Macedonia in English

Macedonia-related news and information in English

Interview of Macedonian Ambassador to Greece Darko Angelov for BankingNews.gr — February 17, 2016

Interview of Macedonian Ambassador to Greece Darko Angelov for BankingNews.gr

FireShot Capture 87 - Angelov bankingnewsAmbassador of Republic of Macedonia to Greece, HE Mr. Darko Angelov, gave an interview for the Greek website BankingNews.gr (16.02.2016). English translation of the interview is bellow.

So, ambassador, what advantages you think your country has… What makes your country an investment opportunity for the Greek businesses and we have some inside information that you are about to organize a campaign targeting Greek investments. Could you kindly inform our readers what levels are the corporatе income tax rate, the capital gains tax rate and the value tax rate.

Ok thank you, so in a way it’s a very easy question because it’s very simple, everything is 10%. All of those taxes you mentioned, not the VAT, for which there are several rates, depending on the product, 5-18%, but in most cases it is only 5% such as for IT equipment, food, medicine, etc. But the corporate income tax, the personal income tax, all those are 10%. And this is one of the most attractive points in doing business in the Republic of Macedonia, regardless whether you are a domestic company or any foreign investor in the country. It is a very simple, a straightforward, taxation system, which has been there for almost 10 years, so the additional added value is that it is stable and predictable, in essence it’s a flat rate tax system. But on top of it there are additional incentives for investors which are in the manufacturing sector and which are export oriented. These additional benefits are for investors in the so called free economic zones, where only export oriented manufacturing is located. In these zones, the taxes are not even 10%, but actually 0%. Even more, the import duties for any raw materials a company might need, which cannot be acquired in the country, the customs rate is 0%, but only if it’s used for production within those zones and then the products are exported. But going back to the general taxation environment, as I mentioned, generally the flat rate is 10%, but if a company retains its profit or reinvests it into its capital base you don’t pay even those 10%, so it’s 0%.

As a bonus?

As a bonus, even those 10% flat tax, irrespective whether you are in the free zone or not, if you retain or reinvest your profits you don’t pay those 10% tax. So we think this is the most attracting selling point for any investor in the country and we have received quite an increased share of domestic and foreign investors in the past years. It’s not the best time to seek for any investments nowadays, but we are getting gradually increasing amounts of investments. This was combined with an aggressive campaign, but this was not tailor made for Greece, it is a global campaign. So far it has not been anything to do with Greece in particular, first because it’s not a specific campaign for any country, but then it’s very easily problematic because of obvious reasons since Greece has the issue with our name. So we have all the possible brochures, but as you can see, our motto is “Invest in Macedonia.” It was hard to combine and organize our campaigns in Greek media. Anyhow, Greek companies continue to operate in the country with profit and usually it’s a rarity if one decides to cease its operation. In most cases, the Greek owned companies in my country outperform their mother companies or other sister companies within its own group. Greek banks in the Republic of Macedonia, and there are two, Ethniki and Alpha, also perform well and continue to be quite active on the retail and corporate credit market. In general, our banking sector is very stable, which of course has a very positive effect on the investment environment. Despite the global and European crisis, banks continued to have very active credit portfolios.

Almost on a daily basis Greeks cross the border to buy goods from your country. Do you hold any specific data about that?

I cannot give you an exact number as we are talking about individual shoppers. In any case, having much lower taxes makes our products cheaper than those in Greece, thus the interest for Greek citizens to shop or do some medical or other services across the border. When it comes to the overall trade between the two countries, it is relatively stable, however, in the past year we have witnessed a drop, presumably to do with the Greek financial crisis. In 2015, the trade amounted to 665 million US dollars of which our exports into Greece 165.7 and import from Greece around 500 million dollars, which means that Greece has a positive balance with the Republic of Macedonia, with oil being a major segment of this since we import most of our oil through Greece and this ends up on the Greek side of the trade balance. In 2014 the trade amounted to 894 million USD. so you see last year there was a significant drop. Now Greece is our fourth biggest trading partner after Germany, Serbia and Great Britain and when it comes to investments the accumulative number of Greek investments in the past 20 years has been 437 million Euros, which is about 10% of the overall foreign investments in my country, making Greece the third biggest investor after the Netherlands and Austria.

Do you have any requests on your desk from Greek companies that want to invest in your country?

There are, but not very often since Greek companies already know our market quite well and they can always seek for advice from the many Greek owned business that already operate in the country.

Is your country’s economy dependent of Greece’s economy and if yes could you tell at what level in conjunction with GDP.

