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Dobrich - Zoo - Spring Day. Animals at the Dobrich Zoo are decorated with martenitsa, traditional red-and-white tassels symbolizing spring and health, by students from the local Bacho Kiro School. The children have collected 60 leva to buy food for the animals. Pressphoto BTA photo: Grigor Marinov
REFORMS IN PAYMENT SYSTEM EXPECTED TO END NEXT MONTH.
A seminar on functioning of the current payment system in Macedonia attended by over a hundred representatives of the banking sector, ministry of Finance as well as by other entities within the payment system, began Friday in the town of Ohrid.
In his address, Minister Gruevski underlined that " only a year ago, not many people believed in successful conducting of the reforms within the payment system, but since the Value Added Tax (VAT) was applied and the process of reforms resumed, the situation has changed."
"According to the estimations of the experts in the economic sphere, in the past six months Macedonia experienced the most important economic reforms since its independence," Minister Gruevski said, citing an International Monetary Fund expert's opinion that regarding the payment and the safe deposit systems, Macedonia is "even ahead of the state of Slovenia."
Gruevski reminded that the reforms have been carried out in extremely difficult war conditions, when Macedonia suffered severe losses in economy.
"Still, the reforms were not postponed and the new payment system was introduced on January 1, 2002. We did not expect everything to go according to the plan, but we were convinced in the proper functioning of the system without any serious obstacles. There are occasional difficulties and discordances but these will be surpassed and that is the main purpose of this gathering", Minister Gruevski said.
He expressed his belief that the Steering Committee on reforms in payment system will be dissolved next month, "which will mark the complete and successful end of the reform process.
WEEK FOR FIGHT AGAINST CANCER STARTS TODAY.
The number of persons with malignant diseases is constantly increasing, about 4,500 patients, out of whom 2,500 young people, were registered only in the year 2000. Each year, as the chairperson of the Macedonian Anti - Cancer Association - MACA, Lidija Todorovska said, around 3.000 new cases of cancer have been registered in the country, out of which 30 % are young people under the age of 25.
Regarding the "Week for Fight Against Cancer", that the World Health Organization (WHO) organizes each year on March 1-7, MACA, in collaboration with the women association of cancer survivors "Life Sparkle", is planing series of activities.
Dr. Todorovska pointed out that the most of the activities would be aimed at raising the level of conciseness among population in changing the health habits in order to protect from the harmful factors, which are obviously present in Macedonia.
This year, the anti-cancer week will be marked under the motto "More Information - Less Cancer". The activities will include publishing of several brochures on prevention of the skin cancer and protection from harmful sunrays. Booklets on "How to Quit Smoking", "Possibility for Engagement of Volunteers in MACA", "Breast Self-Exam" and "Advises Children Nutrition" are already published.
Members of the association "Life Sparkle", in collaboration with "MACA", are planing to visit malignant patients at the Oncology Institute in Skopje on March 4.
The traditional gathering of patients with malignant diseases, in cooperation with the Women Association "Lipas", will take place on March 5 in Skopje and two days later in Prilep.
Regarding the World Health Day - March 7, MACA is planning to launch a campaign on the rights of patients suffering from malignant diseases.
CHANGES IN MACEDONIAN FOREIGN POLICY.
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Prague, Czech Republic
On 25 February, the Skopje daily "Vest" ran an article under the headline: "The Greek[s] will cut off Western Macedonia with money from the EU." The article itself was about Macedonia's future energy policy. The subtitle of the article read: "Macedonian experts warn of the danger of energy dependence on [our] southern neighbor." The Greek company Egzergia has worked out a project for two small hydroelectric power complexes in the Vardar Valley.
The Macedonian specialists' warning refers to another proposal of the Greek company: Egzergia has plans to build a new core unit for a power plant in southern Macedonia and to fuel it with lignite, which would have to be imported from Greece. Former Foreign Minister Ljubomir Frckovski, who is now an adviser to President Boris Trajkovski, has a similar view of Greece's policy toward Macedonia.
In an analysis of his country's foreign relations, Frckovski wrote in the opposition daily "Utrinski vesnik" of 23 February that Greek involvement in the Macedonian economy could lead to the country's de facto partition. Frckovski argues that for a small country like Macedonia, it is necessary to maintain equally good relations with all neighboring states in order to benefit economically. Otherwise it faces the danger of partition, as Macedonia has experienced in the past, when it was divided between Greece, Bulgaria, Serbia, and Albania.
