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Macedonia could expect and invitation for NATO membership in November May 30, 2010

Posted by Yilan in Macedonia, NATO.
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NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen will visit Skopje on June 18 to check the frame of mind of the Macedonian leaders regarding the possibility for resolving the name dispute between Macedonia and Greece until November, when the NATO Summit will take place in Lisbon, Macedonian newspaper Vreme reports, quoting diplomatic sources. According to the sources, if Skopje and Athens manage to resolve the name issue before November, Macedonia would receive an invitation for NATO membership immediately.
Rasmussen’s visit is planned following the session of the Council of the European Union, during which a decision will be made whether Macedonia should be given a date for start of the pre-accession talks with EU. This means that the international factors are aware that the name issue cannot be solved immediately, but the two countries will be given a new deadline.

Turkey can offer Greece priceless breathing room May 12, 2010

Posted by Yilan in NATO, Turkey.
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Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will pay a two-day working visit to Greece next week along with nine ministers and an army of businessmen. It is important to have more, and more regular, visits between neighbors. To focus on work rather than cocktails is especially important.

The Turkish ministers for foreign affairs, EU affairs, economy, energy, environment, transportation, culture and tourism, interior and education will all attend the meetings.

Greek Deputy Foreign Minister Dimitris Drutsas paid an official visit to Turkey at the beginning of April. The governments of both countries wish to have normal relations, to radically change the present “no war, no peace” state of affairs. Drutsas reminded that Greece wants to set a calendar for the solution of the continental shelf question, the apparent reason behind military sorties over the Aegean Sea. He also mentioned some confidence-building measures, including the reciprocal deployment of military units in each other’s armed forces.

As soon as the Greek minister uttered a few words on the dangerous dance of war planes in the Aegean air corridor for incomprehensible reasons, he got a response. Who answered Drutsas? Of course not a government member but Chief of General Staff Gen. İlker Başbuğ. At the 60th commemoration ceremony of the late Gen. Fevzi Çakmak’s death held in the General Staff headquarters, a reporter asked Başbuğ about the flights over the Aegean. The general responded that Turkish warplanes fly unloaded whereas the Greek planes are fully loaded with bombs. He added that both countries have their own rights and no one can rule over the other on international affairs.

“We, as Turkey, always express our goodwill and willingness for cooperation and coordination. For years, our planes have been flying over the Aegean Sea unarmed. Turkey will exercise and protect its international rights,” Başbuğ said.

So instead of commenting about confidence-building measures regarding the exchange of military units as suggested by the Greek minister, the Turkish top commander preferred to issue a statement implying that military flights will continue as part of the continental shelf dispute, which is a purely political matter. The problem, indeed, is not whether flights are loaded or not. The problem is the flights themselves.

Mutual peace dividend

During the upcoming working visit, a “high-level strategic cooperation council” will be set up between the two countries. In addition to bilateral talks between the aforementioned ministries, the foundations will be laid for cooperation on the European Union, Balkans, Caucasus and global platforms. But more importantly, and hopefully, steps will be taken toward a durable peace and non-aggression treaty to slash the defense expenditures of both countries.

The advantages of transforming the Aegean Sea into a peaceful inner sea are endless. The Turkish Aegean region is gradually drifting apart from the rest of the country; it is like a sleeping beauty. So it will rediscover, in a way, its “hinterland,” thanks to the effective reuse of the sea. You go ahead and consider what kind of new opportunities a Thessaloniki-İzmir ferry line could yield. But the real gain will be in mutual reduction of military expenditures.

In the world’s rather poor peace literature, this is called a “peace dividend.” Economically bankrupt Greece will continue to apply tight measures to reduce its budget deficit. In the eurozone, budget deficit should normally not surpass 3 percent of gross national product, according to European Union rules, but in Greece, the figure is around 14 percent of GNP. The most efficient way to lower the budget deficit by 2014 is to lower military expenditures. According to the figures given by Greek Defense Minister Venizelos, 6 billion euros in military spending are planned for this year, which corresponds to 4.8 percent of GNP, plus 2.3 billion euros for arms purchases and the rest for personnel and operation expenditures.

