Macedonia in desperate straits

May 27, 1992

The best way to assist the newly independent state of Macedonia would be to help fund independent news bureaus in the region, Labor Party lobbyist and journalist Richard Farmer told 300 Macedonians here on May 16. It is vital to tell the world of the republic's peaceful struggle for survival, he said.

Recently returned from Macedonia, Farmer says the country is reeling from blockades imposed six months ago by Greece to the south and Serbia to the north. With vital shipments of food, medical and industrial supplies blocked, unemployment is 40% in the countryside and 65% in the cities.

Wages have fallen from US$400 to US$50 per month, though there is as yet no starvation, thanks to the region's strong agricultural base. With few weapons for its 16,000 troops, Macedonia is vulnerable to a Serbian invasion, which Farmer says is likely after Serbia mops up resistance in Bosnia-Hercegovina. Serbia has now occupied all the territory it wants in that republic.

Meanwhile, in an unholy alliance with Serbia, Greece is still blocking European Community recognition of Macedonia. Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic is known to have strong ties with key figures in the United States government.

While the EC is expected to rediscuss recognition of Macedonia on June 11, even a favourable decision won't necessarily save the republic from invasion. Bosnia-Hercegovina was invaded the day after it was recognised by the EC. Nor has intervention by the United Nations been very effective in the other republics of the old Yugoslavia.

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