France and Macedonia

France and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia

Political relations

France opened a “general delegation” in Skopje in March 1993 and officially recognized the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia on 27 December 1993. An ambassador was appointed there on 31 March 1994.

France has supported the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia continuously since its independence and played an important role during the crisis of 2001. France was closely involved in negotiating the Ohrid Framework Agreement, which put an end to the conflict, through two Special Representatives of the European Union, Mr François Léotard then Mr Alain Le Roy. The reform of the Constitution was led by Mr Robert Badinter. France confirmed its commitment to the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia as a “framework nation” of the military mission “Concordia”, to which it contributed 40% of the staff and which was under French command for six months, then as the largest contributor to the police mission “Proxima” which replaced it. Our country set up a stabilization fund in 2001 to support the transition to the rule of law. This fund, which has been channelled successively towards European integration and civil society, has enabled us to continue developing a bilateral project framework.
Bilateral political relations between our two countries are strong and regular.

  • The President of the French Republic received Mr Nikola Gruevski, Prime Minister of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, on 13 May 2009. In November 2009, Mr Naumovski, Deputy Prime Minister for European Integration, was received by Mr Pierre Lellouche.
  • Mr Nikola Poposki, Minister of Foreign Affairs, met with Mr Jean Léonetti, Minister for European Affairs, on 6 December 2011 in Vilnius, alongside the OSCE ministerial meeting.
  • Mr Bernard Cazeneuve, Minister Delegate for European Affairs, met with Ms Teuta Arifi, Deputy Prime Minister for European Integration, in Paris on 30 November 2012. Mr Fatmir Besimi, Deputy Prime Minister for European Affairs, visited France on 5 June 2013.
  • On 25 July 2013, alongside the meeting of Heads of State of the Western Balkans held in Brdo in Slovenia with France as guest of honour, the President of the French Republic, Mr François Hollande, met with Mr Gjorge Ivanov, President of the Republic of Macedonia.
  • Mr Ali Ahmeti, leader of the Democratic Union for Integration (DUI), the Albanian party in the Macedonian coalition government, was received at the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs and had a meeting on 4 October 2013 with Mr Fabien Penone at the Diplomatic Unit of the Presidency of the French Republic.
  • The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Nikola Poposki, visited Paris on 25 November 2013. He met with Mr Laurent Fabius. On 25 July 2014, Mr Nikola Poposki met with Mr Harlem Désir, Minister of State for European Affairs, at the meeting of Heads of State of the Western Balkans in Dubrovnik.
  • Mr Fatmir Besimi, Deputy Prime Minister for European Affairs, visited Paris on 2 and 3 December 2014. He met with Mr Harlem Désir, Minister of State for European Affairs.
  • Ms Ana Blazeska, the State Secretary for European Affairs, was also received by Mr Harlem Désir on 7 April 2015. She was also received at the Continental Europe Directorate on 3 December 2015.
  • Mr Fatmir Besimi, Deputy Prime Minister for European Affairs, was received at the Minister of Foreign Affairs on 27 May 2015 during his visit to Paris.
    The Macedonian Prime Minister, Mr Nikola Gruevski, visited Paris from 25 to 27 June 2015 to attend the business forum organized by the Embassy of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia in Paris, as a guest of honour. On this occasion, he met with Senator Alain Richard, the Special Representative for Economic Diplomacy in the Balkans.

In terms of French ministerial visits, the Minister of State for European Affairs, Mr Pierre Lellouche, visited Skopje in July 2010 and met with all of the country’s main political leaders.

The Minister of State for Veterans and Remembrance, Mr Jean-Marc Todeschini, visited the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia on 11 and 12 March 2015 during a tour of the Eastern Front. He laid the first stone of a museum in Bitola, a city in the south of the country where many French soldiers killed in the First World War are buried.

The Minister of State for European Affairs, Mr Harlem Désir, visited the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia on 2 September 2015. He met with the President of the Republic, Mr Gjorge Ivanov, the Prime Minister, Mr Nikola Gruevski, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Nikola Poposki and the leader of the opposition, Mr Zoran Zaev, among others. He also visited the migrant reception and healthcare centre run by the Macedonian Red Cross and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) at the northern border with Serbia.

In 2011, a delegation from the France-Western Balkans interparliamentary friendship group of the French Senate visited Skopje from 20 to 22 April.

More recent visits include:

• Mr Jean-David Ciot, deputy for the 14th constituency of the Bouches-du-Rhône department and a member of the defence and armed forces committee of the French National Assembly, visited Skopje and Bitola from 7 to 10 November 2013.
• Mr Pierre-Yves Le Borgn’, a deputy for French nationals abroad, visited Skopje from 12 to 14 June 2014.
• Mr Philippe Duron, deputy for the 1st constituency of the Calvados department and chair of the France-Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia friendship group at the French National Assembly, visited Skopje from 10 to 15 July 2015.
Website of the French Embassy in Skopje

Economic relations

Bilateral trade and French investments remain very limited, as shown by our market share of less than 2%. As there are no major contracts, our trade with this country largely consists of basic goods.

