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Bulgarian gendarmery troops train to tackle possible rioters during the upcoming visit of Pope John Paul II, Monday, May 20, 2002, in Sofia, Bulgaria. Despite his frail health and advancing years, the pope departs Wednesday for Azerbaijan and Bulgaria, a five-day trip intended to improve relations with Muslims and Orthodox Christians. (AP Photo/Dimitar Deinov)
GENERAL PROTEST OF THE PUBLIC ADMINISTRATION EMPLOYEES.
President of the Trade Union Federation of Macedonia Vanco Muratovski at a press conference held on Monday assessed as positive the general strike of the employees in the public sector, which started on Monday morning and will end when their demands for lowest salary are satisfied.
"This first general strike of the public administration in the history of the Macedonian trade union movement is remarkably successful. Mainly all organizations that are members of the branch trade unions respect the instructions from the Federation and the strike is taking place in best order," Muratovski said, adding that "there are a few organizations that obstruct the strike, first of all due to a pressure of the managers."
He and the heads of the trade unions of education, science and culture, the Trade Union of the employees in the public management, judiciary and the civic associations, the Trade Union of health, pharmacy and social protection and the Independent Trade Union of the employees in the defense paid a visit to the "Bit Pazar" medical center, to the "Stiv Naumov" elementary school, the "Veseli Cvetovi" kindergarten, and the rehabilitation bureau in Skopje.
At these institutions, the strike proceeds in best order, and only the urgent and necessary activities are executed.
He announced that the strike is proceeding according to the instructions also in the institutions that are members of the Trade Union of employees in the public management, judiciary and the civic associations, except for, as Muratovski said, "in several courts where obstructions have been made."
According to Muratovski, there have been obstructions in the Trial Court Gevgelija, where the court president prevented the trade unionists to enter and threatened to the employees that if they join the strike their jobs would suffer.
The strike is proceeding successfully in the Trial Court Kavadarci, where as Muratovski said, only the judge Mirjana Tomic made problems. There have been also obstructions in the Gostivar trial court, made by the court president.
Muratovski announced criminal charges against all of those who obstructed the strike.
Zorica Dimova, President of the trade union in the Ministry of environment and urban planing reported that the managers have also made certain pressure in this organization as well. "The head of my department, Jadranka Ivanova asked me to sign a statement that I am participant in the strike. I refused because I know that according to the Law for strike she cannot demand something like that," she said.
President of the Independent trade union for education, science and culture Dojcin Cvetanovski reported that the doors of the kindergartens and schools were all shut and that only one percent of the education institutions did not join in the protest.
"There has been certain pressure in the past week, but fortunately without any results. Unlike the strike that our trade union organized in February, the pressure this time was somewhat lower," Cvetanovski said.
He urged the trade unions to continue the strike on Tuesday and suggested to those that would try to pressurize the employees to that criminal charges would be pressed against them as the activities of the trade unions are guaranteed with the Macedonian Constitution, the Law on Working Relations and Collective Agreements.
According to leader of the Independent Trade Union of Health, Pharmacy and Social Care Simon Siljanovski, around 20,000 employees in the health institutions are on strike, and in general there are no pressures.
"We have support from the Macedonian citizens as they understand the position of the doctors and nurses at this moment, i.e. their economic and social situation as well as the the reforms in the health care sector, which are not balanced yet with the Health Ministry," he said.
Secretary of the Defense Trade Union Zoran Ninovski informed that besides the pressures to obstruct the strike, the decision on its implementation has been fully respected in all organizations throughout the country both in the civil and the military sector. "We provided normal activities of the sectors closly related to the state security," he said.
Muratovski announced that during the first three days the strike will be held on the job positions and afterwards the employees of the public administration will continue with public protests in front of the Government and the Parliament and will block the Ministries, the Funds and all important state institutions.
The employees from the loss-making companies will join the protests of the public administration and will block the main roads.
The leadership of the Trade Union Federation will meet Macedonian Prime Minister Ljubcho Georgievski and the representatives of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, but the strike would not be over until the negotiations are completed and an agreement on lowest salary is signed.
Muratovski also announced third stage of the general strike, which would be "most rigorous" but did not reveal any details.
He thanked to the citizens at the press conference for their support and respect for the Trade Union activities. "I ask for patience as we also fight for their rights as the they are also concerned with the agreement on lowest salary," Muratovski said.
To a question whether the employees in the Government are on strike, Muratovski said that "they are not members of the Trade Union.
