Economic relations between Bulgaria and North Macedonia gain momentum


Bulgaria and the Republic of North Macedonia settled some of their historical disputes after the enforcement of the good neighbor agreement between Sofia and Skopje. Economic relations between the two countries were also given a boost. According to Bulgaria’s National Statistical Institute, trade between Bulgaria and North Macedonia amounts to nearly EUR 700,000, but the two countries are aiming at EUR 1 billion per year.

The first sitting of the Bulgaria-North Macedonia Intergovernmental Commission on Economic Cooperation held last week gave a strong boost of the bilateral economic relations. Bulgaria’s Minister of Transport, Information Technology and Communication Rosen Zhelyazkov headed the Bulgarian delegation at the sitting and North Macedonia’s delegation was headed by this country’s Minister of Economy Kreshnik Bekteshi. Other ministers also took part at the discussions. During its two-day sitting the Bulgaria-North Macedonia Intergovernmental Commission on Economic Cooperation focused on transport infrastructure and links, because the two neighboring European countries, which have a common religion and many common moments in their history, have not yet launched direct railway line and air flight. Moreover, Bulgaria is a NATO and EU member and North Macedonia, which is three times smaller in population and territory, has been making efforts towards accession to the European Union and NATO as well. In other words, the two countries have a lot in common, and all political, cultural and economic preconditions for deepening bilateral relations have been met.

The construction of a railway link between the two countries in the context of Pan-European corridor 8, which has to connect the Black Sea coast and the Italy’s Adriatic Coast via North Macedonia and Albania, was among the main topics of discussion during the two-day sitting of the commission. It is of high economic significance for all countries participating in the project. It became clear during the talks in Skopje that the direct high-speed railway line between Sofia and North Macedonia’s capital will be probably launched in 2025. Sofia relies on EU financing worth EUR 400 million and Skopje is also ready to invest such amount in the future project. As a result, passengers will be able to travel between Sofia and Skopje in nearly one hour, Bulgaria’s Transport Minister Rosen Zhelyazkov said. Bulgaria and North Macedonia will also launch direct flights between Sofia and Skopje and between Varna and Ohrid.

The two neighboring countries will benefit from the possible connection of their gas transmission systems. This topic is very important for Bulgaria within the context of its efforts to diversify the routes and the sources of gas supplies and to launch the Balkan gas distribution hub on the Black Sea coast. The Republic of North Macedonia may also participate at the construction of the Belene nuclear power plant. There is good news for tourists as well. Bulgaria and North Macedonia are planning to reduce significantly roaming tariffs.

The Bulgaria-North Macedonia Intergovernmental Commission on Economic Cooperation also discussed other topics of economic cooperation and the Bulgarian and North Macedonia’s authorities are expected to sign more bilateral agreements and contracts in the coming months. A joint sitting of the Bulgarian and the North Macedonian cabinets will be held in April where more concrete measures aimed at deepening bilateral cooperation will be taken. One day after the end of the Bulgaria-North Macedonia Intergovernmental Commission on Economic Cooperation in Skopje the electricity transmission operators of Bulgaria, Albania and North Macedonia signed memorandum of cooperation.

English version: Kostadin Atanasov

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