summer as the country embarks on a campaign to prepare for parliamentary elections, scheduled for September 15. An early general election was one of the provisions of the Western-brokered peace plan that ended the conflict between Macedonian forces and ethnic-Albanian insurgents. The OSCE monitors are protected by a NATO-commanded peacekeeping force, "Operation Amber Fox," which has been in the country since September 2001. NATO is hoping to turn over the command of the force to the new European Union rapid reaction force in September 2002. May 2002 Civil Order Incomplete, Ethnic Albanians Hesitant The establishment of government authority in the formerly rebel-held northwestern region of the country, as part of the August 2001 peace plan, has been accomplished in all but a handful of villages through the introduction of mixed ethnic Albanian and Slav Macedonian police patrols. However, in late April, the work of the patrols was temporarily hindered by the erection of roadblocks in nearly 20 villages by ethnic Albanians, who claimed they were being harassed by Macedonian authorities at checkpoints leading into the villages. The ethnic Albanians were also protesting the detention of prisoners they said should be released under an amnesty law that applied to former members of the National Liberation Army (NLA). The government said the crimes of those in detention were not related to the seven-month NLA insurgency. Authorities also denied that harassment had taken place at the checkpoints, but moved some of them to more neutral ground to end the standoff over the roadblocks. In addition, a request by two towns that their police patrols be limited to ethnic Albanians was granted by Skopje. The roadblock standoff raised the question of the ability of the police patrols, who are under orders to avoid violence, to maintain order in the northwestern region, where many areas have never had police patrols before. As a result of a shortage of trained mixed patrols, violent incidents in the region, such as gunfights, abductions, and gang violence, have not been dealt with by the police. In late April, one ethnic Albanian was killed and two others were wounded in a gun battle with Macedonian soldiers inside F.Y.R. Macedonia near the Kosovo border. The incident occurred when an army patrol came under fire from a truck it had tried to stop from entering the country, while a group of gunmen on the Kosovo side of the border also opened fire on the patrol. Five people arrested in conjunction with the incident were handed over to representatives of the NATO-led KFOR peacekeeping force in Kosovo. The fragile peace being maintained in F.Y.R. Macedonia, monitored by observers placed in the country by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), is expected to be tested further over the summer as the country embarks on a campaign to prepare for parliamentary elections, scheduled for September 15. An early general election was one of the provisions of the Western-brokered peace plan that ended the conflict between Macedonian forces and ethnic-Albanian insurgents. The OSCE monitors are protected by a NATO-commanded peacekeeping force, "Operation Amber Fox, " which has been in the country since September 2001. NATO is hoping to turn over the command of the force to the new European Union rapid reaction force in September 2002. April 2002 Renewed Anxieties fromAlbanian Rebel Group A late-March gun battle between rival ethnic Albanian factions of the disbanded National Liberation Army (NLA) threatened to derail the Western-brokered peace process that has unfolded since an August 2001 ceasefire ended a six-month insurgency staged by the NLA. Members of the Albanian National Army (ANA), a splinter group of the NLA that has rejected the peace plan and vowed to continue fighting, attacked a headquarters still maintained by former NLA guerrillas in a village near the northwestern city of Tetovo. The shootout killed two people and wounded five, and did not involve any Macedonian security forces or police. It was the worst outbreak of violence among ethnic Albanians within the country to date. About 40 villages in the primarily ethnic Albanian region around Tetovo remain under the control of former NLA members, who say they will continue to block the entry of state authorities until they are certain that the government’s new amnesty law for former guerrillas is being implemented fairly. The amnesty, approved in March by the Macedonian parliament after months of opposition by nationalists, covers crimes such as high treason, mutiny, armed rebellion, and conspiracy against the state. Some 16,000 people who were displaced during the insurgency still have not returned to their homes. Former NLA leader Ali Ahmeti has called on ethnic Albanians to support and help implement the reforms that have been passed by parliament to give the one-third minority greater rights. He has stated that the Albanians in F.Y.R. Macedonia have achieved their civic goals and should now work to resolve other issues through the parliamentary system. April 2002 Fresh International Aid to Spur Economy, Development A March international donor conference organized in Brussels by the World Bank and the European Commission resulted in pledges of $515 million in aid to rebuild the country as it recovers from last year’s conflict and to implement costly reforms required by the peace agreement. The United States made a $116 million contribution. The funds will be used to assist the Macedonian government in balancing this year’s budget; rebuilding homes, schools, and power lines; removing land mines; decentralizing the government; and improving curricula for teaching and promoting the use of the Albanian language. The country, which is in desperate need of foreign investment, has an official unemployment rate of 37 percent though half of the working population is believed to be jobless. About 300,000 of the total population of 2 million are on welfare. In early April, several people were injured in Skopje when over 3,000 people protesting unemployment and demanding financial assistance clashed with police. The donor conference had been planned for October 2001, but was postponed because of the government’s delay in passing key legislation stipulated in the peace accord. March 2002 Proposal for EU to Take Over Peacekeeping The European Union has proposed that its new rapid reaction force take over NATO’s role of commanding the peacekeeping force in F.Y.R. Macedonia as early as June, when the alliance’s extended mandate ends. The move would launch the EU’s first military mission as part of the European Security and Defense Policy (ESDP). The NATO peacekeeping force, “Operation Amber Fox,” has been in the country since September to provide security for international monitors overseeing implementation of the August peace agreement between the government in Skopje and former ethnic Albanian rebels of the National Liberation Army (NLA). The peacekeeping mandate was extended in December and will be extended again in March at Skopje’s request. The European Union force was declared partly operational at the EU summit in Laeken, Belgium, in December, despite the fact that an agreement with NATO on the force’s use of the alliance’s assets had not yet been reached. The capability to deploy the force’s full target figure of 60,000 troops is not expected until 2003. The foreign ministers of European Union countries, whose armed forces already provide most of the foreign troops in F.Y.R. Macedonia, have agreed in principle to seek NATO’s agreement to transfer control of peacekeeping in the country, currently carried out by 1,000 troopsto the EU force. The 15 European Union member states have agreed in principle to take over police operations in Bosnia, entailing 500 police officers, when the United Nations mandate governing these operations expires at the end of 2002. March 2002 Parliamentary Reforms Completed, Donor Conference in the Offing The parliament in Skopje enacted a final critical component of the reform measures comprising the August U.S.- and EU-brokered peace plan by approving a long-awaited bill granting greater powers to municipalities and providing ethnic Albanians with enhanced autonomy at the local level in regions where they form the majority. Adoption of the legislation, which gives local officials more say in areas such as budgets, public services, culture, education, and health, was delayed for months by nationalist groups in parliament. They feared that its intent to decentralize the government would lead to the division of the country along ethnic lines. Its approval was considered a precondition for the convening of a European Union-sponsored international donor conference to help rebuild the Macedonian economy following the nearly seven-month conflict last year. The conference has been scheduled for March 12 in Brussels. Skopje estimates the cost of the insurgency to have been about $700 million. March 2002 Threats of New Rebel Offensives Emerging The government has restored its authority in about 60 percent of the villages that had been under the control of the now-disbanded National Liberation Army (NLA) by sending in police patrols comprising both Slav Macedonians and ethnic Albanians. The former guerrillas of the NLA have demanded that parliament pass an amnesty law that would apply to several thousand guerrillas before they give up control over the remaining villages. In November, the government issued an amnesty statement covering the former guerrillas, but it was not backed up by legislation. The government has appointed a working group to draft an amnesty law. The group includes parliamentarians and representatives of NATO, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the European Union, and the U.S. Embassy in Skopje. Although there have been sporadic outbreaks of violence over the past few months, the first serious incident since November, when three policemen were killed near the northwestern village of Trebos, occurred when a Slav Macedonian man was killed by a bomb explosion in mid-February in the predominantly Albanian village of Aracinovo. Although the country’s hardline interior minister, Ljube Boskovski, blamed an armed ethnic Albanian splinter group, the Albanian National Army (ANA), for the bomb, the group denied responsibility for it. The ANA, which claims to have units in Kosovo and the region of southern Serbia east of Kosovo, has vowed to overturn the Macedonian peace plan and continue fighting until a “Greater Albania” is achieved. January/February 2002 NATO Force Extended to Secure State Authority The mandate of a NATO contingent providing security for international monitors overseeing implementation of an August 2000 Western-brokered peace plan and defusing tensions between Macedonian security forces and former rebels of the National Liberation Army (NLA) has been extended until the end of March. The extension was approved at the request of Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski, who wants to ensure the successful establishment of state authority by government police over northern and northwestern parts of the country formerly held by the NLA and the return of displaced people to these areas, which began in mid-December and is expected to conclude in mid-February. The 10German-led contingent, whose mission, code-named Operation Amber Fox, was scheduled to end in late December, was deployed at the end of September as a follow-up force to the deployment of 4,500 soldiers who supervised the voluntary disarmament of the NLA. The phased return of lightly armed police patrols, comprised equally of Slav Macedonians and ethnic Albanians, to 120 villages was laid out in the peace accord ending a six-month NLA insurgency. Under the accord, the Interior Ministry must employ 1,000 ethnic Albanian policemen over the next 18 months to be assigned to the areas formerly held by the rebels. The operation involves a 90-mile swath of territory, comprising about 10 percent of the country. It is being carried out under the scrutiny of EU, NATO, and Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) monitors, as the government simultaneously implements its amnesty of former guerrillas that have not committed war crimes. An initial pilot project that returned police to five northern villages was conducted in late October. Although the peace accord appears to have prevented civil war in the country, a shadowy new rebel group emerged last fall, calling itself the Albanian National Army (ANA). The group, known only through a web page and untraceable e-mails, rejects the peace plan and says it seeks an Albanian homeland encompassing Albania, Kosovo, and F.Y.R. Macedonia. In November, the group claimed responsibility for a bomb blast in a shopping mall in the northwestern town of Tetovo and the killings of three Slav Macedonian special forces commandos in the Tetovo region. The United States is providing $500,000 to fund continued U.N.