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MILS: News from the FYROM, 97-08-29
From: "Macedonian Information Liaison Service" <email@example.com>
Skopje, 29 August, 1997
 FREDERICO MAYOR'S VISIT - ACT II...OR: THE SIGNING OF THE COOPERATION MEMORANDUMFLASHBACK: yesterday UNESCO Secretary-General Frederico Mayor and Macedonian Culture Minister Slobodan Unkovski signed a Cooperation Memorandum comprised of 29 articles which are founded on the premise that peace is to be built through education, science and culture. The document further confirms the commitment of the Macedonian Govt. to the objectives, strategies and principles of UNESCO. The latter is to render assistance in sustaining democratic changes during the establishing of a culture of peace based on the abundant cultural heritage of SE European countries.
SCENE I: during his meeting with President Gligorov at Ohrid, Mayor gave a favourable assessment of alterations and achievements reached in Macedonia. The UNESCO Secretary- General expressed the readiness of this Agency to support several projects and initiatives in Macedonia. On this occasion Mayor presented Gligorov with a golden UNESCO medal (issued to mark their 50th anniversary) for his contribution to education, science and culture.
SCENE II: The willingness to advance cooperation between UNESCO and Macedonia was again the leading motif during the meeting between Mayor and PM Crvenkovski and talks with the Rector of the Skopje University and the Chairman of the Macedonian Academy of Science and Art.
 GLIGOROV TOO INFLEXIBLE ON NAME-ISSUE....has been the verdict of most Greek media, in response to President Gligorov's interview for Belgrade-based `Ekonomska Politika.' Thus `Makfax' has been quoting Athenian TV station `Mega' which reported Gligorov's standpoint that Macedonia would not settle for a compromise - nor the proposal to accept the reference `Nova Makedonija' (`New Macedonia'). `Sky Radio' emphasized the decisiveness of Gligorov with respect to the fact that this kind of christening of a nation would set a `unique precedent in the history of a country.' The `Kathimerini' daily reports that Gligorov's statements merely confirmed that the incumbent regime of this neighbouring country had no intention of establishing full relations with Greece. Opposition paper `Elephteros Typos' denotes this as a `new soliloquy of insolence.'
 ELISABETH REHN: `POLICE USED EXCESSIVE FORCE'That sometimes `less is more' could be the summary of Ms. Rehn's interview given for MTV yesterday. Particularly if this `less' refers to police operations at Gostivar and Tetovo this July. `...I would not like to comment on the background leading to the entire affair, but talks on this subject revealed that the extent of force used by the police at Gostivar has been excessive with respect to what would have been appropriate.' The visit of the UN Special Rapporteur to the Human Rights Commission to Macedonia has been marked by talks with the country's political leadership, the Mayor of Gostivar and representatives of the Democratic Forum on Human Rights Protection based at Gostivar.
In addition to this Rehn has met President Gligorov, Foreign Secretary Blagoj Handzhiski, as well as Ministers Sofija Todorova (Education), Tomislav Chokrevski (Interior), and Gjorgji Spasov (Justice) during her travelling between Skopje, Gostivar and Ohrid. The key issues of discussion were: the implementation of human rights (particularly with respect to ethnicities in Macedonia), the most recent solutions offered in connection with the flag-issue and the impact of their effectuation as regards the Criminal Investigation Procedures Act.
On these occasions the UN Special Rapporteur was also briefed in on past events at Gostivar and Tetovo - against the backdrop of the use of flags by minorities to express their identity and national features. Ms. Rehn also received an update on the forming of a working group by the Govt. which would be concerned with investigating possible instances of authority abuse by the police.
 SEVERE CRITICISM BY ALBANIAN MPS CONTINUESDuring yesterday's `part trois' of the 74th Parliamentary session debates on the police report in connection to events at Gostivar and Tetovo (the removal of flags and ensuing unrest) continued. They did so in a similar tone: critical. Albanian MPs of the PDP and DPA denoted police data as `incomplete, distorted and without any details on cases of police brutality, abuse and looting... complemented with unprecedented instances of misused authority.' It was further stated that on 9th July Human Rights experienced their downfall at Gostivar; that interventions of this sort would soon turn the city into an ethnically clean community (as Macedonians would have to leave it).
