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Paris, November 2007

Macedonia country Profile

Macedonia was spared the inter-ethnic violence that raged elsewhere in the Balkans following the break-up of Yugoslavia in the early 1990s but it came close to civil war a decade after independence.

Keywords: Use of religion for war, use of religion for peace | To analyse conflicts from a cultural point of view | | | |

  • Population: 2 million (UN, 2003)

  • Capital: Skopje

  • Area: 25,713 sq km (9,928 sq miles)

  • Major language: Macedonian, Albanian

  • Major religion: Christianity, Islam

  • Life expectancy: 71 years (men), 76 years (women) (UN)

  • Monetary unit: 1 denar = 100 deni

  • Main exports: Clothing, iron and steel

  • GNI per capita: US $2,830 (World Bank, 2006)

  • Internet domain: .mk

Rebels staged an uprising in early 2001, demanding greater rights for the ethnic Albanian minority. The conflict created a wave of refugees and the rebels made territorial gains.

After months of skirmishes, EU and Nato support enabled the president, Boris Trajkovski, to strike a peace deal. Under the Ohrid agreement, Albanian fighters laid down their arms in return for greater ethnic-Albanian recognition within a unitary state.

Acknowledgement of ethnic-Albanian rights was formalised in amendments to the constitution approved by parliament in late 2001. Ethnic Albanians account for about a quarter of the population.

In August 2004, parliament approved legislation redrawing local boundaries and giving ethnic Albanians greater local autonomy in areas where they predominate.

Recognition of the republic’s progress from the brink of civil war came in December 2005 when the EU leaders agreed that it should become a candidate for membership. The EU has urged Macedonia to crack down on corruption ahead of accession talks.

In November 2006 Nato leaders announced that Macedonia - along with Albania and Croatia - can expect to be invited to join the organisation at its next summit in 2008. Both President Branko Crvenkovski and Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski welcomed the move.

The country’s name remains a contentious issue. It is still referred to formally as the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM).

International recognition of the country’s split from Yugoslavia in 1991 was held up over Greek fears that its name implied territorial ambitions toward the northern Greek region of Macedonia. Greece lifted a two-year trade blockade only after the two countries signed an accord in 1995.

The UN continues to act as mediator between Skopje and Athens in an effort to resolve the dispute.


  • President: Branko Crvenkovski

A former centre-left prime minister and leader of the Social Democratic Union, Branko Crvenkovski moved on from both jobs when he was elected president in April 2004, two months after his predecessor, Boris Trajkovski, died in a plane crash.

As prime minister, he won praise in the West for supporting reconciliation with the substantial Albanian minority.

He became president just after the country formally submitted its application to join the EU and he pledged to make entry a key goal.

Macedonia’s presidents are directly elected for a five-year term. The president appoints the prime minister. Legislative power is vested in parliament.

  • Prime minister: Nikola Gruevski

Nikola Gruevski, leader of the centre-right VMRO-DPMNE, was asked to form a government after elections in July 2006. The outgoing coalition was led by the Social Democrats.

The vote was seen as a test of the Orhid peace deal that ended an ethnic Albanian uprising in 2001. There was relief when it passed off relatively peacefully.

The prime minister’s party won 44 seats in the 120-seat parliament and went on to gain a majority in parliament through a deal with the Democratic Party of Albanians and three small parties. There were protests in some areas after the largest Albanian party, the Democratic Union of Integration, which was part of the outgoing coalition, was left out.

Mr Gruevski said he aimed to tackle corruption and organised crime and to foster economic revival and job creation. He said he would work for the country’s swift entry into the EU.

The prime minister is a former World Bank economist, amateur boxer and stage actor.

His predecessor, Vlado Buckovski, a former defence minister, took office in late 2004.


The constitution guarantees freedom of speech and access to information. State television, which has three national channels, faces competition from private networks.

Broadcasters are loosely regulated; there are many unlicensed radio and TV stations.

Following privatisation, the leading newspaper publisher is still partially government-owned.

Some journalists reacted to the 2001 uprising by ethnic Albanian guerrillas by using what Radio Free Europe described as less-than-responsible language and words of outright hate.

But the media reported fairly responsibly overall, according to the OSCE representative on media freedom.

The press

  • Nova Makedonija - state-subsidised daily

  • Utrinski Vesnik - private, daily

  • Dnevnik - private, daily

  • Vreme - private, daily

  • Vecer - state-subsidised daily

  • Makedonija Denes - private, daily

  • Vest - private, daily

  • Fakti - Albanian-language

  • Forum - weekly

  • Aktuel - private, news weekly

  • Focus - private, weekly

  • Start - political, weekly


  • MTV - state-owned, operates three national networks and satellite network

  • A1 - private, national

  • Sitel TV - private, national

  • Kanal 5 - private


  • Macedonian Radio - state-owned

  • Kanal 77 - private, national

  • Antenna 5 - private, national

  • Radio Ros - private, national

News agencies

  • Makfax - English-language pages

  • Macedonian Information Agency (MIA) - state-run, English-language pages