U.S. Department of State
Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor,
The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia Country Report on Human Rights Practices for 1998
February 26, 1998
THE FORMER YUGOSLAV REPUBLIC OF MACEDONIA
The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, which became independent
following the breakup of Yugoslavia, is a parliamentary democracy led by a
coalition government. It has a popularly elected president. In the third
multiparty parliamentary elections held in October and November, opposition
parties defeated parties of the governing coalition. International
observers concluded that elections were conducted fairly and reflected the
will of the electorate. The judiciary is generally independent.
The Ministry of Interior oversees the uniformed police, criminal police,
border police, and the state intelligence service. Municipal police chiefs
are responsible to the Ministry of the Interior, not to municipal leaders.
The Ministry is under the control of a civilian minister; a parliamentary
commission oversees operations. The Ministry of Defense shares with the
border police responsibility for border security. Some members of the
police occasionally committed human rights abuses.
The economy is in transition from Yugoslav-style communism to a market-
based system. Most firms are privatized, big money-losing enterprises are
being restructured, and inflation has been reduced to less than 4 percent.
The economic picture has improved substantially since the lifting of the
Greek embargo and the suspension of United Nations sanctions against Serbia,
both in 1995, before which the gross domestic product fell an estimated 50
percent. Growth resumed slowly in 1996 and continued at about a 5 percent
rate in 1998. Unemployment is high; the gray economy is large. Some
workers receive their pay several months late.
The Government generally respected the human rights of its citizens;
however, there were problems in some areas. Police abused suspects and
prisoners. The Government's practice of police compelling citizens to
appear for questioning continued, despite official claims that the practice
had ended pursuant to a 1997 law. Another 1997 law imposed some
limitations on religious practices. Societal discrimination against
minorities, including ethnic Albanians, ethnic Turks, Roma, and ethnic
Serbs is a problem. Ethnic minorities made progress in securing more
representation in state institutions, although ethnic Macedonians continue
to hold a disproportionate number of positions. Violence and
discrimination against women remain problems; the trafficking of women and
girls for prostitution is also a problem.
RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS
Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom
a. Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing
There were no reports of political or other extrajudicial killings.
The parliamentary commission investigating police conduct during the July
1997 demonstration, in which three persons were killed, completed its
report in March. The commission concluded that police action in Gostivar
to remove Albanian and Turkish flags from the municipal building was
justified legally. In the riots that followed the police action, the
commission determined that certain individuals and groups had exceeded
their authority. The commission added that certain police officers
searched homes illegally. However, the commission did not identify those
persons responsible for abuses. Instead, it called on the Ministry of
Interior to take responsibility for identifying those responsible and to
take legal action against them. The Parliament, on adopting the
commission's report, required the Government to respond by June, but there
was no official response from the Government. However, the Government
began to take some steps related to the report's recommendations, such as
the improvement of police training. Other actions, including the reform of
the Ministry of Interior to include an increase in ethnic minority
representation in the police also are under way but have not been formally
announced. However, the Government did not act on the commission's key
recommendation to identify those persons responsible for individual
The investigation into the 1995 car bomb attack on President Gligorov
continued but produced no results.
There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances.
c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or
The Constitution prohibits such treatment and punishment; however, police
used excessive force during the apprehension of criminal suspects, and they
abused prisoners, especially members of ethnic minorities. In September
and October, following the arrests of six individuals suspected of arms
smuggling, family members reported cruel treatment of the arrested
individuals. Several off-duty police officers were fired from the force in
September for assaulting a group of young men, who then pressed
Albanian separatists set off three homemade bombs in Tetovo in January,
without causing casualties or much damage. Three more bombs exploded in
Skopje in July, without injury or damage.
Prison conditions meet minimum international standards.
The Government permits visits by human rights monitors and the Human Rights
Ombudsman. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) plans to
begin prison visits as soon as the Government agrees to ICRC's standard
modalities for such visits.
d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile
The Constitution states that a person must be arraigned in court within 24
hours of arrest. The maximum length of pretrial detention was increased in
1998 from 90 to 180 days by
constitutional amendment. The accused is entitled to contact a lawyer at
the time of arrest and to have a lawyer present during police and court
proceedings. According to human rights observers and criminal defense
attorneys, police sometimes violate the 24-hour requirement and deny
immediate access to an attorney. Although the law requires warrants for
arrests, this provision is sometimes ignored, and the warrant issued only
some time after the arrest.
