Press Conferences

30. 4. 2007 10:54

Press briefing after the meeting with the Macedonian Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski held on Monday, 30th April, 2007

Martin Schmarcz, Head of the Press Department of the Office of the Government: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the press briefing after talks of delegations of governments of the Czech Republic and the Republic of Macedonia. I welcome Prime Ministers of both countries and first I give the floor to the Macedonian Prime Minister, Mr. Nikola Gruevski.

Nikola Gruevski, Prime Minister of the Republic of Macedonia: Good afternoon. We had very pleasant and useful meeting today with the Prime Minister. We talked about many issues, which are important for both countries. We have touched on bilateral issues. I must say that mutual relations between the Republic of Macedonia and the Czech Republic are very good, but still, there is space for their further development. I explained to the Prime Minister Topolánek our steps in the reform process, which is being under way in Macedonia in the sphere of economy, especially after forming our existing government, which consists of right-wing political parties. The reform involves introduction of the flat tax, tax cut by 10%, tax relief for re-investments and further steps that we are taking to attract foreign investors and foreign capital, simplification of procedures and further relieves. I informed the Czech side on conclusion of agreements on duty-free trade with our foreign partners. We also touched on further issues as well, about which we will be debating in the course of our dinner. We also debated effort of the Republic of Macedonia concerning accession to the EU and NATO. We are trying in our country, in the Republic of Macedonia, to meet all the conditions and, let us say homework, so that we would be prepared for our accession to the EU and NATO. We are exerting a lot of effort to fulfil what we have promised – to make for a small delay that occurred owing to the last year's parliamentary election. We are trying to combat bribery, organized crime and I must say that some of representatives of the international community who are monitoring the situation in Macedonia have already expressed their admiration. We are trying to fulfil the Ochrid Peace Treaty, which is very important for our country. I think we have stable political end economic situation, we are implementing certain further reforms that are very important for us. I believe that the Czech Republic, which we regard as our friend and a sponsor, to certain extent, will help us even more in our efforts. As I understood, based on today's talks with the Prime Minister, the Czech Republic supports enlargement of the EU in the direction to the West Balkan, of course provided meeting certain conditions with regard to reforms implemented and certain standard reached. We are aware of necessity to fulfil our homework first that we will have to improve certain things, but we believe that we be successful and that the Czech Republic will support us in these steps and that it will help us to access to those organizations. We talked about further local issues, for example about the Kosovo problem. We agreed that both countries support the Achtissari´s Plan and we are convinced that it is necessary to solve this issue as soon as possible. We debated certain possibilities of liberalization of the visa regime; we debated possibility to use our constitutional name the Republic of Macedonia and other issues, of course. We also commemorated certain common period of our history – I mean missionaries Saints Cyril and Method because both countries celebrate their national holidays in memory of them. In conclusion I would like to announce that at the last meeting of the government in Macedonia, we decided to open Macedonian Embassy in the Czech Republic as a sign of our friendship with the Czech Republic as we regard the Czech Republic as very important partner and we are of the opinion we cannot afford to have any embassy here. The Government Resolution has been adopted and I hope that we will succeed in opening our embassy and we will manage to ensure the personnel, and that it will be a good step to further extension of our mutual bilateral cooperation.

Martin Schmarcz, Head of the Press Department of the Office of the Government: Now, the Prime Minister of the Czech Republic Mirek Topolánek has the floor.

Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister of the Czech Republic: Things that join us has been mentioned here by the Prime Minister, I think. But it is not only the tradition of saints Cyril and Method what joins us, it is also life under totalitarian regime; it also joins our countries in the transformation, and in case of our country, also reform efforts we had to exert. And it was not only because of our accession to the EU, but also because of our accession to North-Atlantic Alliance. The Czech Republic, apart from fulfilling number of roles, shows clear policy concerning the West Balkan and it is similar to policies of Middle-European countries and countries of South Europe, of course. What divides us is our membership in the EU and NATO and non-membership of the Republic of Macedonia in the EU and NATO. We support Macedonia in both cases. We hope that at the summit of NATO in Bucharest the Republic of Macedonia will be invited and we will support the invitation. And we hope that this year's October report will enable opening accession talks during Slovenian presidency at the latest and we will also support it. Discussions on Kosovo and on the statute of Kosovo were quite simple, of course, because we use the same sentences and we apply the same policies. I would just add a remark to it, delay of this process will mean an increase of sensitivity in this region and an increase of tension. Both multilateral organization, whether it is the EU or NATO must send off a clear signal on gradual integration of countries of the West Balkan, a "road map" with a time horizon, because the matter-of-factly parameters are clear. We were talking about business, we were talking about investments, we were talking about their reforms, about our reforms, and we were talking about number of things. In conclusion, after establishing our embassy in Skopja, I welcome the decision of the Macedonian government to have its own embassy in Prague. I it will contribute to our mutual relationships.

Martin Schmarcz, Head of the Press Department of the Office of the Government: I thank both Prime Ministers and now there is time for your questions.

Lucie Petrová, ČTK: You were talking about the visa regime; can you tell us some details?

Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister of the Czech Republic: The Czech Republic is the only one country that cancelled visa fees for citizens of Macedonia before its accession to the Schengen area; nevertheless it is bound by its membership in the EU. Macedonians have still visa duty regarding their trips to the Czech Republic, in spite of the fact that Macedonia abolished this duty one-sidedly for Czech citizens. We mutually assured ourselves that the Macedonian government will be striving for liberalization of visa duty in the framework of the EU and in the framework of a treaty on non-visa contacts, which is now being in force for certain groups like for students, sportsmen or artists. And we hope that we will manage it by the time when the Czech Republic access to the Schengen area, because thus the entire process would be simplified.

Nikola Gruevski, Prime Minister of the Republic of Macedonia: We are preparing to conclude a treaty on liberalization of a visa regime with countries that belong to the Schengen area and we know that the Czech Republic will be a part of Schengen area in a short time. We are trying not only to liberalize, but also simplify the visa regime in the following years. And we are finishing the technical procedures; it means those new passports according to European standards. Therefore, we believe that in the following years full liberalization of visa regime could occur between Macedonia and countries of the Schengen area.

Martin Schmarcz, Head of the Press Department of the Office of the Government: Before further question, I ask the interpreter to interpret briefly the answer of the Prime Minister Topolánek for our Macedonian friends. Then, further question, please.

Katerina Arsovska, Macedonian TV: Prime Minister Topolánek, what is your assessment of the participation of Macedonian soldiers in peace missions in Afghanistan and Iraq?

Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister of the Czech Republic: We were talking about that and the Republic of Macedonia even decided on its participation in Lebanon. We ourselves know well, how complicated it is to financially support those missions in abroad. We set a high price on participations of the Republic of Macedonia in those missions and we appreciate them.

Martin Schmarcz, Head of the Press Department of the Office of the Government: Further question, please.

Journalist: I would like to ask a question. The Macedonian government has finished an international campaign to attract foreign investors to Macedonia recently. Is there already a concrete result? And the second question, could you be more concrete as to foreign investors? Thank you.

Nikola Gruevski, Prime Minister of the Republic of Macedonia: One stage of this campaign has been finished presently, we are preparing the second one and as early as now there is a great interest from the side of foreign investors. I suppose you yourself know well that it takes one or two years from the time when a company get first information to the time of taking decision on establishment a branch in a country. Of course, they are not only waiting now, but they are making a market research, they are searching collaborators and further and further things. So, we expect that those results will be visible after one year or one year and a half; nevertheless, as early as now we register an increased interest from the side of foreign investors. We think we have managed to find a good way, because there is everyday interest from the side of foreign companies, which try to get information and assess conditions in our country. We were successful in the last month, as the bank Société Génerale had bought a Macedonian bank, a supranational company Johnson Controls has already started to build its manufacturing plant , big Russian-Macedonian enterprise started construction in the framework of a 150 million Euro project, Swedish investors are involved in the project of construction of a big diary and I must say that I register a very good response to our campaign, because most of those companies, which are interested in investments in our country, say that before we launched our campaign they had had no information on Macedonia and on possibilities in this country. I suppose that in the following seven or eight years, some of really big firms will come not only to Macedonia but also to other countries of the region. In this respect, we are informed about a great success of the Czech firm CzechInvest. I asked the Prime Minister, and he promised to do so, to help us with getting experiences or to dispatch several experts to our country, who would share their experiences concerning the operation of the firm of CzechInvest. We would like to use your positive experiences and we are of the opinion that there are still a lot of things that we could learn from the Czech Republic, because the Czech Republic has showed during last 15 years that it is strong and that it can solve these problems. I think that we have a government in our country now, which supports all good and positive ideas and experiences.

Martin Schmarcz, Head of the Press Department of the Office of the Government: The last question, please, if there is any.

Mirjana Cakarova, Macedonian press agency: Prime Minister, what is your assessment of reforms that the Macedonian government performs and of the effort to attract foreign investments?

Mirek Topolánek, Prime Minister of the Czech Republic: Well, we still leave our fundamental debate until evening; nevertheless, these reforms are imposing, as far as I am informed and Macedonia is following the right way. An effect that is to occur now in the Republic of Macedonia is the "snowball effect", when the first great investments, after first experiences, are coated with further investments. Macedonia will enjoy all the advantages of the Czech Republic in the beginning of its transformation period; it means very interesting locality, acceptable tax and investment conditions, and relatively low labour costs, I have a feeling that the Prime Minister mentioned an average of some 320 or 360 Euro, it means it has all the conditions for the foreign investments´ coming to the Republic of Macedonia. And the Republic of Macedonia undoubtedly needs the foreign capital and direct foreign investments just like the Czech Republic during its transformation period. Czech investors, whether they are semi state-owned or private ones are eminently interested in investments in Macedonia. The fact that the ČEZ failed in a tender means nothing. I have driven the attention of the Prime Minister to the fact that as early as now the MacInvest, the Macedonian analogy to the CzechInvest, should prepare territories, space and investments, or the space for investments with higher added value, investments to advanced technologies, because they are more stable, of course. I think that this certain kind of Irish way could be described in a different manner - more decisive tax-cutting, support of foreign investments, and in case it is accompanied by innovation support, science and research and the entire educational support, then it will be a successful reform.

Martin Schmarcz, Head of the Press Department of the Office of the Government: Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for your attention.

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