SITUATION IN CRISIS REGIONS.
There are no shootouts in Tetovo crisis region Thursday morning, while one person was severely wounded in the chests Wednesday night at 21h in the village of Tenovo, Tetovo area, said the report of the Media Activity Center at the Coordinate Crises Management Body The wounded person, a resident of the village of Tenovo, was hospitalized in the Medical Center in Tetovo.
Total of 11 sporadic and four riffle shots were evidenced in Tetovo region during Wednesday night as well as several shots from infantry weaponry coming from the police checkpoint in Ratae.
According to the Interior Department in Tetovo, some shots were registered at around 2:00 after midnight, coming from the area of Arabati Baba Teke, southeastern part of the town, as well as from the residential complex No. 82.
Around midnight, series of rifle shots were registered coming from Palatica village, as well as some sporadic shots from the villages of Odri, Prsovce, Trebos and Dobroste.
The firings had undetermined targets.
According to some police sources, it is still uncertain if an expert team, comprised of representatives of the Macedonian Ministry of Interior and an investigative judge from the Elementary Court in Tetovo, will be able to carry out an investigation on site, where the shootouts among the representatives of the so-called NLA and ANA took place three days ago.
The same sources say that the investigation is hindered by OSCE, for security reasons only.
In Kumanovo-Lipkovo region, 15 sporadic shots were registered. Certain movements of the Albanian terrorists were noticed on Matejce - Gosince road in the area of the village of Lojane.
The ethnically mixed police teams continue their regular patrolling, according to the General Plan for police's redeployment and some necessary preparations are being made for police's entering into the village of Slupcane.
MACEDONIAN INTERIOR MINISTER IN A TWO - DAY VISIT TO BULGARIA.
Macedonian Interior Minister Ljube Boskovski, who pays two-day official visit to Bulgaria, Thursday had a meeting with the speaker of the Bulgarian National Assembly Ognjan Gerdjikov, which was also attended by Bulgarian Interior Minister Georgi Petkanov.
Boskovski informed on the current political situation in Macedonia and the efforts made by the Macedonian security forces for respecting the Agreement reached by the political parties in the country. He emphasized the concern of the Macedonian authorities for some forms of extremism in the crisis regions, which pose a threat to the fragile ethnical peace in the country.
Minister Boskovski also informed on the results from the cooperation between the Macedonian and Bulgarian interior ministries in the struggle against organized crime and trafficking in weapons, drugs and humans.
Gerdjikov said that Bulgaria supports the independence and the territorial integrity of Macedonia and will continue to participate in the processes for stabilization of the country.
"The threats on the Macedonian territorial integrity are risk for the peace on the Balkans and in Europe," Gerdjikov said, emphasizing that Bulgaria supports UN, OSCE and NATO's efforts for political resolution of the crisis in Macedonia.
The purpose of this visit is the continuation of the dialogue from the previous bilateral meetings.
A protocol on collaboration between the Border Control Services of the two Interior Ministers for the year 2002 is expected to be signed at the meeting.
EURO-ATLANTIC ORIENTATION IS IMPORTANT FOR STABILITY AND COOPERATION PROCESS IN THE SEE.
Lasting peace, democratic development and economic prosperity of South East European countries can be achieved only by their full integration in European and Euro-Atlantic institutions, Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski said Thursday in his address at the meeting of Heads of State and Government of the SEE Cooperation Process (SEECP) in Tirana.
It would give a strong impulse to the stabilization, security and cooperation process in the region, Trajkovski said.
"In the last year our countries have done significant steps in their transformation on political, economic and democratic level. However, in the recent period, it has ben obvious that the region is still burdened with negative historic legacy that delays the necessary development," Trajkovski said.
In order to achieve the desired goals the SEE countries would have to enhance their mutual trust and understanding.
"We have to build and carefully nurture that trust among all political entities within our countries, which feel responsible for the peaceful development and prosperity, first for their own people, but also for their neighbors, " Trajkovski said.
Saying that the last year crisis in Macedonia has been the most serious challenge since the country's independence, Trajkovski expressed his belief that the crisis belonged to the past.
