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MP Karygiannis accused of berating civil servants August 28, 2011

Posted by Yilan in Canada, Macedonia.
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Toronto Liberal MP Jim Karygiannis, shown outside the House of Commons in Ottawa in February 2006, is the focus of complaints from Canadian government officials. Toronto Liberal MP Jim Karygiannis, shown outside the House of Commons in Ottawa in February 2006, is the focus of complaints from Canadian government officials. (Fred Chartrand/Canadian Press)

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Controversial Liberal MP Jim Karygiannis is the focus of complaints from Canadian government officials over allegedly verbally abusive behaviour, CBC News has learned.

Immigration officials have complained that Karygiannis, the MP for Ontario’s Scarborough-Agincourt riding, has used what they call unparliamentary language on multiple occasions in dealing with staff and takes an aggressive tone with civil servants.

Reached by CBC News, Karygiannis said he suspects there is an orchestrated campaign to smear him.

“I’ve had a good working relationship with the civil servants going back to 1988. I can probably get things done that a lot of other members [of Parliament] cannot get done because I contact them and say I need your help, and the help is always there,” he said.

“You don’t get re-elected time and time again because of the work that you do if you don’t look after your constituents. And people will not look after you and not be helping you if you’re not nice to them.”

A spokeswoman for Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney wouldn’t confirm the complaints. She pointed to an incident at a House of Commons committee meeting in 2009 when Karygiannis accused a departmental official of not wanting to admit black immigrants into Canada.

“We cannot release details of Mr. Karygiannis’s interactions with departmental officials without his consent,” Candice Malcolm wrote in an email.

“It is already public that Minister Kenney wrote a letter to the chair of the Citizenship and Immigration committee after Mr. Karygiannis was verbally abusive toward CIC officials when they appeared to answer questions.

“We expect anyone dealing with civil servants, especially members of Parliament, to show the same level of respect and decorum with which they would want to be treated. Yelling and/or use of profane language toward civil servants by members of Parliament is not acceptable.

History of controversial remarks

Karygiannis, the Liberal party’s multiculturalism critic, is hosting 19 cultural groups this weekend for meetings in Ottawa with Liberal MPs to talk about issues they face.

But some major cultural groups in Canada are boycotting the meetings and demanding Karygiannis be forced out of his portfolio, alleging he holds controversial views that make him unsuitable for the job.

The groups point to statements made by Karygiannis that they say make him an offensive pick.

CBC News has obtained a letter from B’Nai Brith Canada, a leading Jewish group, as well as press releases from Macedonian, Turkish and Chinese groups, demanding Liberal Interim Leader Bob Rae replace Karygiannis in his role.

Rae wasn’t available Friday for interviews.

The letter and statements are, in part, in support of complaints by the Macedonian Human Rights Movement International, who noted a 2011 event in Toronto where Karygiannis used a derogatory word to describe Macedonians.

Karygiannis says he was referring to a term that’s used in Greece to describe Macedonians from the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

“The Macedonians of FYROM in Greece are referred to as Skopjans. That’s a statement which is true. That’s how they’re referred to,” Karygiannis said.

He’s also championed causes that have split cultural communities, including successfully pushing Parliament to pass a motion that “acknowledges the Armenian genocide of 1915 and condemns this act as a crime against humanity.” Karygiannis says he’s willing to sit down with anyone and talk.

“If they don’t like it, then they will say OK, let’s do a number on Jim. Well, that’s fine. But my motto is respect, accept, celebrate and embrace.”

Anita Bromberg, general counsel for B’nai Brith Canada, says the organization is concerned about some of the positions Karygiannis has taken.

“Our point today is that multiculturalism is a call for a united front, for bringing communities together … where he’s been so divisive in the positions he’s taken, then we are suggesting to the Liberal Party that they reconsider whether he’s the best representative of putting forth that aim.”

Macedonia statue: Alexander the Great or a warrior on a horse? August 23, 2011

Posted by Yilan in Macedonia.
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Alexander the Great statue in Skopje, Macedonia

The statue oddly reminiscent of Alexander the Great in Skopje has reignited debate with Greece over the Macedonian name. Photograph: Georgi Licovski/EPA

In a move that has upset the Greeks, Alexander the Great has made a huge comeback in Macedonia.

