Information about relations between the EU and the country: political, economic and trade relations, civil society dialogue, and assistance, including in the context of Covid-19. 

Political Relations

The country was the first in the Western Balkans to sign a Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA) with the EU, which entered into force in April 2004. The SAA aims to liberalise trade for 95% of exports to the EU. 

The Joint Parliamentary Committee was established in 2004. The Committee looks at all aspects of relations between the EU and the Republic of North Macedonia, particularly the implementation of the SAA. 

The country was granted candidate status for EU membership in December 2005. Citizens of the country were granted visa-free travel to the Schengen area in December 2009. 

In March 2020, the European Council endorsed the decision to open accession negotiations with North Macedonia.

Economic and Trade Relations

The EU is North Macedonia’s main trading partner, accounting for 77.5% of the country's exports and 51% of its imports. Germany is the biggest trading partner of the country, followed by Great Britain, Serbia, China and Greece. 

Exports from the country are centred around a few products, the most important being: ferronickel alloys, iron and steel, and textiles. 

The main imports are crude oil, electricity, flat-rolled iron and steel products, and vehicles. 

Support for business 

Some of the EU’s key programmes and initiatives to support the growth of businesses and the wider economy are open to companies based in the Republic of North Macedonia, including: 

  • Horizon Europe 2021-2027 (the EU’s key funding programme for research and innovation with a budget of €95.5 billion).
  • Access2Markets (portal for EU export and import, providing all tariffs, customs procedures and formalities, product requirements for the EU market).
  • Grow your business (subsidised advisory services to companies).
  • Enterprise Europe Network (information and advice to companies on EU matters).

Civil Society

Civil society organisations support the authorities of North Macedonia in implementing the structural reforms on the accession path. They mobilise citizens, voice peoples’ concerns, channel communities’ energy in support of sustainable development.  

The EU listens to civil society, works with civil society and advocates for the enhanced role of civil society organisations in the country’s sector-based policy dialogue.  

The EU also provides financial assistance to civil society projects through the Instrument for Pre-accession (IPA). The EU established the Civil Society Facility in 2008 to support the development of civil society in South Eastern Europe, and help them: 

  • Play an active role in the policy dialogue, and support the accession process at the community level.
  • Mobilise citizens and communities in finding local solutions and in running social inclusion initiatives.
  • Engage with promotion of human, social and environmental rights.
  • Be an effective watchdog in monitoring the government-driven structural reforms.
  • Develop cross-border projects and networks. 

In the period 2014-2020, the EU provided EUR 24.3 million for projects of the civil society organisations in North Macedonia.  

EU Assistance

The Republic of North Macedonia wants to become a member of the EU. To help achieve this goal, the EU provides continuous support and financial assistance via projects so that the country can undertake any necessary reforms. 

The Instrument for Pre-accession (IPA) is the main EU financing instrument to support the structural reforms in North Macedonia and the country’s accession path. Since 2007, the EU invested €1.3 billion, through the national IPA envelope, in five key areas: 

Rule of law and fundamental rights 

  • Democracy and good governance.
  • Protection of the environment and sustainable connectivity.
  • Economic growth and human capital.
  • Agriculture and rural development. 

The country benefits also from the IPA Multi-beneficiary Programme, which allocated EU assistance of €2.98 billion in 2014-2020 supporting projects with regional impact for the Western Balkans. 

The EU Western Balkan Investment Facility (WBIF) supports North Macedonia in implementing 23 projects for the overall value of €2.1 billion. The EU investments channeled to North Macedonia reached €163.2 million and cover technical assistance and investment works. The EU investments had an important leverage effect, bringing to the country a total of 181.8 million in grants, and €580 million in preferential loans.  

In addition, the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR) has provided € 8.1 million for projects enhancing democracy and human rights in the period 2007-2020. 

Technical Assistance and Information Exchange (TAIEX) 

The EU also offers support through the TAIEX, which helps partner countries become acquainted with, apply and enforce EU laws. 

TAIEX funds short-term technical assistance, advice and training. 

TAIEX assistance is open to: 

  • Civil servants.
  • Judiciary and law enforcement authorities. 
  • Parliaments/legislative bodies and their staff. 
  • Professional/commercial associations, workers and employers' groups. 
  • Translators and revisers of legislative texts. 

In addition, the TAIEX Local Administration Facility (LAF) supports seminars on key EU policies which have an impact at a local level for both elected members and permanent officials of local and regional authorities. 

COVID-19 Support

Since the start of the pandemic, the EU has provided to the country 241 million euros. The EU supported urgent assistance for healthcare (over 25 ventilators, 35,000 pieces of medical equipment and over 2 million pieces of personal protective equipment), delivery of vaccines and other medical equipment. This amount also includes 64 million euros in grants and 160 million euros in favourable loans to mitigate the socio-economic consequences of the pandemic and help save jobs.