ACM: You were recently appointed Director of the Macedonian Customs Administration. Please tell us about your professional background and your first impressions as you assume this role.

I came to the position of Customs Administration Director General with extensive work experience that I gained over many years working in a variety of fields of economy. Most of my work experience so far was in the private sector, that is, working for private companies in the area of production and trade, where I had the opportunity to directly take part in and get familiarized with customs procedures. I think this experience was very important for me and will help to jointly overcome the daily challenges that stakeholders in customs procedures face.

Considering the key role Customs plays in protecting the financial interests of the state, public life and health, but also protecting the national economy by maintaining and improving the conditions for competitive business environment, its Director General holds a very responsible position that requires sincere committed to transparency, accountability and consistency when dealing with numerous challenges, particularly such that we’ve unfortunately been facing the last ten years. The goal must be to achieve the right balance between protecting the state financial interests on one hand, and facilitating, accelerating and simplifying customs and excise procedures, that is reducing of costs and increasing Macedonia’s competitiveness, on the other. All this will prepare us to efficiently function within the European Union. The challenges are certainly great, but I am confident that we can meet them with teams of professional, dedicated and hardworking people.

ACM: At a recent town hall-style meeting with representatives of the local business community, a number of longstanding issues (e.g., inconsistent application of policies, lack of instructional materials to help Customs users, low-level corruption) were raised. Which of these issues is the highest priority and what do you and your team plan to do to address them?

That meeting was organized toward opening new channels for communication and cooperation with all Customs stakeholders. The purpose of the event was to openly discuss the daily challenges that the direct participants in customs procedures face during their work and to hear suggestions how we can create competitive economic environment together with our users. The meeting was held in the Customs’ amphitheatre and was attended by great number of representatives from the association of freight forwarders, the association of transporters, several chambers of commerce, and businessmen from several fields. They pointed out that much should be done to eradicate corruption, improve control tools, and accelerate customs procedures. They also gave other suggestions and views for improvement. I use this opportunity to publicly thank all participants for the constructive discussion and to emphasize Customs’ and my personal commitment to organize many more direct meetings of this type, to help improve our work and to make a breakthrough in our cooperation.

Along that line, I would add that Customs must commit itself to increasing trust with its users, thereby eradicating corruption and developing strategies, procedures and methods to facilitate the flow of trade in line with the legislation and the legitimate needs of the business community.

What matters most in that process is to provide conditions and set up standards for efficient execution of our duties and tasks, thus directing our efforts toward improving our institutional and administrative capacity to facilitate, accelerate and simplify customs and excise procedures. We will also focus on enhancing risk-analysis based controls, the vigorous development of information and communications support, and strengthening our human resources management, including performance and accountability measurement mechanisms. We will do our best to provide the best service to citizens, economic operators and the State, in accordance with domestic and international standards and best practices.

A very important segment I want to emphasize will be the introduction of a new customs declarations processing software, which has been long awaited. Our sincere commitment and top priority will be the implementation of the new software that will replace the existing ASYCUDA system thus eliminating long delays, interruptions and disconnections that prevent the timely submission of customs declarations. The new software should contribute significantly to the improvement and facilitation of customs operations and the introduction of a paperless customs environment. I expect the simplified procedures to be revised as soon as possible, to allow economic operators that produce and export to work 24 hours per day, seven days per week.

ACM: How do you plan to ensure continued, open dialogue with company representatives going forward?

Cooperation with economic actors – which has been neglected by the institutions in recent years – must be built on sound foundations. I am firmly committed to reorienting Customs to serve as an institution that contributes to economic development. Our main focus is accountability and transparency, so our efforts in future will be directed towards advancing the work of the Advisory Council, maintaining direct contacts with representatives of the business community, regular and constructive monthly meetings that will include progress reports. In this way, we’ll encourage constructive feedback from users, including criticism or suggestions with respect to our work, their proposals and ideas, and their opinions on how certain projects and measures are implemented in practice. In particular, in the past two months, we held a work meeting with representatives from the Textile Cluster, meat processing companies, the Pork Producers Association from the Economic Chamber of Macedonia, the Macedonian-Turkish Chamber of Commerce, the Association of Freight Forwarders, the Association of Transporters, representatives from several chambers of commerce, as well as businessmen from several areas. These meetings allowed exchange of experiences on current topics and issues in commercial operations aimed at promoting cooperation and dealing with challenges.

In the future we plan to organize workshops, presentations and work meetings in other cities across Macedonia toward meeting with as many economic operators and business sector representatives as possible to directly and openly raise questions and proposals for future measures and projects.

AmChamMacedonia Issue 55 - fall 2017