"Now we must turn to the future and work on implementing of our Agenda - strengthening democracy, rule of law and full integration in European and Euro Atlantic institutions," Trajkovski said.
The Macedonian leadership was fully committed to implementing of the Framework Agreement, redeploying of police and creating of conditions for safe returning of the displaced persons in the crisis regions, Trajkovski said.
Referring to the situation in the region, he welcomed the agreement on redefining the relations between Serbia and Montenegro and the successful elections in Kosovo, underlying the necessity for full respect of the UN Security Council Resolutions 1244 and 1345.
"However, I would like to reiterate at this point that we strongly reject any attempt, wherever it comes for, to challenge the Border Delineation Agreement between Macedonia and Yugoslavia," Trajkovski said.
In regard to certain specific proposals for the improvement of SEECP functioning, as well as for coordinating the activities with the existing regional forums and international organizations, Trajkovski expressed the readiness of Macedonia to give its adequate contribution.
"As leaders, we have a duty before our nations and our neighbors. We are also responsible towards Europe, as a community of democracies to which all our hopes and obligations are directed. We have to achieve this great responsibility towards citizens, our states and towards the idol of united Europe, by a constant and coordinated cooperation, " Trajkovski said.
During the SEECP Summit of heads of states and government, Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski had bilateral meetings with the host-Albanian President Rexhep Meidani and Croatian President Stipe Mesic.
According to MIA's special correspondent, within the talks with Meidani specific proposal was given for scheduling meeting among Macedonia, Bulgarian and Albanian presidents in Ohrid, focused on realization of the Corridor 8, oil pipeline AMBO and the railroad.
Meidani accepted the idea for organizing such meeting and he has already discussed that with Bulgarian President Georgi Prvanov.
Trajkovski and Meidani also discussed the signing of the Free Trade Agreement between Macedonia and Albanian. The signing of the agreement, scheduled for Friday, is in accordance with the provisions from the SEE Stability Pact, which envisages 21 agreements to be signed among the countries in the region.
The meeting between President Trajkovski and Mesic focused on the bilateral relations between Macedonia and Croatia, on the situation in Macedonia as well as the options for enhancing the cooperation in the region.
Trajkovski also met with UNMIK's civil administrator Michael Steiner and president of Bosnia and Herzegovina Beriz Belkic.
He discussed with Belkic the bilateral relations and expressed the mutual support for the integration in the Euro Atlantic structures.
The presidents expressed their dissatisfaction from the bilateral economic cooperation, assessing that it is lagging behind the political one. Regarding the arrest of the Bosnian citizens, Trajkovski and Belkic said that this issue did not disturbs the relations between the two countries, and the competent Macedonian and Bosnia and Herzegovina's institution should resolve the case.
President Trajkovski met Greek Prime Minister Kostas Simitis, and meetings with Bulgarian President Georgi Prvanov and Yugoslav Prime Minister Dragisa Pesic have been also scheduled. According to the information from President's Cabinet it is expected SEE Stability Pact's coordinator Erhard Busek to attend the meeting between Trajkovski and Prvanov.
DENMARK WILL BE THE FIRST COUNTRY TO RATIFY THE ASSOCIATION AND STABILIZATION AGREEMENT.
Macedonia and Denmark share same values, have full understanding of the mutual priorities and are motivated to contribute towards further promotion and enhancement of the stability in Europe, Macedonian Foreign Minister Slobodan Casule said Thursday in Skopje after the meeting with his Danish counterpart Per Stig Moeller.
Casule emphasized that "the Macedonian society was on the right path to create its own prosperity and stability."
"We are aware that we cannot achieve these two enormous tasks on our own, as we are faced with the global phenomenon - poverty that makes the people captives of the organized crime," Casule said, adding that "we are faced with series of crises and we cannot give another explanation except that the mutual enemy has a need to create chaos and to exist in it."
Minister Casule stressed that the resolutions of these issues should be sought in creating conditions for prosperity and investments in the joint projects, which would make Macedonia part of Europe.
Danish Minister Moeller said that he has realized at Thursday's meeting that the Macedonia works on accomplishing the European standards such as democracy, rule of law, free market and privatization, which would create conditions for attracting the necessary investments.
