However, the representatives of the SDSM, DA and VRMRO-VMRO did not yesterday attend the regular address of president Trajkovski. The SDSM questions the legitimacy of the president of the state [due to election irregularities besetting the presidential election in 1999], and the DA is waiting for his apology for a recent alleged forecast by Trajkovski, who supposedly said that the DA would end up on a rubbish heap. The SDSM will change its attitude with respect to Trajkovski as soon as he resigns. On the other hand, the DA hopes that the president of the state will draw a lesson from their absence from the yesterday's session.
Although Nikola Popovski, the coordinator of the SDSM group in the Parliament claimed that there was no agreement between the parties to boycott the session, that was partially denied by Milanco Cerkezov, from the VMRO-VMRO who stated that an agreement had been made, but it was not of formal nature. The VMRO-VMRO's objection for the president of the state is his "lack of opposition to the Government's moves, which makes him an accomplice in the dissolution of the state and bringing of the Macedonian citizens on the verge of poverty." The PDP representatives in the parliament attended the president's address "as an act of elementary upbringing and a demonstration of respect for the institution", refusing to comment on the attitude of their colleagues from other opposition groups. "The unprovoked absence of the opposition," according to the chief of the DPA representatives in the parliament Zamir Dika, is a proof of their lack of respect for the institutions of the system and one of "tricks" with which they intend to return to power.
Jordan Boskovski from the VMRO-DPMNE believes that the yesterday's events in the parliament are harmful for the rating of the state abroad, and above all for the rating of the opposition.
On the other hand, Trajkovski, in his yesterday's address called on the political subjects to invest more in being constructive and in the general good of the citizens, regardless of various political platforms. He stressed that he was "not satisfied with the treatment of the reforms as a weapon of only one political option."
"I expect that the political subjects will find strength to overcome blockades that can slow down the speed of reforms. That must be a common interest, because the only way to increase our international rating is to demonstrate that our institutions can function in the most difficult moments. I hope that the trust in the institutions and the political structures will increase. This is partly a result of the widespread corruption and we must admit that we have serious problems with corruption and crime," concluded the president of the state.
He reminded that even in the recent local elections we "witnessed incidents and manifestation of violence due to volatile political relations" and announced that he would advocate changes of the election regulations.
Fulfilling his constitutional obligation to address the Macedonian public, a year after assuming office, president Trajkovski concluded that we are entering the new millennium as a stable and safe state. As commander-in-chief, Trajkovski commended the members of the Macedonian Army for their successful dealing with the incidents on the northern border. The commander-in-chief, however, warned about the danger of a possible success of extremist forces in the south of Serbia.
"The situation in the south of Serbia is fundamentally different from that in Kosovo in the past. In this case, this is a serious provocation of the international law and international factors. If this mode of extremism succeeds in the south of Serbia, that will mark a beginning of a new cycle of instability in the region," said Trajkovski.
He added that the presence of the NATO forces in Macedonia must not be used for inter-party political struggle and "those who think that we can go on alone and without a serious strategic partner, such as NATO, are lying to themselves and their supporters". Calling for cooperation with NATO, Trajkovski emphasized the need for enactment of laws about defense and service in the Macedonian Army, as well as a new, modern, national defense strategy.
"Early this year the authorities initiated a campaign against the media with whose reporting about the events in the country they were dissatisfied. The campaign included frequent financial controls of the media critical of the authorities, decisions to shut down two TV stations, cutting of the electricity to the transmitters of several TV stations, and detention and beating of several journalists, including attacks on them and destruction of their cameras and recorded material," Meto Jovanovski said at the yesterday's press conference. He at the same time informed the public that he had resigned from the post of the president of the Helsinki Committee and that Mirjana Jancevska, a higher scientific collaborator at he institute for Social-Legal and Political Research, had been elected to replace him.
The Committee believes that the situation of the media in the Albanian language is extremely worrisome because it is widely believed that they are under the control of the DPA [ethnic Albanian party, a member of the ruling coalition government with VMRO-DPMNE]. The Helsinki Committee believes that there is a gap between the legal regulations, inter-party solutions of the problems and the actual state of the inter-ethnic relations. Although a certain number of the DPA members carry out important state functions, a true multiethnic transformation of the state institutions hasn't taken place. The report states that although the Law About Higher Education was enacted, and it resolved the use of minority languages in the higher education, it failed to address the problem of the controversial university in Tetovo. The Committee believes that in the situation in which rights of the Albanians dominate, the impression is that the rights of Turks, Roma, Vlachs, and Serbs have been neglected.
