SITUATION IN CRISIS REGIONS.
It is relatively calm Thursday morning in Tetovo region without any shootouts, MIA's correspondent reports.
A series of burst of fire and sporadic shootouts have been registered overnight from Drenovec 2, Ciglana, Gorna Carsija and Kupenik settlements, "Gjorce Petrov" street, the reformatory, the Tetovo Teke and Rasadiste locality near Tetovo - Popova Sapka road.
Police sources say numerous intensive shootouts have been registered from Prsovce, Dobroste, Odri, Prvce, Dolno Orasje, Ozormiste, Trebos, Neprosteno, Gjermo and Mala Recica.
It was a peaceful Wednesday night in Kumanovo - Lipkovo crisis region, MIA's correspondent reported.
The public peace and order have been interrupted by gunfire only in two occasions, from direction of Opae village and so called Kumanovo Unlicensed Settlement.
In Kumanovo village of Gorno Zlokukane, conditions for 24 hours unobstructed police work are obtained, thus all the villages from Kumanovo crisis region are reintegrated.
The villages in Tetovo and Gostivar region were also reintegrated in close cooperation with OSCE, NATO Mission "Amber Fox" and EU Monitoring-Mission.
At the moment, multi ethnic mixed police teams, patrol in the villages of Malino and Brest in Skopje region, and after the demining, the patrolling will also start in Tanusevci, the last village within the General Plan for returning of the Security Forces in inhabited places.
PRESIDENT TRAJKOVSKI'S VISIT TO STRASBOURG.
"By focusing on the improvement of the living standard of the citizens, as well as on the integration in the European Union and NATO, Macedonia would eliminate the risk of new multiethnic tensions," Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski said Thursday in Strasbourg.
To the questions of the members of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe after his address, Trajkovski said that the last year's crisis did not fully jeopardized the multiethnic relations, because according to him, "there were examples of young Macedonians and Albanians going out in the same cafés in Kicevo, Struga and Ohrid, while there were armed clashes in Tetovo and Kumanovo region."
"The Constitution did not provoke the crisis, but it was absorbed by the institutions in the system," Trajkovski said, adding that "we have proved that EU was not wrong when it signed the Stabilization and Association Agreement with Macedonia, but now it should be ratified in all its member countries."
At the press conference held at the end of his visit to Strasbourg, asked to comment the statement by DPA's leader Xhaferi "that the withdrawal of the draft on passports could provoke new tensions and could bring to federalization of the country," Trajkovski said that it was one-sided, extensive interpretation of Ohrid Document. "Those statements are not grounded," he said.
The Resolution of Kosovo Parliament, which disputes the Border Delineation Agreement between Macedonia and FR Yugoslavia, according to Trajkovski was against the resolution 1244 by the UN Security Council i.e. Kosovo self-government has exceeded its authorizations and has stimulated the radical structures in the province. "We do not want to be hostages of the future status of Kosovo," Trajkovski said.
Asked about the name dispute with Greece, Trajkovski said that the name was not a matter of prestige, but of national and human dignity and matter of the international legal standards. He expressed hope for better understanding by the international community regarding this irrational issue.
Considering the elections, Trajkovski said that they would be held on September 15 as that is a determination of all political parties.
He agreed with the statements that SEE Stability Pact has not accomplished its mission in the region.
However, he welcomed the initiative of Stability Pact Special Coordinator Erhard Busek for accelerating the activities on realization of the foreseen projects, but pointed out that more realistic approach about the needs of the region should be adopted.
The joint infrastructure projects of Macedonia, Albania and Bulgaria, first of all Corridor 8 have enormous significance for Trajkovski, not only economic but also political, because they connect the residents of the three countries.
According to him, negotiations are underway regarding the technical level of the project, and higher understanding regarding its importance is also requested by the foreign donors.
Answering the questions by the Bulgarian journalists whether there were certain obstacles by the Macedonian part for realization of the Corridor 8 project, Trajkovski said that if due to the political and economic pressures Greece and Italy participate with their own branches to this corridor, the main purpose of this project will be lost, that is the corridor to be from the Black Sea to Durres, as it was agreed in Helsinki.
"Corridor 8 is the number one corridor for Macedonia, but we want to keep its main idea," Trajkovski said.
