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Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia

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Country profile (Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia)

What distinguishes the country?

Published: 26 Nov 2010 Modified: 08 Apr 2011


Basic facts

The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia is relatively small, landlocked country, with an area of 25 713 km2 and a population of 2 048 619, with an average of 79.7 residents/ km2 (2008), around 60 % of whom live in urban areas. The significance of its geographical position as a central Balkan state bordering countries with different economic and development potential is underlined by the fact that they are directed linked by trade and the interrelationships of their economies, with the main trade routes passing through Macedonia’s territory.

Macedonia has diverse topography, with high hills and deep valleys attractively cut and surrounded by mountains, picturesque rivers, lakes and spas. Much of the country, 44.01 %, is at an altitude of between 500 and 1 000 m.

The hydrographic territory of Macedonia is a unique natural basin as 84 % of the available water quantity is internal and only 16 % external. Ohrid is the deepest natural lake in the Balkans, 285 m.

The Republic’s cultural and natural values have a distinct position in the world heritage, led by Lake Ohrid which is a UNESCO-protected as a natural and cultural site. Abundance and variety of species and ecosystems are the main features of biological diversity in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. According to the available information, this wealth comprises around 18 000 taxa, of which more than 900 are endemic.[1] .

[1] Environmental indicators Republic of Macedonia 2008, page 73

What distinguishes the country?

Published: 26 Nov 2010 Modified: 08 Apr 2011

Environmental governance

Aware of the importance of the environmental pillar in the process of EU integration, the country has placed the environment in a high position on its development agenda. Thus, the environmental sector, although led by the youngest ministry, has grown into the leading sector of the process of approximation with the EU. The outcomes include almost full approximation of national environmental legislation with the EU environmental acquis, a large number of international environmental agreements ratified and applied, and well-established international cooperation. Full implementation and enforcement of the law, however, are yet to be achieved.

The Ministry of Environment and Physical Planning (MEPP) is obliged to create and implement environmental policy, lead environmental protection and be watchful of the use of space and natural resources.

Under the law, MEPP performs activities in relation to: environmental monitoring; protection of waters, soil, flora, fauna, protection of air and the ozone layer; protection against noise pollution and radiation; conservation of biodiversity, geodiversity, national parks and other protected areas; restoration of contaminated elements of the environment; proposals for measures for solid waste management; spatial planning; spatial information systems; supervision within the scope of its responsibility and other activities specified by law.


Constituent bodies of the MEPP include: the State Environmental Inspectorate, Administration of Environment and Office of the Spatial Information System.

Under the Law on Organization and Work of the Bodies of the State Administration, other bodies also have direct or indirect responsibilities for environmental management. Apart from MEPP as the leading body, the following have direct responsibilities in the area of environment: Ministry of Defence through the Directorate for Protection and Rescue; Ministry of Interior; Ministry of Economy; Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Water Management; Ministry of Health; Ministry of Transport and Communications; Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Figure 1: Ministry of Environment and Physical Planning organisational chart

What distinguishes the country?

Published: 26 Nov 2010 Modified: 08 Apr 2011
Data sources


A maximum air temperature of 44.8oC was recorded in Demir Kapija in July 2000, which was surpassed in July 2007, with 45.7oC recorded in Demir Kapija and 45.3oC in Gevgelija. A minimum air temperature of 30.4oC was recorded in Bitola in January 1993.

The largest annual sum of sunny hours, about 2 400, is in the central and southern part of Povardarie, with about 2 200 hours on the mountain massifs.

Precipitation is characterised by uneven spatial and temporal distribution across the country, due to the complex orography affecting the pluviometric regime during months, seasons and years. This distribution is accompanied by alternating periods of long droughts and high intensity rainfall, which contribute to soil erosion and land degradation.

According to the climate change scenarios developed under the National Communication on Climate Change, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia is in the group of vulnerable countries with significant mean temperature increases projected for the coming period.


Map 2: Climate regions in Macedonia

What have been the major societal developments?