Frckovski believes that Macedonia has to find a balance in order to achieve the goal of equally good relations with the neighbors. That means that both the east-west transit corridor between Bulgaria and Albania as well the north-south connection between Serbia and Greece have to be developed. Interestingly, Frckovski's article coincides with some speculation about possible changes in Macedonia's relations with its Balkans neighbors. Under the Socialist-led governments before 1998, the Macedonian leadership conducted a policy of equal distance toward all neighboring countries.
However, during the election campaign of 1998, the then-opposition Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization--Democratic Party for Macedonian National Unity (VMRO-DPMNE) accused the Socialists of being pro-Belgrade. In reply to these charges, the Social Democratic Union of Macedonia (SDSM) accused the VMRO-DPMNE of being pro-Bulgarian. In Macedonian political culture, both accusations imply that the respective parties work against national interests and are collaborators with the partitioning powers of the past -- when the geographic region of Macedonia was divided between Greece, Serbia, and Bulgaria after the Second Balkan War of 1913.
In recent years, the foreign policy preferences of the governing parties have not had much impact in practice. Although the SDSM governments had better political relations with Belgrade, they could not use them to any real advantage as long as Slobodan Milosevic was in power. In a similar vein, the good relations between the current VMRO-DPMNE government under Ljubco Georgievski and Bulgaria have not led to much -- apart from some military and political support during the 2001 crisis. Meanwhile, Greek companies have made big inroads into the Macedonian market -- often with the help of the VMRO-DPMNE government. However, investigations into the corruption charges raised by the opposition have not produced enough evidence to have any serious consequences for the government (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 July 2001).
Some analysts now see a shift in the political preferences of the VMRO-DPMNE from Bulgaria toward Serbia. As Vladimir Jovanovski points out in an article for the bimonthly "Forum" of 15 February, there are indications that the VMRO-DPMNE leadership is seeking support from Macedonia's northern neighbor -- something unthinkable for that party in the past.
Jovanovski writes that the cooperation began during last year's crisis, when Serbian Deputy Prime Minister Nebojsa Covic came to Macedonia for consultations. A recent visit by Yugoslav Foreign Minister Goran Svilanovic added to the improved relations.
Meanwhile, Georgievski and Interior Minister Ljube Boskovski regularly announce their political agendas on the pro-Serbian Sitel TV. Jovanovski states that Sitel also serves as a forum to disclose which "party members are about to be eliminated from party ranks," as was the case recently with Deputy Prime Minister Dosta Dimovska (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 25 January 2002). The editor in chief of "Forum," Saso Ordanoski, believes that the shift in the foreign policy preferences of the VMRO-DPMNE is due to internal problems. The party must overcome its bad poll ratings if it is to stay in power.
In Ordanoski's eyes, moreover, it is clear who would profit from an electoral victory of the VMRO-DPMNE: "Georgievski gets...friendly with Serbia...but also has the support of Greece, which would move closer to the realization of its strategic economic, security, and political aims in Macedonia with him" in power.
Anonymous Letter Threatens Premier.
This is an act of brainless people, Ivan Iskrov said.
Another scandal erupted in the NMS PG because of an anonymous letter circulated by the NMS MP Kiril Milchev. It is an act of brainless people who aren't aware of what they are doing, Ivan Iskrov commented. NMS MP Kiril Milchev circulated an anonymous letter to Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha in parliament yesterday. The letter insists that the premier should initiate 'an immediate change in the economic and social policy' of the government. Complete transparency in the country's governance and democracy within the PG are the other demands to Simeon. Authors of the letter are members of the Control Council - Stella Bankova, Elka Anastassova and Kosta Tsonev - Milchev explained. In his view, 20 MPs had signed the letter to the King. The anonymous letter caused embarrassment within the NMS group yesterday. Kosta Tsonev declared he had nothing to do with it, and 10 minutes later he confessed he had put his signature under the text. Stella Bankova nervously insisted she had no information and Anastassova escaped before the scandal burst. Milchev pointed out that Bankova had asked him to inform journalists of the text of the letter to the Premier. According to informed sources, the letter was brought to the Council of Ministers yesterday. Not only are these people unaware of the management program of the cabinet, they didn't even bother to open the website of the CM to read it, Roumyana Georgieva said with indignation. Most MPs promised to denounce their colleagues at a sitting of the NMS group this Tuesday. I don't approve MPs who circulate anonymous letters in parliament, said Nonka Matova.