"The inter-ethnic tensions only seem to have subsided, which is the result of the coalition government, rather than institutional solutions," says Jovanovski.
The conditions in the "Idrizovo" prison, the biggest and oldest prison in the country, according to the report, are so bad that one could speak of inhumane and humiliating treatment and punishment of the prisoners. It is emphasized that psychological and moral integrity of the prisoners are seriously endangered by the violence among the prisoners and especially due to frequent homosexual attacks.
The situation of the rights of the Macedonian minority in Bulgaria has especially been worsened since the ban of the party OMO Ilinden-Pirin [Bulgaria states that Macedonians are actually Bulgarians], assessed the Helsinki Committee. The position of Macedonians in Greece and Albania is not any better.
Yesterday, similar shooting could be heard in the stretch between the monastery Prohor Pcinski and the Macedonian village of Lojane. Due to this Yugoslav customs agents came to work under strong armed escort.
Expert teams from several western European countries will be sent to Kosovo to examine whether the cases of leukemia contracted by several soldiers in Kosovo and Bosnia are related to the ammunition with depleted uranium that was used in the last year's NATO campaign against FRY. Italian experts say that they will study cancer cases among soldiers who served in Bosnia and Kosovo. A team of experts has already been sent to Kosovo. Their report should be published early next year. The question has become again current after recently three Italian soldiers who served with the peace forces in Bosnia passed away from leukemia.
A Lisbon daily published yesterday that Portugal ordered that all the Portuguese peacekeepers serving with KFOR be examined to determine whether they had been exposed to the contamination from NATO bombs. The tests will include all 900 soldiers who served in Kosovo.
"The minister of defense, Castro Caldas gave in to political pressure and had to follow similar examples set by his colleagues in Belgium and Spain," said the daily "Diario de Noticias".
Another daily, "Publico", published that Luis Paulino, the father of one of late Kosovo peacekeepers demanded that the body of his son be exhumed and tested for radiation. Soldier Hugo Paulino died last March in Lisbon, three weeks after returning from Kosovo. The Defense Ministry in Lisbon did not comment on the reports.
According to an Italian organization for the rights of soldiers, four soldiers died because of "increased power of projectiles with depleted uranium that were used in the last year's NATO's military operation in the Balkans and Iraq. This increased power of penetration also increases their capability to harm people through radiation."
According to that organization Italian soldiers were exposed to direct radiation during their examination of objects and bomb remains, which resulted in illness and death in several cases.
The Macedonian Minister of Health, Dragan Danilovski, stated that there are no alarming data regarding the radiation.
"The foreign experts have the right to be concerned about the protection of their people. If they come here, we shall receive them with pleasure," stated Danilovski. He explained that the decision whether to undertake extraordinary measurements will be based on the expert opinions given by competent bodies. The State Institute for Health Protection is in charge of following the radiation level and it continues to do so.
"We will implement that decision if they indicate that the radiation is higher than normal," said the Minister for Health.
"The radiation level is 0.12 microrehm per hour, which is usual for Macedonia. Besides, uranium emits alpha rays, which means that it does not affect the overall level of radioactivity," explained engineer Dusan Nedelkovski, the chief of the department for radioactive contamination of the environment in the State Institute for Health Protection.
However, the Institute announced that next year it will conduct more detailed examination of the presence of uranium and thorium in some parts of Macedonia, above all in the soil and food.
Bildt, the special representative of the UN secretary general Kofi Annan for the Balkans, gave that assessment in his interview to the Sarajevo daily "Dnevni Avaz" after proposing to Annan a possible formation of a confederation within the framework of FR Yugoslavia.
"Demands of Serbs in the Republic of Srpska for a sort of an independence referendum would make sense, if the divisions in the Balkans continue. If it is allowed that every ethnic group proclaim independence, the chances for the survival of Bosnia-Hercegovina, as well as Macedonia, will disappear," claims Bildt. He is convinced that FRY will be redefined in the coming year. He says that FRY cannot survive in its present shape, that it has to write a new constitution that will reflect the attitude of the UN regarding the resolution 1244 for Kosovo.