With European money to European reforms in Macedonia

European Commission

If the reforms are implemented according to the plan, Brussels' expectations are that in ten years the countries of the Western Balkans would double their GDP, and the growth rate would be over seven percent.

Reforms and money, no reforms, no money is the position of the European Commission on the Growth Plan for the Western Balkans, from which it does not deviate and reminds that reforms are inevitable. The plan for the approximation and integration of the countries of the Western Balkans into the European market foresees 6 billion euros in the period from 2024 to 2027, of which four billion are loans with a low interest rate and a grace period of 8 to 10 years, and the remaining two billion euros are grants.

How much of these 6 billion will be received by each of the countries from the Western Balkans, will depend on the number of inhabitants and the annual gross domestic product (GDP), and in the ratio 60 percent of the money will be according to the number of inhabitants, and 40 percent according to the annual GDP. According to the estimates of the European Commission based on these indicators, Macedonia would receive close to one billion euros.

Although with these funds the priority of the European Union is to open the European common market for the countries of the Western Balkans, the money will not be given unconditionally. All countries, including Macedonia, will have to implement basic reforms and bring their legislation closer to the European one. In the case of Macedonia, the expectations are that due to the elections and the change of government, the process may slow down, but the assessments are that the country is progressing well. However, in order to receive money, the country will first have to adopt the reform agenda that will have to be implemented from the end of this year until 2028.

If the reforms are carried out according to the plan, the expectations of Brussels are that in ten years the countries of the Western Balkans would double their GDP, and the growth rate would be over 7 percent.

What is expected from the Macedonian authorities is reforms in the rule of law, reform of the public administration, improvement of the business climate, investments in digitization, improvement of the educational process, restructuring of the post office, better financial control... This includes cyber security as well as the state aid, reminding that the subsidies are not in accordance with the legislation of the Union.

The first of the four pillars on which the Western Balkans Growth Plan is based is the strengthening of economic integration with the EU single market and its focus is on seven priority areas: free movement of goods, services and workers, access to the single European payment area (SEPA ), facilitation of road transport, integration and decarbonisation of energy markets, single digital market and integration in industrial supply chains.

The second pillar is the strengthening of economic integration within the Western Balkans through a common regional market, based on EU rules and standards, which could potentially add 10 percent to the economies of those countries.

The third pillar refers to the acceleration of fundamental reforms, supporting the path of the Western Balkans towards EU membership, promoting sustainable economic growth by attracting foreign investments and strengthening regional stability.

The fourth pillar envisages an increase in financial aid to support reforms that will be paid if the countries of the Western Balkans implement certain socioeconomic and fundamental reforms.

Otherwise, one of the prerequisites for faster economic integration of the six countries in the region is their initial association in a regional market, as a first step towards joint access to the common European market.
The President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen confirmed that everything will depend on the reforms last year when she said that "reforms are a condition. If the reforms are implemented, then the funds will come."

- It is clear to us that reforms need time, but if nothing is done, if reforms are not implemented, the funds will be transferred to other countries from the Western Balkans that are achieving results - Von der Leyen said then.

The plan foresees that the payment of the money that will go to the budget will be made twice a year, after the requests submitted by the partners from the Western Balkans and after verification by the European Commission of the fulfillment of the conditions such as macro-financial stability, management of public finances, transparency and supervision on the budget.

Deputy Prime Minister Bojan Maricic, after the recent ministerial meeting on the Growth Plan, stated that "there is no time to lose in the successful implementation of the agreed obligations of each of the countries covered by the Plan." At the meeting, as he said, the priorities from the Reform Agenda determined as our obligation in the Plan were presented and our obligations for access to the single euro payment area, for the Green Belts for the promotion of trade and transport facilitation, for free Wi-Fi zones in public spaces in 500 municipalities in the region and for the development of digital innovation centers.

The following steps have also been determined - work on projects for the Academy for a single market, acceptance of the Digital Wallet, as well as work on joining the countries of the Western Balkans to the EU Alliance for Critical Medicines and Medical Equipment to strengthen national health capacities.

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