Progress on minority higher education
Considerable progress was made this week on implementation of the minority language higher education proposals.
The OSCE's High Commissioner for National Minorities, Max van der Stoel, visited Macedonia again this week and met several top officials, including Education Minister Gale Galev, Prime Minister Ljubčo Georgievski, Foreign Minister Aleksandar Dimitrov and Democratic Party of Albanians (PDSh) head Arben Xhaferi.
The talks focused on a donor business plan for the private institution.
Van der Stoel, who has made the realisation of the minority language institution something of a personal mission, told Foreign Minister Dimitrov that the new private university would be opened ahead of the next academic year. It will comprise five faculties and two centres, one for foreign languages and another for computing.
The land for the institution will be donated by the state, and construction costs are estimated at approximately USD 20 million. The first private university in Macedonia, its opening has been facilitated by the recently passed Higher Education Law, which recognises the existence of private institutions.
The working languages of the new institution will be Albanian, English and Macedonian—a clear move away from the Albanian-language institution initially proposed. This development is unlikely to be received warmly by hard-line Albanian nationalists, including the incumbent rector of the existing University of Tetovo, Fadil Sulejmani.
The newspaper Flaka quoted the PDSh's Xhaferi as saying that, based on preliminary assessments, the proposed project is "magnificent."
Reaction to Koštunica's apparent victory
High on the political agendas of most Balkan politicians this week must have been ensuring that their reactions to Voijslav Koštunica's historic victory were recorded for posterity. The following selection of statements from some of the more influential figures in Macedonia reflects existing currents of opinion within the country.
Hard on the heels of predictions that the people of Serbia were ready for change, Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski issued a statement of support for President-elect Vojislav Koštunica, saying, "The recent historic events in neighbouring Yugoslavia showed that the Serbian people's aspirations for freedom and democracy are stronger than the attempts to betray the will of the people."
Trajkovski extended his congratulations to the new government and to the entire democratic opposition, saying that he welcomed and supported their clear democratic orientation. He went on to add that the dawning of a new democratic era opens a wide range of possibilities for further development and promotion of relations between Macedonia and Yugoslavia, particularly in the areas of security, stability and economic prosperity in Southeast Europe.
Trajkovski called on the international community to give its full support to the people of Yugoslavia and to welcome them back into the European family, recommending that sanctions be lifted as soon as possible, so that the economic reconstruction of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia can begin.
Arben Xhaferi (PDSh), speaking on behalf of his party (the largest ethnic Albanian party in Macedonia), greeted the results more cautiously. In an interview with A1 television, Xhaferi voiced his concern—particularly regarding the future status of Kosovo—that Koštunica is simply a more "sophisticated" nationalist than his predecessor; a reasonable apprehension, many feel, given Koštunica's track record.
EU Stabilisation Pact
Macedonia and the EU met from 2 to 4 October in Brussels for further negotiations regarding the Agreement on Stabilisation and Association. The last round of talks will take place in Skopje on 27 October, and the final agreement will be drawn up on 24 November in Zagreb.
The sections of the agreement to have provoked most interest in Macedonia are those related to commerce, including a proposal for a transitional trade contract that can come into force after the agreement is signed. Just how soon this will happen, however, remains uncertain. European Commissioner Chris Patten promised that it would be just weeks between the drawing up of the agreement and its signing, but many Macedonians are sceptical.
The agreement opens the door for liberalisation of European markets for Macedonian products. The EU recently decided to liberalise export from the countries of the Western Balkans, but as Macedonia is closer to signing the contract on Stabilisation and Association than the rest of this group, it was excluded from these provisions.
Liberalisation of exports will only come into force for Macedonia once the agreement is signed, so Macedonian officials are anxious to conclude the administrative procedures as quickly as possible.
Investigation into assassination attempt continues
The third of October marked the fifth anniversary of the attempted assassination of then-President Kiro Gligorov. A car bomb exploded as the president's car passed, killing the president's personal driver, Aleksandar Spirovski, instantly. Bystander Hristo Hristomanov died later from injuries sustained in the blast.
President Gligorov was badly injured and underwent several surgical procedures and a long convalescence before returning to presidential office.
Media attention this week has focussed on the investigation, organised by the Ministry of Home Affairs and involving several foreign security offices, which so far has produced no results. A reward of DEM one million was offered for relevant evidence, and a special headquarters was set up to coordinate the actions of the police, the Security and Intelligence Office, the Public Prosecutor, and the Intelligence Office of the Macedonian Army.
The investigation is still active, and Home Ministry officials say the case will not be closed until it is settled.
And in other news...
- The debate continues about the use of the Albanian language in the Macedonian parliament. Vest this week ran an interview with Menduh Thaqi, deputy head of the ethnic Albanian PDSh, who said that the Party for Democratic Action (DPA) has no intention of giving up the agreement for the use of Albanian in Parliament, and that "there will be no better days for Macedonia without changes in the constitution."
- Special Coordinator of the SEE Stability Pact Bodo Hombach is to pay a three-day visit to Macedonia. Hombach will hold talks with President Boris Trajkovski, Prime Minister Ljubčo Georgievski, the Speaker of the Parliament Savo Klimovski, Foreign Minister Aleksandar Dimtrov and Education Minister Gale Galev.
Eleanor Pritchard, 6 October 2000
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