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Release: Nov. 5, 2001

CIVIC invites Macedonian Mayors' to eastern Iowa Nov. 7-10

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Six mayors from Macedonia will be welcomed to Iowa City by the Council for International Visitors to Iowa Cities (CIVIC) Nov. 7-10. The group will be in eastern Iowa as part of a three-week trip, which includes visits to six towns and cities across the U.S., to learn about local government practices.

This is the first term served by the mayors, who represent towns with populations ranging in size from 10,000-100,000. The recent peace settlement in Macedonia has made way to address the issues affecting the majority Macedonian and largest minority Albanian populations in a democratic fashion. The mayors' fact-finding research will include areas that they can apply to minority rights in their new constitution and governmental structure.

During their Iowa City visit, the group will meet with Joe Raso, the executive director of the Iowa City Area Development Group (ICAD), Thursday, Nov. 8 at 10 a.m. at the ICAD office, 325 E. Washington St. in the Commerce Center, Iowa City. The group will also meet with Diana Lundell, Coralville mayor pro tem and other Coralville city councilors; West Liberty Mayor William Phelps; Iowa City Mayor Ernie Lehman; and Iowa City City Manager Steve Atkins and other city staff. While in West Liberty, they will also visit with Sharon Halcomb, director of the Dual Language Program with the West Liberty Community School District.

The visitors include: Viloleta Alarova, mayor of Center Municipality, Skopje; Slobodan Kovacevski, mayor of Kumanovo; Ljubomir Janev, mayor of Kocani; Vanchu Naumoski, mayor of Krusevo; Xhamail Rexhepi, mayor of Gostivar; and Imer Selmani, mayor of Saraj Municipality. Two of the mayors are ethnic Albanians.

After separating from Yugoslavia in 1991, Macedonia took several actions to realign the structure of its government, particularly at the local level. Legislation enacted by the Macedonian parliament in 1995 and 1996 (which was followed by ratification of the European Charter for Local Self-government in 1997) addressed the decentralization of government, one of the country’s most urgent needs. The first step eliminated an intermediate level of government and created a system of 123 municipalities in this Vermont-sized country of two million inhabitants, while a 1996 law provided for the election of mayors and local councils to four-year terms.

The decentralization process now under way naturally places a greater burden on local governments, which must increase their ability to respond to citizens‚ needs and demands, provide better public services, and be accountable for their decisions and actions all within a multi-ethnic environment. These and other improvements will render local governments more capable of identifying and addressing development opportunities, generating and managing resources, and lobbying the central government to create a legal environment that would encourage further economic development. To this end, reformers seek to establish a clear delineation of local and national government roles and responsibilities, a coherent system of local finances, improved channels for the expression of popular input into local service delivery, strengthening local management capacity, and strengthening advocacy by municipal associations and networks.

CIVIC is a community organization of volunteers serving and hosting international visitors as a means of promoting global understanding on a person-to-person basis. CIVIC is one of two organizations in Iowa affiliated with the National Council for International Visitors (NCIV), which administers the Department of State’s International Visitor Program (IVP).

CIVIC is affiliated with UI International Programs, which consists of a number of offices, centers, degree programs, academic programs, research projects and services. Organized under the associate provost and dean for international programs, these units serve to further internationalize the campus and community and promote global scholarship, teaching and research.

For more information about the Macedonian mayor visit or a complete itinerary, call Tom Baldridge, CIVIC executive director, at (319) 335-0351.

For more information on Macedonia, visit the following Web sites:

For descriptions of recent governmental reforms and the impact on local governments, visit and

General information can be found at while information about Skopje, from which two of the mayors come, can be found at