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Republic of Macedonia Country Report

Country Risk Level

Medium

Overview

Executive Summary

The centre-left SDSM won 46 parliamentary seats in the July 2020 election, with the nationalist centre-right VMRO-DPMNE getting 44 seats. The SDSM, which was in power until January 2020, formed a coalition with the ethnic Albanian BDI. In August, the coalition was approved by a majority of 62 out of 120 MPs in parliament. Still, the thin majority is likely to sometimes obstruct passage of legislation. The political environment in North Macedonia is prone to volatility, with a history of long-lasting political stalemates. In March 2020, the EU agreed to open EU accession negotiations with North Macedonia following three failures to do so in 2018 and 2019. The country is likely to eventually continue with judicial and public administration reforms, while likely needing EU financial support and assistance to tackle the COVID-19 virus crisis. North Macedonia had previously experienced an overall deterioration of democratic standards and weakening of institutions, with the risk of companies facing bribery requests remaining high.GDP growth has accelerated from 2.7% in 2018 to 3.6% in 2019, however, the outlook for 2020 is heavily clouded by the spread of the COVID-19 virus which will cause a recession in the eurozone. North Macedonia exports 80% of its goods to the EU, of which more than 40% goes to Germany, mainly chemicals, electrical equipment and machinery. We expect GDP to contract by 6.3% in 2020 before growth of 4% in 2021. The worst-affected sectors are likely to be tourism, entertainment, hotels and restaurants, but also the transport sector and manufacturing, due to a temporary supply shock from the closures of plants, additional chain disruptions due to intensified border controls, and global demand shock.Civil unrest risks are likely to remain lower in the coming months given COVID-19-related restrictions, while the public remains concerned over contracting the disease. Protest risks will probably increase in 2021.

Operational Outlook

Despite improvements, North Macedonia's bureaucracy remains complex and inefficient. Corruption in the public administration and judiciary is likely to remain an obstacle for businesses. Labour legislation favours employers. Strikes usually affect individual companies and are unlikely to spread across sectors. Major cargo disruption due to industrial action in the transport sector is unlikely. Despite increases in large-scale investment programmes, the transport infrastructure is still relatively underdeveloped. International funding has a significant role in financing infrastructural projects. The country is likely to continue receiving EU funds for transport infrastructure projects.

Terrorism

The risk of low-level terrorist attacks by ethnic Albanian militants has decreased. Some members of the local ethnic Albanian community have adopted extremist Islamist views, however generally the Muslim population is moderate and pro-Western. There have been no reports on new recruits for extremist groups fighting in Syria and Iraq, however several foreign fighters have reportedly returned to areas around Skopje. Therefore, the risk of targeting of government and police buildings and personnel exists. On the other hand, the likelihood of well-planned Jihadist attacks is still low. Law enforcement and intelligence capacity to tackle terrorist activities in the case of returnees is still limited, but is likely to improve.

Crime

Organised crime remains an issue in North Macedonia, with criminal groups engaging in racketeering of local businesses, particularly in the northwest of the country. The country sits on the Balkan heroin route that moves narcotics from Turkey into Bulgaria, through North Macedonia and onwards into Kosovo, from where it continues by land into Western Europe, or from the Albanian coast to Italy by speedboat. Separately, human trafficking and smuggling (for illegal immigration and prostitution), stolen cars, cigarette and weapons smuggling are also flourishing. Groups such as the Albanian National Army (AKSh), a pan-Albanian radical paramilitary group, are funded from the proceeds of cross-border criminal activity and are often quasi-criminal in nature. Violent crime is uncommon. Pickpocketing is the most acute risks for foreign travellers.

War Risks

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Social Stability

Peaceful demonstrations in light of the deteriorating economic situation due to the COVID-19 pandemic are probable. Protests attracting up to a few thousand people at most are likely in Skopje. Such demonstrations pose a moderate risk of limited violent incidents, including scuffles between protestors and police and superficial damage to government buildings and nearby vehicles. The general security situation has improved since the end of hostilities between security forces and ethnic-Albanian rebels in August 2001. Environmental protests, mainly in Skopje, are likely against transport infrastructure, air pollution and energy projects.

Health Risk

Vaccinations required to enter the country

No vaccinations are required to enter the country.

Routine Vaccinations

Hepatitis A: A vaccine is available for anyone over one year of age. The vaccine may not be effective for certain people, e.g. those born before 1945 and who lived as a child in a developing country and/or have a past history of jaundice (icterus). These people can instead get a shot of immune globulin (IG) to boost their immunity against the disease.

Hepatitis B: A vaccine is available for children at least two months old.

Diphtheria-Tetanus-Polio: A booster shot should be administered if necessary (once every ten years).

Other Vaccinations

Typhoid Fever: If your travels take you to regions with poor sanitary conditions (for children two years old and up).

Rabies: For prolonged stays in an isolated region (for children from when they can walk).

Tick-Borne Encephalitis: For stays in rural zones and for hiking enthusiasts (for children over the age of one).

For Children: All standard childhood immunizations should be up-to-date. In the case of a long stay, the BCG vaccine is recommended for children over one month and the MMR (measles-mumps-rubella) vaccine for children over nine months.

Natural Risks

It should be noted that Macedonia is situated in an active seismic zone and is prone to earthquakes. Forest fires frequently occur in the summer. Flooding can also occur.

Transportation

Driving conditions in Macedonia are relatively precarious as not only is reckless driving common, but roads are frequently uneven and poorly lit, especially in rural areas. Furthermore, the majority of roads in mountainous regions of the country do not have guardrails, despite the presence of sharp drops; in winter, snow and ice exacerbate these hazardous driving conditions.

Travelers are advised against using public transportation, which is aging and overcrowded.

Both adverse weather conditions and high levels of pollution may cause flight delays or cancelations during winter (see HEALTH section).

Practical Information

Climate

Macedonia has several different climates, Mediterranean, continental, or mountainous, depending on the region. Temperatures range greatly between winter and summer.

In the mountains, summers and falls are hot and dry while winters are cold (0°C) and snowy. The valley regions enjoy a milder climate.

Useful Numbers

Country Code: 389
Police: 192
Ambulance: 194

Electricity

Voltage: 220 V ~ 50 Hz

Outlets:

Risk Level
Critical High Medium Low Minimal