North Macedonia became a member of the Central European Trade Agreement (CEFTA) in 2000. In December 2006 CEFTA expanded to include Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia (Note: in 2013 Croatia joined the EU and left CEFTA), Kosovo, North Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, and Serbia. North Macedonia has additional Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) with Turkey and Ukraine. In February 2001 North Macedonia signed a Stabilization and Association Agreement (SAA) with the European Union (EU), and in December 2005 the European Union granted candidate status to the country. A critical component of the SAA is a preferential trade agreement that allows products from North Macedonia to enter the European Union duty free. The agreement also provides for a gradual reduction of duty rates for European Union products entering North Macedonia. The EU gave its formal approval to begin accession talks with North Macedonia in March 2020 and launched the first phase of accession talks with the country in July 2022.
North Macedonia, Serbia, and Albania rebranded the “mini-Schengen” proposal as the “Open Balkan” initiative at the Economic Forum on Regional Cooperation held in July 2021 in Skopje. Member countries have signed several tripartite agreements to facilitate imports and exports of goods, offer free access to the labor market, and mutual recognition of laboratory tests and certificates from the three countries. The Green Lanes at the border crossings between these three countries could reduce wait times for goods and allow customs formalities to be performed at the final destination in the importing country.