The lack of reliable infrastructure, as well as the lure of other regional options, is decreasing trade traffic between Kosovo and Macedonia.
By Aleksandar Pavlevski for Southeast European Times in Skopje -- 29/10/12
The highway linking Kosovo and Albania is affecting Kosovo's trade with Macedonia. [Reuters]
Trade between Macedonia and Kosovo has decreased by more than 2 million euros so far this year, compared to 2011. Kosovo is the eighth biggest trading partner to Macedonia with an annual trade total ranging between 255 million and 446 million euros annually.
The loss, according to businessmen and analysts, is due to the ongoing global economic crisis, but also due to unfinished infrastructure, which makes it harder to transport goods.
Competitiveness, in terms of speed of delivery and price, highly depends on the ability to transport goods.
Also at issue is the new Albania-Kosovo Highway, linking the countries. Many businesses have turned to that route, as well as the port in Durress due to the ease of transport.
In 2011, Albania exported 80 million euros of goods to Kosovo, and Kosovo's exports to Albania were around 20 million euros.
"[The] highway that Kosovo has to Albania puts Macedonia in the background. We have already noted a reduced work by about 30 percent because we lost Kosovo companies for which we were transporting goods from the port of Thessaloniki," Alexander Smokarovski, the owner of the Smoktrans transportation company, told SETimes. "We must work on our infrastructure if we want to keep our partners."
Construction of the transmission line between Macedonia and Kosovo, gasification and the use of European loans in joint regional projects, and regular meetings between businessmen from both countries to find solutions for the problems, are necessary Azeski said.
Safet Gjergjaliu, president of the Economic Chamber of Kosovo, said efforts were being made to find a compromise and shared ideas on how to promote co-operation between the two countries.
"Economic co-operation is seen as key to the success for approximation of the two countries ... There are some problems, but they are small and transient in character, so our meetings [aim to] eliminating these barriers," Safet Gjergjaliu, president of the Economic Chamber of Kosovo, told SETimes.
"We have to pressure the authorities of both countries to orient towards the construction and modernization of existing roads and invest in building new highways as planned. I hope that at the end of this year and early next construction work will begin," he said.
Businessmen hope that the project for improving the railway infrastructure will be implemented. They will insist for faster construction of the power line between the two countries, gasification and joint utilization of European credits.
Kosovo Economy Minister Besim Beqaj says that efforts are being made to develop co-operation in the energy sector, to improve road infrastructure and to increase the exchange.
"We want the trade exchange with Macedonia to develop even more and it does not remain at the level of simple exchange, but to develop and to be much more consistent," Beqaj said.