MEDIA CAMPAIGN ON AGRICULTURAL LAWS PROMOTED.
The Macedonian Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Water Supply, promoted Monday its media campaign on aims of the Laws on Agricultural and Agricultural Fund throughout 48 municipalities and populated places in the country.
Opening the campaign under the motto "Be a farmer, feel the pulse of life in your hands", Minister of Agriculture Marjan Gjorcev explained that "the project is complex, and it has successfully passed all inspection controls during its preparation in the past two years, which has proved that these two laws are indeed priority for Macedonia."
"The campaign will promote all the advantages for all interested parties, if they are registered as individual farmers, and will also inform on the possibilities for using the Fund's means, for which I sincerely hope will start to function next year," Gjorcev pointed out.
Chairman of the Steering Committee to the Fund of Agriculture Mile Jakimovski explained that the campaign would be realized through meetings and advertising materials in the municipalities, which would enable a direct contact with every farmer, as well as answer to the questions regarding the way of registration and conditions for usage of the financial means.
Explaining the contents of the Law on Agricultural Activity and Law on Agricultural Fund, President of the working team that took part in their preparation Pr. Rodna Zivkovska, said that the implementation of this Laws would start the agrarian reform in Macedonia.
"The implementation of these two Laws will mean approaching towards the EU and the principles of the WTO," Zivkovska underlined.
The Law on Agricultural Activity uses the terms "individual farmer" and "farmer - businessman".
According to Pr. Zivkovska, an individual farmer is every one that will register its activity at the Ministry of Agriculture and will employ at least ten workers, while the term farmer - businessmen relates to an individual farmer or trade association, registered in the trade register.
"Those in the first category are in fact signing a working agreement, using a right to annual holiday, sick leave or pension, and the right to use the means of the Fund. The farmers - businessman on the other hand, will use the benefits of this Law, also the benefits of the Law on Trade Associations," Zivkovska underlined.
The agricultural activity, she explained, could be performed by other persons or pensioners as well, considering the difference that they won't be able to sale their products at domestic or foreign markets, nor to use the means of the Fund of Agriculture.
VICE-PREMIER KRSTEVSKI'S ADDRESS AT BUSINESS FORUM IN THESSALONIKI.
Macedonian Vice-Premier Zoran Krstevski addressed Monday at the ninth Forum on political and economic cooperation in SEE, referring to the role of Macedonia in fostering of regional cooperation, which will bring the SEE countries closer to Europe.
Krstevski, who took part in the debate on development projections for connecting of the region with the European Union, said to MIA that he pointed out the advantages for the SEE countries, which derive from the Stabilization and Association Agreement (SAA) with the European Union.
"I've underlined that the SA process should be accelerated. It requires grater economic support, which will contribute to solving of the problems, which has been characterizing the region as turbulent for over ten years. It is also necessary for the EU countries to open their borders, enabling more intensified exchange of goods, services and labor force," Krstevski said.
In his address, Greek Minister of Culture Evangelos Venizelos, who is also in charge of the preparations for the Olympic Games 2004, said that Greece expected for the neighboring countries to take part in the infrastructure projects, particularly for this event.
"Venizelos has pointed out that Greece will not like to see the citizens of neighboring countries only as tourists, but also as constructors. Macedonia has a significant role in this respect, considering the need for construction of the Corridor 10 (which includes the road Demir Kapija-Gevgelija). Great interest for direct Greek investment in construction of this road was expressed at this meeting," Krstevski said.
Greek Minister of Economy Nikos Khristodoulakis, speaking about open economy at the forum, gave credit to Macedonia for signing of free trade agreements, and called on Greek companies to take advantage of such policy and to invest in the country, Krstevski said.
Today, Krestevski also met with Greek Minister for Macedonia and Thrace Georgios Paschalidis and Deputy Foreign Minister Tassos Yianitsis.
"We have talked about Macedonia's integration into EU and got strong support by Greece. In our talks about the bilateral relations, we have agreed that Greece has invested 500 million in Macedonia so far, becoming a real example how an EU member country should support the regional development," Krstevski said.
The forum reaffirmed the EU and Greek projects within the Plan for the Balkan Reconstruction.
"It is a fund of 500 million, of which a sum of 75 million is allocated to Macedonia as a donation for infrastructure projects (80%) and for the private sector (20%), " Krstevski said.
At the forum, Krstevski is accompanied by Vice-President of the Macedonian Assembly Ilijaz Halimi and Macedonian Ambassador to Greece Ljupco Arsovski.