Another repeated request was the resignation of Interior Minister Tomislav Chokrevski. MPs of the SDSM and the SP claimed that coexistence is the only acceptable option for Macedonia while events at Gostivar were the outcome of the policy conducted by incompetent politicians. The DP stated that the police had merely been upholding the Constitution, while accusing Albanians of undermining the same by advocating a Greater Albania and disrespecting the country they lived in.
Besides this, the session at the half-empty assembly hall has been abundant in verbal show-downs between the speakers and the `benchers' - especially during the almost two-hour- long speech by Sefedin Haruni. Parliamentary Chairman Tito Petkovski made it clear yesterday that the late arrival of MPs would no longer be tolerated in the future. Thus sessions would be cancelled after a 15-minute delay. The next sequel to this session has been scheduled for next Wednesday.
 MEETING INTERNATIONAL FINANCIAL INSTITUTIONS IN THE USFinance Minister Taki Fiti and NBM Governor Ljube Trpevski are to visit the US, for a meeting with representatives of the World Bank, the IMF and several financial institutions in this country. In this context, one should mention the meeting between NBM Governor Trpevski and US Ambassador Hill, which focused on the need to advance bilateral financial cooperation, particularly with respect to the repayment of Macedonian debits towards the Paris Club of Creditors.
 WILL THE LAMBS REMAIN SILENT(LY) IN MACEDONIA?Yesterday's arrival of a Danish expert in veterinary medicine on behalf of the EU marked the preparations for a possible lifting of the lamb export embargo. The latter, we know, had been imposed after the surfacing the hoof-and- mouth disease with livestock in Macedonia in 1996. The epidemic has been contained soon after its emergence, but concordant to EU regulations the embargo remains binding for at least one year after the extermination of the last contaminated head.
Macedonian veterinary services denoted this a superfluous measure and so far many initiatives have been launched (in vain) to change this. Ergo Macedonian livestock breeders were left without the 1 750 t export quota for lamb into EU member-states. Some of the meat was exported to Jordan - but the main bulk remained at home.
Imminent analyses constitute of the examination of app. 7 500 heads of sheep and cattle in the country, i.e. 22 heads of each village and farm. As the analyses are to be conducted in Denmark the EU has allocated 95 000 ECU for this two-month project.
 BIDS FOR DEVELOPMENT PROPERTYIn 37 municipalities throughout the country the bidding for development property is to be completed today. The bidding is open to all stakeholders interested in building multi- functional objects. On offer are 694 cells of development property (amounting to 663 000 square meters) for 17 different purposes: ranging from apartment blocks and private residences, small businesses, industrial facilities, hotels to sports and recreation facilities, etc. Opening bids vary from 100 to 2 740 denars per square meter - depending on market prices and the location of the property.
The initial value of this development property has been set down at 15 million DM, while a minimum yield of 20 to 30% is expected from the bidding. According to the Ministry of Civil Engineering, Urbanism and Environmental Protection so far the interest has been tremendous. At least 50% of the property on offer is expected to go under the hammer. Yields are to end up in the national budget, while official results are to be disclosed upon completion of the official bidding on 29th September.
 `TRUCKIES' THREATEN TO BLOCK ALL BORDER CHECKPOINTSThe Independent Trade Union Organisation of Macedonian Truck Drivers (`Makamtrans') addressed the Macedonian Govt. with an ultimatum: unless two of their key demands (concerning the TIR labels costing 140 DM and the customs terminal fee of 50 DM) are not fulfilled by 15 00 h tomorrow, all border checkpoints would be blocked the next day. There have been eight more requests posed initially. But these - it has been assessed - required additional consultations. This ultimatum follows the recently `attempted besieging' of the `Medzhitlija' border checkpoint at the Macedonian-Greek border, which has been prevented by the police. The Govt. and `Makedonija Soobrakjaj' subsequently compiled a package of compromises to address these issues... quite obviously these have not been found satisfactory by the Trade Union.
