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Macedonia in the Bulgarian and International Press
News Bulletin No2, February 2000

The tour of President B. Traykovsky in Europe and Canada | The resolution of the European Parliament | Initiatives in the framework of the Stability Pact | Highest visits of representatives of NATO in Skopie | Greece and Cyprus in foreign policy | Trade war against Serbia| Other Foreign Policy Initiatives

In February the government of the Republic of Macedonia continued its foreign policy activity aimed at the integration of the country in the Euroatlantic structures, at strengthening and developing cooperation with its neighbours and at activating the Stability Pact on the Balkans.

The Tour of President B. Traykovsky in Europe and Canada

In February the newly elected President B. Traykovsky undertook a tour in a number of European countries and in Canada promoting active diplomatic activity. The main purpose of this activity was to win friends that would support the efforts of its country for integration in the structures of the European Union and NATO. According to information in the Dnevnik newspaper of February 1 he met Bill Clinton and M. Olbright and talked to Al. Kvashnevsky, L. Kuchma, M. Schuster and Ad. Ogi during the conference held in the Swiss town of Davos. Traykovsky visited the capital of Liechtenstein where he talked with the chairman of parliament and with representatives of the government.

After his visit to Switzerland and Liechtenstein B. Traykovsky visited the capital of Portugal Lisbon. He met there and talked with President Jorje Sampayo about accelerating the negotiations with the European Union for concluding an agreement for stabilization and association as well as about Portugese support for Macedonia’s efforts to have the agreement signed by June 1 this year. Both President Sampayo and the prime minister promised to do their best to accelerate the association procedure. They express their positive opinion of ethnic relations in the country as well as of the development of democratic and economic reforms. New initiatives for further development of bilateral relations were outlined. (Utrinski vesnik of February 3, Dnevnik of february 2).

From Lisbon B. Traykovsky travelled to Brussels. His first meeting there was with commissioner Chris Paten. Traykovsky acquainted him with the political and economic situation in the country and with the strategic tasks of foreign policy – development of good-neighbour relations with the countries of the region and integration into Euroatlantic structures. He pointed out the importance for Macedonia of the expected development of the relations with the European Union.

Chr. Paten emphasized the significance of the Republic of Macedonia as a factor of stability in the region, its internal political stability and charmonization of ethnic relations as well as the positions of the government on the Kosovo crisis. At the same time he declared the comprehensive support of the EU for Macedonia.

In Brussels B. Traykovsky talked with the coordinator of the Stability Pact for the Balkans B. Hombach. He expressed the expectations of the government that priority projects for the region will be affirmed during the forthcoming meetings and talks and especially during the financial conference of donators and that funds will be secured for the relaization of these projects and among them of the projects proposed by Macedonia.

Hombach expressed his agreement regarding the need for fast relaization of the Stability Pact. He pointed the project of the border-checkpoint Blatse as a priority for Macedonia for which a number of countries among which the Netherlands and Germany had promised financial aid. 

In Brussels B. Traykovsky met and talked with Romano Prodi, Doris Pack, N. Fonten and J. Solana. All of them positively valued the development of the Republic of Macedonia and agreed about the negotiations for concluding an Agreement for stabilization and association. They gave no positive answer to the question of journalists whether Macedonia would in the next years acquire the status of a country-candidate for the EU-membership. According to them the EU defends its position of the so-called virtual membership of Balkan states. D. Pack on his part noted that the report of the Commission on Legal Relations contained the requirement for Greece and Macedonia to agree in the framework of the UN and to adopt an acceptable name (Skopie media of February 4; Utrinski vesnik of February 4; Vecher of February 4).

In Brussels B. Traykovsky was assured that an evolutionary clause of full membership of Macedonia in the EU will be included in the Agreement for stabilization and association. Traykovsky also noted the need for Macedonia to be striken out of the negative Schengen Visa list. He reached an agreement on the chancellery of the EU in Skopie to be promoted to the level of Delegation of the European Commission. 

In Toronto B. Traykovsky participated in the “Gotseva Evening” which in Canada marked the 128th anniversary of the birth of Gotse Delchev. He met representatives of Macedonian emmigrants’ organizations. During his meeting with representatives of the Macedonian-Canadian Business Council he called for greater business participation in the economic development of Macedonia as well as for extension of economic cooperation between Canada and Macedonia. Traykovsky visited a computer factory and joined a religious service.

