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Извор | Source:RFE/RL Balkan Report Vol. 8, No. 2, 16 January 2004
MACEDONIA'S EMIGRANTS -- AN UNDERESTIMATED FACTOR? Emigration is a phenomenon that affected all European states at various times and to various degrees in the 19th and 20th centuries. In most cases, emigrants left their homes for economic and social reasons.
At times, however, these emigration waves were politically motivated or even forced. Jews fled the Third Reich; Greece, Turkey, and Bulgaria carried out population exchanges after World War I; Bulgaria expelled ethnic Turks twice, in 1950-51 and in 1989; and during the Balkan wars of the 1990s, in what was later euphemistically dubbed "ethnic cleansings," hundreds of thousands of Kosovars, Bosnian Muslims, Croats, and Serbs fled their homes.
Nobody knows exactly how many Macedonians have left their native villages, towns, and settlements during the past century or so in order to live permanently abroad. According to some estimates, up to 700,000 persons originating from what is today the Republic of Macedonia have chosen to live in the United States, Canada, Europe, and Australia, to name just their most important destinations (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 24 November 2003).
Since the early 20th century, workers from the regions of Bitola, Resen, and Demir Hisar have gone abroad for seasonal work as builders or farm workers. Later, their stays abroad became longer, thus turning into permanent emigration. After World War II, emigration gained new momentum, when West Germany experienced a labor shortage and invited workers from Southern Europe in the 1960s. As Verica Janeska pointed out in "Utrinski vesnik" of 8 January, the Yugoslav authorities at that time encouraged workers to emigrate in order to ease the pressures on the domestic labor market. But there were ethnically motivated migrations as well. In 1953, Turkey and Yugoslavia signed an agreement allowing some 150,000 ethnic Turks, Albanians, and members of other Muslim minorities to leave for Turkey.
In spite of the ongoing emigration, the size of the Macedonian population remained relatively stable. Whereas in neighboring Bulgaria the population dropped from 9 million in 1992 to 8 million in 2001 due to emigration and low birthrates, the higher birthrates in Macedonia seem to have compensated for most of the losses caused by emigration (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 12 December 2003).
But Janeska suggests that the emigration of younger, skilled people has led to some deep demographic changes. A first effect is that the overall population is getting older. Secondly, people are also leaving regions previously unaffected by emigration, thus making it in issue throughout the country, not only in the traditional emigration centers.
It is not clear whether emigration has a positive effect on the economy, as the former Yugoslav authorities had hoped for. For Janevska, there is no reason to believe that sending unemployed people abroad would improve the employment situation at home. And the money sent home by the emigrants, which seems to have helped the economy in the past, is now drying up.
What really hampers the Macedonian economy, however, is the brain drain caused by the emigration of young, skilled workers and university graduates. Not only do only fewer qualified people tend to remain in the country, but the state also finances an expensive education system which is, in effect, producing academics for other countries (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 23 October 2001 and 18 July 2003).
As Zoran Matevski noted in "Utrinski vesnik" on 8 January, the Internet plays an important role for young graduates in finding well-paid employment abroad. Even those who do not find jobs immediately or are not hired by a foreign company while still at university want to emigrate. In the same issue of "Utrinski vesnik," Viktor Cvetanovski wrote that a recent opinion poll showed that up to 80 percent of graduate students plan to emigrate after receiving their diplomas.
Asked the reasons why they do not want to stay, many of them answered that finding employment in Macedonia in their field of specialization is almost impossible. They also dislike the fact that in order to find some kind of job, it is either necessary to be a member of a political party (in the best case the ruling one) or at least to have what Macedonians simply describe as "vrski" -- connections, that is relatives or friends in decision-making positions.
The biggest obstacle for many Macedonians is the fact that most European countries require visas for Macedonian passport holders. Some people like Cvetanovski (who is known for his anti-Bulgarian views) claim that people will do almost anything to get out of the country. "In order to leave Macedonia, thousands of young men and women even trample on the most sacred thing -- their national dignity -- by applying for Bulgarian passports, which meet the Schengen requirements," he writes with disgust.
