Intra-Balkan economic relations are especially important for Bulgaria and Macedonia considering their peripheral location in Europe. Therefore, the creation and implementation of a regional cooperation policy, involving development of economic and cross-border relations, is a winning solution for both countries. This can partly solve the challenges that businesses in the border regions are facing, including narrow internal market demand, low level of capital stock and difficulties related to exports, as well as high level of unemployment especially among young people.A cross-border survey (Dimitrov, 2003, Todorov, 2011), showed that local authorities as well as agencies and chambers representing businesses can be most helpful in developing cross-border relations and stimulating regional activity in border regions. One of those activities is providing assistance in terms of information on export opportunities, aiding companies in establishing contacts with partners from border regions in neighbouring countries, as well as training qualifying local firms in managerial skills. The main common benefits deriving from CBC will be fostering economic and trade relations, encouraging the creation and development of cooperation networks on both sides of the border, as well as establishing links between these networks with wider EU regions. It can be expected that the implementation of this project will be the bases for the evolution of CB relations within the two countries, which will change the structure of business activities from an environment where strong trade relations prevail to one where the production of goods and services is more important. The project will map innovation potential of companies in CB region, it will analyse what is the current system of support for companies in the area of C&I and it will provide training on C&I issues to selected companies, business support organizations and C&I support institutions.
The Macedonian (MK) North-East region and the Kyustendil district in Bulgaria (BG) are among the least developed regions in the respective countries. There are several strategies and action plans for fostering greater employability, regional competitiveness and SMEs’ development in both countries. However, in the stated regions, there are no direct benefits resulting from the realisation of these strategies and action plans. There are insufficient links between the local administration and businesses which would facilitate and support the cross-border economic cooperation. The aim of this project is to improve the competitiveness and innovation (C&I) of local firms which will be achieved by developing mutually beneficial CBC between BG & MK firms. Specifically, this CBC project will:
- Conduct situational analysis of competitiveness and innovation (C&I) of local firms.
- Define knowledge gaps related to C&I within the firms, but also within public administration, business support organizations, etc. Identify C&I good practices in the CB regions based on World Bank methodology.
- Build capacities in the area of business and competitiveness development, entrepreneurship and innovation management.
- Implement innovation management tools in pilot companies to foster fundraising and development new products/services.
- Provide recommendations and an action plan for development of capacities for C&I in CBC region.