Slovenia Supports Strong Trade Links & Fast Start to EU Accession Talks for N Macedonia

By , 28 May 2019, 16:20 PM Politics
North Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev and Slovenian President Borut Pahor North Macedonian Prime Minister Zoran Zaev and Slovenian President Borut Pahor Twitter

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STA, 28 May 2019 - Prime Minister Marjan Šarec voiced Slovenia's strong advocacy for North Macedonia to get a date for the launch of EU accession talks in June, as he met his counterpart Zoran Zaev on Tuesday. The pair also discussed efforts to boost bilateral trade to EUR 500 million.

Addressing a joint press conference after talks, Šarec described Zaev's official visit to Slovenia as very important, noting that North Macedonia was at a crossroads.

Zaev thanked Šarec for Slovenia's support in his country's bid to join the EU, and asked him for further support, something that Šarec assured him of.

The Slovenian prime minister said that the European Commission should acknowledge North Macedonia's "great progress" on this path.

Šarec noted in particular the Prespa Agreement, the treaty reached in June 2018 between North Macedonia and Greece to resolve the long-running name dispute and end the blockade of North Macedonia's bid to join NATO and the EU.

Šarec lauded the agreement as a historic moment, "a great action demonstrating the great political wisdom of the two prime ministers", Zaev and his Greek counterpart Alexis Tsipras.

The authorities in Skopje made that step in order to meet the conditions and to start accession talks with the EU, Šarec said, adding that Slovenia "is a strong supporter of this process as early as June".

He argued that integrating the Western Balkans into the EU, "in particular North Macedonia, which has made enormous progress", was important for the development of the region and the entire EU.

Zaev said that after 14 years as a candidate country, time had come for North Macedonia to upgrade the process by starting membership talks, which he said Skopje was aware would take years, but which were seen as an opportunity for the Macedonian society's progress.

Šarec warned that the European Commission should refrain from setting ever new conditions, because the people of North Macedonia would be disappointed unless the country gets a date to start accession talks at the EU summit in June.

Zaev thanked Slovenia for the fast ratification of the protocol on his country's accession to NATO, which prompted other NATO members to speed up the ratification process.

Both prime ministers termed the present visit as confirmation of good political, economic and other relations between their countries, and voiced mutual interest in strengthening the ties further, in particular in business, so that trade could increase from EUR 300 million to EUR 500 million.

The potential to boost business links is seen in investment, tourism and agriculture.

On the occasion, the countries signed a memorandum on cooperation in tourism and a programme of cultural cooperation for the period until 2022.

Šarec also expressed the wish for more Macedonian investments in Slovenia and said that both countries were interested in boosting agricultural cooperation.

Zaev, on the other hand, said that Slovenian products enjoyed great respect in North Macedonia and that Slovenia had invested EUR 375 million in his country. On Monday, a EUR 25 million plant of battery maker Tab was launched, creating 100 jobs.

Zaev also met President Borut Pahor and Speaker Dejan Židan, with both offering Slovenia's help in North Macedonia's efforts to join the EU also in the future.

Pahor told Zaev that EU enlargement onto the Balkans must become a geo-strategic issue, a conclusion of the most recent Brdo Brijuni Process summit earlier this month, Pahor's office said in a press release.

They also talked about NATO's expansion onto the Balkans and exchanged views on the situation in the region, the press release added.

Židan congratulated Zaev for the progress his country made in efforts to join the EU. He also offered Slovenia's help, saying "we believe in you", according to a press release from parliament house.

Slovenia, North Macedonia seek to increase trade to EUR 500m

STA, 28 May 2019 - Slovenia and North Macedonia plan to increase the volume of bilateral trade to EUR 500 million over the medium term, Economy Minister Zdravko Počivalšek said after holding talks with North Macedonia's Deputy Prime Minister Kočo Agnjušev on Tuesday.

Last year trade amounted to EUR 366 million, up 7%, with Slovenia's exports accounting for nearly two-thirds of the total. Slovenia also had investments worth EUR 357 million in Macedonia at the end of last year.

Počivalšek said the plan to increase trade to EUR 500 million over several years was ambitious but there were plenty of opportunities in energy, transport, infrastructure, the agri-food sector, industry and tourism, according to the Economy Ministry.

As part of efforts to increase trade, Počivalšek and Agnjušev signed a memorandum on cooperation in tourism, stressing that tourism affected not only economic ties but was also important for mutual understanding and the strengthening of friendly relations.

The memorandum deals with cooperation between tourism associations and tour organisers, exchange of information, and exchange of experience, the ministry said.

The meeting was held as part of an official visit by Zoran Zaev, North Macedonia's prime minister.

The EUR 500 million trade target was reiterated by Zaev and his host, Slovenian PM Marjan Šarec, at a business forum featuring over 80 entrepreneurs from both countries.

Zaev said Slovenian products on market shelves in North Macedonia were seen as a guarantee of quality, much like Slovenian contractors that win tenders in the country.

Šarec hailed cooperation and called for further growth of investment in both countries.

The chairmen of the two countries' chambers of commerce, Boštjan Gorjup and Branko Azeski, agreed there is room to expand trade.

Gorjup highlighted the role of NLB as a systemic bank in both countries, while also mentioning the Slovenian company Puklavec Family Wines, plastics producer Roto, insurers Zavarovalnica Triglav and Sava Re, LTH Castings, battery maker TAB, metrology company Lotrič Meroslovje and engineering company Riko.

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