Statistics can explain part of it but let’s say overall our biggest partnership or our biggest relationship with Greece, which is really strategic, is logistical as the port of Thessaloniki is the main port of export and import of goods for us, but then also I think this dependence is mutual especially for northern Greece since we are the biggest individual consumer of the port of Thessaloniki. Moreover, we are the main, shortest point of transit for goods from the Greek ports bound for Central and even some Western European markets. So, logistics is the biggest mutual economic relationship and even we can say, interdependence.

Nikola Gruevski has stated last week in the Greek newspaper “to Vima” specifically that he signs with two hands that your country does not have territorial plans towards Greece and does not ask for the exclusive use of the term Macedonia. Do you think that the two sides are ready to solve the name dispute?

I think it’s not proper for me to say whether now Greece is ready to solve the name issue or not. But I can reaffirm the already known fact that we are ready to engage in a meaningful dialogue to solve the issue which Greece has with our name in a mutually acceptable way by which no essential interest of any side is undermined. For us this is the issue of our identity and its expression. Seeking no exclusivity over the name of Macedonia and having no territorial ambitions towards any of our neighbors has always been our very clear position, made explicit even in our constitution. Something which is easily forgotten here in Greece is that the name dispute is a completely asymmetrical, misbalanced situation, where Greece objects that my country is called the Republic of Macedonia, that we are Macedonians speaking the Macedonian language, whereas my country has never raised any objections to Greece’s use of the name Macedonia in all possible contexts, from naming three of its provinces, a university, airport, etc. Moreover, the asymmetry is also seen in the fact that we are not an EU and NATO member state, which we want to join, whereas Greece is and is using all possible leverage of that over us. 

One last question about the refugee crisis. Your borders are transit point for migrants moving towards Europe, so this brings you in discussion with the EU. In what ways can your country cooperate with the Greek government so it would be in the interest of both sides?

In a way we are in the exact situation as Greece is, being affected by a situation beyond our control. However, there is an essential difference, us not being an EU and Schengen member state and a country smaller than Greece, with limited resources and abilities to seek institutional assistance from the EU and NATO. We are in the most awkward situation where we have to keep safe a border from an influx of migrants coming from the territory of an EU and Schengen member state, without having access to any of the databases or means of institutional assistance. At the beginning of the crisis, especially last summer and early autumn, our cooperation was not at the appropriate level, obviously still burdened by the many past years where the name issue was used by Athens as a precondition for any kind of cooperation. However, I am glad that in recent weeks and couple of months the communication between our ministries of interior has intensified and gained on quality. What is central to our approach to the migrant crisis is that we do not take any unilateral actions, but simply follow the policies of the countries north from us and we are always the last to implement any restrictions of movement. The Republic of Macedonia will do everything possible to continue enabling an efficient and humane passage of all refuges from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq, but our security will be under no compromise. Therefore we have built a fence at one segment of our mutual border to prevent the increasing number of illegal crossing and to streamline the flow to the legal crossing point of Gevgelija where the proper security checks and registration takes place. 

From ancient Greece is there any specific philosopher that you admire? Have you read any ancient history?

I am more of recent or modern history admirer and then I would choose Ioannis Kapodistrias as the Greek I admire the most, although primarily remembered as a diplomat and statesmen, he was essentially a great thinker and visionary.

Have you visited Parthenon?

Of course, even before I came here as a diplomat. Just last year there have been 1.1. million individual touristic visits from the Republic of Macedonia to Greece and this is from a country of 2 million. So, we know Greece and all its historical and touristic sites quite well.

Does Alexander the Great belong to history and everyone?

Your question contains my answer: he belongs to history and everyone. I strongly believe that his legacy is first and foremost universal and belongs to all of the modern states that are now on the territory of what used to be ancient Macedonia. Our approach of not seeking any exclusivity over the name of Macedonia is all about this perception. 

Do you want to leave us with a last, additional message?

Business relations between our two countries have always been strong, even in the times when politics was not. Businesses know each other and already have the channels of communication for which we as governments have not much else to do. However, the two states should continue working on making the business interactions across the border even easier by opening new border crossings, reopening the Bitola to Florina railway track by which a secondary rail link with the port of Thessaloniki will be established, but also to connect the natural gas systems of both countries for which we are hoping to start discussions soon.

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How Macedonia is Dealing with the Refugee Flow (short overview) — December 24, 2015

How Macedonia is Dealing with the Refugee Flow (short overview)

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Photo by Robert Atanasovski/APF.

Activist Mersiha Smailovic posted this overview of the refugee situation in the Facebook group “Help the Refugees in Macedonia.” It presents the basic logistics information and the state of the affairs.

