➢ From the companies (26.03.2019)
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The start of the negotiations with the European Union is not only a political decision for the Republic of North Macedonia, but it is also a possibility to intensify the reform processes and to harmonize its legislation with the one of the EU. The status and the implementation of these processes, the increase of the competitive advantages and the preparation of the public and private sector to achieve the European standards are based on what the country will deliver regarding the reforms with a clear plan and the dynamic of its realization.

The criteria that every country must meet are known as “Copenhagen criteria” and are divided into political, economic and administrative criteria. Regarding the political criteria, they concern stability of the institutions that will guarantee democracy, rule of law, protection of human rights and protection of minority rights. At the same time, the screening of the technical criteria will be conducted with reforms and adjustment of the administration so that it can be capable to create conditions for adjustment of the national administrative structure to the mechanisms that function in the public administration in the EU known as “Madrid criteria”.

The pillar of the European Union is a continuation of the European Economic Community where the “economy” was added to the name with the objective to show a more comprehensive political basis given with the Maastricht Treaty. On February 7, 1992, the members of the European Community in Maastricht signed the treaty known as the Treaty on European Union that entered into force on November 1, 1993. With the Maastricht Treaty the euro as a currency and the structural pillar of the European Union were created.

The existence of the European Union is first and foremost based on the knowledge of the member states that when economically integrated, their economic prosperity is greater. The Union exists and continues to exist because of the assessment of the member states that within the Union they get more, particularly in conditions of globalized world. The basic economic character, pursuant to Article 5 of the Treaty on European Union from Maastricht, set the following objectives: balanced sustainable economic and social progress without the existence of internal borders, strengthening the economic and social cohesion and forming economic and monetary union; establishing joint safety and foreign policy, strengthening the protection and interests of the national member states by introducing the citizenship of the Union, complete support of the legal benefits of the Union, to award and provide efficiency of the mechanisms and institutions and to develop close cooperation in the field of justice and internal affairs.

The criteria adopted by the European Council at the session in Copenhagen in 1993 include the existence and functioning of a market economy that must be capable of handling the pressure of the market and the rules for a European economy, i.e. to be capable to handle the pressure of the competition and the market forces within the Union. From the point of view of the Economic Chamber of Macedonia, the reform processes in the direction of meeting the economic criteria are of particular importance.

The existence of a functional market economy will be analysed and assessed according to several criteria, such as: the existence of political consensus about the achievements of the market economy; (non) cooperation with the IMF, the World Bank and other international financial institutions; macroeconomic stability that includes a growth of the production, trade deficit, current account balance, functioning of the labour market, i.e. employment and unemployment, foreign exchange rate and the general monetary policy, inflation; the mutual activity of the market forces, estimated via the participation of the private and public sector in the GDP structure; barriers for the entrance and exit of the market and stability of the financial sector.

After the conclusions of June of the Council of EU a room was created for the historic beginning of the preparations of the explanatory screening that Macedonia started in September last year in Brussels with Chapter 23. This Chapter refers to the judiciary and the fundamental rights, and is considered as one of the key chapters the implementation of which tackles the economic criteria and that the reforms in the field of the rule of law are a priority was also confirmed by the Ambassador Samuel Žbogar and the president of the Economic Chamber of Macedonia, Branko Azeski, at the last week’s meeting that took place in the Chamber.

The negotiation process represents the final stage of the process of accession to the Union, adoption of its benefits and values, as well as complete adjustment of the Macedonian institutions to the mode of functioning of the institutions of the Union.

Macedonia, after it obtained the status candidate country in 2005, is the first country from the region that by signing the Financial Agreement with the European Commission in 2007, started to realize the National programs for pre-accession assistance, known as IPA-funds, that, first and foremost, mean acquiring experience and knowledge for using the European funds, as well as realization of the projects for strengthening and adjustment of the institutions and administration pursuant to the standards and systems of the EU. The private sector, i.e. the agricultural sector obtained a chance via the fifth component of IPA, i.e. IPARD – Program to use EU funds, but in the whole period from 2007 lingers the fact that the usage of these funds is exceptionally low, which means that the possibility for acquiring competitive advantages and technological readiness is not used.

From the point of view of the business community, it is necessary for measures to be introduced that will led to raising the productivity and capacities of the Macedonian economy, having into consideration that in the start of the negotiations the existence of the active market economy will be an important factor, especially an economy that can endure the pressure of the competition and activity of the market rules within the Union. In that direction, the Economic Chamber of Macedonia, in the interest of the companies applies to and realizes projects that, first and foremost, mean an increase of the competitiveness, technological readiness and implementation of the standards in certain sectors. Within the Program “Horizon 2020” a project is realized that is dedicated to strengthening the capacities of the construction sector, for building energy efficient facilities, via the IPA-Project the competitiveness of the company working in the electrical and metal and machine industry is improving and measures are creating for the increased cooperation of this sector with foreign investors in the country. The Chamber is a partner in the EEN Project connected to 600 such centres in the EU member states and has an objective to help the companies to obtain information about the European markets and about the European regulation.

On the other hand, the Chamber Investment Forum that originated from the Berlin Process, composed of the six chambers of commerce of Western Balkans, is actively working on improving the regional cooperation in the direction of creating a single economic region that will be more competitive in terms of performance on the European markets. The problems in the intra-regional cooperation, due to the inconsistent respect of the provisions of the CEFTA Agreement are still lingering and in accordance with the most recent data for 2008 a minimum growth of about 2% was perceived in the trade exchange. Therefore, the Economic Chamber of Macedonia asked for support from the European Union for the promotion of the process of integration of the region as well as of the economic area with which all the Western Balkan countries will have a benefit, having into consideration that each of these countries is too small to handle the challenge, including here the Republic of North Macedonia.

Jadranka Arizankovska,
Senior advisor and project coordinator of the Economic Chamber of Macedonia