The American-Greek Industrial Chamber and the Greek Government have organized the forum, which is to be closed tomorrow.
Macedonian Flag Waves on North Pole.
Macedonian flag did not adorn Tetovo main square at the start of the "Blossom Run," but if Macedonians must leave their ancestral homes, there sure is space for them in this big wide world.
Viktor Boev, the first Macedonian to set foot on the Arctic, raised the Macedonian flag on the North Pole. He spent 6 days there, propping the flag and a signpost pointing towards Skopje, which lies 5,280 kilometers away.
During the ritual, Mr. Boev read a peace-promoting message by President Boris Trajkovski, and a Macedonian Orthodox Christian prayer for peace.
Viktor Boev made a symbolic parachuting for peace from a Mi-8 helicopter on April 20, jumping from 1000 meters to environment where the temperature does not get above 40 degrees centigrade. His achievement costs US $ 7,000.
"Its easy to loose track of time on the North Pole, since its always day. The force of gravity is weaker, and we lived on an ice cover 1.5 meters thick, under which looms 5,000 meters deep ocean. Being on top of the world creates a unique feeling, as if one is closer to God," says Mr. Boev.
Six other persons, from France, India and Russia, parachuted with Mr. Boev.
They resided in the Russian base called "Borneo," sleeping in tents in sleeping bags on portable beds.
INTERIOR MINISTRY-HEROIN TRAFFICKING.
International Ring Trafficking in Heroin and Cocaine Eliminated by Bulgarian, Turkish, Swedish Customs and Police Officers.
Sofia, May 20 (BTA) - An international ring trafficking in heroin and cocaine was eliminated in an operation of the National Service Combating Organized Crime, the Customs Agency, the Regional Centre for Combating Transnational Crime (SECI Centre) in Bucharest, and Turkish and Swedish police, the Interior Ministry said.
The smugglers' nerve-centre was in Plovdiv. The gang included Bulgarians and Tanzanians. Heroin couriers set off from Bulgaria, took the drug in Turkey and smuggled it into Western Europe. Cocaine was smuggled from South America through Western Europe and into Greece.
The ring-leader, 37-year-old Silvana Y. from Plovdiv, was arrested at Bucharest airport four days ago. She had swallowed capsules containing 520 g of cocaine shortly before leaving Amsterdam.
Another swallower from the same ring, 63-year-old Atanaska R., also from Plovdiv, was arrested in Istanbul on Sunday. She was about to leave for Sweden with 500 g of heroin in capsules.
The two Bulgarians are under investigation.
The police forces of several countries have pooled their efforts to find the other members of the organized crime group.
Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha to Make Official Visit to Moscow June 3-6.
Sofia, May 20 (BTA) - Prime Minister Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha will make an official visit to Russia on June 3-6, said Tsvetelina Ouzounova, head of the Council of Ministers' Information and PR Directorate. Details on the delegation and its meetings in Moscow will be given after further coordination with Russia, she said.
A declaration on trade, economic, scientific and technological cooperation is expected to be signed during the visit.
A draft declaration was approved by the Bulgarian government on May 18.
GREECE - ECONOMIC FORUM - BULGARIA.
Thessaloniki, May 20 (BTA) - Bulgarian Deputy Economy Minister Milen Keremedchiev outlined the trends and prospects of the economies of Southeast Europe before the ninth annual economic forum taking place in Thessaloniki, the press office of the Bulgarian Economy Ministry said.
During his visit to Greece Keremedchiev conferred with Greek Minister of Macedonia and Thrace Yeoryois Paskhalidhis. The two discussed issues of the bilateral economic cooperation and questions of trade and investments.
The Bulgarian official familiarized his host with the measures undertaken by the Bulgarian cabinet to improve the investment climate in the country and the initiatives to set up business parks and free trade zones in border regions.
Paskhalidhis pledged Greece's support for Bulgaria's integration in NATO and EU in the short term. He also familiarized Keremedchiev with the efforts of the Greek Ministry of Macedonia and Thrace for opening new border checkpoints between Bulgaria and Greece.
Keremedchiev also conferred with the President of the Balkan and Black Sea Centre for Economic Cooperation and the President with the Union of Industrialists in Northern Greece. The officials discussed bilateral cooperation at the level of firms and the development of investment projects.
Keremedchiev is scheduled to meet the President of the Thessaloniki Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and the Managing Board of the Union of Exporters in Northern Greece. The discussions will focus on future Greek projects in Bulgaria and the setbacks Greek businessmen meet in Bulgaria, the press release says.