-led clearance of land mines in areas formerly held by the NLA. November/December 2001 New Violence Threatens Peace Process The mid-November killings of three Macedonian security police by ethnic Albanians and other outbreaks of violence in the region around the northwestern town of Tetovo threatened the August peace settlement that ended a six-month ethnic Albanian insurgency. The country's hardline interior minister, Ljube Boskovski, who has publicly opposed the peace settlement, dispatched 200 Macedonian special forces across unguarded truce lines into former rebel-held territory. Their mission was to secure what was said to be a mass grave site near the village of Trebos containing the bodies of Slav Macedonians executed by ethnic Albanian guerrillas, with a view toward exhuming the remains. The forces also arrested seven former ethnic Albanian guerrillas for acts committed during the war and for arms possession, despite a government commitment under the peace accord to grant amnesty to all demobilized members of the National Liberation Army (NLA) who have not committed war crimes. Boskovski's actions, which defied a previous agreement providing for a gradual restoration of state authority in former guerrilla areas under NATO supervision, resulted in the killings of three special forces near the village of Semsovo and the taking of some 100 Slav Macedonian civilians as hostages by ethnic Albanian gunmen. The hostages were later released through the intervention of NATO, the EU, and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). The Albanian National Army, purported to be an offshoot of the disbanded NLA, claimed responsibility for the killings. In late October, ethnically-mixed police patrols had resumed in five Macedonian villages under EU observers with NATO soldiers close by, part of the plan to gradually return government security forces to areas formerly held by NLA guerrillas. October 2001 Support for Counter-Terrorism Campaign Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski condemned, in the strongest possible terms, the acts of terrorism against the United States. Trajkovski emphasized the need to steadfastly combat terrorism, root it out, and respond with force. The speaker of the Macedonian parliament, Stojan Andovin a letter to Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, conveyed Skopje's firm commitment and readiness to take part in the joint fight of the democratic world against terrorism. October 2001 Nationalists Poised to Unravel Peace Accord Ratification of constitutional reforms granting greater rights to ethnic Albanians and the enactment of an amnesty pardoning demobilized National Liberation Army (NLA) guerrillas remained blocked by Slav Macedonian nationalists in parliament, as international officials warned that the continued impasse could re-ignite violence in the country. The measures are the underpinnings of a peace accord agreed to on August 13 by leaders of Slav Macedonian and Albanian political parties. The peace process was further threatened when Interior Minister Ljube Boskovski declared that Macedonian government security forces were poised to re-enter areas formerly held by NLA guerrillas. A NLA representative said that such a move before an amnesty was in place, a violation of the peace accord, would result in a renewal of the conflict. The government suspended its plan under pressure from international envoys. Slav Macedonian nationalists have tabled a proposal in parliament to hold a national referendum to approve the reforms, rather than having lawmakers ratify them. A referendum process, lasting months, could derail the peace accord by turning the decisions on the reforms over to an electorate dominated by Slav Macedonians opposed to substantial concessions to the ethnic Albanian minority. Ethnic Albanians said a decision to hold a referendum would rekindle the conflict. The EU postponed an October international donor conference for Skopje, accusing the Macedonian government of breaking promises to enact reforms quickly. October 2001 NATO Presence Continues Under German Command As a 4,500-member NATO force completed its collection of weapons from the ethnic Albanian rebels of the NLA on schedule and began leaving F.Y.R. Macedonia in late September, a new 1,000-troop NATO security force, under German command, took up positions in the country. Approximately 60 percent of the new force is German. Its mission, codenamed "Operation Amber Fox," is to guarantee the security of unarmed international civilian observers charged with monitoring adherence to the July 5 ceasefire between the NLA and Macedonian government troops, following five months of fighting; overseeing the implementation of reforms when they become law; and ensuring the reintegration of some 70,000 displaced Slav Macedonian and ethnic Albanian civilians into regions formerly held by the NLA. Several hundred observers are being sent in by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and are being drawn from both the OSCE and the European Union. President Trajkovski formally requested a continuing NATO presence in the country, after initially opposing the idea. The new force has a three-month mandate from the U.N. Security Council, with the possibility of an extension if approved by both the alliance and the Macedonian government. Skopje rejected NATO's proposal for a six- to nine-month deployment of a larger force, fearing a slide toward international policing of an effective partition of the country between government-controlled and ethnic Albanian-held areas. October 2001 Rebel Weapons Collection Considered Completed During a 30-day process dubbed Operation Essential Harvest the NATO force overseeing the collection of weapons from NLA rebels gathered about 4,000 weapons from the guerrillas, who turned them over voluntarily as part of a Western-backed peace plan to avoid civil war in the country. According to NATO, the NLA surrendered over 3,000 assault rifles, nearly 500 machine guns, 4 armored vehicles, 17 air defense weapons systems, over 160 mortars and anti-tank weapons, and some 398,000 pieces of ammunition, including mines and explosives. The head of the British-led NATO weapons-collection contingent stated publicly that the alliance believed that the weapons collected represented the NLA's true military capability. However, Macedonian politicians maintained that NLA members still held a sizeable number of weapons. October 2001 Albanian Rebels Disband in Anticipation of Elevated Minority Rights Just hours after the arms-collection mission ended, the political leader of the National Liberation Army, Ali Ahmeti, announced that the rebel force had formally disbanded in exchange for proposed constitutional reforms to raise the status of the ethnic Albanian minority. The dissolution of the force ended an insurgency against the Macedonian government that began in February to gain equal rights for the minority. Vowing to cooperate with the peace effort, Ahmeti said that the guerrillas were returning to civilian life and that the rebel movement had not ruled out entering politics. Ahmeti stated that government security and police forces would be welcome to enter areas of the country formerly controlled by the NLA as long as an amnesty was in place for the former rebels and the composition of these forces was proportional to the minority's percentage of the population, as mandated under the peace plan. The NLA threatened to re-arm if the Macedonian parliament did not ratify the package of constitutional reforms granting ethnic Albanians greater rights. NATO has also expressed concern about a potential danger posed by Slav Macedonian paramilitary groups considered loyal to Interior Minister Boskovski. Their harassment of ethnic Albanian villagers and initiation of firefights threatened to disrupt the disarmament process until President Trajkovski ordered their removal from certain villages. August/September 2001 Sweeping Political Rights for Albanians End Conflict Slav Macedonian and ethnic Albanian party leaders joined the government in signing a package of constitutional and legislative reforms designed to expand the civic and political rights of Albanians and end a six-month-old ethnic Albanian insurgency waged by the National Liberation Army (NLA). About 100 people were killed and 125,000 civilians were displaced during the conflict. The NLA said the goal of the insurgency was to gain greater rights for the country's ethnic Albanians, who comprise about one-third of a population of 2 million. The NLA was not represented at the negotiations and did not sign the August 13 accord. As part of the accord, the government agreed to declare an amnesty for NLA rebels who disarm under the supervision of NATO troops, enabling them to reintegrate into civilian life, unless they re-arm, refuse to disarm voluntarily, or are found to have committed war crimes. The agreement amends the preamble of the constitution by deleting references to Slav Macedonians as the principal ethnic component of the state and by indicating that the country is a civic society of all its ethnic groups. Minorities other than Albanians—Roma, Turks, Vlachs, Serbs, and others—make up 10 percent of the population. In the constitution, the Islamic Community, the Roman-Catholic Church, and other religious communities, will be recognized along with the Macedonian Orthodox Church. The Albanian language is given official status in parliament, central government branch offices, and communities where ethnic Albanians comprise at least 20 percent of the population. Government funding for higher education in Albanian is also provided in these communities, while previous funding was given only for pre-university education. The accord stipulates that a census will be taken this year to establish the country's exact ethnic composition. Public administration jobs will be reserved for ethnic minorities, based on their percentage of the population. The ethnic Albanian presence in the police force, now almost entirely Slav Macedonian, will be increased from 5 percent of the 6,000-member force to 23 percent by 2003. The accord also includes a proposed law that will decentralize local government, awarding a degree of self-rule to municipalities in predominantly Albanian areas. All legislation with cultural or linguistic significance will require a two-thirds majority vote in parliament, including at least half of the affected minority's deputies, allowing for a minority veto over the legislation. In addition, minority representation on the Constitutional Court will be ensured. Within 45 days, the votes of a two-thirds majority of the 120-member parliament, which includes 25 Albanians, are needed to ratify the accord since it involves amending the constitution. Negotiations toward the agreement were led by U.S. special envoy James Pardew and EU envoy Francois Leotard, both of whom signed it. August/September 2001 NATO Mission to Disarm Rebels Following the signing of the peace agreement, a 400-member team composed primarily of British, French, and Czech troops arrived in F.Y.R. Macedonia to lay the groundwork for the deployment of a total of 4,200 NATO soldiers the last week of August to oversee the collection of weapons from ethnic Albanian rebels. The day after the accord was signed, the NLA's political director, Ali Ahmeti, signed an agreement with NATO pledging that the insurgents, in exchange for an amnesty, would voluntarily surrender their weapons, a key requirement for the full deployment of alliance troops. When Ahmeti signed the agreement, the NLA controlled a swath of territory in northern and western F.Y.R. Macedonia along the borders with Kosovo and