Country profile - Societal developments (Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia)
The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia became an independent state in 1991, following the disintegration of the former Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. It gained its independence peacefully, but came out of the federation as the least-developed Yugoslav republic producing just 5 % of the total federal goods and services. Insufficiently developed infrastructure, UN sanctions on part of former Yugoslavia which used to be Macedonia’s largest market, and the Greek economic embargo related to the dispute about the name of the country constrained economic development up to 1996. Then, gross domestic product (GDP) started to grow each year up to 2000. However, the commitment to economic reform, free exchange and regional integration was undermined by the conflict in 2001 resulting in a 4.5 % fall in the economy due to decreased trade volumes, occasional closure of borders, an increased deficit because of security-related expenditures and insecurity of investors. Growth resumed at 0.9 % in 2002, followed by a modest 2.8 % in 2003 with estimated growth of 4.8 % for 2008.
But the unemployment rate still remains high and with significant participation from the younger population from 15 to 24 years of age. The unemployment rate for that age group in 1998 was 70.9%, in 2002, 58.4% and in 2008, 56.4%
In the period from 1998 to 2008, the biggest number of unemployed persons were seeking job for more than 1 year. In 2008, their participation in the total number of unemployed was 84.9%, a number that poses a critical problem for the national economy.
The republic has also made significant progress in the field of the environment between the 1980s and the 1990s. The most outstanding achievements include:
- improvement and extension of water supply systems in urban areas, connection of rural settlements to regional water supply systems and development of local water supply systems;
- construction and extension of wastewater collection systems in urban areas and construction of sewerage networks in rural areas;
- construction of wastewater collection and treatment in the areas of the three natural lakes – Ohrid, Prespa and Dojran;
- Establishment of organised waste collection at the municipal level in most parts of urban areas.
These positive environmental developments resulted from the high priority attached to this issue by the authorities.
In 2002, the republic initiated the process of harmonisation of its environmental legislation with the EU; it has adopted many strategic documents related to environmental issues which require heavy investment in environmental infrastructure.
In recognition of the achievements made and in response to its application, the country was awarded the status of candidate country for full membership of the European Union in December 2005. This act by itself resulted in accelerated efforts to bring national legislation in line with the EU acquis, and improvement of administrative and institutional capacity – all aimed at achievement of European standards in all areas of life. However, in spite of the positive assessment by the European Commission presented in its Progress Report in October 2009, confirming the achievement of all set benchmarks, the country has not been awarded the date for initiation of membership negotiation due to the name dispute with its EU neighbour Greece.
The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia is a parliamentary democracy, and Macedonian society is characterised by its multi-ethnic, multi-faith and multi-cultural composition, with all ethnic communities being guaranteed equal rights and opportunities under the Constitution.
The average population density of the country in 2008 is 79.7 inhabitants/km2, with significant variations around this average figure.
 Macedonia in Figures - 2009. Published by the State Statistical Office
For references, please go to http://www.eea.europa.eu/soer/countries/mk/country-introduction-macedonia-the-former-3 or scan the QR code.
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