In Ottawa B. Traykovsky met and talked with prime minister J. Cretien and with the minister of foreign affairs L. Axwerty. Issues of bilateral economic and political relations were treated as well as the opening of a Canadian Embassy in Skopie with a Consul’s Office for issuing visas etc. (Dnevnik of February 9; the Utrinski vesnik of February 10; the Vecher of February 10).

In general during his 10-day tour B. Traykovsky had more than 30 summits as well as more than 80 meetings with representatives of various organizations and business circles. In this way he managed to introduce in broad international plan.

At the end of February B. Traykovsky visited Poland, Estonia and Lithuania. In Poland he talked with Al. Kvashnevsky. Two of them highly valued bilateral relations as expressly good with a permanent tendency for further more successful development. Traykovsky appreciated Poland’s help for the integration of Macedonia in the EU and proposed negotiations for free trade, he thanked for the readiness of Warsaw to assist the education of officers from the Macedonian army etc. (the Vecher of February 28, Skopie press of February 22). Back to top

The Resolution of the European Parliament

On February 18 media in Skopie announce that the European Parliament has adopted a Resolution by virtue of which it recommended to the European Commission to start negotiations with Macedonia in relation with the Agreement for stabilization and association of the country. The resolution has been passed with 435 votes “for”, 4 “against” and 22 “abstentions”. The demand for an evolutionary clause in the agreement remains which would open the road for Macedonia’s full-right membership of the EU. The demand of a group of members of parliament to include a text in the resolution reading that there were no justified political or economic reason for Macedonia to be excluded from the list of countries candidates for the EU-membership has been refused. 

European deputies highly valuated the policy of the Macedonian government during the Kosovo crisis and during the last months and emphasized that Macedonia were a factor of stability in the region. According to the Macedonian Information Agency the last resolution of the European Parliament did not differ a lot from the previous such document. It recommended that the valuations of the progress of reforms in the country that would clear Macedonia’s road to full-right membership of the European Union were considered during the negotiations with the European Commission. According to the Agency the European Parliament has refused the proposal of some European deputies to expel Macedonia from the list of potential candidates for membership. According to them there were neither economic nor political grounds for the country to be included in the list of those expecting to join the Union.

The resolution of the European Parliament was proposed by Johannes Svoboda. In his speech he indicated that Macedonia had suffered hard moments in the past years, that it were now on the right track and that the start of the negotiations in March would be an approval of its policy. He pointed out the achievements in political, economic and ethnic spheres as well as its position on regional cooperation and stabilization of the region. Along with that a series of disadvantages were quoted like the slow realization of reforms, the high unemployment, the privatization of OKTA that was completed without competition, the increase of foreign debt etc. This indicates that there is no place for euphoria and that the road to the EU “is not only a serious domestic but more a task of foreign policy” (Utrinski vesnik of February 7). According to media in Skopie the readiness of the government for reforms in the economic sphere would be questioned if no progress in this relation is felt in 2000.

The Greek deputy Hr. Zaharakis posed during the debates in the European Parliament the question about binding the Agreement for stabilization and association with the FYROM with the solution of the dispute with Greece regarding the name. According to him a detention of the solution would “obstruct the realization of Macedonia’s European perspective” (Athens’ press of February 17) according to the minister of foreign affairs of the Republic of Macedonia Al. Dimitrov this was a private opinion of Zaharakis and it were refused by the European Parliament. In his opinion the name could not repersent an obstacle for starting the procedure for associated membership. L. Georgievsky also thinks that Zaharakis’s attempt could not obstruct negotiations with Macedonia (Utrinski vesnik of February 4; Nova Makedonia of February 3; Dnevnik of February 3). Despite this the Belgrade newspaper Politika (“Politics”) of February 20 states that in Skopie were afraid that the issue about the name would move from New York to Brussels and the EU where Greece has strong influence and that this could establish serious difficulties. Back to top

Initiatives in the Framework of the Stability Pact

In February the Republic of Macedonia took part in a series of initiatives of the Stability Pact. On February 8 the first meeting of the group for eliminating trade barriers in the framework of the Stability Pact was held in the ministry of trade in Skopie. Representatives of the states from the region that are included in the pact as well as representatives of the Economic Commission of the UN, the World Bank, the IMF and the EU and other institutions participated in it. The framework was established for the conference for economic reconstruction, development and cooperation which will be held on February 10 – 11 in Skopie (the Utrinski vesnik of February 9).