The Government continued the practice of police compelling citizens to
appear at police stations through an "invitation" for "informative talks."
Although a law on criminal procedures was passed in 1997 stating that
police cannot force citizens to appear for these sessions without
presentation of a court order, the practice continued, particularly with
citizens of ethnic minority origin, despite government claims that the
practice had ended. For example, police "invited" five ethnic Albanian
political activists to report to a Skopje police station following one of a
series of small bomb detonations in Skopje. The police had no official
warrant nor did they document the meetings. The Government did not respond
during the year to concerns raised by human rights groups and others about
the continued practice.
The Government does not practice forced exile.
e. Denial of Fair Public Trial
The Constitution provides for an independent judiciary, and the Government
respects this provision in practice, although the court system is still
developing and is sometimes inefficient and slow. The outcomes of a small
number of cases were suspected of being influenced from outside the
The court system is three tiered, comprising municipal courts, district
courts, and a Supreme Court. A Constitutional Court deals with matters of
The Constitutional Court has a mandate to protect the human rights of
citizens but has not taken action in any case in this area. In addition,
the Constitution provides for a public attorney to protect the
constitutional and legal rights of citizens when violated by bodies of
state administration and other agencies with public mandates. The Office
of the People's Ombudsman fills that role. The Ombudsman was appointed in
July 1997, and the office became fully functional during the year (see
Trials are presided over by judges appointed by the Republican Judicial
Council (an independent agency) and confirmed by Parliament. The judges
are assisted by two members of the community who serve essentially as
consulting jurors, although the judge has the final word. Court hearings
and the rendering of verdicts are open to the public except in some cases,
such as those involving minors and those in which the personal safety of
the defendant is concerned. Trials cannot be televised, pursuant to the
Criminal Procedure Code, although the court can in certain cases authorize
the presence of television and film cameras.
Four persons jailed during the year for crimes relating to the July 1997
events in Gostivar and Tetovo consider themselves political prisoners. The
mayor and the municipal council president of Tetovo were sentenced to 2¸
years in prison for failure to observe a Constitutional Court order to
remove Albanian flags from municipal buildings. The mayor of Gostivar was
sentenced to 13 years and 8 months in prison for inciting riots and
interethnic hatred, failing to abide by a judicial decision, and organizing
resistance to the Government. The sentence was reduced on appeal to 7
years. The municipal council president of Gostivar was sentenced to 2
years' imprisonment in the incident. The four men reported to jail
peacefully and are serving their sentences. The Ombudsman visited them and
reported that they had no complaints. Nonetheless, ethnic Albanian
political parties sponsored several mass rallies early this year to protest
the sentences and to urge the release of the men, whom they consider
f. Arbitrary Interference With Privacy, Family, Home, or
The Constitution prohibits such practices, government authorities generally
respect these prohibitions, and violations are subject to effective legal
Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:
a. Freedom of Speech and Press
The Constitution provides for freedom of speech and of the press, and the
Government generally respects these rights in practice.
Several daily newspapers are published in Skopje, as well as numerous
weekly or periodical political and other publications. Most towns and
municipalities have local newspapers. Government-subsidized newspapers in
the Albanian and Turkish languages are published and distributed nationally
by the leading news publishing house. The Government subsidizes some other
newspapers and magazines. The process of granting media subsidies was not
transparent this year, leading to charges of political bias in government
support for the independent media. Several privately owned publications
have a wide distribution throughout the country, and some are considered to
be oriented towards opposition political parties. The media that remain
partially state owned are government oriented but report opposition press
conferences and statements and in general provide coverage of the major
The leading newspaper publisher is still partially government owned and
controls one of only two modern, high-speed printing facilities in the
country, as well as most newspaper kiosks. Opposition parties allege that
government control and manipulation of the media prevent them from getting
their messages across. However, the media were scrutinized closely during
the year for their coverage of the parliamentary election campaign and
voting. International monitors noted that the media provided generally
unbiased coverage of the full spectrum of parties and candidates. However,
several media outlets were criticized for their clear bias in favor of one
Distributors of foreign newspapers and magazines must obtain permission of
the Ministry of Interior. All such requests were approved during the year.