The big question, however, remains whether any government can effectively stop people from seeking their fortune elsewhere, as Cvetanovski demands. (Ulrich Buechsenschuetz, ub@itinerarium.de)
Извор | Source:RFE/RL Balkan Report Vol. 7, No. 26, 15 August 2003
GERMAN WAZ GROUP BUYS UP MACEDONIAN-LANGUAGE DAILIES. In a largely expected move, the German WAZ media group announced on 28 July that it has purchased the majority of shares in the three major Macedonian-language dailies: "Dnevnik," "Utrinski vesnik," and "Vest." The papers, which have a total of 350 employees and a combined circulation of some 120,000 copies, will be part of the newly founded company Media Print Macedonia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 July 2003). It will be headed by Srgjan Kerim, who is not only the country's former foreign minister, but also its former ambassador to Germany and the United Nations.
WAZ's plans to buy up the newspapers have been an open secret in Macedonia for months (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25 April 2003). Therefore, neither the announcement of the purchase nor that of the persons involved came as a surprise. They are Kerim and Bodo Hombach, who is a former coordinator of the EU-led Balkan Stability Pact and now one of WAZ's four managing directors. With the acquisition of these newspapers, the German media giant has gained a near-monopoly in the market for Macedonian-language dailies. The remaining papers -- the state-run "Nova Makedonija" and the tabloid "Vecer" from the same company, as well as the private "Makedonija denes" -- are fighting for their economic survival (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 December 2002, and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 13 December 2002).
In recent years, WAZ managed to gain a strong position in the media market of some neighboring countries, such as Croatia, Bulgaria, Serbia, and Romania. In Bulgaria, where it owns the dailies "Trud" and "24 Chasa," the German media group reportedly holds one-third of the print media market and about one-half of the advertising market. In Croatia, the situation is similar (see "RFE/RL Media Matters," 24 June 2003).
With his experience with Balkan ways and the region's fondness for conspiracy theories, Hombach probably expected that such a powerful position in the Macedonian media market would set off all manner of speculation about the group's possible agendas. It therefore came as no surprise that in the press release announcing the purchase of three dailies, the WAZ group also stated that it was among the first European media houses to sign the OSCE Principles for Guaranteeing Editorial Independence (see http://www.osce.org/documents/rfm/2003/07/514_en.pdf).
As if this were not enough, Hombach gave an interview to Deutsche Welle's Macedonian Service on 1 August, in which he stressed that his company will "provide space" for journalists who seek to cover politics critically. He added that the WAZ group is a sound alternative for journalists who want to work freely without economic and political pressures (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 August 2003).
But the reports about Hombach's interview that appeared in "Dnevnik" and "Utrinski vesnik" on 4 August seemed to confirm fears that WAZ's monopoly position could limit the diversity of information -- the two texts were almost identical. Critics include Ljubomir Frckovski, a former interior and foreign minister and presidential adviser. In "Dnevnik" on 5 August, he commented ironically that it was good that somebody gave the "free journalists" of "free newspapers" the same text and even the same photograph.
But Frckovski would not have been Frckovski had he not also outlined his own conspiracy theory regarding WAZ's policies. According to him, an unnamed rich honorary chairman of an unspecified opposition party in Macedonia (a not-so-subtle reference to former Prime Minister Ljubco Georgievski) recently gave money to a Greek businessman. By using a Greek middleman, Georgievski allegedly hopes to gain influence over the papers that have been acquired by the German media group. Frckovski is known for his concerns regarding growing Greek influence in Macedonia and the possible political comeback of his old rival, Georgievski.
Hombach, for his part, obviously knew about these rumors at the time of his interview. He denied that any Greeks have tried to buy shares of the newly founded Media Print Macedonia. "These are grotesque inventions," Hombach told Deutsche Welle. "As a matter of fact, [we are holding] talks about the possibility of the WAZ group buying shares in the [Greek] Lambrakis publishing house, not the other way round. And that has nothing to do with our engagement in other countries."
An unnamed commentator for the Albanian-language Macedonian weekly "Lobi" of 8 August pointed to other problematic aspects of WAZ's latest acquisition. The lack of clear antimonopoly legislation enabled the Germans to gain a monopoly position. The author also charges that Kerim, who will head this monopoly, has some political accounts to settle in Macedonia.
Be that as it may, Hombach and Kerim will need to show a critical public that they are serious about their pledges to respect editorial independence. (Ulrich Buechsenschuetz, ub@itinerarium.de)

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Last updated: March 2004