The refugees in Macedonia enter in only one border crossing, from Eidomeni- Greece in Gevgelija, stone 59 [border marker]. While entering Macedonia, each refugee must possess documents for registration from Greece, or any other document by which will be confirmed their nationality. The entrance in Macedonia is allowed only to the refugees who come from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, and have a document which they can prove that.

From the border crossing to the camp there are about 600 meters. The refugees wait in groups to enter in the camp. The waiting time is from one to 3 hours, maximum. The refugees in the camp wait for their registration, which lasts maximum one hour, but during that time the organizations in the camp provide them with complete aid services. Each refugee is provided free food, free medical aid, separated tents for mothers and children with heating and educational materials, winter clothes and shoes. All this aid is free.

Refugees stay in the camp until the train comes or other transport. The price for the train ticket is € 25, while for children aged up to 10 years old the transport is free. Another transport that can be used, if the police allows, is buss or licensed taxi drivers (yellow cars). The buss ticket is € 20, and for taxi is € 25 per person (4 person max) or € 100 to Tabanovce.

The drive to the Macedonia- Serbia border lasts three or four hours. The camp is in the place called Tabanovce. At the camp the refugees have the same aid like in Gevgelija, which is free .

At the exit of the camp, there is police which asks for documents by which the refugees again will confirm their nationality. Only the refugees from the countries above will be let to walk towards the first camp in Serbia – Miratovac ( 1,5 km). If they are refugees from other countries, they will be returned at the camp, where they will have to seek asylum to the competent police authorities, or they will be returned in Greece. Every refugee can get free legal advice by calling the phone number 0800-17-777, 24 hours per day (MYLA).

Those determined that had illegally entered Macedonia, will be deported back to the country from where they had entered.

The refugees who used services of smugglers and had been arrested by the police during anti-trafficking operation, will be taken to the reception center for foreigners (detention) – Gazi Baba as a witness against the smuggler.

And if the refugee that enter in Macedonia illegally decides to walk by foot, then he is in danger of being attacked by criminals who rob refugees. The weather in Macedonia is too cold, the refugees should be prepared for winter weather conditions. And let them have patience while they are waiting in camp!

Refugees are welcomed in Macedonia !

VMRO-DPMNE MP from Australia, Naumovski, Thrashed Social Workers in Bitola — August 11, 2015

VMRO-DPMNE MP from Australia, Naumovski, Thrashed Social Workers in Bitola

On August 10, 2015, Telma TV published the following news entitled “MP Naumovski Trashed Social Workers in Bitola,” by the journalist Emilija Misirlievski.

Valentina Ralevska, employee in the Social Work Center in Bitola, claims that today around noon she and three of her colleagues were attacked by the Member of Parliament of Republic of Macedonia from Australia, Vasko Naumovski, at their workplace.

The incident took place during the meeting with Naumovski with his underage son in the Center. Ralevska, who is a sister of Naumovski’s spouse, has been hospitalized in Bitola Hospital, and could not talk on camera. Her lawyer confirmed the incident.

“At the moment the plantiff is in the Bitola Clinical Hospital, and has been kept for further medical treatment. The event was reported to the police, which claims it works on the case. How it will all transpire from now on, depends on the Public Prosecutor and the police,” stated Done Kuzmanovski, Ralevska’s lawyer.

MP Vasko Naumovski, during telephone conversation with Telma, denied that he physically attacked the employees in the Bitola Social Work Center.

He claims that this is a scenario to cover abuses by the Center, because his underage son, instead to him, was assigned to the parents of his spouse, while she is in Australia.

MP said that today at the Center for Social Work Ralevska spit on him, and later her husband tried to assault him in Bitola Police Station, where Naumovski reported the incident. Bitola police confirmed there was an incident, involving Vasko Naumovski MP, and the sister of his wife. They say they are on the case which involves mutual accusations and they will not release any more details.

Bitola Hospital staff confirmed that four employees in Center for Social Work reported for medical examination, and that Ralevska was kept for further observation.

Photo of Vasko Naumovski, MP representing VMRO-DPMNE from Australian diaspora, by Falanga.com.au.
Photo of Vasko Naumovski, MP representing VMRO-DPMNE from Australian diaspora, by Falanga.com.au.
Nikola Gruevski Presented an Action Plan for Salvation from Nikola Gruevski [Satire] — July 2, 2015

Nikola Gruevski Presented an Action Plan for Salvation from Nikola Gruevski [Satire]

gruevski-vs-gruevskiSatirical portal Koza nostra, which is the most popular Macedonian site akin to The Onion, presented the following spoof on June 30, 2015:

Nikola Gruevski Presented an Action Plan for Salvation from Nikola Gruevski

The Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski has an action plan for every problem in the state, including about himself as the main problem for Macedonia at the moment, government spokesperson Aleksandar Gjorgiev stated. Since the Priebe report identified the top Government executive and the high functionaries who have family ties with him as main reason for lack of democracy in Macedonia, Gruevski prepared an Action Plan with several points to solve this problem, too.