Foreign newspapers, including those from neighboring countries, are
available throughout the country.
One journalist, the editor of a large circulation opposition-oriented
weekly magazine, was the victim of assault in 1998. The attack was alleged
to be politically motivated, and the case was not solved.
The new Broadcast Council set up under 1997 legislation implemented a
licensing regime to award concessions to radio and television broadcasters.
International experts reviewed the process and standards and found them to
meet international norms. Concerns that the Broadcast Council's
recommendations would be subject to political pressure proved unfounded.
Following a fairly transparent process involving several rounds of
frequency distribution, the Ministry of Transportation and Communication
awarded licenses to virtually all broadcasters who applied, including for
local and national frequencies. There are dozens of small independent
radio and television broadcasters throughout the country. The broadcast
law directs that broadcast fees collected through individual electric bills
subsidize both state-run Macedonian Radio and Television and the
maintenance of infrastructure for other public and commercial broadcasting.
Some stations are concerned that license fees are too high (although within
international standards), but collection of the fees has not been completed
and some adjustments were expected with the formation of the new Parliament
Individuals and opposition political groups may criticize the Government
publicly without reprisal. The media do not appear to practice self-
censorship due to fear of government reprisal. The Government does not
censor books and other publications, nor does it censor films.
The Government respects academic freedom. Because higher education is not
available in the Albanian language except for teacher training, some ethnic
Albanians claim that they do not have complete academic freedom. They want
to see the unauthorized Tetovo university gain legal status so that they
can study in their mother tongue (see Section 5).
b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association
The Constitution provides for freedom of assembly, and the Government
generally respects this right in practice. Advance notification of large
meetings is optional; political and protest rallies occur regularly without
major incident. Religious gatherings, if they occur outside of specific
religious facilities, must be approved in advance by the Ministry of
Interior and can only be convened by registered religious groups.
Three organizers of a rally demanding international attention to the
situation of ethnic Albanians in Kosovo were arrested. Authorities charged
them with inciting racial and ethnic hatred. They were convicted and
sentenced to a unknown punishment. They apparently were held responsible
for the fact that, during the rally, several demonstrators chanted
provocative slogans and waved the Albanian national flag. Their cases are
The Constitution provides for freedom of association, and the Government
generally respects this right in practice. Political parties and
organizations are required to register with a court. More than 40
political parties are registered, including ethnically based parties of
Albanians, Turks, Serbs, and Roma. A new ethnic Albanian party, comprising
two previously registered parties, was denied registration by the judge
responsible for the case, based on the grounds that the party's symbols and
program contained elements that the judge considered unconstitutional.
Subsequent rulings of the Appeals Court and the Constitutional Court
questioned the grounds for the registration court's decision and returned
the case to the original judge. However, even after the party modified its
program to reflect some of the judge's concerns, the court ultimately
blocked the registration because of the party's use of symbols of a foreign
state (Albania), which is specifically prohibited under the Constitution.
c. Freedom of Religion
The Constitution specifically provides for freedom of religion for the
Macedonian Orthodox Church and other religious communities and groups, and
the Government generally does not interfere with the practice of religion.
However, a 1997 law limits some aspects of religious practice. While only
the Macedonian Orthodox Church is mentioned by name in the Constitution, it
does not enjoy official status.
The 1997 Law on Religious Communities and Groups designates the Macedonian
Orthodox Church, the Islamic community, and the Roman Catholic Church as
"religious communities," while all other religions are designated
"religious groups." However, despite the difference in designation, both
religious communities and religious groups are considered "legal entities."
The law places some limitations on religious practices. For example, only
citizens with permanent residence in the country may found a religious
group. The law also stipulates that religious instruction only can be
carried out in public spaces where religious services are held and that
foreigners who wish to conduct religious services must obtain a routinely
granted permit from the Government's Commission on Interreligious Relations
before they enter the country. Some religious leaders have voiced concerns
about the new law, although its practical effect has not been demonstrated
fully. The law also requires that anyone carrying out religious work and
religious rites be registered with the Commission. There are 18 registered
religious groups and communities. An Islamic group was denied registration
during the year. The Commission stated that the denial was due to the
group's failure to meet administrative requirements; the Commission
considers the case open.
