Six Days in Macedonia
After almost one week in Macedonia (or Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, F.Y.R.M.), I am now in Tirana, Albania, since yesterday. One of my colleagues asked me today what my impression of Macedonia was after these days, and if I recognize things from Moldova. I don’t. Not really anyway. Certain things that I have seen especially in my work are of course similar, like limited available resources and the lack of capacity in certain institutions. Yet from the little that I saw of the country, to me Macedonia seems to be quite typical EU and seem to fit in well in the EU template in terms of Brussels’ ideas of what is “European”. Comparing it to Moldova makes me realize how far to the East Moldova really is, but it also makes me realize how far to the East Sweden really is. While these typical core European attributes that I saw in Macedonia also exists in Sweden, it is only because we up north for the past 30 years have been eager to adapt what we call continental habits, and not because they are traditionally part of the Swedish culture. Instead, I recognize much more in the Moldovan society from how I grew up and how things were when the Swedish model was formed. Which is probably one of the reasons why I have felt so at home in Moldova.
Anyway, I really liked Macedonia and I enjoyed working with both my colleagues on the team and my counterparts in the Ministries and Government institutions. As almost everyone speaks English, communication has been very easy, which always facilitates work and makes things more relaxed. The project that I work with focuses on supporting Macedonia to prepare its institutions for the EU’s pre-accession financing and for EU trade, in this case for the agricultural sector. And it is difficult not to be an EU enthusiast when seeing how much effort that goes in to these preparations and how important this membership is. Macedonia is an EU candidate country and in every government office, there is an EU flag next to the Macedonian. And it is not so difficult to understand why, especially not for a small country recently struck by conflict like Macedonia. In the nearest future, the EU of course represents a lot of financial support and additional budget resources, as well as new access to markets and opportunities for the country’s economy. And probably a sense of belonging instead of polarization.
On our way to Albania yesterday, we stopped for lunch at beautiful Lake Ohrid. So not only work this week.