On September 15, 2017, REC Executive Director Mihail Dimovski and Director of REC Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia Igor Slakovski took part in three meetings in Skopje.
The first meeting was at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, where the pair were welcomed by Minister of Foreign Affairs Nikola Dimitrov. The purpose of the meeting was to present the operational activity of the REC and its local country office, and to showcase major REC projects and initiatives that have been or are being carried out in the region — especially those related to aspects of European integration. The REC also presented recent project proposals that it has submitted for funding to the Embassy of Norway and other resource partners for implementation in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. Areas for further cooperation with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs were also discussed during the meeting.
The countries of the EU enlargement are an important focus of the mission and operation of the REC, and in line with its organisation’s strategy for 2016–2020, the REC implements results-based activities in countries that are grouped on the basis of environmental problems, political status and funding opportunities. The ‘environment’ dimension entails a wide array of intertwined actions, including: knowledge transfer; experimental showcase projects; and awareness-raising in the fields of agriculture, forestry, water use and energy use. The wide stakeholder and beneficiary base includes individual farmers, cooperatives, public and private companies and operators, local municipalities, community-based organisations and associations, and media.
In the interest of strengthening cooperating between the Rec and the U.S. government, Mr Dimovski and Mr Slakovski held two scheduled meetings later in the day, the first at the U.S Embassy in Skopje with Economic Chief Levi R. Smylie, and the second at the office of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) with Steven Burns, Chief of Energy and Infrastructure, Europe and Eurasia at USAID.
The main objectives of the meetings were:
- to present the operational activity of the REC and the projects and programmes that have been supported by the U.S. government;
- to gain an understanding of the U.S. government agenda for aid and investment; and
- (with USAID) to discuss the progress of implementation of the LEDS-EEP project and to discuss future project-related actions.
The Government of the United States is one of the founding entities of the REC, along with the Government of Hungary and the European Commission, and is thus a cornerstone in the establishment and development over the course of more than 25 years. The U.S., as a signatory country to the Charter of the REC, is represented in the General Assembly of the REC by Anna Phillips, Program Manager for Europe at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA), and also in the REC Board of Directors by Jennifer Orme-Zavaleta, Director of the National Exposure Research Laboratory at the US EPA. Having a wide regional outreach through its head office, country offices and expert teams, the REC has proved to be a flexible and easily adaptable mechanism, providing a clear reference to—and recognition of—the priorities of the U.S. government in the region and towards the international community.
REC cooperation with USAID dates to the year 2000 and the project “Quick-Response Activities: Follow-up to the Baia Mare Cyanide Spill” and continues up to the present day through joint implementation of the LEDS-EEP project, part of a wider USAID initiative to address climate change challenges and promote the transition to low carbon economies worldwide by creating regional Low Emission Development Strategies (LEDS) platforms. The LEDS-EEP project aims at creating a community of practitioners promoting and implementing LEDS across the Europe and Eurasia region, specifically targeting Albania, Armenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, Kosovo*, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Moldova, Serbia and Ukraine.
* This designation is without prejudice to positions on status, and is in line with UNSCR 1244 and the ICJ Opinion on the Kosovo declaration of independence.