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Macedonia hosts CEFTA summit

Interview

Leaders of the Central European Free Trade Agreement (CEFTA) have been holding a meeting on Wednesday in the Macedonian capital to strengthen economic cooperation.

Macedonia’s Prime Minister, Nikola Gruevski, said in his opening speech that the treaty signed in December 2006, which extended CEFTA to the countries of the Balkans, has had an especially positive impact on the region’s small economies, “by improving their presence on both the regional and the common EU markets, and by strengthening their attractiveness for foreign investments”. The participants are to adopt a declaration on liberalizing and intensifying trade links that should encourage further implementation of the 2006 treaty. “This declaration will reaffirm the strong determination of the countries of the region, to build cooperation on the principles of mutual trust”, Montenegro’s Prime Minister, Zeljko Sturanovic, said. Cooperation with non-governmental organizations and the business sector is also being discussed.

CEFTA is a free trade agreement, originally set up in central Europe, which now brings together the countries of South-Eastern Europe that have a prospect of joining the EU. Since December 2006 the group has included Albania, Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Moldova, Montenegro Serbia and through its UN administration, Kosovo. CEFTA is seen as a practical preparation for EU membership, because a very large part of its member-countries’ trade is with EU countries. Its former participants, Slovenia, Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Slovakia, joined the EU in 2004, and Bulgaria and Romania did so at the beginning of 2007, at which point they left CEFTA. Of the current members, only Croatia and Macedonia have the formal status of candidates for EU membership. By hosting the summit in Skopje, Macedonia is concluding, in practice, its annual presidency of CEFTA. Next year the rotating post goes to Moldova. (birn.eu.com)

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