Macedonia has come a long way in its transition process since the disintegration of Yugoslavia. Important reforms have been launched, setting the country on the path of successful transition towards a democratic society and a free market economy. The country managed to resolve the armed conflict between the main ethnic communities in 2001 with the exemplary Ohrid Framework Agreement, which led to a consistent decentralisation process. Nevertheless, rule of law and democratic election processes still fall short of meeting European standards. Economic reforms have started to gain momentum since mid-2000, but the recent global economic crisis has started to hit Macedonia severely. The unemployment rate is among the highest in Europe, and reforms have not yet succeeded in alleviating the widespread poverty. The driving force behind the country's development agenda is the prospect of integration into the European Union and the NATO.
Switzerland has been providing support to Macedonia since 1992. Initially this covered a wide range of topics: contributions to settle Macedonia's arrears with the World Bank, policy development with the Macedonian government, projects on conflict resolution, infrastructure programmes in the fields of hydroelectricity, water and sanitation, trade facilitation and investment support. Alongside the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation SDC and the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs SECO, Political Division IV plays an important role. The activities of the agencies are closely coordinated so as to optimise the effectiveness and visibility of Swiss contributions.
In the period from 2005 to 2008, the Swiss Cooperation Programme was built on three domains of interventions: Democratic Governance, Sound Economic Development and Basic Infrastructure/Social Services. As a continuation and reflection of the country development, the SDC and SECO Cooperation Strategy 2009 - 2012 was aligned to Macedonia's strategic orientation and documents and has been designed to focus and consolidate Swiss cooperation in Macedonia. The overall aim was to support the Macedonian transition and European integration process by contributing to improvements in the area of rule of law and democracy and water and environment. The new Cooperation Strategy 2013 – 2016 builds on continuity and capitalization of past experience as well as innovation, taking context changes into account. It focuses on a limited number of thematic domains where Swiss expertise is available and where effective interventions can contribute to fulfilling important needs. In broad terms, Switzerland will maintain support under the two existing domains of intervention, while support to economic development will be added as a third domain. The overall goal of this Cooperation Strategy is that Switzerland supports Macedonian’s transition towards a socially-inclusive market economy and democratic political system in views of its European integration.
The thematic portfolio focuses on three domains of interventions:
- Democratic Governance and Decentralization,
- Economic Development and
All three domains of intervention offer potential for synergies between the relevant Swiss federal offices, geographically as well as content wise. Interventions will also benefit from interactions with Swiss regional and global programmes.
Good governance and gender are transversal themes under Swiss cooperation programmes worldwide, including Macedonia. Swiss interventions will therefore continue to integrate gender and governance as crosscutting issues in the analysis, implementation and monitoring/evaluation of its programmes and projects in all domains. In the economic domain, to reduce gender gaps, targeted initiatives to empower women will be designed and implemented.
Similarly, Switzerland will uphold its commitment to governance as a transversal subject. Besides its sectoral governance programmes, the focus will be on the principles of transparency, accountability and participation. The latter will specifically address the improvement of inter-ethnic relations.
Regional cooperation is an essential element of the Cooperation Strategy in terms of solving region-specific problems through cooperation between countries. With this new Cooperation Strategy for Macedonia, support to regional organisations, such as the Network of Associations of Local Governance will be further provided. Also, in partnership with other international development partners and in areas related to the domains of the present Strategy, initiatives promoting innovative ideas and the exchange of knowledge at a regional level will be supported.
In addition, Macedonia participates in long-standing regional programmes in the fields of research, science and police cooperation and a recently launched programme on Roma inclusion which complements the regional portfolio.