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EU fund kickback scheme exposed, Jahi Jahija arrested in bid-rigging probe

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North Macedonia’s anti-organized crime police department, upon an order of Public Prosecutor’s Office investigating and prosecuting organized crime and corruption, in coordination with Italian prosecutors in Milan, Italy, and with support of Eurojustice, conducted a police operation to expose EU fund kickback scheme.

The purpose of the operation, directed and coordinated by the Fraud Prevention, Reporting and Analysis unit in the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF), was to provide evidence on two officials suspected of bid-rigging and corruption involving EU funds.

Namely, Jahi Jahija, State Secretary in the Ministry of Information Society and Administration, was arrested Monday, June 10, on charges of bribery in pre-tendering phase. He had allegedly took kickbacks to pick a winning bidder for EU funds under IPA programme, Macedonian anti-organized crime prosecutors said in a statement following the arrest.

Simultaneous searches were conducted in North Macedonia and Italy, five searches in Skopje and Kumanovo respectively (in two companies and one ministry), including eight companies in Italy. The police seized dozens computers – desktops and laptops, memory cards, cell phones, tablets, two short-guns, cash and official papers.

It is a reasonable suspicion, reasonable belief based on facts, that both suspects, citizens of North Macedonia, had committed a crime of bribery on several occasions.

In the past two months, a comprehensive criminal investigation has been conducted in cooperation with Public Attorney’s Office prosecuting organized crime and corruption, Ministry of Interior, OLAF and Eurojustice, Italy, Netherlands, Romania  and other European countries.

Eurojustice was established in order to foster and improve co-operation between law-enforcement authorities across Europe and to encourage mutual understanding of the different legal systems in existence in member States.

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Macedonia

Zaev: No EU country opposes opening accession talks with North Macedonia

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No EU member-states stays away from starting membership talks with North Macedonia, Prime Minister Zoran Zaev said on Wednesday, when asked by a reporter to tell which country was reluctant to starting accession negotiations date at the General Affairs Council (GAC) meeting yesterday.

“In the past, there were countries against, and the GAC did not adopt such conclusions. There is no country against. I note that no country had opposed the European Commission recommendation for start of accession negotiations, Zaev said.

He called upon the citizens to rejoice over the historic decision for our country. EU  membership negotiations would have stated in June if it wasn’t for the European parliament elections.

VMRO-DPMNE’s MP Antonijo Milososki wrote on Twitter earlier today that France, Netherlands, Germany, Denmark, Luxembourg, Belgium and Spain were not supportive and voted against setting a date for start of accession talks with Albania and North Macedonia.

“12 member states – Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Italy, Slovenia, Croatia, Bulgaria, Romania, Estonia, Lithuania – backed the European Commission recommendation for opening accession negotiations with North Macedonia. The rest, including Greece, abstained from vote,” Milososki tweeted.

The conclusions agreed at the gathering said that “in light of the limited time available and the importance of the matter, the council will revert to the issue with a view to reaching a clear and substantive decision as soon as possible and no later than October 2019.”

“Reaffirming its conclusions of 26 June 2018, the Council strongly welcomes the historic and unprecedented Prespa Agreement, as well as the Treaty on Good Neighbourly Relations with Bulgaria, and takes good note of the Commission’s recommendation to open accession negotiations with the Republic of North Macedonia based on its positive evaluation of the progress made and of the fulfillment of the conditions identified by the Council. In light of the limited time available and the importance of the matter, the Council will revert to the issue with a view to reaching a clear and substantive decision as soon as possible and no later than October 2019,” the Council conclusions say.

But Enlargement Negotiations Commissioner Johannes Hahn said after the Luxembourg meeting that “a minority of member states were not able to support the commission’s clear proposal to open accession negotiations with Albania and with North Macedonia already today,” calling the delay “unfortunate.”

Last month, the European Commission, the bloc’s executive arm, recommended that accession talks with the two Balkan states begin as soon as possible, saying the two countries have “delivered on reforms.”

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Macedonia

DOM stands firm against mining in Ilovica

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DOM party has vowed to defend the Strumicko Pole valley slopes against opening of Ilovica mine. This mining project is anti-environmental, it jeopardizes the environment and the health of the citizens, the party claims.

“Speaking from legal point of view, the party claims document discrepancies related to “the imaginary mine”, noting that deadlines liked to the contract have already expired. DOM further claims Ilovica project is reminiscent of Kazandol mining.

According to DOM, there is no basis for the institutions to allow owners act like everything’s okay, and now they were given extra time to run additional archaeological research, and then proceed with digging a huge basin in the mountain.

“The Ilovica mining project must be put behind also because the foreseen technology is not in line with the amended Mineral Raw Materials Act banning the use of cyanide and sulfuric acid in open-pit mining. This provision applies to all mining companies applying for concession. The law was adopted by parliament in January 2019 and it must be complied with.

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Macedonia

Seven EU states vote against starting entry talks with North Macedonia

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According to unofficial sources, seven member-states of the European Union voted against opening accession negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania yesterday at the General Affairs Council meeting in Luxembourg.

VMRO-DPMNE’s Member of Parliament (MP) Antonijo Milososki wrote on Twitter that France, Netherlands, Germany, Denmark, Luxembourg, Belgium and Spain were not being supportive of setting a date for start of accession talks with the two Balkan countries.

“12 member states – Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Italy, Slovenia, Croatia, Bulgaria, Romania, Estonia, Lithuania – backed the European Commission recommendation for opening accession negotiations with North Macedonia and Albania. The rest, including Greece, abstained from vote,” Milososki tweeted.

The General Affairs Council on Tuesday discussed the possible accession of North Macedonia and Albania to the EU. But the Council finally decided to postpone the decision of opening talks no later than October.

The final statement agreed by the EU foreign ministers at the meeting yesterday praise North Macedonia’s progress but fell short of making any promises.

“Reaffirming its conclusions of 26 June 2018, the Council strongly welcomes the historic and unprecedented Prespa Agreement, as well as the Treaty on Good Neighbourly Relations with Bulgaria, and takes good note of the Commission’s recommendation to open accession negotiations with the Republic of North Macedonia based on its positive evaluation of the progress made and of the fulfillment of the conditions identified by the Council. In light of the limited time available and the importance of the matter, the Council will revert to the issue with a view to reaching a clear and substantive decision as soon as possible and no later than October 2019,” the Council conclusions say.

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