Published: 26 Nov 2010 Modified: 13 Apr 2011


Figure 2: Number of inhabitants according to censuses 1921 - 2008

*Estimated population (status 31.12) Source: State statistical office
Data source
Figure 2: Number of inhabitants according to censuses 1921 - 2008
Fullscreen image Original link

Map 3: Population density in 2008, by municipalities according to territorial organisation 2004

Source: State Statistical Office
Data source
Map 3: Population density in 2008, by municipalities according to territorial organisation 2004
Fullscreen image Original link

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[1].


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.

[1] Macedonia in Figures - 2009. Published by the State Statistical Office

Air quality management

Air quality management is a key tool for improving its quality. Ambient air quality has deteriorated since the early 1950s due to increased levels of pollutant emissions resulting from industrial development and increased volumes of traffic.

Pollution from industry and energy production, the burning of fossil fuels and transport activities all pose a threat to air quality, in particular in towns, cities and areas with intensive industry. Poor air quality can lead to serious health problems, especially for the youngest generation[2].

In the period from 2002 till 2008 for which emission data are available, the trend for al pollutants it is variable and i probably based on the discontinuous operation of the industrial and energy processes. Namely our country is still in the transition period and there is on-going process of complete or partly closure of the installation or change of the production which have major effect on the trend[1].

Air quality problems are particularly pronounced in and around major cities[2], thus potentially affecting 60 % of the total population[3].

[1] Analysis performed according reported emission data to EEA

[2] Skopje, Veles, Bitola, Tetovo and Kumanovo

[3] Second National Environmental Action Plan of the Republic of Macedonia, 2006, page 22

Ozone layer protection

In 1994, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia ratified the Vienna Convention on Ozone Layer Protection and the Montreal Protocol on Ozone Depleting Substances (ODS). In 1997, the Office for Protection of the Ozone Layer was established as a part of MEPP with the purpose of coordinating national activities to reduce and eliminate ODS. This office has implemented a number of projects[1] in all relevant sectors that use chemicals that are covered by the Conventions. These efforts have resulted in the elimination of more than 90 % of the substances classified in the Annexes of the Montreal Protocol. The office is also responsible for awareness-raising and public participation in the field of ODS. Full elimination of CFCs by 2009 was the main challenge faced for this issue, and it was achieved as planned.

[1] The project for CFC-11/12 phasing-out in the refrigerator factory "Frinko"; Project for CFC-11 phasing-out in the production of elastic foams in the "Sileks" Factory; Project for CFC-11 phasing-out in the production of hard foams in the "Sileks" Factory; Pilot projects for alternative use of methyl bromide in agriculture; Project "Plan for cooling management"; Project for CFC-11/12 phasing-out in the production of aerosols in "Alkaloid".

Water management

The country is classified as semi-arid – the area of Ovce Pole is the driest area in the central Balkan Peninsula. The use, protection and conservation of water resources is therefore of utmost importance. According to the hydrographical conditions of the country there are four river basin areas[1] and three major natural lakes[2]. Most of the surface waters are internal to the country and formed on the territory by precipitation. Macedonia is not rich in surface water, having about 3 000 m3/capita, and is dependent on depends on precipitation. In total, the annually available surface water is assessed to be in the order of 6 372 billion m3.[3]

About 4 400 springs with a total annual yield of 992 million m3 are registered of which 58 have a capacity of over 100 l/s.

Macedonia abounds with mineral water, thermal water and thermo-mineral water. Geothermal water is traditionally used for spa and medical cure purposes.

There are 44 wetlands covering a total area of 57 422 ha, or about 2 % of the total territory. Most of this area is occupied by natural lakes. The water quality of these wetlands is endangered by uncontrolled wastewater discharges, uncontrolled water abstraction, tourist activities and unfavourable weather conditions.

The monitoring network covers 20 measuring points located on rivers, lakes and reservoirs. Quality control consists of analysis of physical-chemical, toxic-chemical, and microbiological parameters.


There is no systematic monitoring of industrial wastewater.