In line with this blossoming new understanding between Greece and Turkey, the biggest contribution we can provide to our neighbor is a permanent reduction in military expenditures. Don’t think, however, that this will only help Greece. In the aftermath of the Cyprus intervention in 1975, Turkey created a fourth army, the Aegean Army. Owing to this new understanding, Turkey will not need the Aegean Army anymore. Dividends gathered from this will boost budgets for education, justice and health. As a bonus, the involvement of the Turkish Armed Forces in foreign policy, such as continental shelf issues, will be relegated to history.

Macedonia PM: We want deal with Greece over name dispute May 12, 2010

Posted by Yilan in EU, European Union, Macedonia, NATO, Yunanistan.
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From Nic Robertson, CNN

Skopje, Macedonia (CNN) — Macedonia’s prime minister has said the country is seeking a compromise with Greece over the long-standing name dispute between both countries.

In an interview with CNN, Nikola Gruevski said he was trying to reach a solution with Greece over the issue so his country could gain membership into the European Union.

He told CNN: “We said to Greece, ‘We want to make a compromise. We want to find solutions,’ so we can become a member of NATO and the EU. Compromise means both sides make moves, not just one side to make concessions and the other side to have a victory.”

Macedonia has been at loggerheads over its name for 17 years with Greece, which blocked its entry to NATO in 2008 over the dispute.

Greece claims that the name “Macedonia” implies territorial ambitions on the Greek province of the same name. Macedonia denies it. The two countries have taken their dispute to the International Court of Justice.

Gruevski also spoke to CNN about his country’s economy, their ongoing efforts to gain membership of the European Union and the wine industry.

CNN: What is the state of your economy right now?

Nikola Gruevski: Last year, the World Bank announced that Macedonia was the third biggest reformer in the world for creating a good business climate. And it’s helping. Unfortunately, last year the world was in crisis. The amount of investment was reduced. But now there are new signals, new investors.

CNN: We saw in the center of the city a demo of people protesting for jobs. How big an issue is unemployment?

NG: Unemployment is a serious issue in Macedonia. Before independence, our companies produced for 22 million people in former Yugoslavia. Immediately after that, the market was much smaller and the managers didn’t find good ways to open new markets. That created serious unemployment. It’s declined in the last three years.

CNN: What would it mean for Macedonia to be part of the European Union and NATO?

NG: Politically, for us, it’s very important to be a member of the EU and NATO. More than 90 percent of the citizens would like to see Macedonia in NATO and the EU.

We fulfilled all necessary criteria to receive invitation for full membership to NATO in March 2008. Because of Greece, because of the name issue Video that they opened, our invitation was postponed. In the meantime we’re trying to work with Greece to find some solution for the problem.

CNN: What exactly is Greece saying?

NG: Greece wants our name to be changed, the new name to be given by them. They have a few names that they prefer, and they’re asking us to accept these names.

CNN: And one of them is Northern Macedonia?

NG: Yes. And a second thing, which is very unreasonable, they want to change the identity of the citizens. That’s very difficult to explain, but they want the government to accept and to explain to the citizens, that our language and nationality, in the future will not be Macedonian, but will be something else.

We said to Greece, ‘We want to make a compromise. We want to find solutions,’ so we become a member of NATO, member of the EU.Compromise means both sides make moves, not just one side to make concessions and the other side to have a victory.

Fortunately, in the meantime, the companies don’t care about the name issue. Greece is one of the biggest investors in Macedonia and our citizens are regularly going there for tourism.

See Macedonia’s stunning scenery

CNN: People think of Alexander the Great as coming from Macedonia. What is at the heart of being Macedonian?

