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Macedonia

Capital Skopje
Time Zone CET (GMT+1)
Country Code 389
Mobile Codes 70,71,72,75,76,78
ccTLD .mk
Currency Denar (1EUR = 61.5MKD)
Land Area 25,713 sq km
Population 2.1 million
Language Macedonian
Major Religions Orthodox Christianity, Islam

Europe’s Macedonian Intervention, Part 5: Transition Phase and Intelligence Assessments

June 30, 2016

By Chris Deliso The previous installments of this series on European involvement in Macedonia’s crisis comprise the beginnings of Balkanalysis.com’s comprehensive deep background series, known as The Great Unraveling. It will continue indefinitely, as new and important information keeps flowing in, as people become more frustrated and outspoken about the impasse. On the Surface Still […]

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Slovakia’s Deepening Relations with Macedonia: Interview with Ambassador Martin Bezák

January 23, 2016

Balkanalysis.com editor’s note: in this comprehensive new interview, Balkanalysis.com Director Chris Deliso gets the informed insights of Martin Bezák, one of Slovakia’s most experienced diplomats in the Balkans. Since 2013 ambassador to Macedonia, Mr Bezák has also served in Slovakia’s diplomatic missions to Belgrade and Athens. In 2005-2006, he was also Deputy Director and Head […]

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Key Data

Notable Public Figures

Gjorge Ivanov, President

Nikola Gruevski, former Prime Minister; President of VMRO-DPMNE

Nikola Poposki, Foreign Minister

Ali Ahmeti, Democratic Union for Integration (DUI) Party President

Zoran Zaev, SDSM Party President

Archbishop Stefan, leader of the Macedonian Orthodox Church

Sulejman Rexhepi, Reis of Islamic Community of Macedonia

Major Industries

Agriculture and food processing; construction; steel; textiles

Key Trade Partners

Serbia, Greece, Kosovo, Turkey, Germany

Main Airports

Skopje, Ohrid

Issues and Insights

Overview

Although relatively small, the Republic of Macedonia is very significant for regional issues. This mountainous, largely agricultural nation has for many years aspired to join NATO and commence negotiations on membership with the EU as soon as a long-standing dispute with neighboring Greece – over rights to the country’s constitutional name – can be resolved.

In the meantime, however, various turbulent events have left Macedonia in an unprecedented political crisis since mid-2014. The popularly elected center-right government has been the target of a local leftist opposition that claims support from Western governments and NGOs. As of early 2017, the conservative VMRO-DPMNE had won a close election but the crisis was expected to continue.

The only former Yugoslav republic to break away peacefully in the 1990s, Macedonia was nevertheless gripped by conflict in 2001, when an ethnic Albanian paramilitary force partly based in Kosovo forced international diplomats to broker a peace deal giving more rights and political powers to the country’s minority populations, and especially the 25% Albanian minority.

By the time of the forced 2015 crisis, Western diplomats had become surprised, and even alienated by the Macedonian government’s spirited defense of its positions, and palpable shift to the east – Turkey, the Gulf, China and Russia – which became part of the reason for the attempted opposition coup.

The crisis exacerbated among Macedonians the perception that the EU is not a credible or fair player, while the conduct of the Obama Administration infuriated large segments of the population. At the same time, Macedonia played the leading role in defending Europe’s external borders during the 2015 migrant crisis (and after), and has been thanked for this by countries like Austria and the Visegrad Group.

Orthodoxy Christianity is pre-eminent in Macedonia, though Islam has historic roots from the Ottoman period and is increasingly visible among the country’s ethnic Albanian population. The small Turkish and Muslim minorities are also predominantly Muslim, while a minority of Macedonians profess Catholicism, various Protestant denominations and Judaism.

Outstanding Issues

The ‘name issue’ dispute with Greece; Western diplomats’ relations with the unresolved political crisis; security-sector reform; handling the migrant crisis; corruption and nepotism in general; inter-ethnic issues and manipulation thereof by foreign influencers; internal challenges to the legitimacy of traditional Islam from foreign-supported local Muslims; emerging role of Turkey as a leader.

Forward Planning: Points of Interest

  • The name dispute negotiations with Greece, and EU and NATO membership relying on this, with effects on economic development
  • Political intrigues from the opposition’s claimed ‘wiretapping scandal’ and the series of events since January 2015, sustaining a political crisis the ultimate causes of which remain unclear
  • The migrant crisis and Macedonia’s role at the borders and in negotiations with EU bodies
  • Discord within ethnic Albanian electorate over political leadership/ new party opportunities, and an expected larger role for Turkish influence
  • Increased trade with Gulf States, Turkey and Russia; energy corridor participation in post-Greece privatization world
  • Emergence as an important minerals producer for European and world markets