The water supply systems are operated and managed by public enterprises. In the urban municipal areas, connection rates are 82-100 %, with 1 200 000 inhabitants in these areas are connected to a public water supply system. In rural areas, connection rates exhibit a spread of 10-100 %. The available data indicate average connection rates of about 70 % corresponding to an estimate of 250 000 inhabitants connected to a public water supply system.

Only 12 cities have constructed separate sewage systems. The City of Skopje has constructed a separate system for wastewater[4] (56%) and for precipitation water (18%), from the overall planned system for wastewater and precipitation water network in City of Skopje. The length of the collection network is 280.6 km. At the national level, the length of the sewage collection network is 1 239.1 km.  Sixty percent of dwellings are connected to a public sewage system, 21 % have septic tanks and another 19 % have only a system of uncontrolled wastewater discharge. There is no monitoring of the wastewater discharged by municipal sewage systems. The management of the sewage systems is the responsibility of the public water supply and sewage enterprises.

Investments in municipal infrastructure are at very low level, and will need to increase in order to meet the requirements of the acquis. There is a lack of a general plan for environmental investment, especially in the area of wastewater treatment.

[1] river Vardar, river Crn Drim, river Strumica and river Juzna Morava

[2] Ohridsko Lake, Prespansko Lake and Dojransko Lake

[3] Second National Environmental Action Plan of the Republic of Macedonia, 2006, page 31, page 36

[4] Besides of the three waste water treatment plants for protection of Ohrid, Prespa and Dojran Lake, there are also treatment plants in Sv. Nikole and Makedonski Brod. Unfortunately, only waste water treatment plants in village Vraniste, Struga, in Dojran and in Makedonski Brod are under operation.


Soil management

The main characteristics of the current situation may be summarised as follows:


  • erosion remains the most important type of soil degradation. According to the republic’s erosion map (Water Management Institute,1993), 96.5 % of the total area is under processes of erosion;
  • according to data for 2005, around 10 % of the territory is categorised as unproductive land;
  • only half of the productive land is arable, corresponding to 25 % of the territory. However, parts of the arable land have been abandoned, thus reducing this to 20 % of the territory;
  • Only 10 % of the arable land belongs to higher land-use classes. The reduction of the arable areas also occurs in the most fertile areas as the result of different types of degradation;
  • overall, in recent years, around 70 000 ha, most of which is first class land, have been removed from agricultural production;
  • contamination of productive soil continues to present a problem, especially due to the lack of monitoring of the degree of contamination through established monitoring and information systems.[1]

[1] Second National Environmental Action Plan of the Republic of Macedonia, 2006, page 38

Waste management

The generation of municipal waste[1] – waste from households, commercial waste and other waste types – is about 570 000 tonnes annually. Around 25 % of the total amount is biodegradable. On average, annual waste generation is 250-315 kg/person (data is based on samples and from public utilities).

No system has yet been organised for the collection and recycling of packaging waste, and national legislation to incorporate the Packaging Directive has not yet been prepared.

Hazardous and non-hazardous industrial solid waste is usually disposed of, together with waste from other processes, at industrial landfills, or, together with other waste, at municipal landfills. It has been estimated that around 5 000 tonnes of industrial non-hazardous waste are disposed of in municipal landfills annually, together with around 500 tonnes of industrial hazardous waste.

Some wastes are recycled by the informal sector, including metals, paper, plastics, batteries and waste oils.

Regular waste collection services are limited mainly to urban areas with around 90 % coverage in cities and suburbs, but only 10 % of the rural population. This means that 70 % of the total population is provided with waste collection service on a regular basis, while the remaining portion, living far from urban centres, manages their wastes independently. There has been no regular collection of prior selected waste, except collection of certain types of bulk wastes in Skopje.

Waste collection services are performed mainly by public utilities dealing with water supply and wastewater collection, and other municipal services. Waste disposal is not compliant with technical and/or environmental standards.