Albania. The disarmament operation, dubbed "Operation Essential Harvest," is being carried out by troops from 12 NATO countries, including Greece and Turkey. About 1,800 troops are from Britain. NATO said that its troops are not playing a peacekeeping role, and the mission will be limited to 30 days. The alliance's job is to set up collection sites, where the insurgents will drop off weapons, and to transport the weapons to Greece for destruction. (See Greece section.) Washington is providing medical support, transport helicopters, and unmanned reconnaissance aircraft for the mission, drawing from U.S. personnel and equipment already in the country as part of a NATO rear contingent for Kosovo and from medical teams and helicopters at a U.S. peacekeeping base in Kosovo. The U.S. is not supplying troops to operate the collection sites. August/September 2001 Shadowy Rebel Group Raises Fears of Protracted Conflict The emergence of the Albanian National Army (ANA), a previously unknown ethnic Albanian group that has rejected the peace accord and vowed to continue the insurgency, could threaten implementation of the peace accord and the rebel disarmament. The ANA called on ethnic Albanians to fight a regional war for the union of all Albanians into a Greater Albania. The group surfaced in early August, when it issued a press release in Pristina claiming responsibility for the murder of two Serb policemen on August 3 in Muhovac in southern Serbia's Presevo Valley. Just days before the peace accord was signed in Skopje, the group said it had joined the NLA in carrying out an ambush in F.Y.R. Macedonia in which 10 Macedonian soldiers were killed. NLA political director Ahmeti denied that the NLA was involved in the ambush. He said that he had no knowledge of the ANA, denying that NLA splinter groups existed. The Macedonian Defense Ministry claimed that the ANA was an offshoot of the NLA. August/September 2001 U.S. Campaign to Spur Slav Support for Accord The U.S. is carrying out a $250,000 media and lobbying campaign in F.Y.R. Macedonia, in cooperation with the office of Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski, to build support for the peace accord in order to ensure its ratification by parliament. The campaign, which will include radio, television, and newspaper public service announcements in both the Macedonian and Albanian languages, and may involve direct mailings to households, is being organized by the U.S. Agency for International Development and several American non-profit organizations. Many Macedonians oppose the accord, viewing it as rewarding the NLA insurgents. They believe the rebels want to consolidate the areas under their control and effectively partition the country. July 2001 NATO Force Approved to Disarm Ethnic Albanian Rebels NATO will send about 3,000 troops to F.Y.R. Macedonia to collect the weapons of the ethnic Albanian National Liberation Army (NLA) guerrillas if a ceasefire is maintained between Macedonian forces and the NLA, and a political accord is reached to resolve ethnic Albanian grievances. NATO will also require that the NLA rebels agree to voluntarily turn their weapons over to alliance soldiers so they can be sent to Hungary to be destroyed. The NLA rebels have in principle agreed to turn their weapons over to NATO if a comprehensive reform package is signed. The Macedonian government has in turn proposed a partial amnesty for the guerrillas. The NATO operation, "Essential Harvest," to be led by British troops and comprised of soldiers from 15 of the 19 NATO countries, was sought by Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski. It is not intended to be a peacekeeping mission, despite the urging of the NLA and ethnic Albanian parties that international troops police a ceasefire, and will be limited to a period of about 30 days. During the operation, the troops will be restricted to collecting arms at checkpoints where the guerrillas will turn in their weapons. OSCE monitors will accompany government security patrols as they create the checkpoints. U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld announced that Washington will contribute troops to the mission in a supporting role. They will offer help with logistics, intelligence, and helicopter capability for purposes such as medical evacuations. The U.S. troops, expected to be fewer than 500 in number, will be drawn from the 500-member U.S. contingent already in F.Y.R. Macedonia as part of a 3,000-member NATO logistics unit that assists the U.S. peacekeeping effort in Kosovo. Italy, Germany, France, Greece, Turkey, the Czech Republic, Poland, and Hungary are among the countries that have promised to send troops to carry out the operation. July 2001 Ceasefire Achieved as International Pressure Builds To break a cycle of unsuccessful ceasefires declared by one side or the other over the last several months and move deadlocked peace talks forward, NATO and EU officials brokered separate signed ceasefire agreements with the Macedonian government and the NLA the first week of July as a first step toward ending the country's crisis. NATO's new policy of seeking an agreement with the NLA, signed by its political leader, Ali Ahmeti, in the southern Kosovo city of Prizren, was a departure from the alliance's previous stance of ruling out any formal accord with the rebel group on the grounds that its insurgency was illegal. As a second step, a draft peace plan for expanding the rights of ethnic Albanians was drafted by experts from the United States and Europe as a basis for negotiations among the government and all political parties in an attempt to jumpstart political talks. U.S. special envoy James Pardew and his European counterpart Francois Leotard began working intensively with the government and the parties in mid-July to hammer out a settlement based on the plan. The prospect of an international donor's conference has been proposed as an incentive for agreeing to a peace deal. The NLA rebels have not been invited to participate in the peace talks in Skopje. The draft plan would decentralize power in the country, make Albanian an official language, and create mechanisms to ensure that legislation on sensitive ethnic issues would need minority backing to be passed by parliament. Ethnic Albanian political leaders have said that the plan is inadequate and have presented their own draft proposals. They have also called on the international community to organize a peace conference outside F.Y.R. Macedonia, mediated by the U.S. and the EU. This proposal is opposed by the Macedonian government, which fears that it could promote an Albanian separatist agenda. July 2001 NATO Escort of Rebels Exposes Skopje's Weakness Just 10 days before the NATO-EU-brokered ceasefire was concluded, the Macedonian government asked NATO forces to evacuate up to 400 ethnic Albanian guerrillas from the village of Aracinovo, six miles from Skopje, fearing that the encroachment of fighting within shelling range of the capital could bring the airport, oil refinery, and presidential palace under fire and unleash a full-scale civil war. The village had become the most dangerous flashpoint in clashes between the guerrillas and the Macedonian security forces since fighting began in February. The government also believed that evacuation of the rebels from the region would improve the climate for negotiating a political settlement to the five-month conflict. The operation was carried out by U.S., French, and Italian troops, who escorted the fighters, along with their weapons, out of Aracinovo after Macedonian government forces were unsuccessful in routing them out of the village. The guerrillas were taken to rebel-held villages near the Kosovo border north of Kumanovo and were allowed to keep their weapons. The next day, shelling of rebels by the Macedonian army continued, but the goal of moving the fighting away from the capital had been accomplished. The NATO intervention to evacuate the rebels sparked anti-Albanian, anti-Western rioting in front of the parliament by angry Macedonian Slavs who called for the resignation of President Trajkovski. May / June 2001 Bush Administration Condemns "Terrorist" NLA Campaign During a visit by F.Y.R. Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski to Washington in May, President Bush expressed U.S. support for Skopje's handling of renewed violence by ethnic Albanian insurgents, while also conducting negotiations with the country's major political parties to address the grievances of the ethnic Albanian minority and reform the political process. Secretary of State Powell condemned the ethnic Albanian guerrillas of the National Liberation Army (NLA) as terrorists who were aiming to subvert the democratic process in F.Y.R. Macedonia, while backing Skopje's refusal to negotiate with the NLA. He told Trajkovski that Skopje could count on U.S. political, economic, and military support. Washington will explore ways to make the Macedonian military more capable of responding to challenges by extremists and will step up its sharing of intelligence information with Skopje to enhance the effort to quell the ethnic Albanian insurgency. The U.S. will also increase its economic assistance to F.Y.R. Macedonia next year beyond this year's allocation of $55 million and plans to contribute $10 million over the next four years to the process of establishing a new university in Tetovo that will offer instruction in Albanian. May / June 2001 Skopje Launches Counter-Offensive, Domestic Turmoil Grows The Macedonian army launched an early May offensive against the ethnic Albanian guerrillas of the National Liberation Army around towns 20 miles northeast of Skopje, after 10 members of the government's security forces were ambushed and killed. After funeral services for the dead in a village, Slav Macedonians rioted against ethnic Albanians, burning some 40 shops owned by Albanians. In Skopje, a series of ethnically-motivated attacks and incidents were also reported, including the destruction of kiosks owned by Albanians. By mid-May, some 9,000 mostly ethnic Albanian refugees had fled across the border into Kosovo to escape the fighting. During earlier fighting in February and March, about 10,000 mostly ethnic Albanian people left the country, while about 1,000 people, mostly Slavs, moved farther into Macedonian territory. In mid-May, the government urged civilians to leave the areas of conflict by moving toward Kosovo or toward the country's center in order to allow a ground assault it said was necessary to defeat the rebels. Hundreds were evacuated by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) during halts in fighting. Later, under pressure from the EU, NATO, and the U.S., the government backed off from its plan to wage an all-out offensive against the rebels if they did not retreat. The West fears that an escalation of the conflict could cause the fighting to spill over into neighboring countries. May / June 2001 Slav Majority, Albanian Minority in National Unity Government Two weeks after fighting resumed in May between ethnic Albanian guerrillas of the NLA and Macedonian forces, the country's four main parties agreed to form an emergency national unity government to address key grievances of the one-third ethnic Albanian minority and isolate the guerrillas in an attempt to avert a civil war. Ljubco Georgievski will remain prime minister. The new government, formed with the encouragement of NATO Secretary General George Robertson, European Union security affairs chief Javier Solana, and U.S. officials, has a two-thirds majority in parliament, giving it the power to enact new legislation and make constitutional changes to ensure equal rights for ethnic Albanians. It is expected to act as a caretaker government that will pass new laws concerning inter-ethnic relations and move the November 2002 parliamentary elections to January 2002. The Party for Democratic Prosperity (PDP), an ethnic Albanian party that had been in the opposition, joined the Democratic Party of Albanians, a member of the current government, in the new coalition after dropping its demand that the government call an extended cease-fire as a prerequisite for its participation. The PDP, which shared power with the Socialists for seven years after Skopje broke away from Yugoslavia in 1991, wants the NLA