June 23rd was quite an exhilarating day, as the Skopje Economic Forum was held for the very first time. The Forum’s main objective was providing an opportunity to identify and assess key growth challenges, learn from policy experiences in other countries, support the adoption of corporate social innovation practices in the private sector and identify a course of policy actions towards a more competitive and inclusive economy in North Macedonia.
The notable list of speakers and panelists included esteemed government officials, representatives of regional and national government bodies, ambassadors, diplomats, and representatives of international and national organizations and businesses, delving into a range of topics sublimized into 8 broader panel sessions.
The beginning of the forum addressed the inevitable hot topic of the Western Balkans EU Accession talks, whereas the second part shifted the focus on emphasizing some of the key arguments made by representatives of the business community, which are the main drivers of the economic stability and growth of the country, and the region.
The key discussion points made by AmCham BoD President, Ms. Maja Filipcheva, as well as representatives from AmCham member companies among the distinguished speakers in the respective panels voiced the concerns and considerations of businesses in North Macedonia.
Namely, Ms. Filipcheva was part of the FDI Panel Discussion, where she noted that the recent EU-US Summit marked the beginning of a renewed transatlantic partnership and had set a joint agenda for the EU – US relationship that shows determination of both parties to shape the global economy’s future direction around the values of democracy, rule of law, open trade, and fair competition.
Referring to the specific activities AmCham North Macedonia has undertaken, she pointed out the initiated bilateral cooperation with both AmCham Greece and AmCham Bulgaria announcing a Virtual Trade Mission with AmCham Greece, planned for the last quarter of the year as one of the major activities. Ms. Filipcheva’s address was in support of the previous speakers’ comments related to the importance of signing a Double Taxation Agreement between North Macedonia and Greece as a very good baseline for doing business.
She also mentioned the initiative within the AmChams in Europe network for setting up a platform for connecting members and exploring investment opportunities. She stressed the importance of now being the time to take action, as the business expectations are that the “work is being done”.
On the topic of North Macedonia’s Post-Pandemic recovery, Mr. Stefan Peter, CEO of EVN and President of the Foreign Investors Council, spoke about the great importance of good corporate governance as a means for battling the grey economy, as well as how the increase in productivity and quality of production leads to more exports, which in turn create growth in GDP, and consequentially also lead to the attraction of more FDIs.
Many of above stated talking points were also emphasized by Mr. Svetozar Janevski, CEO of M6 Investments who was part of the “Doing Business in North Macedonia” panel discussion.
He stated that before addressing competition and regional cooperation we must come to the point of a clear agreement of what is most important for the country itself, what is the main focus, setting up a regulatory framework and assure its implementation, and set standards which will allow the companies to offer global quality products. To achieve that, he stressed the importance of improving the existing principles, behaviors, and standards within the institutions, but also in the businesses that need to place emphasis on good corporate governance and social responsibility.
Mr. Gligor Bishev, CEO of Sparkasse Bank, part of the same panel discussion, on the other hand, discussed the structure and support from the financial institutions in North Macedonia that are aimed at assisting the investment endeavors of companies and businesses in the country, as well as the foreign grant options that are available to help companies (especially small and medium enterprises) in their projects, expansion, and development.
Overall, it was made clear that businesses have a vested interest in broadening the regional and transatlantic cooperation, that can only be achieved by working together in unison for mutually beneficial goals.
The Skopje Economic Forum was an initiative organized by the Delphi Economic Forum and in association with the Hellenic Business Association in North Macedonia with the hopes of becoming an annual traditional event.