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KAT Under Siege. Hundreds of late drivers besieged the Sofia Road Police Service (KAT) headquarters on the first working day of the New Year. They queued for hours yesterday to change their drive licenses. 'The drivers who had applied before December 2, 2001, but haven't yet taken the new DL, won't be fined. Photo Kiril Konstantinov
GRUEVSKI: SUCCESSFUL START OF THE REFORMED PAYMENTS SYSTEM AND THE EURO.
"The greatest economic reform in the past ten years in Macedonia, the transformation of the payments system, has ended successfully," Finance Minister Nikola Gruevski stated Thursday after his visit to the Makedonska banka, Stopanska banka and the Clearing House regarding the start of the reformed payments system and introduction of the Euro.
The payments system in our country is conducted only through the business banks two days ago. The adjustment will be carried out through the central system in the National Bank of Macedonia and the adjustment of small payments through the Clearing House.
The blocked accounts of the companies are transferred to the Agency for Blocked Accounts. The companies whose accounts are blocked will have to create conditions their accounts to migrate in business banks in the two following years.
Gruevski said that no there are no problems of the start of the new payments system and the rows in front of the windows in the banks are decreased compared to the period before the New Year holidays.
"I am convinced that in the following three months the things will come to normal," he said, adding, "however there is a need these processes to be carried out gradually since it is about a large transformation."
He also evaluated this day as successful for the start of the Euro in our country.
"I do not see any obstacles however I would not be surprised if I see a group of citizens waiting in a row to exchange the Euro in the next days, because we can create a row of crowd very easily if any speculation that there are no Euro, however I do not think that this will happen," he said.
On the question why there are no Euro in the exchange offices today, he said that it is probably because the exchange offices did not provide Euro that are in the banks. "This is the first working days. The Central Bank has provided the banks and in the following days the exchange offices will provide Euro," he said. He said that the governor of the National Bank of the Republic of Macedonia Ljube Trpeski said that there are enough amounts the Euro.
Minister Gruevski said that there are no theoretical chances if any citizen demands to raise the deposited resources, not to be given in full amount. "This is guaranteed by the state and the banks and there should not be any delays while raising of the deposits. If someone who deposit the money decides to raise the money which I do not recommend since we have safe banking system, can do this," he said.
After today's start of the only currency in the EU member-states, the Euro, all banks until Feb. 2002 will purchase all the currencies that Euro has replace, and will make a conversion with provision of 0,5%. After this date and until June 30 they can convert or put a foreign exchange deposit. From June 30 the currencies can only be replaced in the National Bank of Macedonia.
The rate of the Euro is fixed in relation to the 12 European currencies and in relation to the Deutsche Mark it amounts 1,95583.
By revoke of the Deutsche Mark the denar is linked to the Euro and according to the announcement from the National, Bank of the Republic of Macedonia, it will preserve the stable rate of the denar in relation to the Euro of 61 denar and 14 deni.
Mid January-The Next D-Day for Return of the Police.
By Irina Gelevska, A1 TV
Skopje - The expert teams of the Macedonian Police, NATO, OSCE and the Government Coordination Body for Management of the Crisis (CBMC) had meetings yesterday and today in the office of the CBMC in Skopje. Basically, the experts were talking about the current security situation in Macedonia.
The plan for returning of the police in the next group of 10-15 villages in the crisis regions around Skopje, Tetovo, Kumanovo and Gostivar, were not on the agenda because the high ranked representatives of NATO and OSCE are out of the country for the holidays. Some of them who didn't leave Macedonia for Christmas have left for their home countries for the New Year's Eve, and they are not going to be back in Skopje until 8-th of January 2002. According to CBMC spokesman Zoran Tanevski, the talks will start after their returning and until than the Macedonian Police experts are making evaluation of the need for staying of the Police Check Points in the crisis regions.
One open issue is the disagreement between the Macedonian Police on one side, and NATO and OSCE on the other side, about the removing of the check points from the roads in the villages before the mix police patrols to start their work there.
For example, OSCE insists that the Police check point "Ropalski Mlin," near the Kumanovo's village Ropaljce, to be removed because the villagers are complaining that they can not move freely because of it. On the other hand, this check point has been a target for a number of night attacks lately so the police experts think that its removal can only worsen the security situation in this region.
"From this check point you can see the next villages and the road towards them. If we left the check point, somebody might come here and shoot at the next Police check point"- says the police officers at the check point "Ropalski Mlin".
They also say that the only reason that there no police casualties from the latest attacks with heavy machine guns, is because the duty policemen saw the attackers before they opened fire.
The snow is other obstacle for the returning in the next group of villages in the crisis regions. If everything goes well, the next move of the Police in the villages will be around 15th of January 2002.
Calm in Tetovo Today, but Cummulative Results are Worrisome.
Tetovo, January 3 (MIA) - Unlike Wednesday night when shootings are heard from several types of infantry weapons, the situation in Tetovo region Thursday morning is calm, MIA's correspondent reports. Albanian terrorists opened fire from Tetovo Teke, Rasadiste locality near Tetovo - Popova Sapka road, the reformatory, the area of the city water supply and the canyon of Pena River. Also shootings are registered from the villages of Selce, Gajre, Poroj, Mala Recica, Trebos, Radiovce, Celopek, Prsovce, Neraste and Odri. Since the start of the crisis in Tetovo region, the Albanian terrorists have burnt and demolished more than 300 houses of the Macedonians and destroyed 54 churches and monasteries.
Macedonians Are European Recorders in Watching TV.
The Disposable Heroes Of Hiphoprisy, authors of the hit song "Television: the Drug of the Nation"
By Irina Gelevska, A1 TV
Skopje - Macedonia is a country where watching TV is the longest in Europe.