to be included in talks for legislative reform and has called for the withdrawal of government military units from the conflict zone, followed by a gradual movement of police into the zone under international monitoring. The other members of the new government are Prime Minister Georgievski's VMRO-DPMNE and the opposition Social Democratic Union, which are both dominated by the two-thirds Slav majority. The NLA, which had demanded a role in the political process, denounced the formation of the new coalition. The rebels said they had launched their insurgency to end discrimination against Albanians in employment, education, and language rights, issues that the new government is expected to address. They have pledged to continue fighting until they are invited to sit at the negotiating table. The government has ruled out talks with the guerrillas. April 2001 Ethnic Albanian Insurgency Triggers Internal Crisis Amid Skopje's claims that it had crushed a seven-week insurgency by ethnic Albanian guerrillas in the northwestern region of F.Y.R. Macedonia, the NATO-led KFOR peacekeeping force in Kosovo agreed to deploy more of its troops along the Kosovo-F.Y.R. Macedonia border to help seal it against infiltration and the smuggling of weapons by the guerrillas. Calling themselves the National Liberation Army (NLA), the guerrillas were believed to have been using Kosovo as a staging ground for their insurgency. The fighting, killing 12 people, including Macedonian police, began in mid-February and ended with a government offensive in late March around the city of Tetovo, the center of the region where most of the country's ethnic Albanians are concentrated, and in the hills north of Skopje. More than 30,000 people, both Slavs and Albanians, have been driven from their homes. The estimated 300 to 700 rebels in the NLA, which emerged from obscurity in February, said they have merely pulled back to regroup in their fight to coerce the Macedonian Slav majority to grant greater civil rights and self-determination to ethnic Albanians, who comprise one-third of the population. April 2001 Review of Albanian Civil Rights Progress Underway The NLA rebels say their call for more rights for ethnic Albanians in F.Y.R. Macedonia includes promoting greater participation of ethnic Albanians in the state and local administrations and changing the constitution, which names Macedonian Slavs, who comprise about 67 percent of the population, as the primary ethnic group in the nation of 2 million and Macedonian as the only official language. The rebels also tapped into other demands of the ethnic Albanian community including making Albanian a second official language, integrating more Albanians into the police force and into other government positions, decentralizing the government to give Albanians a greater say in education, health care, and other local issues, and providing state-sponsored university education in the Albanian language. An accredited private university with instruction in Albanian is due to open in Tetovo, the second-largest city in the country, in October. It is being sponsored by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and financed by the European Union, European donors, and the United States. Until now, an unrecognized, privately funded Albanian-language university has been operating in the city. Primary and secondary education in Albanian is already available. Macedonian Foreign Minister Srdjan Kerim has pledged to increase the presence of the ethnic Albanian minority in the state administration, local governments, police units, and media. He has also proposed that more multiethnic police units patrol the border with Kosovo. Skopje says the Albanian minority has full political rights and cites genuine progress in integrating Albanians into the government and the military over the past 10 years since the former Yugoslav republic declared independence. The Democratic Party of Albanians (DPA) was asked to join the governing coalition, despite the fact that its participation was not needed to give the coalition a majority in parliament. Twenty-five of the 120 members of parliament are Albanians, as are five of 15 cabinet ministers and five deputy ministers, including the deputy ministers of defense and internal affairs. Ethnic Albanians were elected mayor in 26 of the country's 123 municipalities last year. Three of the army's seven generals are Albanians as are 10 percent of public administration employees. Still, many of the country's ethnic Albanians say the process of minority integration has been too slow. April 2001 Rebels Excluded from Minority Rights Talks In early April, after government forces dispersed the ethnic Albanian rebels in the mountains along the border with Kosovo, Skopje opened talks with the leaders of the country's ethnic Albanian parties and other parties to address the concerns of the ethnic Albanian minority. The government refused to include the rebels in the talks, claiming that they had entered F.Y.R. Macedonia from neighboring Kosovo to foment separatist violence among the country's ethnic Albanians to promote independence for the northwestern region, a goal that did not represent the sentiments of the indigenous population. The NLA and the Democratic Party of Albanians assert that the members of the NLA are mostly from F.Y.R. Macedonia, which is the home of many of the former soldiers of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA). DPA leader Arben Xhaferi, who faces mounting pressure to pull out of the governing coalition, expressed skepticism over the government's will to conduct a substantive political dialogue with ethnic Albanians on constitutional reform and warned that violence could resume if negotiations were not successful. April 2001 U.S., Europeans Deliver Major Military Support Fearing the outbreak of a major civil war, the international community has stepped forward, short of sending troops, to shore up F.Y.R Macedonia's 15,000 soldiers and 7,500 paramilitary police, who lack the training and equipment to fight a guerrilla war. Forty percent of Macedonian army conscripts are ethnic Albanians. NATO, which considers the situation in the country to be an internal matter, has been providing Skopje with military intelligence on ethnic Albanian rebel activity along the Kosovo border and in the northwestern part of the country. This has included the operation of unmanned surveillance drones provided by the U.S., Britain, and France, while the U.S. has also provided aerial reconnaissance photos. Washington has turned down a NATO request to beef up its KFOR contingent of about 5,600 in a force of 42,000 as part of the alliance's effort to increase the number of soldiers patrolling the Kosovo-F.Y.R. Macedonia border. U.S. troops are already among the peacekeepers that are patrolling that border. There are also 400 U.S. troops on a base near Skopje, part of a NATO-led contingent of 5,000 in the country, which provides logistics support for the Kosovo mission. The United States is trying to accelerate the delivery of $13.5 million in annual military assistance to Skopje, which includes uniforms, Humvees, and army surplus howitzers, in addition to $3.8 million for training. Washington also provides $46.5 million annually in non-military aid to Skopje. Britain is sending F.Y.R. Macedonia 500 sets of body armor, 100 units of global positioning systems, 15 mine detectors, and a remote control bomb clearance vehicle to assist its army in patrolling the border, while Italy has given the country $470 million in emergency aid and an additional $940 million through the United Nations Development Program. Turkey has provided two forklifts, electric equipment for a military repair facility, and other equipment, while Bulgaria has also sent military supplies (see Bulgaria section). Greece has lent two U.S.-made transport helicopters to F.Y.R. Macedonia as part of a mutual assistance agreement signed by the countries last December. In addition, it has provided several military vehicles, explosives, bulletproof vests and helmets, and medical supplies. The Macedonian army's military capability has been significantly increased with the provision by Ukraine of two Russian-made Mi-24 helicopter gunships, the army's first combat aircraft. The Mi-24 is roughly equivalent to the U.S. AH-64 Apache. April 2001 EU Pact to Speed Broad Reform Agenda On April 9Skopje signed an Association and Stabilization Agreement with the European Union. The accord removes most barriers to free trade with the bloc and commits Skopje to enact reforms aimed at furthering democratic principles, human rights, the rule of law, and a market economy. The government in Skopje has promised the European Union that it will draft concrete economic and political reforms by June to defuse tensions with the ethnic Albanian minority. These reforms will result in improvements in interethnic relations needed to qualify the country to be a candidate for future negotiations toward EU membership. The European Union expects to spend about $40 million on support for the country in 2001. It has committed $475 million to Skopje since 1992, with about $329 million spent by the end of March. March 2001 Fears of Growing Insurgency by Ethnic Albanians Armed ethnic Albanian guerrillas have emerged in several F.Y.R. Macedonian villages, particularly Tanusevci, just south of the country's border with Serbia, and are believed to be part of a new group calling itself the National Liberation Army. Initial tensions flared after several guerrillas, some of whom wore an insignia similar to that of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), detained a Skopje-based television crew visiting Tanusevci, confiscating their cameras and mobile telephones. The KLA was supposed to have been disbanded following NATO's air campaign against Yugoslavia in 1999. Following the incident, F.Y.R. Macedonian army troops and the guerrillas exchanged fire, resulting in the death of one Albanian man. Ninety-five of Tanusevci's women and children left the village and crossed over the border into Kosovo as a result of the skirmish. In another incident, ethnic Albanians in Kosovo engaged in a three-hour, cross-border exchange of gunfire with a patrol of F.Y.R. Macedonian police and army troops. The Skopje government fears that the presence of armed Albanians in the border villages could signal the beginning of an insurgency linked to the violence in the Presevo Valley of southern Serbia and aimed at a greater Kosovo. Officials are concerned that the insurgency could spread among the country's ethnic Albanians, living primarily in the western part of the country along the borders of Albania and Kosovo and comprising one-third of its population. Speculation that violence in Serbia was migrating south was also fueled by a January grenade attack on a police station in the western F.Y.R. Macedonian village of Tearce. The National Liberation Army claimed responsibility for the attack, which killed one policeman and injured several others. Given the participation of an Albanian party in the governing coalition and the resultant political influence of the party, analysts have questioned the formal existence of such an organization or the likelihood that there would be support for it among the ethnic Albanians in the country. Allegations that it existed first came from the Serb state security service and were corroborated by the counter-intelligence unit of the army of F.Y.R. Macedonia. The NATO-led KFOR peacekeeping force in Kosovo said it would step up its patrols along the Serbian province's porous border with F.Y.R. Macedonia, following Skopje's request that security be increased as violence escalates in Serbia's Presevo Valley and in Kosovo. KFOR also said it would intensify contacts with the F.Y.R. Macedonian Army, whose troops are on alert in view of the violence, to facilitate more effective coordination in securing the border. March 2001 Agreement with Yugoslavia on Border Delineation Skopje and Belgrade have resolved a 10-year dispute over the demarcation of the 200-mile border between Serbia and F.Y.R. Macedonia dating back to the withdrawal of the latter from the Yugoslav federation in 1991. A formal agreement on the matter was signed in February on the sidelines of the Balkan summit in Skopje. It will be implemented