A giant statue bearing an uncanny resemblance to the warrior king – although, officially, no one dares call it that – has been erected in the heart of Skopje, Macedonia’s capital. Seated upon his favourite steed, the classical hero surveys the capital from the vantage point of Plostad Makedonija, Skopje’s central square. At 22 metres, or eight storeys high, the statue dwarfs its surroundings.

But, then, that is the idea.

Amid great clouds of dust, giant bulldozers perpetually gnaw at the ground as the former Yugoslav republic undergoes one of Europe‘s biggest urban renewal schemes.

And it all takes place against the backdrop of a 20-year-long dispute with Greece, its southern neighbour, over ownership of the name Macedonia.

The sculpture, part of a building bonanza that has also erected gothic edifices, grandiose bridges and a triumphal arch, has been billed as the project’s crowning glory.

For the overtly nationalist government in Skopje, the overhaul is more eloquent than any other propaganda tool in its long battle with Greece over the country’s name, and the right to claim Alexander as a national hero.

With Greece in economic crisis, it couldn’t come at a better time.

“This is our way of saying [up yours] to them,” Antonio Milososki, the state’s former foreign minister, told the Guardian in an interview in October 2010.

“Alexander the Great, in fact, had no passport or birth certificate,” he said, sitting in the foyer of a government building brimming with relics dating back to the warrior king. “This project is about asserting Macedonia’s identity at a time when it is under threat because of the name issue. We all live in a geographic area where we share a common past but our attitude towards history is inclusive. The Greeks’ is exclusive.”

Greece has long held that the desire of their Slav neighbours to call themselves Macedonian conceals territorial ambitions over its own adjacent province of Macedonia.

Since the landlocked country’s proclamation of independence in 1991, Alexander the Great has been at the centre of the controversy. The statue is the former Yugoslav republic’s biggest claim yet to his legacy, though in recent years Skopje has also named its airport and highway after him.

Re-elected this year as prime minister, Nikola Gruevski, a hardline nationalist who started out as a bank clerk before turning to politics, has pursued the building programme with gusto, ordering a new archaeological museum, national theatre, philharmonic hall and scores of rococo building facades and sculptures to be erected at record speed. A statue of Alexander’s father, Philip of Macedon, is, at 28 metres, expected to be even taller than that of the warrior king. But the administration has been hesitant about releasing costs for the project, conservatively estimated at more than €200m.

Most people, according to polls, regard the campaign as overly kitsch, even if some also think it brings a little joy to the dullness imposed on the capital by communist apparatchiks after Skopje was levelled by an earthquake in 1963.

“The intention, they say, is to make Skopje look like Paris,” says Danica Pavlovska, who heads Macedonia’s Association of Architects. “But the scale of the project for a city this size is all wrong and frankly the pace is frightening.”

With unemployment nudging 35%, and at least a third of the population living below the poverty line, the scheme has provoked violent protests and grassroots opposition.

“I don’t think it’s the time for statues. People need to eat, work and live,” says Minira Krivaneva, an ethnic Albanian emerging from her home in the central district of Duqanxhik. “None of the people in my family works and often there is no money to pay the bills. We are 14 people and our only means of survival is the €30 we get from social security every month.”

For intellectuals, who have become increasingly incensed that their capital is being turned into a mini Las Vegas, the scheme is the embodiment of “retarded nationalism” by a conservative government bent as much on giving the metropolis a facelift as changing the nation’s history. “It is not only kitsch, it smacks of social engineering,” says Sasho Ordanoski, a prominent political analyst. “What we are seeing is a typically populist regime building a nationalist superstate. By trying to reform our ethnic identity, to say we are not Slavs but hark back to an older age, they have resorted to a process of antiquitisation.”

Petar Arsovski, another commentator, said: “We never grew up hearing about the feats of Alexander the Great. If there was any mention of him, it was very obscure. Gruevski is turning this city into a theme park, a place that looks a bit more like Las Vegas every day.”

But across town, in the communist-era headquarters of the Macedonian Academy of Arts and Sciences, Professor Blaze Ristovski disagrees. The silver-haired academician has spent a lifetime studying the history of his beloved country and for him the statue-building amounts to a “very useful” exercise.