Moller said that Denmark will be the first country to ratify the Association and Stabilization Agreement between Macedonia and the European Union, and emphasized that Denmark can assist to Macedonia with different donations.
"However, the most important is to get on your feet and to create your future," Moeller said.
"You have already done that with the Ohrid agreement, which represents a step forward towards stable and peaceful Macedonia," Moeller said, pointing out that the Laws on amnesty and local self-government are especially positive steps in that respect.
Prime Minister Ljubcho Georgievski met Thursday with Danish Foreign Minister Per Stig Moeller.
Georgievski expressed his gratitude for the Danish support to Macedonia, as well as hope that Denmark would keep supporting the country in its efforts to join the international institutions. Greater support is also expected for Macedonia's membership in NATO.
The officials agreed that the country's economic revival would contribute to its political stability. In that respect, Georgievski underlined that reintegration of the country's territory as a priority.
Talking about the economic cooperation, Georgievski presented the favorable conditions for investing in the Macedonian economy.
MINISTER MEMETI MET REPRESENTATIVES OF POLITICAL PARTIES.
Macedonian Ministry of Justice develops 12 legal projects, arising from Framework Agreement and the constitutional amendments, which should be passed during the mandate of this composition of the Parliament, Justice Minister Ixhet Memeti said.
After the Thursday's meeting with the representatives of the parties - signatories of the Framework Agreement, Memeti said that it focused on the Laws on census, on state administration's employees, on Official gazette and the state institutions.
Kiril Andonovski from VMRO-DPMNE, Naser Ziberi from PDP, Minister of Labor and Social Policy Bedredin Ibraimi, as representative from DPA attended the meeting. Representative from SDSM was not present.
Minister Memeti said that he has submitted the texts of the laws to SDSM and expects the opinion of the party's members.
Memeti informed that one of the key topics on the meeting was the Law on census, which is coordinated with the relevant Macedonian institutions as well as with the representatives of the international community, which should monitor the census.
According to him, only three issues referring to the Law on census should be coordinated: the date for commencing the census, the use of languages and the option Macedonian citizens living abroad to be included with the census.
Speaking of the date for conveying the census, Memeti said "that it is most likely to hold the census April 1-15, 2003."
The census will be carried out in the official Macedonian language and its Cyrillic alphabet, Memeti said, adding that "also the language spoken by at least 20 percent of the Macedonian population would be used and that is the Albanian language."
He said that it was suggested the census to be conveyed in the languages of the other communities, and the persons can decide whether they want their data to be recorded in Macedonian language or in the language of the community they belong.
Informing that the next meeting with the party's representatives would be held on Monday, Memeti announced that the Law on use of languages, as well as the laws on criminal lawsuit.
MINISTER GRUEVSKI: VAT MIGHT INCREASE.
New tax will not be introduced, and whether the value added tax would be increased, we will know for certain in the course of May when the next round of negotiations with the International Monetary Fund are to be held, Finance Minister Gruevski announced on Thursday.
According to Gruevski, "IMF and the World Bank consider that the state budget should be increased on a long-run, despite the fact that Macedonia continuously has increasing expenses, especially after the adoption of the Framework Agreement, which should be also covered on a long - run.
"IMF demanded tax of 5 percent to be increased to 19 percents, except for the food products, but I am not sure that we will be in a position to convince them in May not to increase VAT," Gruevski pointed out.
Finance Minister explained that IMF demands increase of VAT, in order not to oppress the Law on financial transactions. "This is a temporary measure and will be valid until 2003", Minister Gruevski underlined.
Regarding the Law on retirement with 25 years of working experience, which will be discussed at Thursday's session of the Parliament, Minister said that although the Government wishes to provide its assistance to the workers that lost their jobs after the closure of several loss - making companies, "this measure does not correspond with the demands of the IMF and World Bank."
"The loss that might arise by passing this law will be enormous, and in order to prevent this, the Government will undertake other measures as the social package, which allows severance pay of 12 - month salaries, social aid, retraining courses and providing of favorable credit lines," Minister Gruevski underlined.