On february 10 at the Alexander Palace hotel in Skopie the conference was opened of the Working table for economic reconstruction, development and cooperation of the Stability Pact. Some 250 representatives of 60 countries and international organizations participated in it. At the opening prime minister L. Georgievsky indicated that South-eastern Europe has never disposed of a more stable and encouraging programme for economic development and cooperation. He appealed to foreign companies to invest in Macedonia and insisted on international guarantees for the financing of the projects and mechanisms through the Stability Pact so that foreign investors can be motivated and secured. He pointed out that Skopie offered maximum liberalization of economic policy and wished foreign capital to come into the region.

In his exposé the minister of foreign affairs Al. Dimitrov took notice of the need for stable Balkans as well as for financial aid by the international community for the realization of the Stability Pact. Otherwise, the minister noted, new controversy could begin on the Balkans. He insisted on the process not to be burocracized and on Yugoslavia to be included in it. He announced that some 400 projects have been presented at the working table of which 80 medium-term and 45 short-term. Macedonia expected to obtain 27 – 30% of the funds provided for the realization of the projects which is about 500 million Euro ofr about 40 independent projects or in cooperation with Bulgaria and Albania.

Bodo Hombach addressed his special appeal to the participants. Therein he emphasized the necessity for the countries of South-Eastern Europe to realize outlined reforms in order to have the grounds for seeking the aid of the donator- countries. Particular steps to financing the outlined projects would be made at the conference which would take place in Brussels on March 28 –29. At this conference the countries from the region will have to demonstrate their readiness for cooperation because nobody would like to finance an insecure region.

A “Memorandum for cooperation and understanding” was signed at the conference. It demonstrates the readiness of the countries for cooperation in the filed of trade and transport. The main idea of the memorandum is to reduce costs in trade and transport, to reduce criminal acts and corruption at the border checkpoints and to develop regional trade cooperation (the Vecher of February 10; the Dnevnik of February 12; SMI of February 12-13).

At a parallel forum in Skopie which was also dedicated to the Stability Pact issues of democratic revival and civil society, of economic situation as well as of security policy in the region were considered. Representatives of liberal parties and movements from the Republic of Macedonia, from Bulgaria, Greece, the Liberal International, the Democratic Party of Serbia and others participated in it. The former Bulgarian president Zh. Zhelev launched the idea for the establishment of a Balkan Parliament and a Balkan political club for coordination of the interests of the countries from the region (Democratzia (“Democracy”) newspaper of February 11; Nova Makedonia newspaper of February 10; Skopie information media of February 10).

Seven countries – Bulgaria, Albania, Bosnia and Herzogovina, the Republic of Macedonia, Croatia and Hungary agreed in Saraevo to unite their efoorts against corruption in the framework of the Stability Pact for South-Eastern Europe. In his speech Bodo Homnach indicated that 10 billion Euro would be necessary for the restoration of the Balkans which would be provided at the financial conference in Brussels at the end of March. The greatest part of these funds would be spent on the construction of roads and infrasrtucture of the region (the Vecher newspaper of February 16; BTA-Balkani of February 16; Democratzia newspaper of February 17).

On February 13 and 14 massmedia in the Balkan countries announced details of the interbalkan meeting for cooperation held in Bucarest on February 12. The prime ministers of Romania, Bulgaria, the Republic of Macedonia, Greece, Albania, Bosnia and Herzogovina and Turkey participated in the work at the meeting. Yugoslavia had not been invited to the conference. After the debated the participants signed a “Charter for good-neighbourhood, stability, security and cooperation” in the framework of the Stability Pact. The main topic of the discussions was the reconstruction of the Balkans, as well as the economic cooperation and investments. The leaders noted that the promises made an year ago were not kept and insisted on taking urgent measures to encourage investments in the region. The issues of abolishing the embargo imposed on Yugoslavia, the construction of the second bridge on the Danube near Vidin – Kalafat, the reconstruction of navigation etc. were included in the Charter. 