Regarding the construction of Skopje - Sofia railway, Trajkovski said that "it was technical issue i.e. matter of investments and not lack of willingness."
President Trajkovski also had several bilateral meetings in Strasbourg, with President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Peter Schieder, Secretary General of the Council of Europe Walter Schwimmer, with members of the Deputy Foreign Ministers Bureau, as well as with President of the European Court of Human Rights Luzius Wildhaber.
The importance of the stabilization of situation in Macedonia for the Council of Europe was emphasized at the meetings.
The representatives of the Council, noting that enormous progress has been made in that respect in comparison with one year ago, when President Trajkovski addressed the Assembly for the first time, were also interested about the implementation of the Framework Agreement and the preparations for the forthcoming elections.
Trajkovski was also informed that the Council of Europe would provide at least 30 monitors at the elections, besides OSCE and UNHCR monitors.
He pointed out that the composition of the State Election Committee would be determined very soon, pointing out that all necessary activities were undertaken to hold the elections in fair and democratic atmosphere.
The Macedonian President emphasized that Macedonia's efforts were focused on the confidence building and that the foreign investments would directly contribute towards improvement of the situation.
Trajkovski also requested support for sooner ratification of the Stabilization and Association Agreement between Macedonia and EU in the other member countries of the Union.
The foreign officials emphasized that with the constitutional changes Macedonia has met the international standards on human rights, although even previously the country was doing much more in that context than many European countries.
The Council's representatives were also interested about the relations between Macedonia and Albania and Macedonia and Greece.
Trajkovski emphasized that the relations with Greece were excellent in all areas, while the name dispute is being resolved within the United Nations. He also pointed out that Albania should respect the minority rights in the same manner as Macedonia.
NATO SECRETARY GENERAL GEORGE ROBERTSON IN A VISIT TO MACEDONIA.
The current situation in the country is quite different now, compared with the time of my last visit, NATO Secretary General George Robertson stated at the press conference held Thursday.
"This country was on the edge of a bloody civil war and now it is on its path to become a member of the united Europe," Roberson added.
He expressed hope that the forthcoming elections will take place in fair, and democratic atmosphere. As Roberson said, NATO and the international community will remain engaged in regard to Macedonia in order to enable to the country stable future.
"This is one country, one nation lives here and there should be one government that will resolve all issues concerning the country," NATO Secretary General said. "The entire international community will monitor Macedonia. This elections must take place in peaceful atmosphere and with high standards during the election campaign," he stated.
Robertson said that the honesty is part of every election campaign, adding that it should be the case also in Macedonia. He expressed hope that all politicians who urge divisions in the country and use high emotional tones will be punished at the elections.
Robertson said that everyone whom he met today agreed that the elections must be fair and democratic.
Referring to the implementation of the laws that originate from the Framework Agreement, Robertson said that Macedonia has adopted 95% of the laws foreseen with that accord, and now, as he said, these laws should be implemented.
The current security and political situation in Macedonia was in the focus at the meeting of Macedonian President Boris Trajkovski with NATO Secretary General George Robertson Thursday.
As stated in the announcement from the President's Cabinet, Trajkovski estimated that the situation in the crisis regions was calming down, with gradual return of the state's institutions. According to President Trajkovski, the implementation of the Framework Agreement was going on according to the envisaged dynamics.
Regarding the situation at the Macedonian-Yugoslav border in the Kosovo part, President Trajkovski expressed concern that the latest border incidents could escalate the situation. Thus, preventive measures have to be overtaken once again on both sides of the borderline.
In that context, the Macedonian President pointed out the necessity for delineation of the Macedonian-Yugoslav border as soon as possible, thus contributing to the strengthening of the region's stability.
President Trajkovski expressed Macedonia's readiness to continue with the reforms in the security sector, and to remain a serious aspirant for NATO membership, asking for Robertson's support in that process.
According to Trajkovski, the activities that were carried out during last year's crisis, as well as refugee crisis in 1999 have shown that the Republic of Macedonia has reached a level of democracy, which is necessary for its membership in NATO.
Robertson also announced that NATO and the international community would be engaged in Macedonia and the region in the future too, in order to provide peace, stability, democracy and better future.