NG: Alexander the Great’s empire was 2,300 years ago. The empire was very big and had different parts. And today these places are many countries, so I think he’s a person who belongs to the world, not to Greece or Macedonia or India. So, we don’t like to monopolize history. Unfortunately the other side is insisting on monopolizing the history. They are saying, “This is just our history.”

CNN: In May, you’re going to take over the presidency of the European Council of Ministers. What do you hope to achieve in your six months of presidency?

NG: Macedonian presidency will be important for making many steps, making some reforms. It will also be a chance for us to make some cultural events and to improve our image as a country. There’ll be good chances for many meetings, representing the country in different situations.

CNN: Is the government going to invest in tourism in the future?

NG: We have plans for new investments in tourism in different parts of the country. The most popular place for tourism in Macedonia is Ohrid. But also, there are other mountains, lakes, and archaeological places. We have also very good monasteries and temples which really are attractive for tourists.

CNN: And wine as well?

NG: We produce very good wine. Very close to the best wines in the world. When I’m drinking wine, I always choose Macedonian.

CNN: What does Macedonia have that allows it to produce such good wine?

NG: Tradition. Production of wine in Macedonia dates from 6,000 years ago, and for centuries it has improved. But it’s still not very well promoted. We have a lot of work to do on promotion, distribution and producing large enough quantities for the large companies. But we are working on this and every year we are increasing production.

Who’s in Charge Here, Anyway? March 30, 2010

Posted by Yilan in EU, European Union, France, Germany, Macedonia, NATO, Yunanistan.
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The Rhine has become wider than the Atlantic, as Berlin and Paris stop speaking European.

The European Union summit this week should beware of Greeks bearing their crisis and asking what they should do with it. The answer may come from the French socialist, Dominique Strauss Kahn, at the IMF. It may come from two European conservatives, José Manuel Barroso and Herman von Rompuy. They both have the grand title of EU president, though who gives orders to whom is not clear.

In the end the Greeks will find their solution in the twin rules of the Oracle of Delphi: “Know thyself” and “Nothing to excess.” It will be painful, just as Britain’s emergence from an excess of statism and public spending was painful after the IMF took charge in 1976. But it is doable and must be done.

The real question in Brussels is: “Quo Vadis Europe?” Where is Europe going, and is there a pilot in the cockpit of the EU?

In the past there were two pilots in charge. They were the president of France and the chancellor of Germany. Konrad Adenauer and Charles de Gaulle; Willy Brandt and Georges Pompidou; Helmut Schmidt and Valéry Giscard d’Estaing; and Helmut Kohl and Francois Mitterrand managed to subordinate the natural national egos of their great nations to forge and advance some shared sense of commonality as they constructed a post-national Europe. Even Gerhard Schröder and Jacques Chirac maintained this Franco-German togetherness when they lined up against President George W. Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair over Iraq.

Now we are seeing a slow re-nationalization of Europe. The Rhine has become wider than the Atlantic as France and Germany have stopped speaking European and are insisting on national priorities über alles.

The unedifying row over the new foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, is a symptom of this lack of belief in the post-Lisbon Treaty European Union. It would little matter if she combined the diplomatic qualities of Metternich, Talleyrand and Henry Kissinger. There is no European message on foreign policy, so shooting the messenger will have to do.

EU nations cannot even agree a common position on a peripheral issue like Kosovo or prevent Greece from stopping Macedonia’s EU and NATO accession because of its name. On Turkey, on Russia, on immigration, on energy, on human rights in China or Cuba, the leading European nations are at odds and delivering contradictory messages.

There is no agreement on how to grow the European economy. Now Germany is being slated because it exports lots of goods. It is a funny Europe where having a trade surplus is now a policy error. French President Nicolas Sarkozy has unleashed his attack dog, the New York banker-turned-finance minister Christine Lagarde, to hector and lecture Berlin on its economic model. German Chancellor Angela Merkel responds by saying that euro-zone countries that breach the stability and growth pact should be expelled. Given that France has been one of the worst culprits, notably when Mr. Sarkozy was finance minister, it is clear who she has in her sights.

