The demographic divides that spurred the civil war in 2001 between the predominantly Slav government and the ethnic Albanian NLA (National Liberation Army) continue to shape Macedonian politics. Here are the ethnic group percentages from the year 2002: Macedonian 64.18 percent, Albanian 25.17 percent, Turkish 3.85 percent , Roma (Gypsy) 2.66 percent, Serb 1.78 percent. The religious breakdown has similar percentages: Eastern Orthodox 65 percent , Moslem 29 percent , Catholic 4 percent and others 2 percent. In the April 2009 run-off election, Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization-Democratic Party for Macedonian National Unity (VMRO-DPMNE) candidate Gjorge Ivanov was elected president, receiving 64 percent of the vote. Interestingly enough, that is precisely the population percentage of Macedonian Slavs in Macedonia.
The Macedonian government said that it has "hope" that its name dispute with Greece will be resolved this year. New negotiations resume later this summer. Greece insists on calling Macedonia the FYROM (Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia). This would be a yawner except this is the Balkans and wars have broken out over less. At the moment Greece continues to block Macedonian admission to the EU and NATO.
July 9, 2009: The Moldovan "statelet" Transdniestr has had a governmental shake-up. The speaker of the parliament quit after "deep disagreements" with other senior leaders in the government.
A rocket-propelled grenade attack in the south Serb town of Lucane wounded two Serb policemen who were traveling in a vehicle. The town is located in the Presevo Valley, on the Kosovo border, and is a predominantly ethnic Albanian area. From time to time ethnic Albanian guerrillas declare that they intend to secede from Serbia and join Kosovo. In 2000 and 2001 (right after the 1999 Kosovo War) an organization appeared called the Liberation Army of Presevo, Bujanovac, and Mevedja, which said that it was fighting to free the region from Serb control. The movement faded, but Serbia may reason to believe it or a similar group is about to stage a comeback.
The Balkans do touch Central Asia-- at least in terms of ethnic politics. A senior Turkish government official said that Turks should boycott Chinese-made goods because of the Chinese crackdown on Uighrus in Xinjiang province. Uighurs are a Turkic people.
July 8, 2009: The Turkish government passed a bill that permits trial of Turkish military officers in civilian courts "for certain crimes." The military is very suspicious of the bill. Turkish secularists (Kemalists) see it as another power-grab by the Islamist Justice and Development Party (AKP), which is the ruling party. In Turkey the military has the constitutional authority to act to protect the secular state.
July 6, 2009: Turkish military modernization continues. Turkey has signed a contract to build six German-designed U-214 submarines. The subs will be built in Turkish shipyards. All told the contract is worth between three and four billion dollars. Turkey is also planning on buying 100 US-made F-35 Joint Strike Fighters. This, too, is a multi-billion dollar contract, worth at least 11 billion dollars.
July 5, 2009: Bulgaria's center-right Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria (GERB) party has won 42 percent of the vote. However, that means it must have a coalition partner in order to establish a government. The former ruling party, the Bulgarian Socialist Party (the former Communist party) got 18 percent of the vote. The wild card is the far-right Ataka Party (literally, National Attack Union party). It got nine percent of the vote.
Albania's recent national elections (June 28) also produced another slim majority. The Democratic Party, led by Prime Minister Sali Berisha, is trying to put together a new governing coalition. The Democratic Party won 47 percent of the votes, finishing just ahead of the Socialists who won 45 percent. There are lots of accusations of fraud but international election monitors rated the election as fair-- which is an achievement for Albania. The country has a long tradition of corruption. Clans still hold sway outside the cities. Twenty-five years ago it was still one of the world's worst dictatorships. Albania is now a NATO nation and "looks West."
July 4, 2009: The government of Cyprus is wrestling with the issue of displaced Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots -- as in displaced in the 1974 war. Basically Greek Cypriots fled south (from the Turkish invasion) and Turkish Cypriots fled north. As the peace talks get increasingly serious, the prospect of either relocating people or compensating property owners becomes a key issue. Peace could cost a lot of money.
July 3, 2009: A court in Serbia sentenced 11 men, accused of terrorism, to prison terms for plotting to murder of Serbia's chief Moslem imam (senior cleric). All 11 men are Moslems. The men were arrested in 2007.
A bomb destroyed the car of a senior Greek judge. The bomb attack took place in Athens. Police suspect terrorists linked to the Revolutionary Struggle terror organization.
July 2, 2009: Albania's center-right Democratic party claimed victory in national elections.
A court in Budapest, Hungary, banned the Hungarian Guard (a Fascist, or neo-Nazi, organization associated with the ultra-nationalist Jobbik party.)
June 29, 2009: The Serbian government said that it is willing to negotiate with Kosovo after the International Court of Justice (ICJ) rules on the legality of Kosovo's unilateral declaration of independence.