During the meeting special attention was paid to bilateral meetings. Chairmen of Greece K. Simitis had insisted on recognizing the Cyprus republic from Macedonia. He pointed out that this could turn into a step toward the solution of the pending problems between the two countries. Georgievsky expressed the agreement of his country but the issue had first to be considered from the point of view of Macedonian interests and the problem with the name had to be solved. K. Simitis emphasized that this could happen only after the parliamentary elections in Greece this April when Greece will have broader space for engagements. He declared the readiness of his government to open consulates in Thessaloniki and in Bitolya as well as for the establishment of ordinary diplomatic relations between the two countries (the Utrinski vesnik of February 11; the Vima newspaper of February 13).

In Bucarest prime minister L. Georgievsky talked with B. Edjevit, Il. Meta and Iv. Kostov. Before them he had demonstrated satisfaction with the new wind on the Balkans for the solution of all problems and hope that in 2001 all problems between the countries of South-Eastern Europe will be solved at the meeting in Skopie (Nova Makedonia newspaper of February 15). Back to top

Highest visits of representatives of NATO in Skopie

On February 7 General Kl. Rheinhardt the commander in chief of the KFOR forces in Kosovo visited Skopie. He met and talked with prime minister L. Georgievski, the minister of internal affairs D. Dimovska, the minister of foreign affairs Al. Dimitrov and the defense minister N. Kliussev. He talked with the leader of the DPA Ar. Jafferi (BTA –Balkani of February 7). During the conversation with L. Georgievsky thoughts were exchanged about the border-checkpoint Blatse, about the road next to the village of Yazhintse as well as about the cooperation for neutralizing organized crime. General Rheinhardt informed about the replacement of the KFOR forces in April for troops of the European Corps of NATO. The structure of KFOR in Macedonia will remain unchanged and their staff in Skopie will be formed of the European Corps. 

With D. Dimovska, Al. Dimitrov and N. Kliusse General Rheinhardt discussed issues of the actual situation in Kosovo, the improvement of the legal framework of NATO forces in the Republic of Macedonia, practical issues of the coopration with KFOR, the cooperation between NATO and the ministry of internal affairs etc. the NATO general described the meeting with Ar. Jafferi as an exchange of thoughts on the situation. He denied rumours that he had exercized pressure on the government to allow the Kosovo Albanians to visit Macedonia with their identity cards only. General Rheinhardt also met the former defense minister L. Kitanovsly (Nova Makedonia newspaper of February 8; the media of February 8; the Utrinski vesnik of February 8).

On February 17 the Secretary General of NATO G. Robertson visited Skopie for a few hours. There he met and talked with the President B. Traykovsky, the prime minister L. Georgievsky and the minister of foreign affairs Al. Dimitrov. They have discussed Macedonia’s integration in the structures of NATO and the situation in the region. Robertson pointed out the outstanding role of Macedonia for protecting peace and ensuring security in the region.

G. Robertson spoke before members of the parliament. His message left the impression of a strongly improved position of the country as a candidate for NATO. Highly appreciating the consensus of political parties on this issue as well as the fact that Macedonia is one of the first states in South-Easterns Europe that has requested membership, G. Robertson thanked for the “bravery shown during the Kosovo crisis” as well as for the great moral and perticular support of the Alliance’s action and for hostong hundreds of thousands of Kosovo refugees.

The NATO chief particularized that even now the country is “ a transit point” for military reinforcement and international humanitariam organizations in Kosovo and defined that position and the activity as an ”impressing achievement” and Macedonia’s chances for becoming a member of the Euroatlantic structures as “rich”. Great attention was paid to the enlargement of NATO as part of the “stabilization and democratization of the Old continent”. (Democratzia newspaper of February 18; the Utrinski vesnik of February 18; the Dnevnik of February 21; massmedia in Skopie of February 20).

