Project "Macedonia"


di Giancarlo Simonetti

During the General Assembly of AEREC, Dr. Giancarlo Simonetti, President of the Macedonian Chamber of Commerce in Italy, presented an important collaboration between the Academy and the Macedonian Chamber of Commerce.  The following is a transcript of his speech.

First of all, I think it is necessary to give you a geographical and political profile of the country.  In 1991, with the passing of a popular referendum, Macedonia became a parliamentary democratic Republic which established its independence from ex-Yugoslavia.  The population is just a little over 2 million and the land mass is 25 thousand square kilometres.  The ethnic makeup is 70% Macedonian and 25% Albanian (the rest includes, among others, Turkish ethnics and the Rom). 

Politically, it is governed by a three-party system which can be compared with our social democracy and the opposition has obtained 22% of the votes.  It is divided into confederated regions following the American model.

Culturally, it is nearer to Europe than to the Orient countries.  For this reason, there is a rising interest in the Macedonian economy on behalf of countries such as Italy.  Recently, on 19 April 2001, Macedonia was the first nation of south-east Europe to sign the Agreement of Stabilization and Association with the European Union in consideration of its future entry into the EU.

On account of its strategic position between the Occident and the Middle East, Macedonia has an important geopolitical role which will increase in the coming years.  Of course, first it must complete the process of economic stability which is very complex and will necessitate additional sacrifices from an already extremely poor population.  Please remember, while Milosevic was in the process of conceding its independence about ten years ago, he allowed the economy to falter and, consequently, the economy turned mainly towards agriculture. 

One of the most important projects for our country, is to recreate and make functional the industrial sector which is in a very bad situation.  Macedonia receives important economic aid from Greece, with which it is united by ethnic and cultural similarities, and from Bulgaria.  Italy imports various products from Macedonia.  However, the goods arrive from Greece or other countries because Macedonia’s packaging and confectioning standards do not meet EEC regulations on account of its economic problems.

Macedonia does not have diplomatic representation in Italy because it simply cannot afford it.  In order to give you an idea of the economic situation…  A Director of Surgery earns a sum that corresponds to Italian £ire 800.000 (Euro 414.00).  And the salary of a government minister is not more than Italian £ire 4.000.000 (Euro 2,066.00).  Therefore, the country is not in a position to establish embassies and has to be supported by other organizations.

In the case of Italy, the only existing initiative is the Macedonian Chamber of Commerce which fosters synergies and promotes cultural exchange.  This is the point: operating in Macedonia today can be very stimulating and fruitful for Italian entrepreneurs and professionals.  It is enough to consider the very advantageous tax and duty environment.  In addition, the country is free of negative manifestations which nowadays are typical of the more developed countries.  And it is possible to acquire funds for initial capitalization; the Italian government finances small to medium projects in the country and the European Financing Bank supports economically larger projects.

In order to be more concrete: in one particular region, there is actually about 8000 square meters of land we can obtain gratis for development.  The State land, quite everywhere, is ceded at the moment for 1 German Mark per 1 square meter with parcels of 1000 square meters.

The Macedonian Chamber of Commerce, headquartered in Monza, signed an agreement with AEREC to permit commencement of activities in the country.  The agreement provides for active collaboration with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in a series of facilitations in establishing contacts, assistance in possible agreements with local operators, and all information necessary to logistics.

In January, there will be a meeting of the Academics to discuss eventual projects.  Immediately following the meeting, a delegation of AEREC will go to Macedonia where they will be received by the Macedonian Prime Minister.  In this way they can see the local reality and the possibilities the country offers.  To be precise, we have only one year to take advantage of the resources we have at our disposal.  Because afterwards, other organizations and more potent forces will arrive and hence the precious opportunities of today will not be so easily obtainable.  Let us act with Italy and AEREC at the head and put ourselves in a leading position in a young dynamic country with very favourable prospects.”