With investment totalling 542 million US dollars, Greece is the second biggest investor in Bulgaria in 1992-2001.
BULGARIA - CYPRUS - CULTURE.
Sofia, May 20 (BTA) - Cultural exchange and the fight against treasure hunting topped the agenda of a working meeting on Monday in Sofia between Bulgarian Culture Minister Bozhidar Abrashev and Cypriot Minister of Education and Culture Ioannides Ouranios.
The two officials also discussed bilateral cooperation in participation in international programmes, the press office of the Culture Ministry said.
Abrashev and Ouranois also discussed the programme for cooperation in the field of science, education and culture in 2002-2004 which Foreign Minister Solomon Passy and the Greek guest will sign on Tuesday.
The Head of the Roman Catholic Church Is Professional Philosopher and Eminent University Professor.
Sofia, May 20 (BTA) - The first Bulgarian book analysing Pope John Paul II's philosophical views has become a fact, Prof. Ivan Kalchev, President of the Bulgarian Philosophical Association, told BTA. "Mercy for Man", co-authored by Lilia Antonova, has as its first part Antonova's graduation paper, edited by Kalchev. She defended it brilliantly last year, he said.
Few people know that the present head of the Roman Catholic Church is a professional philosopher and an eminent university professor, Prof. Kalchev said.
The Pope defends the thesis of the eternal value of human life, its inviolability and dignity, Prof. Kalchev said. His philosophical writings "Faith and Reason", "Love and Responsibility", "The Splendour of Truth" and "The Gospel of Life" (which have been translated into Bulgarian and are commented in Prof. Kalchev's book) set forth a deeply humanistic position.
Man must vanquish the evil forces inside and around him and defend his life against encroachments, against what is known as the culture of death, Pope John Paul II maintains.
The co-authors find that the Pope takes a stand on contentious issues such euthanasia and abortions, which he subsumes under murder, and declares himself against their moral and legal legitimation. The Pope categorizes suicide as part of the culture of death, believing that however hard human life may be, suffering helps exalt man.
Prof. Kalchev said the Pope's visit to Bulgaria might influence the Bulgarians' mentality and stop them from thinking in terms of disunity. The Pope is in favour of unity between Christianity and the other religions, and calls for tolerance towards otherness. In this sense, he is not only a great leader, but a great spiritual teacher as well, Prof. Kalchev said.
Furthermore, the Christian canon holds that John Paul II is Jesus Christ's Vicar on Earth and there is nothing strange about his delight in visiting a Christian Orthodox country, according to Prof. Kalchev.
Sex Slavery, Prostitution, & Rape Rampant in Kosovo.
Derek CHAPPELL, Spokesperson
UNMIK Police Briefing Notes
Police Raid Brothel In Prizren.
A teenage Moldavian woman called UNMIK Police in Prizren last week with a plea for help. She had been bought by the owner of a café-bar who forced her to work as a prostitute for two months. She was able to escape and contacted the police. She was provided with shelter and support while an investigation was conducted.
On the 15th of May, a raid was conducted on the café-bar and the 26 year-old K-Albanian owner was arrested. A second Moldavian woman was found and rescued from sexual slavery.
Two Suspects Arrested For Rape Of Teenager.
Two K-Albanian men are in custody and a teenage K-Albanian woman is receiving treatment after a brutal attack, during which she was kidnapped and raped twice while being held prisoner.
The 18 year-old was forcibly abducted in Pristina by three men on May 10th. She was then driven to a location north of the city where she was held for almost 48 hours. During her captivity, two of the men raped her repeatedly.
The men released her after threatening her if she reported the crime to the Police. However, she did report the incident.
Two of the suspects, K-Albanian men ages 21 and 22, have been identified and arrested by UNMIK Police.
Human Traffickers Arrested.
An attempt to traffick two Ukrainian women into Kosovo for the purpose of forced prostitution was attempted last week.
A car with two men and two women was stopped at an UNMIK Police vehicle checkpoint near Kamenica on May 13th. The police officers became suspicious that the women were not in the car by choice and separated them from the men for an interview. The women confirmed they were being held against their will and had been driven into Kosovo from Serbia-proper. They were to be forced into prostitution and had been beaten & raped before crossing the boundary in order to make them submit.
The two K-Albanian men, who were acting in concert with Serbian criminals, were arrested. The two women have been provided with shelter and medical & psychological care.