over the next two years and is expected to improve relations between Belgrade and Skopje and promote bilateral trade. When F.Y.R. Macedonia declared its independence, Belgrade refused to delineate the border with its southern neighbor and would not agree to open negotiations to resolve the issue until 1996. Ethnic Albanian party leaders in Kosovo, including Ibrahim Rugova, said they would not recognize the part of the agreement referring to the demarcation of the border between Kosovo and F.Y.R. Macedonia since they were not asked to take part in the negotiations. They said that, as far as they were concerned, the exact location of this border remained an open question. March 2001 Balkan Neighbors Condemn Violence, Encourage Regional Cooperation A declaration issued at a February summit of Balkan leaders in Skopje strongly condemned the violence by extremist armed groups in southern Serbia's Presevo Valley and denounced the use of violence and terrorism in Kosovo, cautioning that it could have a destabilizing effect on the region. Though the declaration did not place the blame for the escalating violence on ethnic Albanians due to pressure from the Albanian delegation, most Western and Balkan leaders hold them responsible for it. The declaration was signed by the leaders of Albania, Bosnia, Bulgaria, F.Y.R. Macedonia, Greece, Romania, Turkey, and Yugoslavia, as well as EU External Affairs Commissioner Chris Patten and EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana, who attended the event. The summit was also attended by Stability Pact coordinator Bodo Hombach and a Croatian representative, who attended as an observer. The declaration urged Serbia and Montenegro to avoid unilateral actions that could jeopardize their negotiations, a reference to Montenegro's intention to hold an independence referendum. Patten warned Kosovo's ethnic Albanian majority that it would face international isolation, including a possible halt in financial aid, if it did not condemn and stop violence against Serbs. He urged Presevo Albanians to begin talks with the new democratic leadership in Belgrade to resolve problems in the valley. Although the goal of discussing economic development was overshadowed by the urgency of addressing the violence in Serbia, the Balkan leaders did conclude a plan to encourage regional economic cooperation and move the region's nations closer to integration into the European Union within the framework of the Stability Pact. It included promoting further trade liberalization, creating a secure and transparent legal investment framework, and developing transnational infrastructure projects, especially in transport, telecommunications, and energy. A key rail line connecting Greece and F.Y.R. Macedonia with Serbia and central European essential element of revitalizing the economy of the region, runs through the Presevo Valley. January / February 2001 Funding Completed for Skopje-Thessaloniki Pipeline The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) is lending $50 million toward the construction of a new $105 million oil pipeline linking the Greek Aegean port of Thessaloniki and Skopje. Hellenic Petroleum and Aegeka Greek construction group, will contribute the remaining $55 million for the project. The pipeline, which will carry up to 2.5 million tons of crude oil annually, will significantly reduce current costs of transporting oil, primarily by rail, from Hellenic Petroleum's facilities in Thessaloniki to the OKTA refinery in Skopje. Ownership of a company that will operate the pipeline will be split between the government of F.Y.R. Macedonia, at 20 percent, and a subsidiary of Hellenic Petroleum, at 80 percent. Construction of the pipeline by Aegek is expected to begin by March. EBRD investments in F.Y.R. Macedonia have increased from $16 million in 1998 to $260 million this year, including the pipeline funding, as a result of the government's efforts to carry out economic reforms and attract foreign investors. January / February 2001 Modernized Border Crossing Opens EU-Greece Gateway F.Y.R. Macedonian Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski hailed the opening of a renovated border crossing into Greece as a gateway for Skopje not only to Greece, but also to the European Union. On January 1, products from F.Y.R. Macedonia began receiving tariff-free export benefits in the 22 countries of the EU and the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) as a result of the Stabilization and Association Agreement signed in November between Skopje and the European Union. The modernization of the Bogorodica crossing on the Thessaloniki-Skopje highway was carried out with financial aid from the EU's Phare program as part of a transborder cooperation project between F.Y.R. Macedonia and Greece. The $8 million project included a new customs terminal and the enlargement of a three-mile section of highway. The Phare program is the bloc's primary channel for its financial and technical cooperation with the countries of central and eastern Europe. November / December 2000 Breakthrough Visit Builds Stronger Greece Relations The participation of Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis in a nine-nation Balkan summit in Skopje in October marked the first visit by a Greek prime minister to F.Y.R. Macedonia since it declared independence nearly a decade ago. The summit was the largest international meeting the former Yugoslav republic has organized. Simitis and his counterpart, Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski, meeting on the sidelines of the summit, agreed that bilateral relations were proceeding smoothly and pledged to expand relations. Skopje will receive $85 million in direct grants and credits from Greece for infrastructure projects as part of the Greek government's $572 million Balkan economic reconstruction program, the focus of Greek National Economy Minister Yiannos Papantoniou's visit to Skopje in November. October 2000 Government Coalition Remains Strong in Municipal Elections F.Y.R. Macedonia’s three-party reformist government maintained a strong lead over the ex-communist opposition Social Democratic Union of Macedonia (SDSM) in nationwide municipal elections widely regarded as a referendum on the popularity of the center-right ruling coalition. The coalition, led by Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski, is comprised of the Macedonia Internal Revolutionary Organization-Democratic Party for Macedonia National Unity (VMRO-DPMNE) and the Democratic Alternative (DA), which both represent mostly ethnic Slav Macedonians, and the Democratic Party of Albanians (DPA). After the second round of voting on October 8preliminary results showed the VMRO-DPMNE and the DA winning about 52 percent of the mayoral races, with 21 percent going to the DPA and 27 percent to the SDSM. The coalition, in power since 1998, has been losing popularity to center-left opposition parties, amid the failure of market reforms to improve living standards, a situation exacerbated by the effects of the refugee crisis stemming from the 1999 Kosovo crisis. Many of the international loans that were expected to help rejuvenate the economy have not been forthcoming. The unemployment rate is 32 percent, while the average monthly salary remains about $150. There is anxiety on the part of ethnic Slav Macedonians that ethnic Albanians, who constitute from one-fourth to one-third of the population of 2.2 million, are receiving excessive attention from the government. September 2000 Name Negotiations with Greece Offer Hopeful Resolution Progress is reportedly being made in negotiations between Athens and Skopje to resolve the F.Y.R. Macedonia name issue, as Greece seeks to bolster the integrity of its northern neighbor amid insecurity in the region posed by the situation in Yugoslavia. Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski said in August that he expected the issue to be resolved by early 2001. The U.N. Security Council assigned the name "Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia" to the country in 1993 as a provisional solution to a dispute between Athens and Skopje that began in 1991 when the republic gained its independence from Yugoslavia as "Macedonia." Greece, whose northern region is also called Macedonia, refers to the country as "Skopje," the name of its capital. Although there is a news blackout on the negotiations, the name "New Macedonia" is reportedly being considered as a possible solution, while "Slavomacedonia" and "South Slavic Republic" have also been suggested in the past. Greece and F.Y.R. Macedonia continue to have good relations in the political, economic, and military sectors, which have developed since the two countries signed an interim agreement in 1995 providing for Greece's recognition of its neighbor under the provisional name. The two governments have signed a military cooperation agreement, which includes cooperation in the defense industry and in increasing the effectiveness of their forces along their borders with Albania to curb illegal immigration, drug trafficking, and international terrorism. September 2000 Ethnic Albanians Gain Long-Sought Education Rights In a move reflecting the government's intentions to integrate the country's Albanian minority into society, Skopje fulfilled a longstanding demand of its Albanian population by passing a law that will allow the minority to receive university-level education in their own language. Albanians, who comprise about one-fourth of the country's population, have long sought their own university in Tetovo and, in the absence of government action toward this goal, set up an unofficial university with classes in Albanian in the Tetovo area in 1994. In addition, Albanian students refused to attend the Macedonian-language Skopje University. In a compromise move, in consultation with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the government passed a law permitting private universities to be established in the country. This will open the way for the EU and other aid donors to build a $50 million university in Tetovo with instruction in Albanian and English, which will replace the unofficial university. The Democratic Party of Albanians (DPA) is one of the three parties in the country's ruling coalition. Three of the 14 cabinet ministers are DPA members. July / August 2000 No country briefings in this issue May / June 2000 Trade Links Through Kosovo Skopje reached an agreement with the U.N. interim administration in Kosovo for the safe transport of goods from F.Y.R. Macedonia to Montenegro through the Serbian province. The agreement, which will result in an increase in the amount of F.Y.R. Macedonian goods going to Kosovo, will also promote Skopje's trade relations with Bosnia, Croatia, and EU countries by reducing the costs of transporting products to the north. These costs rose significantly once the NATO campaign against Yugoslavia cut off the trade route through Serbia. The volume of Skopje's trade with Kosovo during the first two months of 2000 was $65 million, an increase of 30 percent over the same period last year. There has been a significant influx of building materials and other goods from F.Y.R. Macedonia into the Serbian province for post-war reconstruction projects. May / June 2000 Greater Economic Growth Sought with Currency Arrangement Skopje asked the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to replace the denar's exchange rate fixed against Germany's mark with a proposed 10 percent fluctuation band in order to promote economic growth in the country. The IMF is expected to make a decision by August. National Bank of Macedonia Governor Ljube Trpeski said the fixed exchange rate of the denar had kept the currency stable for three years and had been a key element of the country's monetary policy, but it was starting to hamper growth. F.Y.R. Macedonia has achieved a relatively high degree of macroeconomic stability. The country had a negative 1 percent inflation rate in 1999. Its GDP grew by 2.7 percent, despite predictions by the World Bank that the economy would contract by up to 4 percent because of the Kosovo crisis. March / April 2000 U.S. Reinforces Its Border Patrol Capability Fourteen tanks and six artillery guns are being sent to F.Y.R. Macedonia to strengthen the ability of the 450-member contingent of U.S. troops deployed there to help patrol the country’s border with Serbia. This contingent is part of a force of 5,000 NATO-led troops in F.Y.R. Macedonia, which serves as a rear base and supply line for the KFOR peacekeepers in Kosovo. The heavy armor is expected to deter the possible outbreak of hostilities along the frontier from confrontations between a new ethnic Albanian militia, the Liberation Army of Presevo, Medvedja, and Bujanovac (UCPMB), and Serb forces in the Presevo Valley directly north of the Serbia-F.Y.R. Macedonia border. (See Yugoslavia section.) F.Y.R. Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski met with General Klaus Reinhardt, the KFOR commander, to demand that KFOR tighten control of the Kosovo-F.Y.R. Macedonia border following the capture of four F.Y.R. Macedonian soldiers by unidentified people when they crossed into Kosovo. The soldiers were freed after being detained for several hours. March / April 2000 Steps Toward Potential EU Membership Begin The European Union opened talks with F.Y.R. Macedonia on establishing a Stabilization and Association Agreement with the country. The accord, the first of its kind between the EU and any nation, will demand less of Skopje than the standard association agreements the EU has signed with other countries. However, it will bring the country closer to the bloc by providing more EU aid in return for labor, market, and social reforms, privatization, a consistent legal system, and efforts to stem corruption. Skopje received $182 million from the bloc last year to offset the effects of the Kosovo crisis. F.Y.R. Macedonia took in 330,000 ethnic Albanian refugees and welcomed 30,000 NATO soldiers during the crisis. February 2000 No country briefings in this issue January 2000 Government Faces Electoral Challenges, Ethnic Albanian Power F.Y.R. Macedonia’s new president, Boris Trajkovski, assumed office in mid-December as the opposition Social Democrats boycotted the swearing-in ceremony over continued allegations of vote-rigging, despite a partial rerun of the polling that upheld his victory and the percentages received. They said they would not recognize the legitimacy of his presidency. The state electoral commission called for a December 5 repeat of voting at about 10 percent of the country’s polling stations after the Supreme Court nullified the results of the November 14 presidential balloting in these stations, which were primarily in the Albanian-dominated west. The Supreme Court’s decision followed allegations of irregularities in the voting process in this region by Tito Petkovski, the opposition presidential candidate who was defeated by Trajkovski, the government’s candidate and the deputy foreign minister. In the first round of voting at the end of October, Petkovskia member of the Socialist Democratic Union of Macedonia Party of outgoing president Kiro Gligorov, had defeated Trajkovski but had not received the 50 percent required to be named president. In the first round, two ethnic Albanian candidates ran, garnering a total of 19 percent of the votes. The fact that Albanian candidates ran for president for the first time indicates the level of integration of the Albanians into the political system. It is believed that many of these votes went to Trajkovski in the second round after the Democratic Party of Albanians, the largest Albanian party, which is a member of the ruling coalition, placed its support behind him. During the campaign, Petkovski made it clear that he was against concessions to the country’s Albanians and was seen as pro-Serbian, while Trajkovski’s party said it remained open to addressing ethnic Albanians’ demands for enhanced constitutional rights. The ethnic Albanian minority constitutes nearly one-third of the country’s population. Although observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe had declared the overall voting in the second round as generally satisfactory, they had noted large-scale proxy voting and instances of multiple voting in a number of polling stations in the west of the country and around Skopje. The 82-year-old Gligorova former communist, led the country to peaceful independence from the Yugoslav federation in 1991. His reformed communist party had been in the opposition since losing parliamentary elections in November 1998. January 2000 Government Resignation, Cabinet Reshuffle Wards Off Collapse of Coalition A collapse of the ruling three-party coalition was avoided in late December when the parties reached agreement on a strategy to remain unified, which included an extensive cabinet reshuffle to promote economic reform in the wake of the Kosovo crisis. Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski and his government resigned, and President Trajkovski offered the prime minister another governing mandate. With the new cabinet pared down from 26 members to 2419of the ministers were replaced, including the finance and interior ministers. A growing rift in the ruling coalition was widened partly by its failure to agree on a joint candidate for the presidential election. Trajkovski’s defeat in the first round of the election signaled dissatisfaction over the way the government had ruled over the previous year and a significant loss of some of the strongholds of Georgievski’s Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization-Democratic Party for Macedonian National Unity (VMRO-DPMNE) to the opposition. In the new cabinet, Georgievski gave the Democratic Party of Albanians (DPA), the only ethnic Albanian party in the ruling coalition, control of the Justice Ministry, the most senior post it has held up to now. The DPA continues to hold five cabinet posts. Georgievski also pledged that the ethnic Albanians’ demand for university instruction in their own language would be solved this year. January 2000 Defense Cooperation Accord Signed with Greece As a sign of the continuing normalization of bilateral relations, Greece and F.Y.R. Macedonia signed a defense cooperation agreement during a visit of Greek National Defense Minister Akis Tsohatzopoulos to Skopje. The accord covers bilateral meetings of experts, the training of F.Y.R. Macedonia’s defense ministry officials in Athens, and cooperation in the defense technology sector. Skopje also has defense cooperation accords with Albania, Bulgaria, Romania, and Turkey. During his visit, Tsohatzopoulos attended a ceremony marking the delivery of 10 Greek-manufactured Leonidas armored personnel carriers and 30 jeeps to the government as a gift from Greece. October 1999 - November 1999 A Greek joint venture is to acquire a majority stake in Okta, F.Y.R. Macedonia's only oil refinery, following approval of the sale by the parliament in Skopje. The $190 million purchase by a group led by Greece's state-controlled Hellenic Petroleum is the largest foreign investment to date in the former Yugoslav republic. The group will build a 135-mile pipeline to carry crude oil from the northern Greek port of Thessaloniki to Skopje, which will help double Okta's yearly capacity to 2 million tons of refined products. Okta will cover the increased demand for petroleum products in Kosovo, which was formerly supplied by refineries in Serbia, now damaged by NATO bombardment. October 1999 - November 1999 Balkan Electrical Grid to Hasten Reconstruction F.Y.R. Macedonia is one of six Balkan nations, along with Albania, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Greece, and Romania, that will participate in a regional electricity market to be created in southeastern Europe. These nations and the European Union have signed a preliminary agreement providing for the exchange of information on the interconnection of national electricity grids. Creation of the first stage of the market is targeted for 2006. The result of five years of preparation, the agreement is expected to boost industrial development and create new jobs and business opportunities in the Balkans. Each participating country will work toward facilitating more efficient and cost-effective electricity trade and transit, an essential element of the reconstruction of the region. August 1999 - September 1999 War-Strapped Economy Gets Major Taiwan Aid Boost Taiwan is building a free industrial zone near Skopje and has begun a training program for up to 2,000 people in F.Y.R. Macedonia to provide workers for the zone at a time when unemployment stands at 40 percent. These projects are part of Taiwan's pledge in January to invest $300 million in cash and up to $1.5 billion in long-term commitments in the country, following Skopje's agreement to establish diplomatic relations with Taipei. Taipei has also provided $300 million for regional reconstruction following the war in Kosovo. Taiwanese Prime Minister Vincent Siew and a 160-member business delegation visited Skopje in August to launch construction of the industrial zone. The zone is expected to encourage international investment in an economy severely strained by the impact of 360,000 Kosovar Albanian refugees, 19,000 of whom still remain within the country. Skopje has agreed to lift taxes on export goods produced in the zone and reduce taxes on those sold locally. Taiwanese companies are also expected to cooperate on projects involving hotel-building, telecommunications development, the establishment of food-processing plants, and the construction of apartments. F.Y.R. Macedonia is the only state in Europe other than the Vatican to recognize Taiwan. Beijing, which regards Taiwan as a renegade province, has severed relations with Skopje. F.Y.R. Macedonia's opposition, largely composed of former communists, has condemned Skopje's relations with Taiwan, pledging to restore ties with China if their candidate is elected president in October. June 1999 - July 1999 Economy Plunges During Kosovo War The economy of F.Y.R. Macedonia was crippled by the 11-week NATO campaign against Yugoslavia and the presence of 250,000 Kosovar Albanian refugees. The gap in the balance of payments this year is expected to be between $432 million and $600 million, more than 12 percent of the GDP of $3.5 billion. Before the war, the GDP was expected to grow by up to 6 percent this year. Now, it is expected to contract by at least 4 percent. Commerce, especially in the agricultural sector, was severely disrupted since Yugoslavia was the country’s second-largest trading partner, accounting for about one-fifth of exports. Half of Skopje’s overall trade passed through its northern neighbor. Relief agencies compounded the problem by bringing in food for the refugees from outside the country, rather than buying it from local sources. Many of the country’s factories and large businesses closed because they lacked access to raw materials or markets. In addition, manufacturing contracts with foreign investors were cancelled out of concern that possible instability in the country would prevent completion of the contracts. The government estimates that unemployment has risen to 40 percent. Skopje is seeking grants rather than loans from the international community as compensation for refugee support and the resultant strain on the national economy. The Paris donor conference in early May provided pledges, two-thirds in loans and one-third in grants, to cover more than $260 million of this year’s projected half-billion dollar budget gap. June 1999 - July 1999 Kosovar Refugees Bring New Ethnic Tensions Dozens of shops in the town of Tetovo were damaged in a mid-June clash between pro-Serb residents and Kosovar Albanian refugees staying in ethnic Albanian homes in the region. The violence occurred when about 500 refugees marched in a procession celebrating the entry of NATO-led peacekeepers into Kosovo, but order was quickly restored. Tetovo has a large ethnic Albanian population and is located in the northwestern part of the country near the Albanian border, where most of the nation’s 7,500 ethnic Albanians reside. Some 1,500 Kosovar Albanian refugees were taken into the homes of this minority during the war against Yugoslavia. Four policemen and two local inhabitants were injured in the clash, the most serious ever to take place in the town. Outbreaks of violence between the country’s Slavic majority and its ethnic Albanian minority, making up about 25 percent of the population, are rare in F.Y.R. Macedonia, where