 NEW BUSSES`Vecher' reports the successful completion of a shipment of new busses worth 11 million DM to Macedonian transporters by Skopje-based `11ti Oktomvri' production facility, after the overcoming of initial financial difficulties. Funds have been procured via a loan by nationally-owned `JSP Skopje' (`public transport company') and assistance by the Macedonian Govt., the NBM, `Komercijalna Banka' (Skopje) and the London-based `Anglo-Yugoslav Bank' - thus facilitating the delivery of 26 busses. The first contingency of vehicles for `Jugotrans' (Struga) and `Polet' (Tetovo) is expected to leave the halls of `11ti Oktomvri' soon. All of the new vehicles have been produced in concordance to latest ecological standards of the EU and will therefore be admitted for international transport.
 THREE UNITS OF VELES SMELTING WORKS CLOSED DUE TO POLLUTIONYesterday the National Inspectorate on Environmental Protection decided to close down three units of the `Zletovo' smelting works at Veles following their field inspection and the assessment of their negative environmental impact on 27th August. The main one being the incredible rate of air pollution by sulphur-dioxyde (by 8.5 times higher than the maximum limit). The smelting works will also be obliged to cover up their depot site for zinc concentrate and charcoal - another major pollution source in the area. These findings of the Inspectorate have resulted in misdemeanor charges against the company and its general director. Fines for such violations vary from 60 to 250 average pays for a legal and between 5 and 10 pays for a physical entity.
 IMRO-DPMNE: `BROADCASTING FEES UNDERMINING DEMOCRACY'According to the IMRO-DPMNE the announced charges for broadcasting radio and TV programmes, whose value for the Skopje area has been set down by the Transport and Communications Ministry at 10 500 DM i.e. 21 000 DM, are undermining democracy. This move has been assessed as targetted at the pruning of the freedom of the press and the freedom of expression. Macedonia's largest opposition party further denoted this as a Govt. attempt to silence the 200 radio and TV stations in Macedonia in the light of upcoming early elections.
`Dnevnik' however reports that not only did the IMRO-DPMNE accuse the incumbent party of exercising state control over the media, but that it was using the same methods as Slobodan Miloshevikj up north. Due to this the IMRO-DPMNE asked all privately-owned radio and TV stations to consolidate and jointly oppose this Govt. initiative by staging panels and airing broadcasts on this subject. It had to be made clear that once democracy had been resuscitated, it could no longer be slaughtered `just to save the hide of the SDSM.'
 `International Social Institutions Also Possible'
(`Vecher' - 28th August 1997)
Concordant to the draft-version of the Social Protection Act, it will be possible for a domestic or international physical or legal entity to establish a private social institution - while international partners may function as (co-)founders within such organisations. The latter are to work alongside the Centre for Social Work, after having received the Govt.'s seal of approval, since the Govt. is to monitor these private institutions... One of the Parliamentary sessions next month is to concentrate on the draft-version of the Social Protection Act, whose provisions have recently been analyzed by the Govt. There latter gave this version a `thumbs-up' in terms of effectuation and implementation.
So what exactly is about to hit us? Generally speaking, this act of law covers the social sphere without poviding or offering any concrete solution for any existing object or facility within this sector. Thus in stage 2 (stage 1 being completed with the Govt. adopting the motion to enact such a law) the rights to specific types of social services are being codified. Should the Social Protection Act be passed without any major alterations to it, social support should become available to people who are not in the position of finding a job for various reasons - or who require support - but are capable of working per se, in addition to the known categories of those unable to engage in an employment relation or those without any means of support. to cut a long story short: social support will be available to those in need of the same - regardless of their categorization and any presently division.
The main agent of this social protection scheme, concordant to this Act, is once again the state - while priority will be given to the containing of social deterioration among the population through a series of social policy measures. In compliance to the Social Protection Act, it will become possible for both Macedonian nationals and foreigners with a temporary permit of residence to apply for social support. Usually public social institutions are to be established by the Govt. - but local self-govt. units will be entitled to do the same, with the exception that they will not be allowed to form their own social work centers.