“The Government does not run from the issues, instead it solves them. Gruevski is unlike other politicians who’d like to come to power without work. He accepts the Priebe recommendations and immediately set down and made a plan how to implement them. The plan envisions that Gruevski leaves the PM office and without delay in the reforms, for him to immediately return within the same office, but this time refreshed, reformed, more humane. Only a new and reformed Gruevski can deal with the issues he would inherit from the old Gruevski. Yes, Gruevski is Macedonia’s problem, but he is also her solution,” Gjorgiev said.

Ruling party VMRO-DPMNE confirmed that they prepare Gruevski as successor to Gruevski, and said that it would not be fair towards the opposition to allow it to solve the problems he created.

“The problems should be solved by the person that created them. Therefore, we propose that Gruevski succeed Gruevski. Our Action Plan has the support by USA and EU,” said Member of Parliament Ilija Dimovski.

“The Generation that did not remain silent!” – High School Students’ Protests Paused — May 21, 2015

“The Generation that did not remain silent!” – High School Students’ Protests Paused

After more than a month of boycotting and over two weeks of camping in front of the Ministry of Education and Science, the members of the High School Plenum announced on May 15 that they’ve put their protest on pause.

While they removed their camp, they still demand moratorium on the ill-conceived external testing, which needs improving, and return to the previous concept of final exam at the end of secondary school (“matura”). However, they do not consider the current government legitimate and see no point in trying to negotiate with them.

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“The generation that did not remain silent!” Prom photo of some participants in the protests of high school students against the harmful reforms in education, through the High School Plenum .
Twelve days of protest: Recap of May 12th to 16th — May 17, 2015

Twelve days of protest: Recap of May 12th to 16th

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Demonstrators holding hands. Photo by: Vanco Dzambaski

May 12th to 16th were marked with gatherings at the unblocked streets in front of the Government building, taking directions as fit. Each day protesters gathered at 18:00 o’clock near the Government, picked up their banners and whistles and peacefully marched first to the Court demanding release of the detained demonstrators, and ending at the Assembly with chants, speeches and plenums.

May 13th was one of the most massively attended protests of the second week of #протестирам, and in an embracing positive atmosphere, protesters demanded freedom for their fellow citizens in Idrizovo and resignation of the Government and Prime Minister. The three resignations from May 9th brought some closure, but the movement is determined that it will not be swayed until the Government steps down.

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Activist Marija Grubor in front of the Assembly. Photo by: Vanco Dzambaski

The second week was marked with brief and powerful speeches by citizens in front of the Assembly, speaking about their many reasons to take to the streets every day and not rest until this Government leaves.

On May 15th, the Court determined it will detain 3 more protesters, with the number amounting to 42 people temporary arrests for the May 5th protest, and a total of 15 demonstrators currently detained, one in house detainment and one that has fled. [Helsinki Committee Report] The outstandingly fast way of processing these cases and the unreasonable prison detainment make citizens even more upset with the institutions and the treatment of their citizens, which can factically be seen as political prisoners at this time.

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Poster for the protests on the 14th of May with pictures from the 13th.

The protests were under the messages: Goodbye Nikola, Resignation!, No justice, no peace!, Down with the dictatorship!

In this week, the Opposition published three more “bombs” (sets of wiretapped conversations among officials) about: The MOI purchasing a 600K EUR Mercedes for the PM in secret, Officials stating they can “start a war in no time” and aggressively demeaning minorities and lastly a confirmation that the Government has been negotiating and accepting proposals for changing the country’s name – a matter they have denied rigorously).

May 15h ended with a plenary in front of the Assembly building, and May 16th in eyes of the upcoming massive protest was a peaceful gathering in front of the Government with people doing banners and calling out their messages.

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Skopje’s statues start to protest as well.

The #протестирам movement will join the massive civil protests on May 17th at 14 o’clock, firstly gathering in front of the Court, to once again remind the institutions about the citizens they are keeping in prison, and then joining the march of the Student Plenum, will join the massive protests of Citizens of Macedonia in 13:55, symbolically five minutes before the protest.  #протестирам will continue to gather every day at 18h.

