JUNE 8, 2001

Mr. President,
Your Excellencies,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is my great pleasure and privilege to address this Special Session of the United Nations dedicated to the overall review and appraisal of the progress achieved in the past five years since the second United Nations Conference on Human Settlements in Istanbul.

Allow me at the outset to express the conviction of the Republic of Macedonia that the preparatory process which led to this session and the fruitful discussion at the session, as well as the Final Document-Declaration that we are to adopt today will contribute to finding adequate solutions for the problems of development of human settlements at the beginning of the new millennium, thus presenting a new impetus to the implementation of the goals set forth in the Millennium Summit Declaration of the United Nations, above all, eradication of poverty and securing adequate shelter for all people.

On the national level, the goals, principles and recommendations contained in the HABITAT Agenda and the Istanbul Declaration, as well as the level of their implementation, constitute the basis for preparation of the National Report of the Republic of Macedonia.

The strategic orientation of the Republic of Macedonia is to act in order to enable and promote adequate habitats for all citizens, by developing safer, cleaner, healthier and better, sustainable human settlements.

One of the basic elements when planning the future of the country is the population policy, and by pursuing an integrated population policy maximum effectiveness is achieved in the utilization of the space and the resources available to that effect, humanization of the living conditions for the family and for social life, reducing of the migratory tendencies, as well as creation of conditions for a more equitable regional development. The basic regulatory framework defining the spatial organization of the State is provided with the Spatial Plan of the Republic of Macedonia for the period up till 2020, currently in the process of verification in the Parliament. The Plan set forth the goals and the concepts of spatial development in different areas, as well as the conditions for their realization. The territory of the Republic of Macedonia covers 25.713 km2, and the number of population in 1998 was estimated at 2.015.000, projected to reach 2.225.000 by the year 2020. The concentration of the population in the country is predominantly in urban areas, in first place in the city of Skopje, the capitol and the main administrative, economic and cultural center of Macedonia. This as a trend leads to decrease in population of other urban and rural areas in the country and their overall economic sidelining. At present, 59.7 % of the population lives in urban areas, and 40.3 in rural areas.

The enactment of the new State Spatial Plan, the new Law on Local Self-government, as well as designing of adequate programs and projects, aimed at improving the housing conditions in the settlements, especially the quality of living in small urban areas as well as in the rural areas, define clearly the policy of the Government in this field.

The changes in the political and economic environment in the Republic of Macedonia as a country with an economy in transition, has adequate reflections in the housing policy and sustainable human settlement development in general. The housing policy is based on a new approach towards the housing development and investments in this field, new methodology of appraisal of location, on harmonization of housing and land policies. In this context, the Government of the Republic of Macedonia in pursuing the housing policy at the national level, pays particular attention to providing shelter to the persons living on social welfare, by apportioning 25 % of the housing state property built annually to that end. Within this policy, the Government of the Republic of Macedonia has developed a programme for providing shelter to young couples, and also makes efforts to provide favorable conditions to solve the housing problems by granting loans to that end.

The integral part of the overall policy of the Government for sustainable development of human settlements is environmental protection and environmental impact assessment. Several strategic documents have been adopted to that end: national environmental action plan, with special emphasis on preparation of local environment action plans; national strategy for solid waste and waste water. Also, the national strategy for sustainable development is in the process of preparation.

Mr. President,

The Republic of Macedonia, being situated in the troublesome region of the Balkans, has been faced with extraordinary challenges during the Kosovo refugee crisis in 1999, when for a short period of time the country has provided shelter to more than 360,000 refugees from Kosovo, which is up to 17% of the overall population of Macedonia. This, of course, had a very negative impact on the economic, social, health, and environmental conditions in the country. In spite of the problems, nine refugee camps have been built, encompassing an area of more than 90 ha, with complete infrastructure, roads to access the camps, water supply and sewage systems, electrification, etc. More than 160, 000 persons have been sheltered in the camps, and others were accommodated in private houses and families. The Macedonian Government acted responsibly and succeeded in coping with this extremely difficult situation, imposed during the Kosovo crisis.

Mr. President,

Regretfully, as it is known, my country these days is faced with terrorism from the Albanian extremists which despite of the condemnation of the Security Council of the United Nations, EU, NATO and other regional organizations and of all the Governments of the countries in the region, and despite of their unanimous calls to lay down the arms and disband, continue to pursue their terrorist activities.

At present Kumanovo, a city of 100.000 inhabitants north to Skopje, is facing severe water shortages due to the blocking and cutting off of the water supplies from the nearby reservoirs by the terrorists, thus, as well as by taking the civilian population as hostages in the villages surrounding the city and using them as human shields, using the human settlements and their inhabitants for their terrorist aims. This of course has a very negative impact on the overall situation in the country, endangering the everyday life of the Macedonian citizens, democratic development, economic reforms and social stability. In spite of that, the Republic of Macedonia is determined to overcome the present difficulties, and in this context, our efforts to further implement the goals of the HABITAT Agenda will continue.

Mr. President,

The Republic of Macedonia has accepted the challenges of developing human settlements on the global, regional and local levels, fully aware of the important impact the cities and villages have on the cultural, economic and social life in every state. The Republic of Macedonia is making efforts to contribute actively to building more human settlements in the global village and to affirms the existing and new partnerships for action on international, regional, national and local levels, aimed at improving the human environment.

Thank you, Mr. President.