The law itself is also characterized by the following novelty: in the future domestic and international physical/legal entities will be in the position to establish a private social institution (except for a social work centre). In this context the aforesaid categories may function as (co- )founders - but only if the Govt. of the Republic of Macedonia has approved the project. As far as funding is concerned, means are to be allocated from the national budget i.e. the local self-govt. budgets. Should the institution, however, be funded by the private sector a warranty/security from the Govt. itself needs to be procured, since the latter will also monitor the performance of these institutions.
 `Shylock's Interest Rates vs. Starved and Insolvent Banks'
(`Dnevnik' - 28th August 1997)
`For over four years companies have been trying to raise the issue on high interest rates accompanying bank loans, since its draining their capital. Thus the miraculous 22% annual interest rate - while the inflation rate totals 3%. The business sector advocates the lowering of the interest rate. But how is one to achieve that in conditions when the NBM is imposing a 12 to 13% interest rate for funds loaned to banks, who then `swallow the fly, spider, etc.' i.e. lend those means to companies and individuals? The basic NBM interest rate, however, amounts to between 8.5 and 8.7%... Where does all the money generated by this difference go?' asks Economic Chairman Dushan Petrevski.
Similar reactions are being aired at `Komercijalna Banka', Makedonska Banka' and `Almako Banka.' `If I for example took up a 100 000 DM loan at one of our business banks, I would be forced to return 22 000 DM in interest rates in addition to the funds borrowed. This is incredible - interest rates that high cannot be conducive to investments and ergo no sign of development emerges. Our businesses remain permanently insolvent, while I keep asking myself where the root of all evil lies... Such interest rates - worthy of a usurer - have dulled the Macedonian economy. Thus banks will continue to add up interest rates on paper without ever getting a glimpse of the money', says one Macedonian businessman. So where is the root of all evil? Why are interest rates accrued by banks with respect to the business sector so high?
The Chairman of the Macedonian Chamber of Economy, Dushan Petrevski, attributes this state of affairs to a restrictive credit and monetary policy conducted by the NBM. The guilt is not to be sought with business banks at all. Entreprenurs and stakeholders claim that `Pandora's Box' is buried within the obscure relation and ambiguous interaction between the NBM and commercial banks throughout the country. It remains even more obscure where all the money goes...
`Each morning up to 7 o'clock we submit our bids at the NBM for funds subsequently comprising our credit lines. Of course the latter are obtained at an interest rate, whose value should be 8.9% (equal to the basic rate) so that we can set ours at 16 or 17%. The total 22% is reached due to fierce competition among banks at these NBM auctions. Each one strives to outdo the rest, thus we have a interest rate of 14% which is indeed too high', says `Komercijalna Banka' CEO Hari Kostov. `The climax occurred after the denar-devaluation on 9th July. The auction was a quite usual and normal event, its rules are known to everybody: the bank with the highest interest gets the credit', says `Almako' Bank CEO Liljana Bozhinovska.
Similar views have been expressed by the CEO of `Makedonska Banka' Zoran Trpevski. He stated that banks were aware of how expensive these credits are, and that they were not of use to the final beneficiaries - businesses or individuals - due to these `whopping' interest rates. Companies, however, permanently depended on these loans due to the lack of liquid assets for their daily transactions. `...Something must be done at once', claims Trpevski.
One financial expert from the US sees a problem in the fact that virtually every bank is attending the NBM bids. This was not a good omen as it indicated the insolvency of Macedonian banks. `If I am not mistaken the Govt. has initiated the sanation process of the banking system, right? So what has been sanated so far?' he wondered. Their necessity to participate in these auctions exhibited the lack of discipline among business banks. Gligor Bishev, the NBM Vice-Governor, attributes this to the competitiveness among banks and their permanent `hunger' for capital. This resulted in the growth of the interest rate. At the NBM we were told that the difference between the basic interest rate of 8.9% and the total achieved at the auctions (14 to 15%) is being written off as NBM yields, which are being forwarded to the national budget by the end of year.
mils news 29 August, 1997