Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, Zoran Stavreski talks about the Agreement on Clearing Debt between the Russian Federation and the Republic of Macedonia to be signed by Apriland the cooperation with the Russian energy giant GASPROM, the level of Russian-Macedonian trade relations and the most attractive sectors for the Russian companies to invest in Macedonia.
How do you assess the present level of Russian-Macedonian trade relations?
– In addition to the political relations, establishment of dynamic and structurally developed economic relations with the Russian Federation is of great importance for the Republic of Macedonia. At the same time, Russia’ s interest in maintaining intensive economic cooperation was obvious in the last several years, whereby Macedonia is seen as perspective economic partner on the Balkans. This is to a great extent a result of the geo-strategic position of Macedonia in Southeast Europe, the pace of implementing economic reforms and economic infrastructure, as well as good economic relations with the EU Member States. Although statistical indicators speak of an upward trend (up by 45%) of Macedonian-Russian trade cooperation, however, it could be concluded that the economic cooperation does not nearly enough correspond to the potential opportunities of the economies in both countries. Therefore, I think that both parties are already prepared to establish new higher forms of cooperation, in addition to the existing one in the field of trade in energy sources.
When should we expect the most efficient benefits from the Macedonian – Russian Inter-Governmental Commission on Trade, Economic, Scientific and Technical Cooperation?
– The Commission is already approved mechanism, contributing directly and positively in terms of strengthening political, economic and cultural relations between Macedonia and Russia. Hence, it is logical to expect that continuation of Commission’s operations will positively reflect the further conducting of continuous political dialogue, which we also expect to remain featured with high level of understanding and mutual respecting of own foreign policy interests. Thus, in line with the recently submitted Russian proposal, we expect for the regular session of the Macedonian-Russian Inter-Governmental Commission to be held in April 2010. Hence, I believe the period February-April will be exceptionally important, since the results achieved within the Commission should fulfill the future agenda of contacts of the highest government officials of the Republic of Macedonia and the Russian Federation.
Does the Macedonian Government plan to continue the cooperation with “Gasprom” and when will the company build the gas pipeline system in Macedonia, as compensation for the Russian clearing debt?
-Government of the Republic of Macedonia applies open policy for cooperation with all partners, interested in participating in the strategy for strengthening the energy sector in Macedonia. Hence, having in mind the Government’s project for gasification of Macedonia, I think that the interest in cooperation with GASPROM, as one of the leading companies in this sector, is obvious. Agreement on Clearing Debt should be signed by April. Thus, I reaffirm once again the readiness to close the clearing debt with the Russian Federation, through the Gasification Project and we expect maximum support from “GASPROM” thereto. During the discussions with the Russian party, they also confirmed their interest in closing this issue according to our proposal, being also appropriately reflected in the Bilateral Agreement to be signed very soon, immediately after the completion of the internal-legal procedures in both countries.
Why, according to you, trade-economic cooperation between Russia ad Macedonia is at such a low level? What are your plans so as to improve this cooperation?
– In addition to the generally determined interest in intensive economic cooperation, the need for greater government support from both parties in the field of organizing presentations and business forums, to the end of initial information and establishment of contacts between businessmen from both countries, is obvious. In the period to come, I expect that we will successfully realize the planned activities, so as to more aggressively inform the business community on the opportunities, offered by the Macedonian and the Russian market. Thus, in addition to the focus on the Moscow market, we have many regional road shows across the territory of the Russian Federation ahead, where businessmen from both countries will be provided the opportunity for mutual contacts. At the same time, Macedonia will continue with active promotion of the tourist potential. To the end of both overcoming the participation of mediators in the so-far Macedonian-Russian trade cooperation and using preferential customs regime, need arises for additional improvement of the legal framework that would enable liberalized trade regime between both countries. This is in line with the Memorandum between the Republic of Macedonia and the Russian Federation on Liberalization of Mutual Trade, and having in mind this Memorandum, it is expected for the Russian Federation to unilaterally provide conditions for preferential treatment when importing certain Macedonian products (textile, wine, wine material, canning industry and early garden products). Thus, we expect for the volume of trade cooperation to increase, as well as for the continuous and existing deficit on the Macedonian side to reduce.
According to many analysts, one-sidedness in the field of economy and trade to EU and the USA can lead to adverse consequences for Macedonia? Why does the Republic of Macedonia seek no alternatives to the European and the American economy now, when there are other possibilities, such as Russia, China, India and other?
– Set foreign policy priorities of Macedonia have positive effect on the relations with all countries throughout the world. So-far relations and cooperation with the Russian Federation, India and China speak of the fact that the Republic of Macedonia maintains equally developed political, economic and cultural relations with them, coupled with activities in all areas. Numerous identical foreign policy priorities with these countries contribute to the positive trend in the relations, as regards mutual participation in the process for peace and stability in the world, as part of the global integration developments. Thus, I believe political focus of Macedonia in attaining strategic foreign policy priorities is not one-sided, but rather aimed at creating conditions for expansion and development of a comprehensive cooperation with all interested parties, the specific example thereof being the cooperation with the Russian Federation.
What is there in Macedonia today that is attractive to the Russian investors? What could you recommend potential Russian investors in Macedonia?
– Government of the Republic of Macedonia persistently works on improving the business climate and the investment conditions. In 2009, Macedonia was ranked among the world’s TOP 3 reformers according to Doing Business Report of the World Bank, which is a confirmation for the quality of the economic policies. In addition, we have implemented activities to promote Macedonia as an investment destination, promoting several sectors to the foreign investors. Therefore, I believe energy, construction, food industry and tourism are few sectors that would be of special interest for the Russian investors.
Government of the Republic of Macedonia constantly underlines the necessity to attract foreign investments in the country. At the same time, companies like “LUKOIL” and “TE-TO” AD Skopje face various bureaucratic problems. Your comment on this issue.
– Government of the Republic of Macedonia undertakes series of specific measures to facilitate the operations of foreign investors. In the light of this context, I would point out the personal commitments of Government Ministers for successful realization of the projects you mentioned. Subsequently, the Government will continue creating even better conditions, as well as even more open mechanism to help and support foreign direct investments. Therefore, I would like to invite all Russian potential investors to decide to invest in Macedonia, which, in the full sense of the word, offers not only the most favourable conditions to invest in the region, but also provides the most appropriate assistance and support to foreign investors. I hope the existing positive experience Russian investors in Macedonia have as regards the cooperation with the Government of the Republic of Macedonia will contribute to increasing by twice the volume of Russian investments in the period 2010-2011.