A few days after the visit of G. Robertson General W. Clerk arrived in Skopie. He talked with B. Traykovsky, L. Georgievsky and Ar. Jafferi. During the conversations the issues of replacing the KFOR forces for those of the European Corps were discussed as well as the practical implementation of the Stability Pact and the integration of the Republic of Macedonia in the Alliance. He stated that only the integration of Macedonia in NATO could provide its stability and security. (SMI of February 20; the Dnevnik newspaper of February 21; the Nova Makedonia newspaper of Ferbuary 20). Back to top

Greece and Cyprus in Foreign Policy

In the beginning of February relations between the Republic of Macedonia, Greece and Cyprus activated. The minister of foreign affairs Al. Dimitrov stated that his government would not establish diplomatic relations with Cyprus if the latter would not recognize its constitutional name. The spokesman of the ministry of foreign affairs of Cyprus M. Papapetru emphasized in his statement that Cuprus would recognize Macedonia with the name recognized by the UN, which is FYROM. The explicit position of Al. Dimitrov slowed down the negotiations. (Duma (“Word”) newspaper of February 3). It is thought that this happened under the pressure of the public which worried that the recognition would worseb relations with Turkey. Inofficially the Turkish government declared that in the case of recognition of Nicosia by Skopie it would lower the level of its diplomatic relations and Turkish businessmen would be advised to leave Macedonia. On its part the party of the Turks in Macedonia considers an eventual recognition of Cyprus as “precipitated in a moment when Turkish-Greek relations improve (the Dnevnik newspaper of February 2).

On February 2 in the Greek village of German a meeting was held of K. Simitis, L. Georgievsky and Il. Meta. Three of them have signed an agreement about the establishment of an international park “Prespa”. The project covers issues of the cleanness of the Prespa lake and of the environment. The park is foreseen to become an international tourist sight which will include part of the lake and territories of the three countries. This project is considered a symbol of the new Balkan policy and an example of good-neighbourhood. The three prime ministers have also agreed on the foundation of a Balkan Prespa Forum which is to be summoned each year in one of the Balkan states and where problems of regional cooperation and ecology of the lake and the region are to be discussed (the Politika newspaper of February 3; the Athens’ press of February 3; the Dnevnik newspaper of February 2; Skopie media of February 3).

As we mentioned the issue about the recognition of Cyprus and bilateral relations between the republic of Macedonia and Greece was discussed during the bilateral meetings Simitis – Georgievsky and Edjevit-Georgievsky in Bucarest. The Athens newspaper Exussia of February 14 indicated that Skopie has recently demonstrated growing interest in the settlement of the dispute with Greece about the name. There have been apprehensions since the term of the Temporary Agreement concluded under the aegis of the UN expires at the end of the year. And this issue would turn into an obstacle for the European integration of our neighbour.

It the comment “The Cyprus test for Skopie and Athens” the official Nova Makedonia pointed out that Athens’ pressure on Skopie to recognize Nicosia put the state in an “unpleasant position” toward Turkey. In Bucarest Simitis stated that this step could contribute to the normalization of bilateral relations. At the contra-question of Georgievsky that the problem with the name had first to be solved, he emphasized the necessity to wait for the parliamentary elections in April this year. Simitis has aimed at coming out with no significant cataclysms in internal political plan. In this sense the Cyprus issue is a “test-ballon” knowing that Macedonia would establish diplomatic relations with a countries recognizing its constitutional name. Any deviation in this relation, the newspaper pointed out, would be an “absurd mistake” (Nova Makedonia newspaper of February 16; the Utrinski vesnik of February 10).

The Utrinski vesnik of February 22 informed that PEN-club in Skopie has appealed to interrupt negotiations with Athens about the name. The club insists on bringing an action before against the UN for non-conformity of the Resolution of 1993 with the law , which resolution has forced Macedonia to negotiate with Greece about the name. V. Tupurkovsky, Al. Dimitrov and others however think that the issue is not a legal one but a political and that negotiations should continue. 

