In the context of globalization, the contest to attract and retain mobile capital and labor has led to suggestions that localities and regions are now in direct competition with each other. The existence of such territorial competition has focused attention on the competiveness of local and regional economies as institutions try to provide the conditions that will attract and embed investment. In the field of local and regional economic development, Macedonia aspires to achieve sustainable development and capacity building of institutions at regional and local level to integrate and access the EU and NATO.
Local economic development (LED) became a new competence for municipalities in the country with the process of decentralization and the new legislation on local-self government passed in 2002. Decentralization is a key topic in the Western Balkan Countries in light of the enlargement perspective and the multilevel institutional architecture adopted in many European Countries for the management of structural funds. All municipalities in the country have created LED departments which are charged with the task of promoting economic development at local level. These new bodies are still young and face many challenges in reaching full operational capacity and building strong and coherent programmatic strategies. In general, work in the area of local development is still an uncharted territory for the many actors involved. The NBE has been engaged in direct cooperation with LED departments and other local development actors in Macedonia, with the aim of enhancing their understanding of the theoretical underpinnings as well as programmatic challenges in local development work.
Regional development has become an area of strong priority in recent years, especially in connection to the process of Macedonia’s EU integration. The government has established 8 administrative regions; the parliament has passed a Law on Balanced Regional Development in 2007; a National Strategy on Regional Development has been adopted in 2009; new Centers for Regional Development have been created in the 8 regions, as foreseen by the 2007 law. The capacity building of the bodies responsible for Regional Development remains a challenge for the period to come.
The NBE Foundation places the emphasis on the education of the general public for developing environmental awareness and promotes the idea of sustainable development and regional and local integration under the EU standards, Macedonia being a candidate country. In this way NBE aims to draw public attention on the neglected and underdeveloped sectors of agribusiness and tourism by showing that such activities can be profitable, lucrative and can reduce unemployment. NBE participated in establishing a collaboration between policymakers and the other stakeholders from different regions thus accelerating the EU integration process for Macedonia. NBE and IBF aim to establish new modular multiple studies and training courses for all generations in the field of sustainable agriculture, forestry and rural development, and sustainable tourism and rural development. In the field of Regional and Local development NBE offers: training courses, summer schools, seminars, provision of technical assistance, policy work, preparation of project proposals for EU fund and so forth.