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1998 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report

Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs
United States Department of State
February 26, 1999


I. Summary

Illicit drug trafficking in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia continued at approximately the same level as in recent years. The country's strategic central location virtually guarantees that it is exposed to the flow of drugs being smuggled through the Balkans to Western Europe. This exposure has led to steadily rising levels of domestic consumption and to increasing numbers of Macedonian addicts. Though these problems in Macedonia are still small compared to those in Western Europe, the trend is of concern, especially in light of the limited financial resources available for treatment programs. The Government was active in anti- narcotics efforts during the year, and Macedonia is a party to the 1988 UN Drug Convention.

II. Status of Country

The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia straddles several main transportation routes linking Turkey and Western Europe, and as a consequence has become a significant transshipment point for drug traffickers operating along those routes. Illicit narcotics smuggling through Macedonia is also affected by the continuing domestic security crisis in neighboring Albania, which has become a favorite jumping-off point for smugglers attempting to reach Italy. Macedonian authorities believe that only a small portion of the illegal narcotics that enter the country end up on the local market--the vast bulk of the traffic passes through, bound for Western Europe. The traffickers deal mostly with cannabis, heroin and sometimes cocaine; precursor chemicals and money laundering are not known to be significant problems. Domestic production of cannabis is thought to be on the rise.

There is legal poppy cultivation for the pharmaceutical industry, with all production going to the factory for processing. Controls are tight, and there have been no reported cases of diversion. Some illicit poppy growing occurs, but on a very small scale.

There were 2,990 registered drug addicts in Macedonia at the end of 1998, an increase of 490 from the 1997 total. Of that total, 68 percent are adults (above the age of eighteen) and 32 percent are juveniles. Nine cases of lethal drug overdose occurred in 1998.

III. Country Actions Against Drugs in 1998

Law Enforcement Efforts. The Macedonian Government has continued to strengthen its efforts to combat drug trafficking. During 1998, Macedonian authorities seized a total of 91 kilograms of heroin, 40 grams of cocaine, 787 tablets of "ecstasy," 20 kilograms of raw opium, and 1,137 kilograms of marijuana. Authorities also destroyed 1,475 cannabis plants and several small quantities of cannabis seed. The seizures were made in connection with 141 separate criminal cases and involved 279 individual suspects.

Agreements and Treaties. Macedonia is a party to the 1988 UN Drug Convention. Macedonia is an active member in the Southeast Europe Cooperative Initiative (SECI). One goal of SECI is to improve the border control effectiveness of member countries, and Macedonia has requested advisory assistance from SECI-supporting nations. Macedonia has also been active in the development of a regional center in Bucharest to combat transborder crime, including narcotics trafficking.

Demand Reduction. The Macedonian Government has cooperated with several non- governmental organizations to produce media advertisements aimed at demand reduction, but the overall effort has been limited by financial constraints. Medical treatment for addicts is similarly limited, and many addicts end up in regular prisons.

IV. U.S. Policy Initiatives and Programs

Bilateral Programs. The USG promotes increased attention on the drug problem and directly assists the government to take effective anti-drug measures. The Macedonian Government has sought international assistance to better train its customs and drug enforcement personnel, and has cooperated in several such training programs. U.S. Customs Service and Drug Enforcement Agency officers conducted training for their Macedonian counterparts during 1998. Follow-on training is being developed and scheduled. The USG also contributes financially to UNDCP programs, and is participating in a Skopje roundtable of interested embassies to better coordinate various bilateral anti-drug and enforcement programs.

The Road Ahead. The USG will continue to encourage and to directly assist the Macedonian Government to strengthen its counternarcotics efforts and capabilities. The USG will also support pending legal reforms to allow for the seizure of vehicles and other property used in the drug trade and to create a firmer legal concept of money laundering.

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Saturday, 27 February 1999