“We are a young state and prior to 1944 when the communists took over, we simply couldn’t build anything other than churches and mosques,” he says. “Only with the creation of our own country were we at liberty to present our past and culture and show our struggle for Macedonian statehood. These monuments don’t just fill a gap, they are a very useful way of presenting ourselves as a nation.”

Internationally, the mini-state is still forced to call itself the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia – the title it was given by the UN shortly after independence – even if 132 countries have recognised it as the Republic of Macedonia, its constitutional name. Greeks refer to their neighbour as Fyrom, with its citizens often called Skopjians, though there are signs Greece is shifting its stance.

“Greece has moved a lot on this matter,” said Stavros Lambrinidis, the Greek foreign minister. “We have made it clear that we are willing to accept a compromise, a compromise that does not offend or insult anyone by agreeing to mixed name with a geographic delineation … All this story with the statues is not useful.”

Recently, the Gruevski government stopped referring to the statue as Alexander the Great, preferring instead “warrior on a horse”.

A breakthrough, perhaps. What is certain is that the Greeks are watching – closely.

This article was amended on 15 and 17 August 2011. A reference to the main stadium in Skopje being named after Alexander the Great has been removed, as the stadium was named after Philip II. This article also said that Skopje was levelled by an earthquake in 1953, and that 120 countries recognise it by its constitutional name of the Republic of Macedonia. This has been corrected. In addition, it said that the state’s former foreign minister spoke to the Guardian in a recent interview. This too has been corrected.

Russian pharmaceutical group invests in Macedonia August 23, 2011

Posted by Yilan in Macedonia, Russia.
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A cornerstone laying ceremony kicked off the construction of a pharmaceutical plant in the free economic zone of Bunardzik near Skopje FYR Macedonia, a EUR5 million-investment of the Russian company ‘Prodis’ – part of the pharmaceutical holding ‘Protek Group’.
The FYR Macedonia project will be realized in two stages and open a total of 300 new jobs, ‘Protek Group” CEO Vadim Yakunin said at the ceremony, also attended by Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski.
‘Prodis’ will manufacture homeopathic and herbal medicinal products, aimed for the Russian Federation and the markets of former USSR, Yugoslav and overseas countries,’ Yakunin said.
FYR Macedonia Prime Minister Gruevski expressed belief that many Russian companies would follow the suit of ‘Protek Group’.
Foreign investments will keep entering FYR Macedonia thanking to the Government’s policies for sustainable economic growth and constantly advancing of the business climate, Gruevski said.
“The new investment in Bunardzik will narrow the technological gap between the Macedonian and foreign companies, while direct, indirect jobs will mitigate the unemployment problem,” Vice-Premier Zoran Stavreski said.
Earlier today, Prodis director Cost Dimov and heads of the Agency for Foreign Investments and Technological and Industrial Development Zone Skopje 1 – Bunardzik – Viktor Mizo and Natasa Hadzilega respectively – signed the documents launching the Russian investment. Gruevski and Protek’s top officials also attended the signing.
Protek Group is one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in Russia. The Group has a diversified business structure and is active in all industry sectors, including production of medications, distribution of health and beauty products, and retail sales. Established in 1990, it is the largest distributor of drugs and cosmetics in Russia.

Macedonia wants solution to name dispute with Greece to be found August 23, 2011

Posted by Yilan in Macedonia, Yunanistan.
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Macedonian Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski said on Monday Macedonia was ready for finding a solution to the dispute about its name which has been poisoning relations with Athens for nearly 20 years, Agence France-Presse reported.
“Macedonia is ready to find a solution to the name dispute because that’s in its interest,” he said according to the Macedonian news agency MIA.

“We hope bigger efforts will be made to find a solution and expect Greece to show good will” in that respect, he added.
Greece maintains that the name Macedonia is its national heritage and is preventing the international recognition of its neighbour under that name. This dispute is blocking Skopje on the road to European Union membership. Macedonia was given candidate status in 2005 but has not opened the accession negotiations yet.
The UN’s mediation in the name dispute has not yielded results yet.