Symbolic Visit of Parvanov to Macedonia.
The hosts took into account the gesture - the Balkans tour of the Bulgarian president began from Skopje.
'Let us leave history to historians, and politics - to politicians', our head of state pointed out in his speech in the Macedonian parliament. And he sticked to his stand to the end. Maybe being well aware of the historical facts, he categorically declined to comment on the language dispute and our common past with Macedonia. 'Let us vigorously resist the attempts to be reverted to the past, let us jointly write the new page of our history', Parvanov told the Macedonian MPs. 'The future of our children is in the Single Europe and not in the labyrinths of history', his colleague Boris Trajkovski supported him. In this way the two presidents explicitly stressed that it was high time for pragmatism to gain the upper hand over emotions in relations between the two neighboring states. The two delegations agreed on some specific projects - for the construction of a motorway and railway line between Skopje and Sofia, as well as of a power cable. In order that Macedonia may purchase Bulgarian energy. The hosts also backed up the idea for boosting the two countries' economic relations . 'We have to turn our backs to the past in the Balkans, to give the generations to come a chance', the Macedonian head of state pointed out. If Europe wants peaceful and serene Balkans, it should help the economic stabilization of the region. It was the other stand supported by Sofia and Skopje. The two heads of state also share the stand that the chances of Bulgaria and Macedonia alike are in the two countries' joining the European Union and NATO. Apart from the purely pragmatic aspect, Parvanov's visit to Skopje had a symbolic significance too. The hosts didn't conceal their being flattered by the fact that Parvanov's first visit after Brussels was to Macedonia's capital. It was not accidental either, that Parvanov's speech before the political elite of Macedonia was titled 'Ten years later'. At the beginning of 1992 Bulgaria was the first to recognize the independence of the Republic of Macedonia. The language dispute was settled seven years later. 'There isn't and there can't be any revision of the agreements already reached', Parvanov stressed often during his meetings in Skopje.
BULGARIA - PRIME MINISTER - TURKEY.
Sofia, March 1 (BTA) - "Bulgaria and Turkey are about to reach agreement on further talks to settle bilateral property issues," Prime Minister Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha said in Parliament Friday.
MPs had posed a question for the Prime Minister to answer, concerning the settlement of a 90-year-old issue about the property of Bulgarian refugees from Eastern Thrace.
Todor Boyadjiev MP of the left-wing Coalition for Bulgaria presented the subject. It concerns property worth 5,000 million US dollars and originally owned by 800,000 Bulgarian refugees from Eastern Thrace. The amount doubles if lost profit is added.
"Several groups of issues remain unresolved between the two countries," Saxe-Coburg-Gotha said. They pertain to property rights as well as social and humanitarian matters. "Sadly, the least significant progress has been made in handling the property issues," he said.
This is due to the "essential differences between the two countries' positions on the nature of the property claims and on the methods of their settlement," he said.
The Prime Minister confirmed the continuity in the policy of successive Bulgarian governments regarding the outstanding questions, including the question of the property of the refugees and their heirs, which has remained unresolved for 90 years.
"The two countries' political will to settle these issues is reflected in a 1992 Bulgarian-Turkish Agreement on Friendship, Cooperation and Security," he said.
"Three rounds of talks were held in 1998 within the framework of activity of the Bulgarian-Turkish working group representing the two countries' foreign ministries.
"Four groups of issues were discussed: property matters (relating to real estate located in either country, whose owners have faced certain barriers in trying to sign off their rights at the time of immigration in the other country and have obtained the other country's nationality); social matters (relating to the social security of nationals of the two countries); and humanitarian issues (pertaining to the reunion of divided families and the management of cultural and historical heritage).
"These talks resulted in the signature of three agreements in Ankara in November 1998.
"A draft agreement on property claims settlement, proposed by the Turkish side, only takes into account the interests of ethnic Turks who have emigrated from Bulgaria and fails to pay due attention to the property rights of the Bulgarian refugee-migrants from Eastern Thrace," Saxe-Coburg-Gotha said.
