12 June 2013
EU integration was the main focus of the recent Macedonian and Serbian intergovernmental meeting in Belgrade, as Skopje and Belgrade agreed to help each other toward faster EU and NATO integration.
At the meeting, led by Serbia Prime Minister Ivica Dacic and Macedonia Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski, the two countries agreed on several specific projects that will soon be implemented.
"We want to collaborate on the EU membership path. As small countries must work together since we have common interests. With this we show commitment to improving bilateral relations on all levels. We are ready and would be pleased if the initiatives [discussed at the meeting] are accepted, as we should join in our common interests, as other regions, like Scandinavia and the Baltics," Dacic said.
Gruevski said there is dedication between the two countries for reconciliation and closure of all open issues from the past.
"Successful regional co-operation manifested through activities in regional organisations and initiatives are another confirmation of the Europeanisation of Macedonia and Serbia, and the Europeanisation of our region," Gruevski said.
The internal affairs ministers of the two countries agreed on police co-operation in the form of an exchange of police officers during the upcoming tourist season, and the health ministers signed a memorandum of co-operation in health and medical sciences.
An agreement was signed on mutual recognition of educational degrees, and the completion of Corridor 10 was discussed, especially the section at the Macedonia-Serbia border.
"It was agreed that a common contact centre for police co-operation at the border crossing Tabanovce would start working, as well as the common control of the railway traffic," Aleksandar Georgiev, a spokesman for the Macedonian government, told SETimes.
"We defined specific proposals and initiatives that will work in the coming period, from which citizens of both countries will benefit," he added.
Both states will soon establish a joint committee for economic co-operation and national minorities.
Dimitar Mircev, foreign policy adviser to the Macedonian president, said that the joint government meeting is a good example for other regional countries.
"Many common issues, disputes and dilemmas can be solved in such a direct way. This will affect future relations between the two neighbours, the co-ordination of interstate agreements and projects, and in the creation of a new climate in the Balkans. Two years ago there was a joint government meeting between Turkey and Greece. The more such examples we have, the better for the entire region. Such meetings should extend to multilateral and trilateral meetings," Mircev said.
Zoran Stoiljkovic, a professor of sociology at Belgrade's political sciences faculty, said that such high-level communication will positively impact mutual trust between Belgrade and Skopje.
"Both countries are multinational and complex communities, and their priority should be an exchange of experiences in respect and regulation of interethnic relations. Economic relations are important, and will contribute to the re-opening of common markets, as was the former Yugoslav market," Stoiljkovic told SETimes.
Mile Solaja, former president of the Bitola-based Serbian-Macedonian Association of Friendship Srma, said that Belgrade meeting is a sign that things in the Balkans are moving in the right direction.
"We organise many activities that help improve relations between the two peoples and countries. Recently, an event 'Days of Serbian Culture in Macedonia' was held, so we have an exchange between cultural and artistic associations, and we marked the dates of historical figures, thus actively improving our relationships," Solaja told SETimes.
The next meeting between the governments of Macedonia and Serbia is planned for the first half of 2014 in Skopje.