Econostrum | Economic News in the Mediterranean

An ambitious roadmap for the new Prime Minister of North Macedonia

Written by Frédéric Dubessy on Tuesday, January 18th 2022 à 12:35 | Read 535 times

Dimitar Kovacevski has set himself the priority objective of sustainable and stronger economic growth (photo: Government of North Macedonia)
Dimitar Kovacevski has set himself the priority objective of sustainable and stronger economic growth (photo: Government of North Macedonia)
NORTHERN MACEDONIA. After his election by the Parliament on Sunday, 16 January 2022, Dimitar Kovacevski became the new Prime Minister of Northern Macedonia. His appointment ends more than two months of political crisis in this country of 25,713km² and 2.08 million inhabitants in the Western Balkans.

He succeeds Zoran Zaev, who held the post since August 2020 and the narrow victory in the legislative elections of July 2020, before having to resign in December 2021 after the defeat of his party in municipal elections. Dimitar Kovacevski had replaced him as president of the Macedonian Social Democratic Party (SDSM) at that time.

The forty-seven year old head of government, who was deputy finance minister in the previous government, holds a doctorate in economics from the University of Montenegro (2008). He started his career at the telephone operator Makedonski Telekom (a subsidiary of Deutsche Telekom Group) as a financial partner and coordinator for regulation and harmonisation of financial control (1998-2005). He then held various management positions (marketing and sales management, communication, residential sales). He then became executive director (2017-2018) of A1 Makedonija Dooel (one.VIP), a subsidiary of the Telekom Austria Group. Dimitar Kovacevski was also an associate professor at the Faculty of Economics and Business Management at the American College, University of Skopje (2012-2018).

"Sustainable and stronger economic growth"

On his agenda is a busy and ambitious menu, especially as he has a narrow majority (only 62 out of 56 MPs voted for him) and will govern with a coalition. The priority of Dimitar Kovacevski and his team will be "sustainable and stronger economic growth", as he said in front of the Parliament. This will involve, in particular, the fight against the corruption that plagues the country. Northern Macedonia ($12.29bn GDP in 2020) has weathered the economic consequences of Covid-19 well.

In November 2011, in a report on growth forecasts in the Western Balkans, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) noted that household consumption was on a strong upward trend, supported by rising wages, credit growth and remittances (although still at relatively low levels compared to other regional economies). "Exports of goods increased in value and volume, in line with imports, as a result of the recovery in the EU," the paper said. The EBRD expected GDP growth to reach 4.0% in 2022, as in 2021.

The head of government also wants to resolve the energy crisis in his country.

North Macedonia committed to a free trade agreement

The roadmap also includes a key chapter for the future of North Macedonia: moving closer to the European Union. Dimitar Kovacevski will have to elbow his way through, as of the five official candidate countries, four are in the Western Balkans (Albania, Montenegro, Serbia and thus North Macedonia), the other being Turkey. In October 2019, at a meeting of EU affairs ministers in Luxembourg, Paris had voted against starting negotiations with North Macedonia.
In September 2021, however, the country was included in the list of financial aid (modulated according to the efforts made) of €14.2 billion granted by the European Union to eight countries over seven years to finance their pre-accession

However, the last summit between EU leaders and the six countries of this region, in October 2021, once again amounted to promises. So much so that together with Albania and Serbia, Northern Macedonia has created "Open Balkans "  in September 2021. This free trade agreement will be operational on 1 January 2023 with the effective opening of the borders.

The long road to EU membership is littered with obstacles. Skopje has resolved one major one by signing an agreement with Athens to bury the hatchet between the two neighbours. In January 2019, the country's authorities agreed to take the name North Macedonia to distinguish itself from the Greek province of Macedonia. It was able to abandon its international name FYROM (Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia). This veto on its entry into the EU was lifted, but the veto of another member state, Bulgaria, remains. The quarrel with Sofia is based on a cultural dispute over historical and identity issues (such as the origin of the Macedonian language).

Dimitar Kovacevski will have to move quickly to change all these chapters. The next parliamentary elections are scheduled for 2024 and the new Prime Minister has confirmed that he will keep to this timetable. The opposition has been calling for an early election since the no-confidence vote in November 2021.

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