"In response to the motion submitted by the Turkish authorities, in 1999 the Bulgarian side came up with a draft agreement on settlement of property counterclaims, which was worked out in accordance with the positions endorsed by the Bulgarian Government and defended during the 1998 talks.
"The document proposed by Bulgaria aims to establish a mutually acceptable balance while reinstating the property rights of the Bulgarian and Turkish migrants. Bulgaria's Council of Ministers is due to consider this document before bilateral negotiations are resumed," the Prime Minister said.
BULGARIA-INTERIOR MINISTRY CHIEF SECRETARY-SERBIA.
Sofia, March 1 (BTA) - Interior Ministry Chief Secretary Boiko Borissov met Friday with Milorad Simic, chief of the Serbian Police Directorate, and with Radovan Knezevic, chief of the Organized Crime Control Directorate, the Interior Ministry press centre told BTA. This is the first meeting between senior officials of the countries interior ministries, the Bulgarian Ministry specified.
Bulgaria and Serbia are both located between the East and the West and they have common problems: the contraband of goods, drug and human trafficking, and transborder organized crime, said Simic. He voiced readiness for more active exchange of information between the two ministries.
Borissov embraced the idea, adding that it would be good for bilateral cooperation if the ministries maintained contacts at the level of experts.
The meeting was attended by the chiefs of the National Police Service, Vassil Vassilev, and of the National Organized Crime Control Service, Roumen Milanov.
Kostov Doesn't Command, But His Word Weighs.
INTERVIEW Standartnews: Plamen Ivanov
It wasn't my childhood dream to become a chief secretary of the UDF, says Plamen Ivanov.
- Ivan Kostov shouldered the responsibility for the defeat retreating from the leader's position. Yet, is he the man who still draws the reins in the UDF?
- This is no true. t only looks so from the outside.
- But the fact that he has withdrawn his candidature for the leader's post and his silence again create chaos in the party.
- I wouldn't worry about it. He will say what he thinks when and where he decides it would be appropriate. I believe that it must be done before the party. He had taken a very active part in its policy-making.
- Doesn't it mean that he commands the UDF?
- No, I wouldn't say so. He is just one of those 50 people who take the floor for 4-5 hours at our sittings.
- Recently, Philip Dimitrov in his interview to the "Standart" stressed that it would not be appropriate if he and Ivan Kostov run for the post of the UDF leader.
- This is what Mr. Dimitrov thinks. I don't understand why should I comment on the behavior of Ivan Kostov. He is the man who will make his decisions himself.
- Does this mean that you in the UDF do not align to Kostov during the sittings of your National Council.
- No we do not. We are all equals and we all work for the UDF.
- The results of the polls show that the credit rating of the UDF is only 10 percent, does this satisfy you?
- Apparently, not. We are working hard to recover our
rating. And I think that UDF will be able to stand on its feet again.
- Do you a priori rule out the possibility to cooperate with some other write-wing parties? Are the newly established rightist parties a problem to the UDF?
- No, they are a problem to themselves.
- Does the UDF have any alternative in the right-wing space?
- No, it doesn't.
- The party cannot open up, it doesn't have partners, does it?
- UDF will open up for the fresh people.
- There are three nominees for a party leader...
- The major ones are two. I would say that there are two nominees - those who were set forward and declared their consent to run for the post. The leader will name the people whom he wants to be his team. Team spirit is the trump we count on. When the leadership fails to work as a team, the performance of a party is poor, and it doesn't matter how well they run it. A team of stars cannot perform successfully. You have to hope for a hard-working National Council. It will differ from the council elected at the notorious UDF conference.
- Do you admit new members?
- Yes, young people mainly.
- How many delegates do you expect to take part in the forthcoming conference?
- I would say, we can expect some 4000. As many as they were before. Because, as regards its structure the UDF hasn't changed much.
- Do you have any idea how many of your people joined the parties of Sofianski and Bakardjiev?
- Very few. I'm absolutely positive. Take as an example the rating of Stefan Sofianski himself. It's 35 percent, while the rating of his party is mere 1-1.5 percent.
- In Varna, don't they join Bakardjiev?
- Only one did.