North Macedonia: Government planning on opening 80% of integration funds by 2024

North Macedonia: Government planning on opening 80% of integration funds by 2024

The new government intends to open 80 per cent of the funds in the European Union accession talks over the next four years and bring back European standards.

This, among other things, is included in the government program for 2020-2024, in which the administration is committed and will continue the reforms in the key areas, including the rule of law and the building of a functioning democratic state, the judicial reform, the reform of the public administration, security services reform and the fight against organized crime and corruption.

“The government of the Republic of North Macedonia has an ambitious but realistic plan: to complete the negotiations as soon as possible and become an EU member state in the next wave of enlargement. In 2020, accession negotiations kick off and we are convinced that our country has the capacity, ability and will, with the mandate of this government, to open 80 percent of the funds by 2024 and be at least at the same level of integration with the countries of the Western Balkans currently negotiating EU membership”, the Government Program notes.

“The goal of the governmental policies by Prime Minister Zoran Zaev is to bring European standards and values ​​to the country and to allow the citizens a European way of life. The Union comprises a system of values ​​that translates to rule of law, before which we are all equal and in which order and organization are predictable and are part of our daily lives”, says the Program.

The government promises that, with the start of the accession negotiations, the country will begin the deeper societal transformation and the gradual but thorough and sustainable acceptance of European rules, principles and values. It is committed to ensuring that the transformation is effective and successful, and at the same time to protect the interests of the state, the economy and the people.

To this end, the program states that a “structured, effective and professional negotiation scheme” will be established, a broad consensus among political parties, but also in the wider society for substantial EU-style reforms, a database of all domestic and Diaspora experts who will be actively involved in the negotiating working groups.

The government also announces that it will create conditions for better infrastructure with Brussels and will consider signing a strategic partnership with a European airline to establish a direct, regular flight with Brussels. A special budget program for the negotiations with the EU will be implemented in the budgets of the ministries and other competent institutions and, in consultation with the universities, it will support new or adapted training programs that will create staff for the needs of the country in the European institutions.

Accession negotiations will cover everyone; government, administration, parliament, regulators, civil society, academia, the business world.

By the end of 2020, the EU will prepare a strong economic and investment plan for the Western Balkans to revive economies and improve competitiveness. To this end, the government promises that all funds, regardless of the sector in which they are directed, will be used to strengthen and reform institutions and policies, to promote dialogue with all stakeholders and to measure their impact on social inclusion, gender equality, the protection of human rights and the protection of the environment, with the funds bringing them closer to the people.

The government also promises to invest in human capital in institutions and beyond, to prepare mature projects to be funded through IPA 3, and to prepare the country for the most successful use of large European Structural and Cohesion Funds

It also envisages the creation of a national strategic document for bilateral assistance, as well as a national strategic document for European aid. Budget line for negotiations and policy development, guarantee fund for project co-financing and assistance in developing quality and mature EU projects, support through coupon systems and framework consultants. Project development constitutes a business activity that will encourage individuals and companies to engage in this business and develop the so-called coupon system. The coupon system will also be available for other target groups, such as farmers for project development from the IPARD program, educational institutions for the Erasmus + program, etc.

A Guarantee Fund will be set up to co-finance projects and link to the public interest regime, and any body that raises European funds and receives funds for co-financing will be given the status of a “public interest organization”.

The program also focuses on bilateral relations, through the development of regional cooperation. “The country’s primary interest in regional co-operation is the development of practical measures that facilitate the daily lives of citizens and remove barriers to easier trade, more investment, greater human capital mobility and faster digitization and modernization of the Western Balkans”, the program underlines.

The opening of six new border crossings with neighbors was also announced, in an effort to facilitate communication at border points, such as Strezimir-Restelica (with Kosovo), Maiden-Promahi and Markova Noga (with Greece), Klepalo (with Bulgaria), Lojane-Miratovac and Golesh-Bosiligrad (with Serbia) and Dzepishte-Trebishte (with Albania).

Although they exchanged Ministries, Nikola Dimitrov and Bujar Osmani promised that their goal would be common – and that is European integration and good neighborly relations. They expect that the first Intergovernmental Conference will take place during the German Presidency of the EU, which will basically signal the start of the accession negotiations. /ibna