23rd February 2021, Skopje – High-level meeting was held Tuesday between the Government Ministers and the Directors-General of DG NEAR and DG EMPL, as well as DG ECFIN representative, at the occasion of the Assessment Mission for the 2021-2023 Economic Reform Program, submitted to EC on 29th January 2021, which is aimed at coping with the key challenges to the country’s competitiveness through targeted measures, within the dialogue with the European Union for fulfilling the economic criteria. Focus in 2021 is put on managing and overcoming the consequence from the COVID-19 induced crisis, as well as setting bases for accelerated and sustainable economic growth, green economy, process digitalization and improvement of all processes and developments in the society in general.

In addition to the Minister of Finance, Fatmir Besimi, as coordinator of the process for preparation of the Economic Reform Program, Deputy PM for Economic Affairs, Fatmir Bytyqi, Minister of Transport and Communications, Blagoj Bochvarski, Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Water Economy, Arjanit Hoxha, Minister of Education and Science, Mila Carovska, Minister of Labour and Social Policy, Jagoda Shahpaska, Minister of Health, Venko Filipche, Minister of Environment and Physical Planning, Naser Nuredini, as well as Director of the Fund for Innovations and Technology Development, Kosta Petrov, Deputy Minister of Economy, Zoran Manevski, and the State Secretary at the Secretariat for European Affairs, Kalinka Gaber, also attended the meeting. Director for Strategy at DG NEAR, Myriam Ferran, Director of DG EMPL, Joost Korte, Head of Unit for EU candidate countries at DG ECFIN, Uwe Stamm, and the EU Ambassador to the North Macedonia, David Geer, also took part in the meeting.

In its last year’s report on the implementation of economic reforms, the European Commission identified three key structural challenges that need to be overcome in order to encourage competitiveness and inclusive growth in the country, those being improvement of competitiveness of the domestic companies and integration into the global value chains, improvement of the quality and the relevance of the education system and formalization of the economy.

Hence, 2021-2023 Economic Reform Program covers 20 priority reform measures which are to be implemented in the coming three years, aimed at energy and transport market reform, agriculture sector development, improvement of business environment and reduction of informal economy, support to research, development and digital transformation, regional economic networking, education and skills, social protection and inclusion, as well as healthcare.

The Program envisages measures for boosting the competitiveness of the electricity market, promoting renewable energy sources, improving energy efficiency and implementing intelligent transport system along Pan-European Corridor 10. ERP also includes measures aimed at improving the business environment and reducing the informal economy, such as rationalization of para-fiscal charges and establishment of single registry therefore, establishment of e-marketplace for small value procurement and support to newly established small- and medium-sized enterprises in underdeveloped regions.

To the end of reducing informal economy, measures will be undertaken to encourage the registered economic activities and transactions, focusing on the sectors with the highest probability for undeclared jobs.

ERP also envisages measures aimed at improving the results of the education process and reducing the mismatch of skills and qualifications with the needs on the labour market.  At the same time, activities will be undertaken pertaining to the implementation of the new Law on Social Protection, in particular with respect to vulnerable groups and increased activity of working-able population. Health sector is included in the Economic Reform Program for the first time, envisaging activities aimed at improving the primary healthcare of the population.

High-level meeting was held within the European Commission’s Evaluation Mission of the 2021-2023 ERP.  In May 2021, dialogue will take place between the European Council and the Ministers of Finance and the Governors of Central Banks of the EU candidate countries from the Western Balkans and Turkey. Dialogue outcome is adoption of joint conclusions on the basis of ERP assessment, followed by recommendations on economic policy improvements, all to the end of accelerating the economic convergence, increased competitiveness of the business sector and job creation.

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