Answering the question whether the passing of the Law on retirement will overload the budget, Gruevski said that it was impossible to predict the costs, as the law so far referred to loss - making companies only, while now it refers to all the companies in private ownership.
According to Gruevski, the passing of the retirement law with 25 years of working experience is "a measure that has not been applied by any world country ever", the Minister said.
The previous retirement Law with 25 years of working experience was canceled on the demand of the IMF and World Bank.
"It is hard to predict which private companies will bankrupt, there is also a possibility of calculations - some of them to arrange their own bankruptcy in order to gain pension fund for 25 years of working experience", Gruevski explained.
"If the Parliament adopts such law, IMF and the World Bank will cancel all relations with Macedonia", Gruevski said and added that the canceling of the relations with these institutions will be absurd as the " 90 percent of the financial resources obtained by Donors' conference are included in their arrangements, so their realization will be brought into question." This fact made the Macedonian Government to strengthen its attitude in regard with this question.
Gruevski explained that the means for severance payments amounting to 12-month salaries for the workers of the loss - making companies would be provided from the Budget, and not from the pension fund.
THIRD CONFERENCE ON TOPIC: "STOCK MARKET IN MACEDONIA"
In regard to the sixth anniversary of the Macedonian stock market, a conference, third of this type, titled as "Stock market in Macedonia - condition, problems and perspective" took place in Skopje on Thursday.
Macedonian Minister of Finance Nikola Gruevski said that "the capital market represents a special challenge, which is an opportunity for enhanced development, progress and profit, because weak and non-profitable stock market cannot be interesting for the foreign capital."
"Now we need to accept all successful models of the capital market and to implement them in our country. With the new changes to the Law for securities, which besides the broker's houses now also includes the banks, provide larger competition and better quality in the work with the securities," Gruevski said, adding that in 2001 the trade with securities became profitable.
Minister Gruevski said that in conditions of growing globalization the small stock markets have no future, which is the reason why connections among the stock markets is needed, in order "crossed trade" to be provided.
"At the beginning of the year, we have started with activities for cooperation with the Athens stock market. This cooperation is based on the double quotation of the stocks on both stock market and enabling of crossed trading.
This will mean introduction of the economies of both countries and activities in both directions," Gruevski said.
In his opinion the emission of state-owned bonds is also very significant, because they increased the turnover on the stock market. "If some company is running on the market it is exempted from the profit tax," he added.
As most significant moment in the work of the securities market, Minister Gruevski pointed out the Central Depositary of securities, "which represents true revolution for the small stock companies who find protection there."
Referring to the factors for development of the securities market in Macedonia, director of the stock market Evgenij Zografski said that soon a Memorandum for cooperation would be signed with the Athens Stock market. He pointed out that the primary market in Macedonia was not developed, because all 190 emissions of stocks in the past few years were done with known buyers.
Koha Ditore: "Former" NLA HQ Holds Secret Meeting.
Influential Prishtina newspaper Koha Ditore informs that some members of the General Staff of the "disbanded National Liberation Army" met in Shipkovica village on Shara Mountain on Wednesday afternoon, 27 March, to adopt a position on the recent armed clashes between NLA and Albanian National Army, ANA in Mala Rechica.
Koha Ditore's unofficial sources claim that "former commanders" Valoni, Shpetimi, Leka, Hoxha and Iliri, as well as Sadri Fazliu, Nazmi Beqiri, and others attended the meeting.
Two important figures of the NLA (UÇK) did not attend this meeting: the political leader Ali Ahmeti, and Gezim Ostreni, the "former general commander."
Reportedly, the purpose of the meeting was to prepare for a meeting of the Coordinating Council of Albanians, which may be held in Mala Rechica on Thursday [28 March], at which the positions adopted in Shipkovica could be reconfirmed or other solutions sought concerning the latest events.
Koha Ditore's unofficial sources claim that Ali Ahmeti has been in constant touch with Kosovar leaders and has been asking for their support for further moves.
Also, Koha Ditore claims that that NLA might decide to allow Macedonian authorities to conduct an investigation of Mondays conflict only after the Mala Rechica meeting of the Coordinating Council of Albanians.