[1] Solid Waste Management System for South-West Macedonia carried out by ERM Lahmeyer International (ERM LI) in association with MVV Consultants and Engineers (MVV) and ABC Consulting (ABC); 2001


Figure 3: GDP per capita in Purchasing Power Standards (PPS) (EU-27 = 100)

Data source
Figure 3: GDP per capita in Purchasing Power Standards (PPS) (EU-27 = 100)
Fullscreen image Original link



The economy is small, with a GDP of just little over $4 billion in 2003. The GDP real growth rate of 2.8 % for that year was well above most European countries. More recent data show that for 2007 the GDP grows up to $5.4 billion.

From 2003-2007 the biggest share of the structure of the GDP are Service activities which include trade, hotels and restaurants, transport storage and communication, financial intermediation, real estate, renting and business activities, public administration, health, education and other community, social and personal service activities. The share in 2003 is 43.9% and 45.7% in 2007.

The share of Industry, including Energy and Construction is 26.2% in 2003 and 27.9% in 2007, while Agriculture, forestry and Fishery share with 11.4% in 2003 and with 9.4% in 2007.

In 2004, the government passed a progressive Trade Companies Law aimed at easing impediments to foreign investment, providing tax and investment incentives, and guaranteeing shareholder rights. In 2006, the government began implementing a one-stop procedure for business registration that considerably shortened the time required to register a new business.

The governmental objective to create a favourable environment for foreign and domestic investments remains in force.

What are the main drivers of environmental pressures?

Published: 26 Nov 2010 Modified: 08 Apr 2011


Since independence in 1991, the republic has made significant progress towards becoming a politically and economically stable sovereign state. Integration into NATO and the EU, full implementation of the Ohrid Framework Agreement accompanied by decentralisation, and coherent long-term development of the country that would include higher economic growth, job creation and poverty reduction are the overreaching goals which encompass all political elements and enjoy the support of the population.

Ambitious structural reforms are fully consistent with the country’s efforts towards EU accession, and more specifically towards meeting the Copenhagen economic criteria. In order to meet these – to establish itself as a functioning market economy able to withstand the competitive pressure of the EU’s common market – the country’s production and exports need to grow at high and sustainable levels. This, in turn, will require strengthened efforts to speed up transition, improve the functioning of economic institutions, and increase public investments in development-oriented activities. In this respect, the impacts of economic development are still the main reason for potential negative effects on the environment in the country.


Being a landlocked country with no access to major inland waterways, the transport sector by road and rail transport. Increased transport volumes lead to increased pressure on the environment, closely related to climate change and biodiversity loss. The present efforts to control these for the purpose of environmental improvement will certainly have effect on economic and social aspects of development. On the positive side, technological improvements have the potential of delivering reductions in vehicular air pollution despite the growth in traffic volumes. Nevertheless, a further focus and effort is necessary to continuously control and challenge the steady increase in transport activities that cause environmental problems.

The country’s transition to a market economy has resulted in a gradual shift in transport demand from low-value bulk commodities, generally transported by rail, to higher value-added light industrial and agro-industrial products. The latter requires more specialised, flexible and timely delivery which can more appropriately be provided by road transport.

The transport infrastructure lags substantially behind that of EU countries in terms of quality and density. Much needs to be done in terms of the state of the transport infrastructure and its connection to the European transport routes.

Air pollution from the transport sector is increasing due to the increased use of road transport, the low share of public transport, the low quality of the fuel, the old vehicle fleet, and imperfections of existing road networks in urban areas and elsewhere.

GHG emissions from transport have shown no significant changes since 1990.


Agriculture, an important part of the economy, is causing pressures on the environment. Targeted efforts to introduce more sustainable agricultural practices, reducing environmentally harmful ones and enhancing the beneficial environmental impacts of agriculture should have significant economic and social impacts in the longer term.

In 2003, approximately 14 % of employees earned their livings from agriculture, hunting and fishing. Primary agricultural production accounted for 10-12 % of national GDP for 1991-2002, and with the agro-food industry added, the GDP contributions were 15-20 %. There are about 180 000 individual agricultural holdings with a relatively small average size of 2.6 ha and with substantial fragmentation.

