“BRIDGING DIVIDES, BUILDING TRUST”
North Macedonia SEECP Chairpersonship-in-Office 2023-2024
Skopje assumes the Chairpersonship-in-Office of the SEECP for the period July 2023-June 2024.
The chosen motto, “Bridging Divides, Building Trust” refers to the wish to revert, in the current difficult times of the war going on our continent, to the principles enshrined in the basic documents the platform was founded back in 1996. Both the Initial declaration and the Charter from 2000 underline the basic pillars of the process – “GOOD-NEIGHBORLY RELATIONS, STABILITY, SECURITY AND COOPERATION IN SOUTH-EASTERN EUROPE” and the strive of “INTEGRATING OUR COUNTRIES INTO THE EURO-ATLANTIC FAMILY OF FREE AND DEMOCRATIC NATIONS”, that are relevant and applicable today as they were in the past.
The priorities of the Chairpersonship, which are outlined below, are directed at boosting the already ongoing multitude of efforts to enable closer economic cooperation, growth and progress in South East Europe.
- Strengthening democracy, fundamental rights and values, rule of law with focus on anticorruption, security and enhancing hybrid threats resilience
- SEE citizens should enjoy functioning democracies, governed by rule of law, independent and effective functioning of the judiciary and especially efficient fight against corruption and organised crime, where human and fundamental rights are protected and guaranteed. Good governance is the foundation for boosting investment and achieving sustainable economic growth. Hybrid threats have become an even more serious threat in the region since the Russian war against Ukraine. State and non-state operators are engaged in information manipulation activities, including disinformation with the aim of challenging institutional credibility, undermining public trust in democratic institutions and deepening polarisation and ethnic divisions. SEE partners should work to enhance societal resilience against cyber-attacks, information manipulation and disinformation. Initiatives should include enhancing media freedom, media literacy and engagement with local institutions, civil society and the media community to counter disinformation and build, protect and strengthen democracy.
- Upholding the international rules-based order in the wake of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine and helping citizens and businesses deal with its negative spillover effects
- SEE participants have joint responsibility for contributing to preserving peace in Europe and building a democratic, safe and prosperous continent. A strong and united voice is more relevant than ever. The illegal, unprovoked and brutal Russian war of aggression against Ukraine demands a clear signalling of strategic direction. Hence, SEE participants need to stand and work together in defending common values and the international rules-based order, and to focus on building prosperity for all their citizens, which have strong cultural and historical bonds among each other. Russia’s aggression has serious effects on Europe's and SEE’s economies. Energy problems are hitting vulnerable families and businesses. SEE partners should tackle inter-connected challenges and explore measures to reduce and mitigate the negative impact in terms of economy, energy and food security. Energy transition and also, investments in energy infrastructure to diversify energy supplies, boost renewable energy generation and energy efficiency should be promoted. These could include gas and electricity interconnectors for a common grid and interconnection in the SEE region and with the EU. Investments in renewable energy projects will ensure clean energy and create jobs. They could bring forward a sustainable, green, digital and people-focused growth, benefiting the SEE region and Europe as a whole. One of the main objectives should be to enhance the SEE region's energy security and to help accelerate decarbonisation.
Enhancing reconciliation and trust-building, regional cooperation and accelerated EU integration, and implementing of SDGs in SEE in line with SEE 2030 Strategy
- Strengthening regional people-to-people connections and unleashing of economic potential is an essential element in bringing the remaining SEE region closer to joining the EU. The implementation of sustainable development goals in accordance with SEE 2030 Strategy and development of the Common Regional Market among Western Balkan economies, by facilitating freedom of movement and employment across the region and free movement of goods, services and capital, in line with EU rules and standards, is a stepping stone towards inclusion into the EU Single Market. Favouring intra-regional travel will strengthen personal and cultural bonds between the people. Fostering dialogue, good-neighbourly relations, reconciliation, and regional cooperation will be key to deal with the issues of the past and address remaining bilateral issues. SEE participants who are EU Member States should assist and sponsor the remaining SEE participants in reaching the goal of EU membership since they all strive and have European perspective. Bringing some of the benefits of the EU membership to aspirants’ citizens such as closer to the Single Market even before accession will be crucial in this regard
Building together Trans-European transport corridors – investing in sustainable interconnection networks and stimulating sustainable and responsible tourism and culture exchanges
- SEE needs to speed up construction of new transport infrastructure and upgrade the existing one. Fast and efficient transport links, both within the SEE region and with the other neighbouring EU Member States, and sustainable transport with further investment in rail and sea and inland waterways is crucial. The creation of these links will drive investment, facilitate regional trade and deliver sustainable economic growth, improving the daily lives of people in the region. It would also stimulate sustainable and responsible tourism and culture exchanges.
Tackling climate change challenges and fostering green growth coupled with enhancing energy diversification and transition to renewable energy generation and efficiency
- Cooperation among SEE participants should be further promoted to tackle the challenges of green transition, climate change, biodiversity loss, and excessive use of resources and pollution, decoupling economic growth from resource use and environmental degradation. The increased use of renewable energy sources should be supported, in line with the region’s potential and climate change adaptation plans. This can include environmentally sound investments in hydro, solar, wind and geothermal sources. Decarbonisation, depollution of air, water and soil, circular economy, farming and food production, and protecting biodiversity will be key areas
Promoting economic growth through trade creation, investing in human capital, boosting competitiveness of private sector and promotion of regional value chains
- In order to ensure sustainability of investment and growth in the SEE region, the areas of innovation, research, education, health, culture, youth and sport should be supported. Cooperation in these fields is essential for enhancing human capital development, stopping brain drain and encouraging brain circulation, as well as fostering the development of a long-term sustainable innovation ecosystem and the transition to a knowledge-based economy, thus providing better perspectives for the youth in the region. Cross-border/boundary partnerships, regional centres and clusters of excellence are needed, but also strategies for investment in research and development, innovation, technology and technological parks. Development of a robust private sector is also essential for socio-economic development and regional integration, and in improving the region’s competitiveness and job creation. The role of small and medium-sized enterprises is particularly important, hence particular focus should be put on supporting start-ups and SMEs in strategic sectors identified by the region. Cooperation between foreign direct investment agencies to deal with promotion of key regional value chains should be also supported.
Setting human centric digital transformation, development of digital skills and accelerated digitalisation of industry and public services
- Digitalisation represents an opportunity for the economies and societies in the SEE region. Human-centric digital transformation of SEE economies and societies should be the goal together with acceleration of the digitalisation of governments, public services and businesses. Digital services represent an increasing share of exports from the SEE region. Support provided in particular for digital skills development, e-government, e-procurement and e-health services would make public authorities more transparent and accountable, reduce costs and improve service delivery for citizens and businesses, while also addressing the social dimension. Digital business opportunities can be fully exploited, through support to digital start-ups and scale-ups and to digital skills. Lowering the cost of roaming within the SEE as well as to and from the EU should remain a priority.