Republic of Macedonia Country Report
Situated in the volatile Balkans region (home to Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, and Serbia), the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) is comprised of both a small territory and a small population (2.1 million). Macedonia, formed after the breakup of Yugoslavia in 1991, offers sometimes less-than-ideal travel conditions.
Macedonia has experienced a degree of civil and political unrest with some 134 protests in Skopje in 2016 alone. In early 2017, the country was still plagued by political turmoil and uncertainty. Numerous demonstrations were held during the months of March and April 2017 by nationalists to protest a proposed coalition government, which aimed to better include the Albanian community. Although the vast majority were peaceful, some incidents of violence occurred. In December 2016, some 2000 people gathered in front of the State Election Commission throwing objects and breaking windows in order to protest against the election results.
However, the new parliamentary majority unilaterally elected Talat Xhaferi, from the ethnic-Albanian political party, as speaker on April 27. As a consequence, nationalist protesters, tacitly supported by former PM Gruevski, stormed the government building and attacked representatives. Former PM Gruevski, as well as other former top officials, now faces charges of abuse of power and corruption.
Thus, travelers should be aware that protests in Macedonia sometimes turn violent and are therefore advised to maintain a safe distance from all demonstrations.
The next presidential elections are set to be held in April 2019.
Security conditions have considerably improved in Macedonia and areas near the southern region of Gevgelija and northern region of Kumanovo, once considered crisis zones, are now regarded as safe.
However, trafficking remains prevalent and the northern areas of the country were once relatively precarious due to the presence of certain armed groups. The region was a scene of an armed insurgency led by ethnic-Albanians (25 percent of the population of Macedonia) in 2001. In May 2015, at least 22 people were killed in a protracted firefight that broke out in the northern town of Kumanovo (40 km [25 mi] north of Skopje) between Macedonian security forces and ethnic-Albanian gunmen.
Although no terrorist attacks have occurred in Macedonia, it seems the country is becoming a hotbed for recruiters. At least 140 Macedonians are believed to have left the country to join a terrorist organization.
Petty crime is relatively common in Skopje; foreigners should be particularly vigilant around tourist sites, on shopping streets, and at Skopje's Alexander the Great Airport (SKP, located in nearby Petrovec). Gangs of children are known to pickpocket foreigners and /or snatch their bags.
Crime rates decreased in 2016.
Despite the presence of organized crime in the region - notably in Macedonia as well as Albania and Kosovo - these crimes do not typically affect visitors.
Macedonia has become a transit country for migrants attempting to reach northern Europe - notably Germany - from North Africa and the Middle East. According to the EU Commission, 815,000 migrants crossed through the country in 2016, causing tensions and demonstrations at the borders with Greece and Serbia. In March 2016, the Macedonian government decided to shut down the border with Greece, effectively blocking the Balkan route north and leaving thousands of migrants stranded. As a result, the country now faces problems tied to attempted illegal crossings. Macedonian authorities are known to have forcibly pushed migrants back, often through violent means.
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).
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.
Health facilities are generally poorly-equipped and hospitals are not properly outfitted to undertake major surgeries. While tap water and local foodstuffs do not generally pose significant problems, visitors are nevertheless encouraged to drink bottled water as a precaution.
Cases of mosquito-borne diseases, such as West Nile virus, have been reported.
Air pollution in certain areas of the country - including Skopje, Bitola, Kicevo, Tetovo, and Veles - may present a risk for individuals with respiratory or cardiac issues.
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 NumbersCountry Code: 389 Police: 192 Ambulance: 194
Voltage: 220 V ~ 50 Hz
Macedonia: Rail operations suspended nationwide Dec. 12
TIMEFRAME: from 12/12/2017, 12:00 AM until 12/16/2017, 11:59 PM (Europe/Skopje).
Macedonia: Eid al-Fitr (end of Ramadan) June 24-25
TIMEFRAME: from 6/23/2017, 12:00 AM until 6/23/2017, 11:59 PM (Europe/Skopje).