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U.S. Department of State
1997 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report, March 1998

United States Department of State

Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs


Europe and Central Asia

FORMER YUGOSLAV REPUBLIC OF MACEDONIA

I. Summary

Illicit drug trafficking increased in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) during 1997. However, this increase was at a slower pace than in previous years. Drug trafficking was a greater problem in the area of domestic sale and use than in transit traffic. Internal upheaval in Albania combined with the improvement of transportation options through the FRY resulted in the decline of East-West linkages through the country and the resumption of the old Balkan route (Sofia to Dimitrovgrad to Belgrade to western Europe). While the amount of drugs in transit has decreased, a larger quantity of drugs is now present in the Macedonian market. The Government of the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia is a party to the 1988 UN Drug Convention.

II. Status of Country

FYROM is a transshipment point for drug trafficking between Turkey and western Europe, but it is not a significant problem in the region. Illicit narcotics traffic through the country declined in 1997. The East-West link from Bulgaria through FYROM to Albania established in previous years during the Greek embargo on FYROM and UN sanctions on the FRY seems to have been abandoned. Reasons for the change are both the improved transportation options along the North-South route and the insecurity in Albania, which deterred traffickers from attempting to transit that country in order to use Albanian ports.

Drug abuse in the country is a growing problem and could lead to increases in criminality in other areas. 1997 statistics from the Ministry of Interior show a nearly 30 percent increase in overall drug arrests, most of which it believes are related to domestic use. In addition, the number of registered drug addicts increased significantly in 1997, to 2,566 individuals, of whom 565 are newly registered. Most of the country's registered addicts are addicted to heroin.

III. Country Actions Against Drugs in 1997

The Macedonian government is actively implementing an anti-narcotics program, although it is still in the process of establishing a targeted anti-narcotics unit. At present, the anti-narcotics unit operates as a part of the Department for Illegal Trade and Smuggling at the Ministry of Internal Affairs.

The Ministry of Internal Affairs, which is responsible for conducting interdiction operations, made 151 arrests for drug trafficking and illegal production. This compares with 117 arrests in 1996, although the total amount of drugs seized in 1997 was smaller than in 1996. Seizures totaled 15 kgs of heroin, 45 kgs of raw opium, 58 kgs of marijuana and 11 grams of cocaine. However, 184 units of synthetic drugs, primarily ecstasy, were seized in 1997, a notable increase from 65 units seized in 1996.

A new development this year was the seizure of precursor chemicals, in this case, 14,000 liters of acetic anhydride. The MOI believes the chemicals were destined for labs in Turkey.

The heroin present in the Macedonian market is thought to be manufactured primarily in Turkey. In four cases of heroin trafficking, the MOI uncovered organized smuggling involving Bulgarian, Turkish and Macedonian citizens. The marijuana in the country is mostly of domestic origin (grown by individual for personal use), but some is also smuggled in from Bulgaria and Albania.

Cultivation/Production. There is some illicit cultivation of cannabis in FYROM for personal consumption. There are no statistics on such cultivation. However, enforcement is supported by an aggressive anti-illicit cultivation program. There is also legal opium poppy cultivation, which is strictly controlled. Production is by individual farmer-contractors or big socially-owned agricultural plants. Alkaloid, the only factory in the country that processes the opium poppy, provides the contractors with poppy seeds and buys the opium. There have been no reports of diversion. Legal production is reported to the Macedonian Ministry of Health and through the Ministry of Internal Affairs to the International Narcotics Control Bureau in Vienna. There are no reports of illicit production or refining of heroin. Some recent cases under investigation have suggested that there may be an illegal laboratory producing amphetamines, but this has not been confirmed.

Policy Initiatives. The Macedonian government developed legislation to allow limited asset seizure. Currently, Macedonian police and customs authorities can seize only vehicles involved in drug trafficking.

Law Enforcement Efforts. Cooperation with neighboring countries is improving. Macedonian drug enforcement officers have used the opportunities at DEA-sponsored training seminars to establish informal contacts with their counterparts from the region. One concrete example of good cooperation with Bulgarian police was a controlled delivery. Although the operation was not in the end a success, the two countries worked well together. Macedonian cooperation with the DEA in 1997 resulted in the arrest of a Macedonian citizen wanted on charges of drug trafficking in the United States. Although extradition of its nationals is constitutionally prohibited, Macedonia has agreed to prosecute him there for the crimes committed in the US.

The Ministry of Interior participates in the INTERPOL-ProBalkan program.

Corruption. As a matter of policy, the Government of FYROM does not encourage or facilitate the illicit production or distribution of drugs, other controlled substances or the laundering of drug money.

Demand Reduction. Public awareness programs are limited and supported primarily by international organizations and recently by the Macedonian Orthodox Church. Recently efforts have been made to include local sport stars in a prevention program.

Limited treatment of addicts is financed by the state. Heroin addicts are treated by distributing methadone if the addicts can verify they are in treatment in state institutions. A recent problem of shortage of the methadone supply raised concerns about the possible trafficking in methadone by addicts.

Agreements and Treaties. FYROM is a party to the 1988 UN Drug Convention, the 1961 UN Single Convention and its 1972 Protocol, and the 1971 UN Convention on Psychotropic Substances. An Extradition Treaty with Yugoslavia dating from 1902 is in effect between the US and FYROM.

IV. US Policy Initiatives and Programs

Bilateral Cooperation. The US Government accredited a non-resident DEA Country Attache to the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia in 1997. This will help the USG to promote increased Macedonian government attention to the drug problem. Moreover, the USG encourages anti-drug support from those nations, primarily in western Europe, most directly affected by the drug problems from this region. In 1997, the USG provided training for seven drug enforcement officers in Zagreb, Croatia and one drug enforcement management unit in the US. In addition, the UN Center for Crime Prevention and the Ministries of Interior, Justice and Finance organized a seminar on the Prevention of Organized Crime and Corruption in Skopje in coordination with the United Nations Preventive Deployment Force (UNPREDEP) partially funded by the USG.

The Road Ahead. The USG will encourage the Macedonian government to expand and improve its drug control activities, enact anti-drug legislation, and improve its counternarcotics enforcement capabilities, and may allocate funds to support the effort FYROM makes in drug enforcement. The US Government will urge Macedonian authorities to continue to implement the provisions of the 1988 UN Drug Convention.

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