A conference was held discussing the tax and customs policy of the countries in the region, with a focus on the three countries – North Macedonia, Serbia, and Albania. The conference was organized by the Association for Research and Analysis ZMAI, and supported by the Open Society Foundation – Macedonia. According to the research, the free movement of goods and services and the development of regional economies are closely related to the tax and customs systems of the countries.

During the conference, the findings from the Analysis of the tax and customs systems of the three countries were presented. Special emphasis was placed on the recommendations for improving the tax and customs systems of the countries, with the aim of enabling more successful regional integration. This is an important step if the countries want to move towards the European Union and one day become part of the free market.

For the first time at such an event, the main researcher, former Finance Minister Prof. Dragan Tevdovski, spoke. According to him, the countries in the region must create policies that will mean investment in human capital. He proposes an exit from the so-called “race to the bottom”, where direct taxes and policies that will attract highly qualified staff are created. Increasing migration will require countries to invest more in human capital.

Tax expert Pavle Gatsov noted that the main battle of the states from the region should be the gray economy. It enables unfair competition and slows down the development of the private sector and human capital. According to Gatsov, the gray economy is best reduced by encouraging transactions in cash and reducing cash payments. These measures are already working in almost all European countries that have been successful in the fight against the gray economy.

Ksenia Popović Kocevski, a researcher from ZMAI, said that there are several segments that could be improved in the field of customs policies. One of them is the complete without paperwork, i.e., the digitization of all internal and external customs processes. In this way, the possibility of bribery and corruption would be reduced, and the operation at the borders would be simplified and accelerated. Regarding the reduction of customs duties and barriers, she says that we should move towards their removal. However, it is crucial that protective mechanisms are removed jointly, by all countries in the region.

From the side of the institutions and business sector, the director of UJP Ms. Sanja Lukarevska, the president of the Chamber of Commerce at SSK Mr. Sasho Dukovski, and the adviser to the director of Customs Mr. Mitko Dimitrovski, addressed.

After the addresses, a fruitful discussion was opened with those present in the areas of improving regional integration and the role of tax and customs systems in the countries of the Western Balkans.