Trade between the two countries is limited

After falling by 10.6% in 2012, French trade with the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia rebounded in 2013 (20.4%) and 2014 (13.3%) to reach €88.5 million. Imports and exports rose in 2013 and 2014. France is the country’s 17th-largest supplier and 23rd-largest customer.

French exports to the country rose by 13.4% in 2014 to reach €50 million.
Our main export is pharmaceuticals. This industry accounted for one third of French exports to the country in 2013.

French equipment exports rose by 6% in 2013, accounting for 20% of total exports to the country.

French imports from the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia totalled €39 million in 2014, which was an increase of 15% compared with 2013.
France had a trade surplus of €11 million with this country in 2014.

Our foreign direct investment (FDI) is limited but growing

According to the National Bank of the Republic of Macedonia (NBRM), French FDI stock totalled €30.3 million in 2014, making France the country’s 22nd-largest investor. It has dropped significantly since 2013 (€137.2 million), following disinvestment recorded by the NBRM in 2014. Figures from the Banque de France show that stock has stagnated at around €25 million since 2010, rising to €27.4 million in 2013.

According to the Banque de France, French FDI stock is mainly concentrated in the fields of financial activities and insurance (80.1% of stock, a decrease compared with 2012), commerce (8.8%) and property (3.9%). The main French investor is Société Générale, via Ohridska Banka (€22 million).

Société Générale has been established in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia since it took over Ohridska Banka, an investment which formed the basis for most French FDI in this country. Mr Bricolage opened a point of sale in March 2012 (Bulgarian investor) and Carrefour opened a supermarket in October 2012 (Greek investor). Lactalis also has a dairy plant (Ideal Šipka), via the Croatian group Dukat. Aéroports de Paris Management (ADPM) is indirectly present through its stake in TAV, which operates the airports of Skopje and Orhid. Publicis has also been present for several years and a number of French companies have a regional branch based in this country, such as Alcatel-Lucent, Freyssinet Balkans and APAVE.
A Franco-Macedonian business forum was set up on the initiative of our Embassy in Skopje. Its first meeting, on 16 May 2013, brought together some forty entrepreneurs and partners involved in Franco-Macedonian economic relations, the Regional Economic Service (SER) and Ubifrance.

A business meeting was held in Paris on 8 July 2013 by Ubifrance to mobilize French companies.

Senator Alain Richard, the Special Representative for Economic Diplomacy in the Balkans, visited Skopje on 24 October 2013 for the second meeting of the forum and for a meeting on the digital economy organized by Ubifrance.
An information session on the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia was held on 2 September 2014 at MEDEF International and the third meeting of the Franco-Macedonian business forum was held in Skopje on 20 November 2014.

Cultural, scientific and technical cooperation

Our bilateral cooperation is carried out under the Cultural, Scientific and Technical Cooperation Agreement signed between our two countries on 29 January 1998. It is structured around three priorities: strengthening the rule of law and supporting good governance, training the elite, and promoting the French language and culture, with the aim of supporting this country in its rapprochement with the European Union.
Our administrative cooperation has targeted problems relating to State reform and European issues, in order to better support the process of European integration, as public administration reform is central to many chapters of the acquis.
The attraction of elite students is supported through a scholarship programme for Master’s students and PhD students under joint supervision (a dozen per year), with a special focus on sciences. In addition, information is circulated on other sources of funding, including European programmes, that enable studying abroad at French establishments. Currently, around 150 Macedonians are studying in France, which ranks as the eighth most popular host country.

Cultural and linguistic action is led by the Institut Français in Skopje - which was inaugurated in 1974, making it the oldest active foreign cultural institute - and the two Alliance Française branches in Bitola and Tetovo. The Embassy is increasing the focus on French teaching with the development of bilingual secondary schools: there is a network of seven bilingual sections in secondary schools, where French is taught in depth and one or two other subjects are taught in French. The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia became a fully-fledged member of the International Organisation of La Francophonie at the Bucharest summit in 2006.

Other cooperation

Three French cities are twinned with cities in this country: Epinal with Bitola (1968), Dijon with Skopje (1961) and Roubaix with Skopje (1973).

There has been decentralized cooperation with the Basse-Normandie region since 2006. The agreement between the Macedonian government and the region for the third triennium of cooperation was signed in Skopje in September 2013, with additional funding of around €700,000 provided by the region and €360,000 by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, for the period 2013-2016.

This highly successful cooperation consists of initiatives in areas such as tourism, heritage and technical cooperation, through a territorial network and direct twinning between cities.

The third triennium has seen the introduction of an annual call for civil society projects and the Strategic Policy Committee decided in October 2014 to launch another call for projects extending over a two-year period.

Lastly, the Basse-Normandie region has launched a large-scale remembrance project on the Eastern Front, for the period 2015-2018, to pay tribute to the 70,000 soldiers who died for France on the territory of what is now the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. The project will include travelling exhibitions and work to enhance remembrance tourism, such as the creation of a museum in Bitola.

Updated : 17.03.2016