According the results of the investigation of the National Broadcasting Council conducted in December 2001, on average the Macedonians are watching TV for 5 hours and 21 minutes per day. In other European countries, people are watching TV for about 3 hours per day.
In 2001, 99% of the population in Macedonia between 18 and 55 years old were watching TV regularly. The TV News are the most popular TV show. Most of the citizens are watching TV between 10 a.m. and noon and between 7 and 9 o'clock in the afternoon.
According the investigation announced by the Head of the National Broadcasting Council Ljubomir Jakimovski, every family owns at least one TV set. In Macedonia, there are 140 radio stations and 89 TV stations.
In early 2002, the Broadcasting Council will give right to a few cable operators for broadcasting on a national level.
BULGARIA-PM-RETURN FROM MADRID.
PM Saxe-Coburg-Gotha Expects Higher Living Standards in 2002.
Sofia, January 3 (BTA) - Higher living standards will be achieved in Bulgaria in 2002 which will be felt by the people, Prime Minister Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha said in response to a question upon his return from Madrid where he spent the Christmas and New Year holidays. In Madrid he had a number of working meetings including with Spanish King Juan Carlos.
Asked about the priority in his work in 2002 the Prime Minister answered: "this country's welfare".
Saxe-Coburg Gotha said he is well-informed about all developments in this country in his absence and about the heavy winter conditions. He said that he was in constant touch with Nezhdet Mollov who is Chairman of the Government Committee for the Management of Natural Disasters and Industrial Accidents.
The Prime Minister said that he will go to the Council of Ministers straight from the Airport.
Asked whether he is planning changes in the cabinet and whether he is aware of the drop in the Government's popularity rating, according to the latest sociological surveys, the Prime Minister said: "Every time I return you ask me the same questions. I think everyone should do their job".
Asked whether the time has come for changes in the Cabinet and how he evaluates the work of the ministers, Saxe-Coburg-Gotha said that he will give no evaluations.
Asked whether the drop in the Government's rating is due to the recently undertaken unpopular measures and price hikes, the Prime Minister said: "I am coming from Spain where many prices have been raised just like in other countries, some things are inevitable."
Asked whether it was fair for him to have a 12-day holiday when his Cabinet refused to merge the Christmas and New Year holidays, Saxe-Coburg Gotha said: "If my associates and assistants in Madrid heard you call this a holiday they would laugh out loud. I worked throughout my stay in Madrid It was a
leave of absence and not a holiday. I have not had a holiday since April. And I cannot bring all my sons and grandchildren here because it would be too expensive."
On his way out of the Airport the Prime Minister was approached by a 24-year old student from Sofia who after wishing him a Happy New Year handed him a T-shirt reading "I am Awfully Ashamed of Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha and His Cabinet" and then wished him to start fulfilling the promises that brought him to
power this year.
The student explained that his protest was provoked by the incumbents' failure to keep their promises and by the "outrages in this country and the appointment of people not according to their merits but according to their relations with the prime minister."
Asked what the Prime Minister's response was, the student said: "He said he couldn't read without his glasses."
Atmosphere of Realistic and Positive Expectations in Relations with Russia, Bulgarian Ambassador Vassilev Says.
Moscow, January 3 (Bulgarian National TV corr. Valeri Todorov for BTA) - Bulgaria's Ambassador to Russia Iliyan Vassilev expects January to be particularly active in Bulgarian-Russian relations. In an interview for BTA he recalls the forthcoming visits by Bulgarian Foreign Minister Solomon Passy to Moscow at the invitation of his Russian counterpart Igor Ivanov at the end of January and by Bulgarian Deputy Prime Minister and Economy Minister Nikolay Vassilev in his capacity as co-chairman of the Bulgarian-Russian Cooperation Committee.
The purpose of these visits is not only political but also markedly trade and economic, Ambassador Vassilev said.
Asked about Russia's debt to Bulgaria. Ambassador Vassilev said that what is most important is that an atmosphere of realistic and positive expectations is being established in bilateral relations. To a great extent this will determine the success of the talks, he added. The issues of the debt, ownership, power engineering, joint ventures, new regional prospects, business and tourism are of paramount importance and progress of any of them will have a multiplicatory effect along the entire range of bilateral dialogue, Ambassador Vassilev said. "I have sufficient grounds to believe that solutions will be found to the sticking points of the previous sessions of the intergovernmental commissions because now there is political will, there is readiness and there is a concrete technology to translate this readiness into the respective documents," Ambassador Vassilev said.
Ambassador Vassilev also said that he expects an agreement on travel between the two countries to be signed during the visit of Foreign Minister Passy to Moscow to provide a framework to regulate travel following the introduction of a visa regime between the two countries on October 1, 2001.
Craze over Euro in Bulgaria.
3 million of the new money bought by banks within a few hours.
Queues winded in front of the Bulgarian banks to buy euro only a few hours after the exchange of the new currency started officially. 50 to 60 people lined up in front of the cash-desks of the Bulgarian National Bank (BNB) in Sofia immediately after the banks opened doors. About 2 or 3 million euro were exchanged within several hours, Svetlozar Karaneshev, head of the 'Treasury' department with the Central Bank, said. 'I won't travel abroad, I'm buying the new money only out of curiosity,' Stoyan Haralampiev said, paying 9.8 levs for 5 euros. This is the lowest nominal exchange rate in Bulgaria, while the highest one is 500 euros. The euphoria over the new currency raised its price by 5 stotinki (0.05 lev) against the U.S. dollar, reaching 0.906 dollars per euro. There were almost no customers in exchange offices because of the higher exchange rate. The world's first robberies of euro were already committed.