NATO Secretary General George Robertson also met with Macedonian Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski.
At the meeting, the Macedonian Prime Minister reaffirmed the commitment of the Republic of Macedonia for gaining NATO membership, which, as he said, would enhance the security in the region.
Congratulating to the Prime Minister for the adoption of the package of laws that refers to the implementation of the Framework Agreement, Robertson expressed hope that the forthcoming elections would take place in a fair atmosphere.
The Macedonian Prime Minister explained that Macedonia has fulfilled most of the obligations from the Framework Agreement, adding that the process of reintegration of the territory was proceeding well. Still, Georgievski pointed to the incidents caused by the Albanian extremists on daily basis, which include gunfire, molesting of the civil Macedonian population, non-exposure of the Macedonian flag, adding that NATO should influence on the complete elimination of this violent conduct.
Regarding the Resolution recently adopted by the Kosovo Assembly for non-recognition of the Macedonian-Yugoslav border, NATO Secretary General Robertson underlined that it had no validity.
Both Robertson and Georgievski underlined that they expect from the NATO "Amber Fox" mission to continue with its engagement, aimed to full stabilization of the situation in the country.
Robertson also met with Macedonian Assembly Chairman Stojan Andov. The two interlocutors expressed their satisfaction from the implementation process of the Framework Agreement and the constitutional changes in the country.
Andov acquainted Robertson with the ongoing activities of the Macedonian Assembly regarding the implementation of the Framework Agreement and the changes of the Macedonian Constitution, assessing that all obligations of this Assembly structure have been realized.
According to Andov, the only disputable issue right now is the law on passports that has been withdrawn from the parliamentary procedure, as well as the issue of the assembly regulation book, which is currently reviewed by the Assembly Commission.
He also informed Robertson regarding the election of the Chairman of the State Election Committee, as well as the forthcoming parliamentary elections, scheduled for September 15.
Referring to the situation in the region, Assembly Chairman Andov underlined the necessity of achieving long-standing stability, which could be hastened by signing the Association and Stabilization Agreements among Yugoslavia, Albania and the EU.
"Lord Robertson welcomed the changes to the State's Constitution in compliance with the Framework Agreement, personally congratulating Andov on his contribution for its realization," quotes the announcement.
NATO's General Secretary pointed out that the scheduling of fair and democratic elections in September would positively affect the process for sooner integration of Macedonia in the Euro-Atlantic institutions.
NATO's Robertson says troop reductions reflect improved security in Kosovo, urges implementation of Macedonia peace plan.
By GARENTINA KRAJA, Associated Press Writer
PRISTINA, Yugoslavia - Citing improved security, NATO's top official said Thursday that the reduction of peacekeepers in Kosovo reflects the progress made in a region struggling to overcome a decade of wars.
"The fact that we can now reduce the number of troops in Kosovo is a testimony of the progress that has been made by the forces here, but also by the democratic institutions which have grown up in these last three years," said NATO Secretary General Lord Robertson.
He spoke during a brief stop in Kosovo's capital. Later, in Macedonia, he urged the government there to fully implement a NATO-backed peace plan ending ethnic hostilities last year.
NATO approved cutbacks of its peacekeeping forces in the Balkans last month. The alliance plans to reduce its presence by 7,000 troops in Bosnia and 4,800 in Kosovo.
In Kosovo, the NATO-led peace force known as KFOR deployed in June 1999 under terms of a peace agreement following a 78-day air war that led to the withdrawal of Yugoslav forces from the province. Initially at 50,000, the peace force is now at 38,000 and will be cut to 33,200 by mid-2003.
The plan is designed to use the 60,000 troops in Balkans in a more flexible way as the military starts to play a reduced part and local police forces take up more responsibilities, Robertson said.
The same restructuring plan envisages eliminating two of the five multinational brigade headquarters in Kosovo. The French and British-led brigades will be merged into one, as will the German and Italian commands. The United States will maintain control of its eastern command.
Robertson said that the reduction and reshaping of forces will not lessen security in the province, which is still gripped by ethnic tensions between the ethnic Albanian majority and the Serb minority.
"We will reduce the forces, but only in a way that will ... guarantee the safety and security of the people of the area and to encourage the process of refugee return," Robertson said.