an ethnic Albanian political party is part of the governing coalition and ethnic Albanians have been integrated into society. June 1999 - July 1999 Communications Opened With KLA Leadership In mid-June, Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski met in Skopje with the political head of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), Hashim Thaci, who has formed a provisional government for Kosovo that commands the backing of the majority of Kosovar Albanians. The two pledged to establish liaison offices in Pristina and Skopje, and said communication between the Kosovo administration and the Skopje government would be intensive. June 1999 - July 1999 Serb Terrorist Group Targets Clinton, NATO Skopje authorities in June uncovered a Yugoslav-run underground network of ethnic Serbs, which claimed responsibility for an explosion destroying two NATO vehicles in the capital the week 16,000 allied peacekeepers began entering Kosovo from F.Y.R. Macedonia. The blast occurred four days before the arrival of President Clinton to thank the government for sheltering Kosovar Albanian refugees and for hosting the peacekeeping troops during the NATO air campaign against Yugoslavia. The group, “Macedonian Dawn,” threatened violence against Clinton during his visit to a Kosovar Albanian refugee camp. Police charged five suspects with international terrorism over their alleged involvement in the blast. The government said the terrorist operation was organized by two members of the Yugoslav Army against whom Interpol had already issued a warrant. April 1999 - May 1999 Massive Refugee Influx Paralyzes Fledgling Nation By mid-May, some 275,000 Kosovar Albanian refugees, more than 12 percent of F.Y.R. Macedonia’s population of 2.2 million, had flooded into the country, the smallest and poorest of the former Yugoslav republics. Some 60,000 of these refugees had been evacuated from F.Y.R. Macedonia, with Albania, Germany, and Turkey together taking a total of about 33,000. Before Milosevic’s forces began accelerating the forced migration of Kosovo’s inhabitants in mid-March, there were only 10,000 Kosovar refugees in F.Y.R. Macedonia. The rapidity with which the additional quarter of a million people entered the country has placed a tremendous burden on both the government and international humanitarian relief agencies to accommodate their needs. Over 100,000 have been housed in camps, and about 100,000 are staying with host families among the country’s 600,000 ethnic Albanians. Unlike the Albanian government, which said it would ask no refugees to leave the country and encouraged the Albanian public to take as many into their homes as they could, the government in Skopje immediately made it clear that it would be unable to accommodate the large numbers entering the country because of fears of economic and political collapse. Skopje has consistently said it had the capacity to handle only 20,000 refugees and has urged the international community to airlift as many of the remaining Kosovars out of the country as possible. April 1999 - May 1999 Conditional Support for NATO Operations The Skopje government backs the NATO airstrikes against Yugoslavia and has given the alliance permission to fly its support aircraft in the country’s airspace as it conducts the operation. It has, however, been firm in its refusal to allow the strikes to be launched from F.Y.R. Macedonia. Skopje, whose request for immediate entry into NATO has been denied, has also welcomed the deployment of 16,000 NATO troops, which began to arrive in March. These troops, which include 350 American soldiers, are to serve as potential peacekeepers in Kosovo in a force eventually expected to number up to 60,000. Since the termination of the mandate of the 1,100-member U.N. Preventive Deployment Force (UNPREDEP) at the end of February and the withdrawal of its troops, these NATO troops have become the primary security guarantee along the Kosovo-F.Y.R. Macedonia border. Until a peace settlement is reached in Yugoslavia, the troops are also assisting the country’s humanitarian relief effort. There have been several attacks against the NATO troops by Serb sympathizers. The 500ethnic Serbs in F.Y.R. Macedonia make up about 2 percent of the country’s population, and the Kumanovo area near the Kosovo border, where the troops are deployed, is a predominantly ethnic Serb region. F.Y.R. Macedonia has said it would not give the alliance permission to stage a ground invasion of Serbia from its soil. In April, NATO gave written assurances to Skopje that the country would not be used to launch a ground attack on Serbia. NATO Secretary General Javier Solana has also assured F.Y.R. Macedonia, Albania, Bulgaria, Romania, and Slovenia, all of which border Yugoslavia, that NATO would consider strikes against them by Belgrade unacceptable. Yugoslavia has warned all these countries against facilitating NATO’s campaign against it. April 1999 - May 1999 New Worries of Political Instability, Secession Movements Skopje fears that the large influx of ethnic Albanian refugees could destabilize the country, which has maintained a reasonable degree of harmony among its 27 ethnic groups. The refugee presence could provoke a backlash among the majority Slav population, which constitutes 65 percent of F.Y.R. Macedonia’s citizens and tends to sympathize with Serbia in the Kosovo conflict. A demand for autonomy or secession by the country’s ethnic Albanian minority, which officially makes up 23 percent of the population but claims to be as much as 35 percenth, as long been considered the greatest threat to F.Y.R. Macedonia’s stability. The government is worried that a permanent presence of additional ethnic Albanians could encourage this minority, about 750,000 people concentrated in the northwestern part of the country along the Albanian border, to embrace the KLA’s designs for a Greater Albania. Leaders of the ethnic Albanian minority in F.Y.R. Macedonia deny any secessionist intent or desire for autonomy. In addition, the more radical of the two main Albanian parties, the Democratic Party of Albanians, shares power with the Slav majority in a coalition government formed late last year, holding 5 of the 27 cabinet posts. The two victorious parties asked the Albanian party to join the government to minimize friction, although they did not need it in the coalition to form a majority. Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski fulfilled an election pledge to free the mayors of Tetovo and Gostivar, towns with large Albanian populations, who had been jailed on sedition charges by the previous government. As the NATO airstrikes began, Georgievski was preparing to embark on the resolution of disputes between Slavs and ethnic Albanians over education, language, and local government, which have periodically triggered violence. In general, religion has not emerged as a major dividing line between the Orthodox Christian Slavs and the Muslim ethnic Albanians in F.Y.R. Macedonia. February 1999 - March 1999 Air Strikes Against Serbia Bring Civil Unrest F.Y.R. Macedonia was rocked by pro-Serb demonstrations and rioting during the early days of NATO air strikes against Serbia in late March, indicating a potential for instability in the country for the first time since it gained independence from Yugoslavia in 1991. Since the break-up of Yugoslavia, F.Y.R. Macedonia has been the only republic to establish independence peacefully and maintain civil order despite its disparate ethnic groups, including a 23 percent ethnic Albanian population. As demonstrators vented their outrage against the U.S. and its NATO allies, including attacking the U.S. Embassy in Skopje, the government also braced itself for a swell in the refugee flow into the country from Kosovo, an element that could lead to further destabilization and contribute to civil unrest. April 1999 - May 1999 Crushing Burdens on Weak Economy The war in Kosovo has threatened F.Y.R. Macedonia with economic collapse unless substantial foreign aid becomes available, an element that could turn the people of F.Y.R. Macedonia against NATO forces in the country. The government estimates that it will lose $240 million a month as a result of the crisis. Apart from the burden placed on the economy by the influx of refugees, trade has been severely disrupted by the war. Belgrade was one of Skopje’s major trading partners before the air campaign began. Sandwiched between Greece, with its port at Thessaloniki, and Yugoslavia, F.Y.R Macedonia is on the main surface transportation route linking central and eastern Europe to the Aegean Sea. In addition, many foreign investments in F.Y.R. Macedonia have been cancelled. With no rail links from Skopje to Albania or Bulgaria, the main metal, chemical, and textile factories have had to shut down. Even before the Kosovo crisis, unemployment in F.Y.R. Macedonia stood at 25 to 45 percent. February 1999 - March 1999 NATO Troops Await Kosovo Settlement By late March, some 10,000 NATO troops, including U.S., German, Italian, British, and French soldiers, had been deployed in F.Y.R. Macedonia near the Kosovo border as the first contingent of a possible 28,000-strong NATO-led peacekeeping force for Kosovo if the Serbs and Kosovar Albanians reach a settlement to their year-long conflict and the NATO campaign is ended. The troops and equipment were transported to F.Y.R. Macedonia overland from the port and airport of the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki. F.Y.R. Macedonia had already been serving as a base for 2,300 members of a NATO “extraction force,” ready to rescue 1,380 civilian verifiers that were monitoring the October ceasefire in Kosovo, if necessary. February 1999 - March 1999 Kosovar Refugee Flow Accelerates For the first time since the conflict in Kosovo erupted early last year, significant numbers of ethnic Albanians from the Serbian province began heading south into F.Y.R. Macedonia in February as a result of a Serbian offensive along the Kosovo-F.Y.R. Macedonia border. As the NATO air strikes on Serbia began in late March, some 10,000 Kosovar Albanian refugees had already crossed the frontier. Between February 1998 when the Kosovo conflict began and the launch of air strikes, 269,000 ethnic Albanians had left Kosovo for countries in the region and Western Europe. Some 22,000 had gone to Albania and 10,000 had entered Bosnia. The Yugoslav republic of Montenegro had been the destination of another 30,000. Up until February 1999, about 3,000 had entered F.Y.R. Macedonia to escape the conflict, but most of them were absorbed into the homes of friends or relatives throughout the country. February 1999 - March 1999 U.N. Force Termination by China Veto The mandate of the 1,100-member U.N. Preventive Deployment Force (UNPREDEP) in F.Y.R. Macedonia along its border with Kosovo ended on February 28 when China vetoed a U.N. Security Council resolution to extend its stay for six months. The move was in retaliation for Skopje’s establishment of diplomatic relations with Taiwan in January and followed the severing of Beijing’s diplomatic ties with Skopje in early February. The force, deployed in F.Y.R. Macedonia in 1992 during the Bosnian war to prevent the fighting from spreading south into the fledgling republic, had also been considered crucial to containing the violence in Kosovo. It included about 360 soldiers from the U.S., 640 from Sweden and Finland, and 50 from Indonesia. The shut-down of UNPREDEP came at a particularly inopportune time following the end of inconclusive peace talks between the Serbs and ethnic Albanians at Rambouillet, France, and amid a Serbian offensive on villages close to the Kosovo-F.Y.R. Macedonia border, resulting in a wave of refugees moving south toward Skopje. February 1999 - March 1999 U.S. Criticizes New Taiwanese Ties During a visit by Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski to Washington in early February, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright expressed concern over Skopje’s decision to establish diplomatic relations with Taiwan the previous month. Georgievski made it clear that the government had acted largely to improve the economy of F.Y.R. Macedonia, where an estimated 25 to 45 percent of the people are unemployed and about 20 percent live in poverty. In return for F.Y.R. Macedonia’s