Key aspects of bilateral relations include the political development of the Republic of North Macedonia following independence, Germany’s role as the country’s leading cooperation partner and the close personal ties forged by the approximately 95,000 nationals of the Republic of North Macedonia living in Germany. A cornerstone of German policy towards the Republic of North Macedonia is supporting the country’s integration into the Euro-Atlantic structures and the reforms that this requires, especially as regards the rule of law.
Germany maintains a lively exchange with North Macedonia both bilaterally and multilaterally. There are numerous cooperation programmes and projects being implemented with the Government of the FYR of Macedonia and the country’s civil society, – for example through the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), the German Foundation for International Legal Cooperation (IRZ) and the Civil Peace Service (CPS). The Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung and the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung both have offices in Skopje.
For many years, there have been lively town twinning arrangements between the capital of the FYR of Macedonia, Skopje, and the German cities of Nuremberg and Dresden.
Economic relations and development cooperation
Germany is the Republic of North Macedonia’s most important trading partner. Germany remains its main export market, with 47 percent of the country’s goods exports going to Germany, while also accounting for the largest share of the country’s imports. Germany’s main exports to the FYR of Macedonia are semi-finished products for the textile industry and the car and commercial vehicle sectors. Germany’s main imports from the FYR of Macedonia are contract-manufactured vehicle components (catalytic converters and electronic dashboard instruments), textiles, sheet iron and steel, as well as food products. In 2016, bilateral trade was worth some 2.9 billion euros, with German exports to the FYR of Macedonia totalling approximately 930 million euros, and German imports from the FYR of Macedonia around 2 billion euros. This resulted in a remarkable trade surplus for the FYR of Macedonia, stemming mainly from contract-processing work in the vehicle components sector.
There has been a Delegate Office of German Industry and Commerce in Skopje since 2017. More than 200 companies with German capital operate in the FYR of Macedonia. These firms employ more than 15,000 people. The bilateral business association has 200 members, making it the largest of its kind in the country.
Germany also plays a leading role in bilateral development cooperation, which, however, has been gradually phased out since 2005, when the FYR of Macedonia was granted EU candidate status. As part of financial and technical cooperation, Germany has, since 1992, made available or made concrete commitments of 368 million euros to the Republic of North Macedonia in the form of grants or low-interest loans through the Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau (KfW). Cooperation focuses on environmentally friendly infrastructure projects (particularly focusing on hydroelectric power and wind energy, water supply, waste management and nature conservation), strengthening social infrastructure through municipal projects and supporting the development of a market economy, particularly by promoting small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), modernising agriculture and aligning legislation with EU standards.
Cultural relations between Germany and the FYR of Macedonia are based on the cultural cooperation agreement signed on 16 October 1997.
On account of the country’s wide-ranging political and economic relations with Germany, there is considerable interest in the German language. There has been a positive trend as regards learning German as a foreign language. German is the second-most-studied foreign language in the Republic of North Macedonia. English remains the first foreign language. There is no German school in the country. However, the Goethe-Institut oversees a network of 12 primary schools at which German is taught from year one onwards.
As part of the Schools: Partners for the Future initiative (PASCH), three grammar schools are also supported and supervised by the Central Agency for Schools Abroad (ZfA) with a seconded German teacher. At the grammar schools, two internationally recognised, standardised language examinations are held at levels A2/B1 and B2/C1 of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR). The German Language Certificate I (DSD I) and German Language Certificate II (DSD II) of the Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs can be obtained by pupils as proof of their knowledge of German.
In great demand are the scholarships awarded by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), which has an office at the Ss. Cyril and Methodius University in Skopje. The office is staffed by a seconded lector.
In addition, every year the International Parliamentary Scholarships (IPS) programme gives two or three university graduates the opportunity to spend a few months working in the Berlin office of a Member of the German Bundestag in order to experience how the Bundestag works.
DAAD and IPS alumni are organised in networks and meet regularly.
The Goethe-Institut supports the cultural programme work of four cultural societies in Skopje, Bitola and Tetovo. In 2016, it introduced its own language courses and examinations for the first time. The demand is high. The German Reading Room at the National and University Library “St. Kliment Ohridski” has been in existence for 22 years.
For the past 12 years, the German Embassy has organised a film festival and screened new German films in ten cities throughout the country. In coordination with the Goethe-Institut, it supports exchange with German artists, organises exhibitions and concerts and, as part of Franco-German cultural cooperation, conducts projects in third countries together with the French Embassy, the Institut Français and the Franco-German Youth Office (FGYO).
Priority topics are promoting interethnic coexistence between the majority Population and the Albanian and other minorities, promoting vocational training and supporting youth exchange among the countries of the Western Balkans.