In the heat of that public discussion, the Gree-Macedonian forum was held in Skopie on February 20. L. Georgievsky spoke there of the responsibility of the country for foreign investments and that there would be maximum transperancy in privatization and access of foreign participation in it. The government supports the establishment of a free trade zone in Gevgeli in order to attract investments from Greece. Greece took third place in the foreign trade turnover of Macedonia and first place in investments with about 300 million dollars. The trade turnover in 1999 amounted to 214.6 million dollars and the import from Greece totaled up to 135.6 million dollars and the export to 79 million dollars (SMI of February 21).Back to top

The Trade War with Serbia

The Utrinski vesnik of February 8 informed that six days ago the ministry of agriculture of Serbia has issued an ordinance prohibiting the export and transit of agricultural products for Montenegro and Europe from Macedonia. In Skopie this was interpreted as a contrastrike for illegal import of goods from Kosovo and Macedonia which were to the detriment of Serbia. In fact this is a blockade of trade in Macedonian foods, “a trade war”.

Serbian measures caused a real storm of indignation among trade circle in Macedonia. The prohibition is qualified as a “political provocation” on the part of Serbia that strongly surprised the government. That is why weary and hard negotiations are expected within the joint Macedonian-Serbian commission on cooperation, which arrived in Skopie (The Utrinski vesnik of February 9.

On February 10 the Utrinski vesnik announced that the meeting of the commission are postponed for an undefinite oeriod of time. The minister of trade of the Republic of Macedonia M. Danevska sent a protest letter to the Serbian ministry of trade regarding the unilaterally taken measures. It was indicated that the government was preparing counter-measures for Serbian import goods. On its part the Yugoslav Embassy in Skopie reacted to the Nova Makedonia newspaper of February 10 that Serbia pushed the Balkans to isolation (Politika newspaper of February 22).

The relation between the Republic of Macedonia and Yugoslavia aggrevated by the placement of the First Army Corps in Kumanovo in increased military readiness. The government apprehended of eventual difficulties on the border caused by the events in Preshovo and Boyanovats (BTA-Balkani of February 23). The government and KFOR agreed on the American contingent to control together with the police certain points in Macedonia (BTA-Balkani of February 24; Sega (“New”) newspaper of February 24). Back to top

Other Foreign Policy Initiatives

BTA-Balkani announced on February 1 that in response to Slovenian measures to introduce entry visas for the citizens of the Republic of Macedonia te latter would also introduce visas for Slovenian citizens. We did not want to overview our sofar non-visa regime with Slovenia but we were forced to respond by a reciprocal measure, representative of the ministry of foreign affairs in Skopie announced (Monitor newspaper of February 2).

On February 17 the defense minister N. Kliussev and his Czech colleague Vl. Vehti signed an agreement for cooperation in the field of defense. The latter announced the readiness of his country to support Macedonia in the process of its integration in NATO (The Utrinski vesnik of February 18).

As a result of the talks held the Canadian Embassy officialized the activity of its permanent Chancellery in Skopie. This is interpreted as another example for the strengthening Canadian-Macedonian relations. But still Macedonian citizens will have to receive their Canadian visas from Vienna (The Vecher newspaper of February 10).

A the end of the first decade of the month the defense minister N. Kliussev visited Sweden where he had meetings with the Defense Commission of Sweden. He informed the Commission about the situation in the region and about the efforts of his government to integrate into the structures of NATO. Both countries agreed to intensify relations between the two countries in the military sphere (the Nova Makedonia newspaper of February 10; the Vecher newspaper of February 10).

The development and the strengthening of relations with Taiwan continues. The Vecher newspaper of February 28 informed about the visit of the minister of foreign affairs Al. Dimitrov in Taipei. The purpose of the visit os to make an overview of the development of the relations after the establishment of diplomatic relations and to odentify measures for further development. Talks were held about the establishment of a free trade zone Bunardzhika (the Vecher newspaper of February 28).

Bilateral relations with Germany develop successfully. The german government allocated 21 million german marks for the protection of the Ohrid lake as well as 13 million marks for supporting small and mediumsize enterprises. (The Utrinski vesnik of February 9). At this time the German Ambassador in Skopie V. Burkhardt delivered motorcycles and other equipment for the ministry of internal affairs to the value of 3.8 million German marks (The Utrinski vesnik of February 10; the Dnevnik of February 10).

On February 28 the press announced the visit of the EU commissioner of the issues of minorities Max van der Shtulin Skopie. He held talks with the government solving the issue about higher education in Albanian language and the institutionalization of the tetovo university (The Utrinski vesnik of February 9, 10). Back to top