Historically, Macedonia and the Czech Republic have excellent diplomatic relations and bilateral cooperation in numerous areas. The Czech Republic offers continuous support to Macedonia in its effort to join the EU and NATO. Miroslav Rameš, Ambassador of the Czech Republic to Macedonia areas of cooperation and the positive trend of the trade exchange between the two countries.
European Times: What are the priorities of your mandate?
Miroslav Rameš: The priority of every ambassador is the effort of maintaining good bilateral relations with the host country and expanding the mutual cooperation, and my ambitions are no different. Since their establishment, the bilateral relations between the Czech Republic and Macedonia are very friendly. There are always possibilities and instruments available, and a lot depends on the political stability and how we can be creative together with our partners in order to successfully improve our mutual relations. Macedonia and the Czech Republic have a solid contractual basis, which governs us and gives us opportunities for cooperation practically in all areas.
We managed to activate the relations between our highest representatives, ministers and MPs. Last year was marked by visits of three Czech ministers, a meeting of the highest representatives of the army and even the official visit of the President Miloš Zeman who, thanks to the consistent position of the Czech Republic toward Macedonia, received the highest Macedonian state order. Our defence and interior ministries cooperate on the highest level; our support and assistance to Macedonia regarding the border protection has been estimated as exceptionally positive; and the fact that there is an ever growing interest by the representatives of the business sphere is very pleasing. Macedonia’s direction towards the EU enables us to use new forms of cooperation, for example in the area of twinning and IPA Funds. We found an area of cooperation in the educational projects and helping children and schools and of course one cannot attain this without good partners.
European Times: How would you describe the bilateral trade between the two countries?
Miroslav Rameš: Our mutual trade has been increasing dynamically since the world recession period. The first peak was reached in 2008 (with a volume of 1 479.6 million Czech crowns), then in 2009 there was a significant decrease of 30% to the level of 2006 and 2007 (circa 1 134 million Czech crowns), but an increasing tendency of the mutual trade was proven with the results of 2011, 2013 and 2014. Unfortunately, the fact remains that the Czech Republic and Macedonia have a long-term negative trade balance. Since 2011, there is a significant increase of Macedonian import to the Czech Republic, which refers to the re-export of parts of catalysers for cars.
If we compare the period from January to November 2016 with the same period in 2015, the Czech-Macedonian trade is again exceptionally successful. The Macedonian import to the Czech Republic has increased by 74% and the Czech export to Macedonia increased by 33%.
As a whole, the turnover of the Czech bilateral trade increased in the first eleven months of 2016 to 12.1 billion Czech crowns as opposed to 7.4 billion Czech crowns in 2015 (i.e. by 39%) and opposed to 1.4 billion in 2012, when I initially came to Macedonia. We are still facing the challenge of moving towards decreasing the high negative balance, which we have not been able to overcome yet.
According to the absolute value of the turnover, Macedonia is on the 46th place among all other countries with which the Czech Republic trades, and as an illustration it is almost on the same level as the turnover of the Czech trade with Greece. (For the purpose of comparison, the Czech – Croatian turnover amounts to 14.1 billion Czech crowns, the Czech – Serbian turnover to 18 billion Czech crowns, the Czech – Albanian turnover to 1.5 billion Czech crowns, the Czech – Bosnian and Herzegovinian turnover to 4.7 billion Czech crowns and the Czech – Slovenian turnover to 28.7 billion Czech crowns).
Beside these achievements, the Czech Republic is currently at the 12th place among the EU states trading with Macedonia or, in other words, the Czech export makes 2.05% from the total export of the EU states to Macedonia. As per the import, the position of the Czech Republic is even lower, on the 14th place among all EU states, i.e. 1.29% of the total EU import from Macedonia, which proves that there is still much to do.
European Times: What are your plans for further development?
Miroslav Rameš: The large Czech investment of the company Johnson Controls was completed and it will fully operate the new factory for producing car seats in the industrial zone of the city of Shtip. The total amount of the investment is around €25 million. Unfortunately, one can assume that after the full operation of the production, the negative trade balance will increase even more.
The other planned investment is in the rail freight transport sector, in the amount of about €20 million. Our prominent company from Brno, LokoTrans prepares to build a big railway repair and logistics hub, which will serve the whole Western Balkans. The first phase of realization of the project, which should entail the repairing of railway cars and locomotives, is planned for this year.
As a very perspective area for the Czech export, we consider the small and medium agricultural machinery, which will fulfil the demands of the small private enterprises, specialized in growing grapevine, fruit and vegetables. There are perspective segments in the agricultural machinery, for example irrigation systems, animal production, manufacturing capacities and machines for small family farms (cheese factories, milk factories, bakeries), extraction and detection techniques for opening new strip mines etc. There is a demand for chemicals, construction iron and other metallurgic products (tubes, plates and construction materials).
We offer Macedonia experience in the area of energy, transport infrastructure, in the geodetic research and a whole spectre of projects in environmental protection and ecology, e.g. water purifiers and waterworks, waste management etc. As I have already stated, there are really many possibilities to increase our trade and establish new forms of cooperation. It is only up to us to be creative and use these possibilities.
European Times: What is your personal message and advice for potential investors?
Miroslav Rameš: I already pointed out that our common trade has an increasing tendency, that we cooperate in many areas and we are finding other areas with new projects, as well as the fact that our armies and police cooperate on the highest level. All of these activities and cooperation deserve a high esteem and gratitude and I would like to express my sincere appreciation to our Czech and Macedonian partners.
Macedonia is a beautiful country not only from the perspective of tourists, wine connoisseurs and lovers of traditional cuisine, culture and history and it rightfully attracts the attention of our entrepreneurs. Our common interest is to strengthen the area of trade and investments as we consider the Western Balkans to be a traditional space for Czech enterprises.
In the end, I would like to wish our Macedonian partners successful management of all plans and tasks, which they will face not only in the area of trade, but also in their integration ambitions. I would like to assure them that the Czech Republic will support them fully as it has been doing up till now.
As for the Czech exporters and investors, I consider it to be the most important, beside the required financial means for their business intention in Macedonia, to always find the right and reliable partner, which is not easy. However, without such a partner, the entrepreneurship in another country and especially on the Balkans is quite difficult.