The EC report on the progress of reforms in northern Macedonia says the government has taken a positive approach to regional co-operation and good neighborly relations, which are considered an essential part of the country’s EU membership process. They contribute to stability, reconciliation and a climate conducive to resolving outstanding bilateral issues and inherited from the past.
Northern Macedonia continued to take an active part in regional initiatives such as the Central European Free Trade Agreement (CEFTA), the Energy Community, the Transport Community, the South East European Cooperation Process (SEECP), the RECOM Regional Cooperation Council and the Office Regional Youth Cooperation (RYCO) 13. In April 2020, Northern Macedonia became a member of the EU Strategy for the Adriatic-Ionian Region (EUSAIR).
During the COVID-19 crisis, comprehensive regional cooperation proved necessary. Establishing green lines in the region has proven the region’s capacity to address common challenges quickly and efficiently. The regional organizations involved – the Regional Cooperation Council, the Transport Community and CEFTA – were crucial to responding to the Covid crisis.
Based on the results of previous summits with the region, the Western Balkans Summit in Poznan focused on strengthening regional co-operation in the fields of economy and trade, digital agenda, connectivity, security, the fight against corruption, promoting reconciliation and youth. The Summit adopted a number of achievements in these areas, in particular the Podgorica Declaration on Clean Energy Transition, the Regional Roaming Agreement signed in Belgrade, a core link package and the Declaration on Roma Integration. It is also said that this was an opportunity to start preparing a Green Agenda for the Western Balkans. It is also mentioned that Bulgaria and Northern Macedonia are co-chairs of the Berlin Process in 2020, which aims to strengthen regional co-operation in the Western Balkans.
Northern Macedonia, the report quotes, demonstrated its commitment to securing a new impetus for regional co-operation and expanded regional ownership at the Novi Sad, Ohrid and Tirana summits. It is important that regional initiatives involve all partners in the Western Balkans and are based on EU rules, commitments previously made under CEFTA, the Regional Economic Area (REA) or the Transport Community Treaty. Many commitments and decisions have already been made within these regional frameworks and they need to be implemented quickly, the Report suggests.
At the Zagreb Summit on 6 May 2020, EU and Western Balkan leaders agreed that deepening regional economic integration should be an important part of efforts to revitalize the Western Balkans. To do this, Northern Macedonia must play a constructive role in building a common regional market, which will be essential for increasing the attractiveness and competitiveness of the region. This will help Northern Macedonia accelerate its recovery from the effects of the pandemic – especially by attracting investors seeking supply chain diversification and shorter values. Such a common regional market should be comprehensive, based on EU rules and based on the achievements of the multiannual action plan for the regional economic zone.
The country, it is noted, has remained constructively committed to bilateral relations with other countries in the European integration process and with neighboring countries that are members of the EU.
Regarding relations with Bulgaria, it is said that during the reporting period, the country focused on the Friendship, Good Neighborliness and Cooperation Agreement. Prime Minister Borisov visited Skopje in August 2019 on the occasion of the second anniversary of the agreement. Earlier in June 2019, the first meeting of the Joint Intergovernmental Commission was held in Sofia and co-chaired by the foreign ministers of the two countries.
During the reporting period, the two sides signed several agreements, including a protocol on co-operation in the fight against trafficking in human beings, as well as a memorandum on co-operation in the field of transport and cross-border teamwork. During the reporting period several meetings of the Joint Multidisciplinary Commission for Educational and Historical Issues were held. Bulgaria provided support to the country in the context of the covidium crisis, including the provision of medical equipment and support for the repatriation of stranded citizens.
In relations with Greece during the reporting period, special attention was paid to the Prespa Agreement with Greece, which includes increased cooperation between