Prime minister on working visit to North Macedonia
Slovenian prime minister Marjan Šarec is paying a return visit to Skopje today at the invitation of North Macedonian prime minister Zoran Zaev. The Slovenian PM’s visit to North Macedonia represents a continuation of the regular intensive political dialogue between the two countries.
The majority of the discussion between the two prime ministers was focused on a review of the bilateral cooperation between the countries and defining opportunities to expand it. They concluded that the cooperation between the two countries is very good, and is essentially a partnership. It is established in more or less all areas, and supported by appropriate legal bases. The prime ministers expressed satisfaction about the regular political dialogue between the two countries at all levels, and interest in continued intensive cooperation.
They exchanged assessments of the conditions in the region and other current international issues of interest to both countries, relating to migration, security and the future of the European Union.
One of the most important topics of the discussions was the EU’s expansion policy and North Macedonia’s accession to the EU. Slovenia supports enlargement which would include all of the countries in the region, whereby it underscores the importance of the strengthening of and respect for the rule of law and implementing the necessary reforms. North Macedonia achieved the status of candidate for membership in the EU in 2005, but the Member States failed to reach agreement on the initiation of accession negotiations at this year’s June meeting of the European Council. In the discussions, Slovenia’s support for the initiation of negotiations for North Macedonia’s accession to the EU was confirmed, and the expectation was expressed that in accordance with the decisions on general matters made at the Council meeting in June, a positive political decision would be adopted at the European Council meeting in October. PM Šarec also confirmed the preparedness of Slovenian experts to provide further assistance to North Macedonia in its process of accession to the EU.
The discussions also emphasised Slovenia’s continued support for North Macedonia’s upcoming full membership in NATO. By ratifying the Accession Protocol of the Republic of North Macedonia to NATO in February of this year, just after Greece, Slovenia sent a strong message of support. Indications of Slovenia’s active support for North Macedonia’s membership included the assumption of the management of the liaison office in Skopje and the management of the alliance’s contact embassy in 2019–2020. This duty was assumed by the Slovenian embassy in Skopje on 1 January of this year.
The prime ministers also discussed cooperation within multilateral organisations and regional initiatives, regarding which the Slovenian PM emphasised the importance of continued productive neighbourhood cooperation and the importance of increasing regional cooperation.
They also spoke about drawing and using IPA funds. In this area, Slovenia has worked in North Macedonia since 2004 on the implementation of seven projects involving close institutional cooperation (so-called twinning projects), and in November 2018 they were selected to carry out a twinning project under Slovakia’s leadership on border management in accordance with the Schengen rules, which is designed to develop the capacities of North Macedonia’s border police for joint management of external borders.
In the afternoon, the Slovenian PM will be meeting with speaker of the parliament of North Macedonia Talat Xhaferi, and will then meet with Slovenian police who are stationed at the North Macedonian-Greek border.
Before the official discussions, the Slovenian prime minister spoke with representatives of Slovenian companies that operate in North Macedonia and representatives of Slovenian associations in North Macedonia. At the meeting he stated that North Macedonia is Slovenia’s long-standing friend and partner in all areas. With regard to economic cooperation, it is interesting to note that Slovenia is the largest foreign investor in North Macedonia measured according to the level of investment per capita. The Slovenian prime minister noted that during their last meeting in Ljubljana, he and the North Macedonian PM had defined numerous still unexplored opportunities for expanding economic cooperation. In his opinion, those opportunities exist in several areas, which is also confirmed by economic indicators, as merchandise trade between the two countries is steadily increasing. There are numerous opportunities in the areas of information technology, environmental protection, telecommunications, organic agriculture and tourism. The Slovenian PM appreciated the work of the associations and their efforts to preserve their Slovenian identity. At the end of his address he sincerely thanked everyone present for their contributions to the excellent cooperation between Slovenia and North Macedonia, and stated that he hopes that the relations and bonds between the two countries, with the prime ministers’ help, will continue to improve.