Environmental pressures from agriculture relate mainly to biodiversity, soil erosion, agricultural waste, pollution of the aquatic environment, and GHG emissions.  Agriculture is the second largest source of GHG emissions among the sectors considered, the main sources being agricultural soils and enteric fermentation, both with about 40-50 % of the total CO2-eq. emissions; manure management and flooded rice fields contribute a smaller share.

Erosion and torrents cause the destruction and degradation of large areas of productive soil, irrigation schemes and industrial facilities. About 96.5 % of the total area of the country is under some erosive processes and 8 500 ha of land –0.33 % of the total area of the country – on average is lost to erosion each year.


The energy sector faces a particular challenge of balancing environmental improvements, economic progress and the need for social protection. The situation is particularly difficult because 60 % of national energy consumption derives from domestic sources based mainly on coal. The problem is further exacerbated by the relatively outdated equipment that is in critical need of modernisation. The main contributor to CO2-eq. emissions within the energy sector is the energy industries sub-sector, accounting for 70-75 % of total emissions.

Environmental services

Typically, urban areas are the most economically developed parts of society and tend to be considered as the most attractive to live in and for economic activities. Along with this, the resulting relative economic decline of rural areas puts increased pressure on urban areas, not least in terms of the environment.

Urbanisation has proceeded faster than planned, and today most cities are faced by poor urban infrastructures in particular with regard to water supply and solid waste management as well as the degradation of natural and cultural heritage.

More than 750 000 people live in 1 742 rural settlements. Villages are compact and more than 70 % of them have good conditions for development. Thirty-eight per cent of them are located in plains, 40 % on hills and 22 % in mountain areas. Almost one third of the villages are very small, with up to 100 inhabitants. Population loss is most often be seen in the mountain areas. Villages of between 2 000 and 5 000 inhabitants distributed in the catchment area of cities are economically sustainable.[1]

Land use

Land is a finite resource of fundamental importance to the economy and the environment. Various and potentially competing uses of land exist such as agriculture, forestry, housing, industrial development, and infrastructure. There is increasing pressure for development that inevitably leads to changes in land-use patterns, as well as land degradation.

The process of urbanisation involves many pressures on land and landscapes relating to loss of arable land, biodiversity, landscape diversity and habitats.

Agricultural land covers 48.4 % of the total area, and 25.86 % of the agriculture land is arable. Today, only a small fraction of arable land is under intensive production, between 140 000 ha and 190 000 ha of arable land has been abandoned as a result of the migration. Forests cover about one third of the total area with the area increasing due to afforestation.

[1] Second National Environmental Action Plan of the Republic of Macedonia, 2006, page 81

What are the foreseen developments?

Published: 26 Nov 2010 Modified: 23 Nov 2010


Improvement in ambient air quality is expected through implementation of strategic documents adopted at the national level, mainly through:

  • full introduction of integrated pollution prevention and control systems;
  • monitoring and reduction of pollutant emissions from large combustion plants;
  • extension of the ambient air quality monitoring system with monitoring points established on the basis of the ambient air quality assessment;
  • preparation of ambient air quality improvement and protection programmes and action plans at the local level.

The above measures should result in improved quality of ambient air and reduced negative health effects.


Priorities for waste include:

  • Improvement and upgrading of management infrastructure for all types of waste;
  • Closure and reclamation of non-compliant waste dumping sites and implementation of at least one project for priority hot-spot remediation.

Climate change

Climate change requires joint actions at the international level by various stakeholders. Therefore, partnerships should be developed, especially in terms of establishing a new platform for post-2012 negotiations.

Joint action is not only needed, but also necessary on a regional level, in the form of transfer of experience on how to fulfil obligations concerning climate change mitigation from new EU Member States to pre-accession countries and potential candidate countries. Pre-accession and potential candidate countries should emphasise the need for assessment of their potentials and costs to adapt and mitigate climate change at the sectoral, national and regional level, especially taking into consideration the already proven vulnerability of their region.


The country assessments are the sole responsibility of the EEA member and cooperating countries supported by the EEA through guidance, translation and editing.

European Environment Agency (EEA)
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