Video with a compilation of protests from the previous years, calling for the mass protest on the 17th, We’re coming.

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Anti-Governmental stencils appear on the walls in Skopje.

The large scale protest on the 17th (known as We’re coming, #доаѓаме), will gather thousands from the entire country, seeking the current Macedonian government to resign and take legal responsibility for an almost decade long abuse of power, which includes vote rigging, large scale corruption, curtailing freedom of speech and of the press. The Citizens of Macedonia organizing the protest is a coalition of NGOs and political parties, standing against the regime in Macedonia. Protests will also be organized by Macedonian diaspora in front of Macedonian Embassies in other country.

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An alternative flag of Macedonia made by the designer Bane: “Goodbye Nikola” #збогумникола
Day 7: Protests, Commemorations and Ambassadors’ Awakening — May 13, 2015

Day 7: Protests, Commemorations and Ambassadors’ Awakening

Monday May 11, 2015 marked the 7th day of protests since the publication of wire-tapped conversations between the Minister of Interior, Jankulovska and high government officials on the murder of Martin Neshkoski. This protest came in the aftermath of the police action in Kumanovo, where a terrorist group was surrounded and engaged in combat in densely-populated area.

CEtyeigXIAEVt_z.png largeIn light of these events, the protesters wore black and white shirts, carried flowers and lighted up candles in memory of the policemen murdered. The protests were peaceful and the protesters observed a minute of silence in paying respect to the victims and in solidarity with the citizens of Kumanovo.

Although the protest was smaller than previously, with about 1000 participants, they weren’t allowed to pay tribute to the fallen soldiers of WWII, at the monument on the grounds of the government. This is the first time since the end of WWII that citizens weren’t allowed to honor the fallen in the fight against fascism.

Macedonian media was present, but the engagement and interest of foreign reporters was much greater than that of their local counterparts. A worrying fact is the detention of two journalists in Kumanovo, Julia Druelle and Marcel van der Steel, by the police forces in Kumanovo. The reasoning of the police was that they were reporting without a journalistic authorization from Macedonia, and were held for 22 hours with demands to sign a declaration saying they disobeyed the zone prohibited by the police. In the end, with the involvement of the OSCE and their respective embassies, the two journalists were released.

The ambassadors of the United States, the European Union, France, Italy, the United Kingdom and Germany held a joint press conference after the meeting with the Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Nikola Poposki. Their statement is attached below:

“On this day of mourning and on behalf of the United States, France, Italy, the United Kingdom, Germany, and the European Union, we expressed today our condolences to Prime Minister Gruevski and the people of Macedonia for the tragic deaths of the brave police officers who were killed yesterday in and around Kumanovo, and we shared our sympathies for the suffering of the citizens of Kumanovo who were caught up in the violence. We offered to assist in any way that we can.
We join with citizens throughout the country and political leaders in denouncing violence. We welcome the President’s initiative to meet with all political parties, and we appeal to citizens to continue exercising restraint in response to the weekend’s tragedy, as well as calm in any group assembly in the coming weeks.

As well as discussing the events in Kumanovo in our meeting today with Prime Minister Gruevski, we have also reconfirmed the friendship of the people of our countries and organization with the people of Macedonia. We have long supported Macedonia’s efforts to join the EU and NATO, and as friends and partners we have also expressed our concerns about the ongoing political crisis.

We have specifically reiterated our concerns to the Prime Minister that his government has not made progress towards accounting for the many allegations of government wrongdoing arising from the disclosures. This continued inaction casts serious doubt on the Government of Macedonia’s commitment to the democratic principles and values of the Euro-Atlantic community. Continued failure to demonstrate this commitment with concrete action will undermine Macedonia’s progress towards EU and NATO membership.

We have also expressed our expectation that in the case of disclosures that reveal clearly unacceptable behavior, appropriate political and legal measures are taken against those responsible. In order to address institutional weaknesses highlighted by the disclosures, we call on the government to consider specific reforms, including on the integrity of the electoral system, media freedom, independence of the judiciary, freedom of speech and whistle-blower protection.
Finally, we continue to fully support the fundamental democratic right of citizens to assemble and peacefully protest, and we reiterate our appeal to all sides to refrain from violence. The peaceful exercise of democratic rights and rejecting aggressive acts towards fellow citizens – whether police officers or demonstrators – is a fitting tribute to the courage and sacrifice of those who gave their lives in service to the people of Macedonia.

We will be meeting with Mr. Zaev and Mr. Ahmeti in the days ahead to share similar messages.”