Serbia, Macedonia boost co-operation, relations

04/03/2013

Macedonia and Serbia's co-operation on European integration will also open communications and boost relations between the two countries.

By Miki Trajkovski for Southeast European Times in Skopje -- 04/03/12

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Co-operation on European integration could speed the process, analysts said. [AFP]

A recent agreement on co-operation in the field of European integration signed by the foreign affairs ministers of Serbia and Macedonia is expected to improve relations between the two neighbours and increase mutual trust.

The agreement, which is the first of this type between the two countries, will provide exchange of experience in the process of accession towards the EU, and implementation of the necessary reforms in order for a quicker start of EU negotiations.

"Our goal is to start formal negotiation for accession to the EU as soon as possible, which would be a result for the realised reforms, and which would gain support from all the EU member states," Macedonia Foreign Minister Nikola Poposki said.

He added that the agreement should be an example of co-operation to all the countries in the region, and analysts agree.

"The fact that Belgrade and Skopje signed this agreement is a sign as well for the improvement of bilateral relations, which recently were in crisis because of the recognition of independence of Kosovo by Macedonia, and the problems connected with the status of the Macedonian Orthodox Church," Dejan Vuk Stankovich, Belgrade University professor, told SETimes.

The Macedonian church declared autocephaly in 1967 and since then has been considered an outlaw church by the Serbian church. The four decade-long dispute has affected relations between the two countries.

The co-operation also shows that Serbia and Macedonia are committed to the process of European integration, Stankovich said.

The agreement is part of regional co-operation between the countries of Southeast Europe, the Macedonia Foreign Ministry said. Macedonia has signed the same agreements with Albania, Montenegro and Croatia.

"Macedonia … doesn't see its neighbors as competitors for EU membership, but as its partners. Macedonia is prepared to signed agreements with Kosovo and Bosnia and Herzegovina [as well]," Vasile Andonovski, foreign affairs ministry spokesman, told SETimes.

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"The signing of this agreement between the others countries from the region which aspire to join the EU will contribute for faster European integration in all the countries," Stankovich said.

The arrangement will help also Skopje and Belgrade intensify their communication, especially in reference to Euro-Atlantic accession, analysts said.

"The two governments will be concentrating in the building of the European future. With the co-ordination of efforts for getting closer to the European Union both countries will profit. They will have a lot to learn one from one another because of the identical conditions of the two countries," Risto Nikovski, former Macedonia ambassador, told SETimes.

Stankovich agrees. "[B]oth of the countries see the process of European integration as a base in strengthening peace and stability in the region, which is one of the main preconditions of more dynamic economic development of all in the region."

This content was commissioned for SETimes.com.
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