recognition, Taiwan promised $1.5 billion in investments in the country and $300 million to ease Skopje’s state deficits. Taiwan’s plans include the construction of factories, small business loans, agricultural assistance, and job training centers. A visit of Taiwanese Foreign Minister Jason Hu to Skopje, accompanied by a business delegation, was one of several diplomatic exchanges between the two countries within a month of establishing ties. Taiwan, which split from China following a civil war in 1949, has diplomatic relations with only 28 countries, to which it provides substantial aid and trade support. In Europe, the Vatican is the only other state to recognize Taiwan. Beijing considers Taiwan to be a province of China and severs ties with countries that grant it diplomatic recognition. February 1999 - March 1999 New Oil Pipeline Link with Greece Greece and F.Y.R. Macedonia have agreed to build a pipeline to carry crude oil from the northern Greek port of Thessaloniki to a refinery near Skopje. The Greek side will finance construction of the 130-mile, $150 million pipeline in a joint venture between Greece’s state oil-refining company and a private Greek construction company. The joint venture plans to buy a majority stake in F.Y.R. Macedonia’s state-owned oil refinery and will invest in its modernization. February 1999 - March 1999 Skopje Joins Regional Anti-Drug Trafficking Effort The U.N. and European Union in February launched a $7.6 million program to curb drug trafficking through F.Y.R. Macedonia, Bulgaria, and Romania, a primary route for smuggling drugs from southwest Asia to Europe. The three-year project could expand to other countries in the region, such as Turkey and Yugoslavia. Police and customs officials in the Balkan states will receive advanced training in profiling techniques and drug detection methods. State-of-the-art criminal data analysis systems will be set up to aid investigations. February 1999 - March 1999 NATO Installations to Protect Kosovo Observers and Monitor Troop Movement In late November, NATO established a headquarters in F.YR.O.M. to coordinate information recorded through surveillance flights over Kosovo and the observations of the international personnel of the Kosovo Verification Mission (KVM) in the Serbian province. The surveillance program, known as Operation Eagle Eye, and the KVM were set up following the October ceasefire agreement in Kosovo in order to monitor the movements of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevirc's forces within the province. France, Germany, Italy, Britain, and the U.S. have provided aircraft for the overflights. The F.YR.O.M. headquarters is being operated by 150 staff from 11 NATO nations, including the U.S. and Greece. In December, NATO also began to deploy its extraction force in F.Y.R.O.M. to evacuate KVM monitors in the event of aggression against them. Belgrade warned that any incursion by NATO troops into Kosovo would violate Yugoslav sovereignty and integrity, and would be resisted by Yugoslav federal troops, although Milosevic had agreed to the establishment of the force as part of the October agreement. The force, Operation Determined Guarantor, is made up of about 2,300 troops from France, Italy, Britain, and the Netherlands. The commander is French. February 1999 - March 1999 Commercial, Cultural Ties with Greece Expand Greek Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos visited Skopje in, December less than two weeks after the election of LjubcoGeorgievski as F.Y.R.O.M.'s prime minister. His visit wasregarded as a show of support for the country's peaceful transition to a new government that has incorporated ethnic Albanians into its coalition and stands in stark contrast to the regime in neighboring Serbia, where the ethnic Albanian population has had no representation in government and has been fighting for the independence of Kosovo for nearly a year. Despite the ongoing disagreement between Greece and its northern neighbor over the use of the name "Macedonia," which is being discussed in U.N.-sponsored negotiations, the two countries continue to improve bilateral relations. During Pangalos's visit, they agreed to accelerate economic cooperation, strengthen trade relations, and develop cultural ties. Pangalos said that initiatives in the fields of communications, energy, and telecommunications, coupled with the possible construction of an oil pipeline linking Skopje and Thessaloniki, could serve as the basis for further development in the region. Greece is already the largest direct foreign investor in F.YR.O.M., with trade between the two countries valued at about $250 million in1998 Athens imposed a trade embargo on its neighbor in 1994 because of the use of the name "Macedonia," which Greece believes implies territorial ambitions toward its own northern region, also called Macedonia. The embargo was lifted a year later when an interim accord concerning normalization of relations was signed by the two nations under U.N. auspices, referring the name issue to U.N.-sponsored talks. U.S. policy, under President Bill Clinton's directive, is to recognize the name "Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia" designated by the UN., until Athens and Skopje reach final agreement on the issue. October 1998 - November 1998 Regional Peacekeeping Agreement Signed in Skopje Secretary of Defense William Cohen joined his counterparts from eight countries of southeastern Europe in signing an agreement establishing a multinational military force that will be deployed for peacekeeping or humanitarian operations in the Balkans or other areas. Meeting in Skopje in late September, NATO allies Greece, Turkey, and Italy, and non-NATO countries Albania, Bulgaria, F.Y.R.O.M., and Romania agreed to contribute troops to the Southeast European Brigade (SEEBRIG), a force of about 5,000 soldiers that could be part of peace support efforts led by NATO or the Western European Union (WEU). The U.S. and Slovenia signed the agreement as observers and will not contribute troops. The headquarters of SEEBRIG will be in Plovdiv, Bulgariafor the first four years. Cohen said the brigade would demonstrate that countries in southeastern Europe can work together to improve regional security. The United States will provide technical expertise and equipment to the force, which may be ready for deployment sometime next year. The SEEBRIG agreement was signed during the third Southeastern Europe Defense Ministerial meeting, a cooperative forum established by the United States to strengthen ties among the militaries of the Balkans and promote stability in the region. The countries establishing SEEBRIG began meeting in this forum in 1996 to discuss issues such as reinforcing regional security, strengthening border controls, and providing training through the Partnership for Peace. October 1998 - November 1998 Election Results End Decades of Leftist Rule A center-right conservative coalition’s victory in November’s parliamentary elections ended 53 years of leftist rule in the former Yugoslav republic that gained independence from Belgrade in 1992. The “For Change” opposition bloc of the moderately rightist VMRO-DPMNE (Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization-Democratic Party for Macedonian National Unity) and the centrist Democratic Alternative (DA), a new Western free-market party, won an outright majority with 63 seats in the 120-seat legislature. The “For Change” bloc has formed an alliance with the Democratic Party of Albanians (DPA), an ethnic Albanian party, believing that Albanian representation in the ruling coalition is essential to discouraging a spillover of the ethnic Albanian separatist movement from neighboring Kosovo. Five of about 25 cabinet posts in the new government will be held by the DPA, the same number held by ethnic Albanians in the outgoing cabinet. In contrast to Kosovo, where the 90 percent ethnic Albanian majority has not been given a voice in either provincial or national government, the 23 percent ethnic Albanian population in F.Y.R.O.M. participates in elections. An Albanian party was allied with the Social Democrats in the previous government. Ljubco Georgievski, the new 32-year-old prime minister of the country, is the leader of VMRO-DPMNE, heir to the region’s VMRO nationalist movement of the 1920s and 1930s, which was disbanded under communism. VMRO-DPMNE’s nationalist platform and hostility toward the ethnic Albanian minority has been renounced under the moderating influence of DA leader Vasil Tupurkovski. October 1998 - November 1998 Skopje Hosts Kosovo Reaction Force and Overflight Coordinators Tension has developed between the governments of F.Y.R.O.M. and Yugoslavia over NATO’s plans to deploy a rapid reaction force in F.Y.R.O.M. to evacuate 2,000 international civilians monitoring compliance with the ceasefire agreement in Kosovo if they are in danger. The force is expected to consist of about 1,800 helicopter-borne troops. Half will be from France and the rest will be from European countries. Germany, Britain, and the Netherlands have announced that they will participate in the force, which will be commanded by a French general and should be in place by mid-December. The U.S. does not plan to take part in the force but is expected to contribute planes and pilots to NATO’s aerial surveillance of Kosovo. NATO will set up a center in F.Y.R.O.M. to help coordinate the surveillance overflights. August 1998 - September 1998 U.S., European Muscle Flexed for Balkan Peacekeeping NATO officials denied that the mid-September military exercise conducted in F.Y.R.O.M. by 26 countries was a show of force in opposition to Serbia’s continuing conflict with the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) in neighboring Kosovo. The week-long “Cooperative Best Effort” exercise was intended to enhance the infantry peacekeeping skills and personnel evacuation expertise of 500 troops from the 13 NATO nations, including the U.S., and the 13 non-NATO countries that participated. The exercise was held in the central part of the country at Krivolaka military training ground of the former Yugoslav People’s Army. August 1998 - September 1998 Skopje Tackles Smuggling of Kosovo-Bound Arms In early September, Defense Minister Lazar Kitanovski said the reinforcement of national troops along the Albania-F.Y.R.O.M. border in July had resulted in a decrease in the smuggling of arms headed for Kosovo through the country’s northwestern corner. In addition, the U.N. Security Council in July added 300 troops to the 750-member United Nations Preventive Deployment Force (UNPREDEP), which is posted along the northern section of F.Y.R.O.M.’s border with Albania and along the country’s border with Serbia. Six new UNPREDEP monitoring posts were set up along the Serbian border, and the force’s mandate was extended until February 1999. Norway supplied most of the additional troops to the force, which consists primarily of American and Nordic soldiers. UNPREDEP troops cannot interfere with the movement of goods across the frontier by people or pack animals. Their mission is to monitor activity in the region and report on the illicit flow of arms and other threats to the region’s security. August 1998 - September 1998 KLA Attacks Provoke Fears of War Spillover The Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) in July claimed responsibility for several bomb blasts in F.Y.R.O.M., heightening concern that the violence in Kosovo could spread to neighboring countries. The explosions caused no injuries, but they damaged buildings in downtown Skopje and caused damage to property in the towns of Kumanovo and Tabanovci near the Yugoslav border. In January, the KLA claimed responsibility for explosions in three F.Y.R.O.M. towns inhabited by ethnic Albanians. August 1998 - September 1998 Greek Police in Anti-Crime Cooperation Athens and Skopje agreed in July to intensify cooperation between their police forces to step up efforts to curb organized crime, arms smuggling, and illegal immigration. The countries’ customs authorities also established guidelines to improve customs clearance procedures for the two-way transport of goods. In addition, Athens offered Skopje technical assistance in the training of its customs officers on the basis of European regulations.
- Jul 7, 2011