Kosovo is legally part of Yugoslavia, but has been run by the United Nations and NATO since 1999, when an alliance air war ended former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic's crackdown on the province's ethnic Albanians.
Arriving in Skopje, the Macedonian capital, Robertson praised the success of a Western-brokered peace deal that ended months of bitter ethnic conflict last year but urged the government to enact it fully.
"The implementation of this (peace) agreement is now the key to Macedonia's future," Robertson told reporters at Skopje's airport.
Calling for more ethnic Albanian rights, rebels launched an insurgency in February 2001. The minority accounts for about a third of the country's 2 million population.
The fighting ended when the Macedonian and ethnic Albanian politicians signed a peace deal that traded a hand-over of weapons in exchange for legislation meant to give the minority more rights.
Following the deal, NATO troops collected weapons from the rebels, who then disbanded.
Parliament then amended the constitution, passed an amnesty for the former rebels and adopted a package of laws aimed at upgrading minority rights. But several minor laws still need to be voted on, and implementation of laws already passed is lagging.
NATO's chief also told Macedonian and ethnic Albanian politicians that the alliance expects "a quiet, peaceful and fair" campaign ahead of elections scheduled for Sept 15.
NATO troops are prepared to stay on and the alliance is considering providing "extra assistance" ahead of elections, but no formal decisions have been made yet on the scope of such assistance, he said.
NATO's 1,000 member mission dubbed "Task Force Fox" was deployed to Macedonia last September to provide security for international monitors overseeing implementation of the peace deal.
CEI CONFERENCE OF CULTURE MINISTERS ENDS.
The unanimous adoption of the Final Declaration, which confirms the intention for enrichment of the cultural cooperation among member-countries of the Central-European Initiative, marked the ending of the Conference of Ministers of Culture of CEI member-countries Thursday.
At the press conference after the meeting of representatives of 15 CEI members, Macedonian Minister of Culture Ganka Samoilovska-Cvetanova emphasised the necessity for strengthening of the cultural cooperation among countries of the Initiative through constructive suggestions for joint activities.
In that context, she referred to the example of network linkage, additional training of experts for mutual activities and determination of a political framework for future action of these countries in the culture sphere, as well as concept-making of future cultural strategies of CEI countries.
Stating that little has been done in the area of culture, General Director of the CEI Executive Secretariat Harald Kreid emphasised that an intensification of activities in this area was needed, which would be realised through several projects.
"We are not interested in participating in the activities in the field of culture, which are usually organised in one country, such as theatre performances, concerts and exhibitions, but for better direction of the technical assistance and equipment, training and consulting", Kreid said.
Furthermore, he stated several examples for assistance in the area of management in art, which would be realised through courses and meetings for managers, counseling services of Governments for restoration and conservation of cultural heritage, stage technic and lighting technic in theatres.
"Countries that have become independent just recently have special needs for expression of their identity, and the means of the Governments for these purposes are either unsuitable or limited", Kreid emphasised, adding that the important thing was to invest means in culture "that will be part of Europe and the world, and not directed inwardly".
It was also stressed that NGO projects could be co-financed by CEI, if they satisfied the basic criterion for participation of persons from other countries.
The Final Declaration of the meeting emphasises that the CEI Ministers of Culture would undertake numerous activities, such as "development of a specific role of the Initiative and its potential in relation to other international organisations and institutions in the field of culture in the framework of the priority areas, which consist the CEI Action Plan for 2002 and 2003".
The Declaration also emphasises that suitable projects of common interest of member-countries will be realised through the working groups for culture and education, especially ones in relation to the effects from the transition process on the cultural policies in the countries of the Initiative.
The Ministers of Culture or their representatives, are also obliged to intensify the cooperation in the field of providing co-sponsors for the Initiative projects, and the alleviation of the implementation of cultural projects in the framework of the existing resources.
The Conference participants support the request for providing of the necessary means for financing of CEI projects by Government institutions and NGOs.
"The realisation of the mentioned obligations will be given to the CEI authorised bodies, which will agree on the future measures in view of the cultural programs and activities of the Initiative", the Declaration states.
The Final Declaration is based on the principles that the respect of the cultural identity and diversity can play an important role in the thwarting of conflicts, and that cultural cooperation is a key means for better understanding of the values and traditions, as well as the limitations and the problems that characterise the CEI region.
