Experts said Croatia can greatly assist Macedonia's EU accession.
By Miki Trajkovski for Southeast European Times in Skopje -- 11/12/13
Croatia and Macedonia economy ministers, Ivan Vrdoljak (left) and Valjon Saracini, sign a new economic and trade co-operation agreement in Skopje. [Macedonia Ministry of Economy]
Croatia's entry in the EU may have eventual benefits for aspiring member Macedonia, experts said.
Croatia will be Brussels' extended hand to help Macedonia navigate the EU accession process, said Zlatko Kramaric, Croatian ambassador to Macedonia.
"With Croatia's entry in the EU, Macedonia gained a friend and an additional voice to obtain [an EU] negotiation date. A dialogue is always a better method of communicating than a monologue," Kramaric said.
The most important aspect of Croatia's support for Macedonia is technical assistance, said Risto Nikovski, a former Macedonian ambassador to the United Kingdom.
"As a state with the most recent experiences with EU accession, Croatia is already providing technical assistance to Macedonia regarding the accepting and harmonising with EU standards," Nikovski told SETimes.
Nikovski said such direct assistance to Macedonia is important, but what is equally important is to have an advocate inside the EU, particularly because Macedonia has been blocked by Greece and Bulgaria. Skopje has been an EU candidate since 2005.
"If Croatia stands with its full weight behind international norms and principles and states unequivocally that Macedonia's EU membership must not be blocked, then there will not be a possibility to block us. Many EU states like Croatia have understanding for Macedonia and they are ready to help us," Nikovski added.
Croatia's legislative experiences are particularly valuable, said Vladimir Ortakovski, professor of international law at St. Cyril and Methodius University in Skopje.
"[They] are already transferred to Macedonia and the secretariat for European affairs as well as the other ministries harmonise a good portion of our laws with EU legislation in part based on them," Ortakovski told SETimes.
Croatia can also assist Macedonia with its experiences in achieving EU standards regarding the organisation of the police and judiciary, prison reforms and prisoners' rights as well as health reforms, said Ksenija Butorac, assistant dean for international co-operation at the High Police College in Zagreb.
"With our help, we can secure certain funds to improve these segments. Macedonia has a problem only with the name issue, while the other matters that are under EU monitoring it can achieve just as Croatia did," Butorac told SETimes.
Meanwhile, Croatia and Macedonia signed a new economic co-operation and trade agreement harmonised with EU legislation last month.
The agreement opens the doors to long-term co-operation in tourism, energy, infrastructure, agriculture, and among small and medium enterprises, officials said.
"Through joint co-operation, we will [particularly] take into account Croatia's experience in utilising international funds as well as liberalisation of the electricity market," said Valjon Saracini, economy minister of Macedonia.
If Croatia wants to have a greater influence in the region, it can do so through Macedonian companies, said Ivan Vrdoljak, economy minister of Croatia.
"Croatia is the EU's southeast gate and we are open to Macedonian companies. We expect Macedonian investors in Croatia, but also expect Croatian investors to invest in Macedonia. What we want is partnership," Vrdoljak said.
Vrdoljak announced a new 6 million euro Croatian investment in Macedonia in the water producing facility Mali Losinj, which is already in the process of being implemented.
How can Croatia assist Macedonia and other regional countries' EU integration? Share your opinion in the comments space.