Compare this to de Gaulle trying out his lycée German as he invited Adenauer to his home at Colombey les deux Églises in the 1960s, or Mitterrand and Kohl roughly pushing Margaret Thatcher to one side to surge ahead with the single market. They made it a success by enlarging Europe to 15 from nine, and laying the foundations for the euro and the reunification of Europe from Galway to Galicia.

Today the clamor is for less Europe. The German constitutional court seeks to limit German engagement in the EU. The European Parliament is home to extremist parties including outright anti-Semites from Britain and eastern Europe. Some 85% of the EU’s budget in 1988 came from customs duties and VAT. In 2010 more than three-quarters of the EU’s budget comes from direct transfers from member states. No one notices income that flows automatically from VAT or sugar duties. Everyone notices income transferred from national budgets that might otherwise be spent on pensions, or schools, or defense, or whatever—but that instead is allocated to the bureaucrats of Brussels.

So European institutions that were once the servants of Europeans are now seen as dysfunctional and greedy for money that could be better spent at home. How many top Europeans do the U.S., China and other new world players like Turkey, India and Brazil have to accept at G-20 and other global parleys? Why should European citizens vote for a European Parliament that houses so many racists and weird fringe politicians?

When will France and Germany again decide to be co-pilots guiding Europe’s future? Britain is becoming increasingly detached and David Cameron has made clear that if he wins power he would prefer to see no Europe, speak no Europe and hear no Europe. That satisfies his internal party problems. And such unsplendid isolation is nothing new in British history.

The real answer to the European question has to come from Berlin and Paris. But no one wants to provide it.

Turkey supports Macedonia’s NATO path March 30, 2010

Posted by Yilan in Macedonia, NATO, Turkey.
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Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu (L) and his Macedonian counterpart Antonio Milosovski (R) at a press conference in Skopje on Friday. AFP photo
Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu (L) and his Macedonian counterpart Antonio Milosovski (R) at a press conference in Skopje on Friday.

Turkey will continue supporting Macedonia in its efforts to join NATO, and in every other way, visiting Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu told media in Skopje after meeting his host, Macedonian Foreign Minister Antonio Milososki, The Balkan Insight Web site reported.

“Turkey has been on Macedonia’s side since the day it declared independence and backs the country’s membership in NATO and other institutions under its constitutional name. This strong support will continue in the future,” Davutoğlu said.

Both ministers assessed that relations between the two countries are “more than friendly.” The ministers agreed to continue cooperation and share experiences in the bids of both countries to one day join the European Union. They committed to strengthening cultural and educational cooperation, and gave particular stress to improving economic relations.

Davutoğlu said that his government would encourage Turkish businessmen to invest in Macedonia in order to match the countries’ excellent political ties.

Speaking about Thursday’s meeting between Macedonian and Greek prime ministers in Brussels, which ended without visible progress, Foreign Minister Milososki complained that Greece was not showing enough pragmatism in its handling of the issue.

“It is obvious that our current [Greek] colleagues are willing to hold meetings for handshakes and for photo ops. Unfortunately, we still haven’t felt the moment of pragmatism to resolve the dispute,” Milososki said.

Skopje and Athens are locked in an almost two decade long spat over the use of the name Macedonia. Athens has effectively blocked Skopje from entering NATO and the EU until a solution to the dispute is reached. Greece claims that Skopje’s official name, Republic of Macedonia, implies territorial claims over its own northern province, which is also called Macedonia.

Macedonia, Milososki added, will continue to be friendly towards all of its neighbors, especially towards Greece, but stressed that it is crucial for the name issue to be settled as soon as possible.

Turkey, along with Russia, China, the United States, and some 120 other U.N. member states, have recognised Macedonia under it constitutional name.