Skopje, February 19, 2014/Independent Balkan News Agency
By Naser Pajaziti
On the 6th anniversary of independence, Kosovo is seen as a strategic country for partnership by neighboring countries. Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia is one of the countries where Kosovo is seen as the country of many possibilities for cooperation in different domains. FYR Macedonia was the 50th country and one of the first ones in the region, which recognized Kosovo at the end of 2008.
But, after 6 years, there are different opinions in Skopje about the state of Kosovo. The worst memories about the relations between the two countries go back to the aggravation of commercial relations following the embargos imposed last year between the two countries, but which were then overcome.
Government officials, political parties, businesses and people of culture, sport and art praise the relations between the two countries.
The government sees Kosovo as an important partner
The government in Skopje believes that relations between the two countries are excellent.
The government’s spokesman, Muhamet Hoxha told IBNA that there’s a very good cooperation with Kosovo and this is proved by the agreements of cooperation which have been endorsed.
“Up until now, we have signed around 25 agreements of cooperation and these agreements are being successfully implemented. We also have other agreements which are under process. We can say that Kosovo is one of the neighboring countries with which we have the best relations and we make constant efforts to strengthen cooperation”, says Hoxha.
Hoxha told IBNA that there will soon be an agreement for the free movement between the two countries through the use of ID cards, a practice which has been introduced by other neighboring countries.
The government spokesman, Muhamet Hoxha also talks about holding a joint meeting between the government of Skopje and Pristina. “We are getting ready for this meeting and as a result of the agendas of both governments, we will also decide the date of the meeting and the priorities. We have joint priorities and these meetings are in the best joint interest of the citizens and the governments of both countries”, said Mr. Hoxha.
Better commercial and economic cooperation is required
Economic cooperation between the two countries is not at the right level. This is stressed by business associations from both countries.
According to the Economic Chamber of Macedonia, Kosovo is the biggest importer of Macedonian goods. Every year, FYR Macedonia exports over 340 million Euros worth of goods to Kosovo, while FYR Macedonia’s imports amount to only 20 million Euros.
Economic Chamber of Northwestern Macedonia says that there’s no satisfactory level of economic and commercial relations with Kosovo.
“There’s a good chance to establish a very good cooperation and this must be exploited by the governments of both countries. There must be a bigger engagement to improve the business climate by encouraging joint investments between partners from Macedonia and Kosovo”, declared for IBNA, the chairman of ECNWM, Menderes Kuci.
According to him, FYR Macedonia must be careful in the commercial and economic relations with Kosovo, as this is a very strategic partner and this is based on figures and not declarations, if we take exports into account.
Last year’s embargo imposed by Pristina and then Skopje, relating to wheat products, indicated the reality of these relations, whereby a significant fall of commercial exchanges was seen.
“The embargo reduced commercial exchanges and Macedonia saw big losses as a result of the imposed embargo”, said Kuci. Kuci says that entrepreneurs want a bigger liberalization of the market and the lifting of customs barriers.
Given that Macedonia sees Kosovo as an important country for its exports, it has opened in Pristina the Macedonian Business Center, which aims at attracting companies from FYR Macedonia to come and invest in the Kosovar market.
Jovan Maxovski, regional manager for FYR Macedonia says that the services of this center are being used by a large number of companies so far.
“It has been often said that the Kosovar market has survived thanks to Macedonian companies, not only in the past two years of the global crisis, but since 1999. This is a reality. We’re offering the necessary conditions for our companies to invest in Kosovo and there are several incentives which may be implemented in the near future”, says Maxhovski.
Embassy of Kosovo in Skopje demands a better focus on infrastructure
Ambassador of Kosovo to Skopje, Ylber Hysa also praises the relations between the two countries, while he focuses on the realization of infrastructural projects to link the two countries as soon as possible. Embassy of Kosovo in Skopje hosted a reception last night and a ceremony on the occasion of the 6th anniversary of the independence of Kosovo. Present in this reception were high state personalities, representatives of political parties and personalities from the public life.
“Skopje must be more courageous in implementing many projects, like the two neighboring countries and economic partners deserve. I would stress the implementation of infrastructural projects to link the two countries, by building strong bridges of commercial and economic cooperation”, said ambassador Hysa.
Hysa also mentioned the construction of 13 km of road linking Bllace to Skopje and the opening of other border points to link the residents of both countries and to boost up free movement and cooperation in different domains.
“We’re making efforts to address these priorities and we hope that these will also be Skopje’s priorities after the elections”, said the ambassador of Kosovo to Skopje.
Citizens praise the relations, but they want more
Citizens require more in terms of cooperation and free movement between Kosovo and FYR Macedonia. The Albanian community in particular, demands from Skopje to enable free movement through the use of ID cards, as it’s the case with Serbia, Albania and other neighboring countries. “We want this to happen, because Kosovo is the only country with which we cannot do this. We must have our passports checked and have them filled with stamps”, told IBNA, Ilir Sh, student from Kumanovo, who studies at the university of Pristina.
According to him, the opening of new border crossing points for which the government of FYR Macedonia has been talking about, is still not a reality. “It’s been several years that a new border crossing point between Bellanoc and Stancic has been promised to be opened. This border crossing point would link the area of Gjilan in Kosovo and the area of Kumanovo in Macedonia, but there hasn’t yet been a decision, because authorities in Pristina claim that the Macedonian side is causing the delays and obstacles. The same promise was made last year, but nothing was done. We are hopeful that it will take place this year”, says Ilir.
Macedonian citizens believe that relations with Kosovo are good, because Kosovo imports many Macedonian goods. “We consider this state to be an important one, taking into account the fact that it’s a strategic point for our goods. This enables us to increase production and also enables the survival of many production companies. Without Kosovo, we would have more unemployed people and many companies going bankrupt. This side of cooperation must be praised. But, it would be good to also cooperate in the domain of sport, culture and art”, told IBNA, Biljana M from Skopje. /ibna/