Further reasons for adoption of the Declaration are also the transition process in the Central and Southeast Europe countries, the necessity for strengthening of the international and European cultural cooperation, building of a rich creative potential, as well as respect of the cultural, ethnic and language identity of the minority groups.
The Central-European Initiative was established in 1989, and is the oldest and largest initiative for regional cooperation in Central and East Europe, with 17 member-countries. The Republic of Macedonia is its chair-country in 2002, and Thursday's Conference was the first organised meeting of Ministers of Culture of the Initiative member-countries.
The conference was opened by Macedonian Culture Minister Ganka Samoilovska-Cvetanova, who spoke at the Roundtable on "Transition in Society in 21st century and the Influence on the Cultural Politics of CEI member countries."
She pointed out that the cyber culture as a special kind of culture, which is a result of the rapid economic development was not only a factor of the new economic processes, but also the most efficient tool for surpassing the cultural differences among the individuals and groups, a tool for accomplishing the principles of globalization that impose unique cultural model.
In the developed western countries, according to Samoilovska-Cvetanova, the cultural changes follow or enable the economic development while in the underdeveloped countries, and especially in the countries in transition, the culture has primary role in avoiding the discrepancy between the development of the economic and political area.
"Macedonia is quite complex and characteristic example of the countries in transition, which is in situation to protect and form its cultural identity and integrity in respect of co-existence of various cultures, and in the same time to build mechanisms for selection and amortization of the external influences," Samoilovska-Cvetanova said.
She said that this state of Macedonia was further complicated by the fact that it was exposed to the rule of several social systems in the course of only one century, which was a source of clashes in the field of cultural values.
Samoilovska-Cvetanova emphasized that although Macedonia was a country in transition, its social system was based on human rights, parliamentary democracy, market economy and worked on the harmonization of its own legislation with the one of the European Union.
As particularly important, she underlined the signing of the Stabilization and Association Agreement with the Union, which she assessed as "high recognition in developing the new democratic processes and promotion of the multiethnic relations." She also spoke of the last year's conflict, emphasizing that "while Macedonia was facing the ethnical cleansing and destruction of cultural monuments it also worked on intensifying of all integration processes towards EU."
In her speech, the Minister spoke of the national program of the Culture Ministry assessing it as a document that allows union and focusing of the political willingness towards cultural reforms.
"The Council of Europe assessed this document as the one fully complying with the European standards and criteria for development of the culture in Macedonia," Samoilovska-Cvetanova said, pointing out the main goals and priorities of the Macedonian cultural politics defined by the Culture Ministry.
In the conclusion, she emphasized that "the cultural policy should be unique but open, because if advantages were given to some over the others, it could become a source of divisions and could provoke conflicts instead of creating social harmony and mutual tolerance."
The Culture Ministers from Macedonia, Bulgaria, FR Yugoslavia, Hungary, Deputy Culture Minister of Albanian, representatives and head of delegations from Austria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Ukraine, Romania as well as the Italian and Polish Ambassadors to Macedonia, who co-chair with CEI along with Macedonia, attend the conference.
Head of the European Commission delegation to Skopje Jose Manuel Pinto Teixeira also takes part as a special guest, as well as Secretary General of CEI Executive Secretariat Harald Kreid.
He expressed his satisfaction that upon the initiative of the Macedonian Presidency over CEI a meeting of the culture ministers is held for the first time within this Initiative, where the ministers would exchange their opinions on the cultural cooperation among CEI member countries.
"We are all products of our cultural environment, our views and values are modeled according to the culture and our identity mainly depends on the cultural factors," Kreid said.
He expressed regret because the strong cultural identity often comes along with the feelings of discrimination towards the other people that do not share the same tradition and values. "Therefore in each process for overcoming the national barriers and prejudices a special importance has the expansion of the knowledge, understanding and appreciation of the cultural values of the other nations," Kreid said.
He pointed out the exceptional significance of the cultural power, emphasizing the importance of undertaking various projects for promotion of the cultural cooperation among CEI member-countries.
In that context he stressed that out of 23 projects approved in the past four months, nine are projects on cultural cooperation that would be realized in 17 working groups.