Maricic: The growth plan is a game changer, the most ambitious mechanism ever and a financial and political investment for faster entry into the EU

Vice Prime Minister Bojan Maricic at the meeting of the WBIF (Investment Framework for the Western Balkans) / photo: MIA

Today in Brussels, the Vice Prime Minister for European Affairs, Bojan Maricic, participated in the strategic board of the NJBIF (Investment Framework for the Western Balkans), where he presented the outcome of several months of coordination efforts of institutions, which he managed together with the Minister of Finance, Fatmir Besimi.

As the Secretariat for European Affairs (SEP) informs, Maricic thanked the Director General of the EU Enlargement Directorate, Gert Jan Kopmann, "for recognizing the utmost importance of combining the process of concrete results and reforms with the advancement of our negotiation process". .

– The proposed Growth Plan for the Western Balkans is a game changer that we have been missing for a long time in the accession process. It provides a new impetus for the accelerated convergence of our economies and the reduction of differences with the economies of the EU members. We see it as the most ambitious mechanism proposed and supported by the EC since the beginning of the EU integration process in our country. The introduction of comprehensive reform agendas fully complies with our vision and needs for accelerating the country's reform agenda and its convergence, accompanied by a significant amount of funds, Maricic pointed out.

In the address, Maricić pointed out that "the Republic of North Macedonia zealously approaches this opportunity and in a short time manages to prepare the initial version of the National Reform Agenda 2024-2027, which was submitted on December 6, immediately after its adoption."

- At this point, I would like to acknowledge the assistance provided by DG NEAR Geographical Unit and the EU Delegation in Skopje in providing an invaluable contribution to a better understanding and interpretation of the Growth Plan and then presenting our plans and commitment to the reform process in an eligible period. With the initial ministerial meeting in Skopje on November 17, followed by bilateral meetings in Brussels, we opened a path that ensures smooth coordination in the drafting of the initial reform agenda 2024-2027. We have taken concrete steps in establishing a core team and an operational structure for the coordination of activities arising from the Growth Plan. The government of North Macedonia has decided to form the main team, which is co-chaired by the Minister of Finance and I, Maricic announced.

The mechanism for political coordination, he pointed out, includes the Secretary of State for EU Affairs as the operational day-to-day coordinator of the process. The main team includes the Vice Prime Minister for Economic Affairs, the Ministers of Internal Affairs, Justice, Economy, Agriculture, Forestry and Water Management, Environment and Spatial Planning, Transport and Communications, Labor and Social Policy, Education and Science, Information Society and Administration, the governor of the Central Bank, the directors of the Customs Administration, the Public Revenue Administration and the State Statistics Office, as well as a representative from the Prime Minister's Office.

- Finally, an expert team has been formed to ensure that the political priorities are transposed into concrete ambitious but realistic measures and activities in the priority areas agreed with your services, the Deputy Prime Minister emphasized.

Regarding the content of the reform plan, he stated that the reforms are organized around a limited set of priority areas – Governance/PFM and RDA, Digital and Energy/Green Transition, Human Capital, Business Environment, Fundamentals/Rule of Law. These priority areas are an integral part of the Economic and Reform Program, as well as the bilateral screening report and the bilateral screening discussion.

Meeting of the strategic board of WBIF (Investment Framework for the Western Balkans) / photo: MIA

In his address, Maricic pointed out that the planned reforms shed light on improving the management of public finances, operationalization of the organic budget law, management of public investments and digitization of work processes.

The modernization of public administration, including the development of a comprehensive retention policy, the optimization of business processes and the improvement of the legislative procedure for the transposition of EU law are also in the reform plan. Market reforms, decarbonization, renewable energy sources, energy efficiency and air pollution, as well as the adoption of ETS are the focus of the elaboration of the green transition, the Secretariat announced.

– Digital transformation is becoming a central part of reforms from the business operations of government services, through schools, public finance management and RDA, improving digital skills across the board. Human capital reforms are focused on addressing skills mismatches mostly through actions in adult education and vocational education, as well as in higher education. The business environment will improve by formalizing the informal economy, increasing the transparency and efficiency of the state aid regime, encouraging the development of small and medium-sized enterprises through the adoption and implementation of the new SME strategy, introducing more effective anti-corruption measures throughout the public procurement cycle, offering more public e-services through the government e-platform including the use of e-Customs services for economic operators and reducing costs and increasing the efficiency of customs procedures. Finally, in the rule of law, reforms are focused on several translations from democracy, independence and efficiency of the judiciary, fight against corruption and organized crime, including cyber crime, property recovery, informed Maricic.

At the end of the presentation, he emphasized that the Government is committed to this process and that "we see the Growth Plan as a financial as well as a political investment of the European Union and a clear position that it needs and wants to see North Macedonia in the European family by 2030 year".

He is looking forward, he stressed, to the outcome of the EU Summit "so that we can further elaborate the agreed reform agenda for the next milestone aimed at the end of March."

The State Secretary in the Secretariat for European Affairs Drita Abdiu Halili and representatives from SEP also participated in the meeting.

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