Several registered Protestant groups were unable to obtain building permits
for new church facilities due to normal bureaucratic complications that
affect all new construction.
The refusal of the Serbian Orthodox Church to recognize the independence of
the Macedonian Orthodox Church has led to difficulties for ethnic Serbs who
wish to worship in their own church. On a number of occasions the
Government refused Serbian Orthodox priests permission to enter the country
and apparently plans to continue doing so until the Serbian Church
recognizes the Macedonian Church.
d. Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, Emigration,
Citizens are permitted free movement within the country as well as the
right to leave and return. These rights may be restricted for security,
public health, and safety reasons but are fully respected in
Some provisions of the law on citizenship are highly restrictive, requiring,
for example, 15 years of residence for most naturalizations. This has left
several thousand persons who were living legally in the country at the time
of independence without citizenship. The law particularly affects ethnic
Albanians who had moved to the country from other parts of Yugoslavia
before Macedonia's independence. As citizens of the predecessor state
living legally in the territory of the country at the time of independence,
they believe they have a right to citizenship. The law also affects many
Roma who wish to become citizens, particularly with regard to difficulties
they encounter in establishing residence and meeting requirements of a
regular income. In accordance with the Council of Europe Convention on
Citizenship, which the Government signed, it must shorten the period of
residency necessary for naturalization to 10 years.
Ethnic Albanians constitute a disproportionately high number of emigrants,
due to stronger familial ties outside the country and longstanding economic
relationships in other countries.
The Government has not formulated a policy regarding refugees, asylees, or
first asylum. However, it is working with the United Nations High
Commissioner for Refugees to develop appropriate laws in this area.
A few dozen ethnic Albanians from Kosovo have sought first asylum. There
were no reports of the forced return of persons to a country where they
The Government remains concerned about the flow of economic and other
illegal migrants from neighboring Albania, as well as from the province of
Kosovo in Serbia-Montenegro. As the military's border protection capacity
improved, illegal migration and smuggling incidents declined. Nonetheless,
illegal entries continue and occasionally have led to shooting
Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to
Change Their Government
The Constitution provides citizens with the right to change their
government peacefully, and citizens exercise this right in practice through
periodic, free, and fair elections held on the basis of universal suffrage.
The country's third parliamentary elections were held in October and
November and resulted in an opposition victory and a change of
The unicameral Parliament governs the country. The Prime Minister, as head
of government, is selected by the party or coalition that can produce a
majority in the Parliament. He and the other ministers may not be Members
of Parliament. The Prime Minister is formally appointed by the President,
who is head of state, Chairman of the Security Council, and commander in
chief of the armed forces.
Although no formal restrictions exist on the participation of women in
politics and government, they are severely underrepresented in these areas.
The Government has two female ministers and two female vice presidents with
the rank of minister. In the newly elected Parliament 9 of 120 members are
women, an increase from only 4 women in the previous Parliament. During
the election campaign, the importance of increasing women's representation
in Parliament was highlighted in the media and by nongovernmental
A number of political parties represent the interests of minorities,
including ethnic Albanians, ethnic Turks, ethnic Serbs, and Roma.
Minorities nevertheless complained that the political structures were
biased against them. A new electoral law incorporated elements of
proportional representation, partly to address these concerns. A total of
35 of the 120 parliamentary members were chosen on the basis of
proportionality, while the other 85 members were elected in single-member
districts. Some ethnic Albanians complained that the Albanian-majority
districts had more voters than districts with predominantly ethnic
Macedonian populations, thus violating the "one-person, one-vote"
principle. There is some merit to this complaint, but the ethnic Albanian
party was consulted on the 1996 redistricting. Also, all the political
parties supported the new electoral law. Some ethnic Albanians and Roma
also complain that discrimination against them in citizenship decisions
effectively disenfranchises a large portion of their community (see Section
Ethnic minority members of the new Parliament will include 25 ethnic
Albanians, 1 Macedonian Muslim, 1 Rom, and an indeterminate, small number
Section 4 Governmental Attitude Regarding International and
Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human
The Government generally is responsive to the concerns of human rights
groups. However, it did not respond to concerns raised by human rights
groups and others about the practice of police compelling citizens to
appear at police stations for so-called "informative talks" (see Section
1.d.). Human rights groups and ethnic community representatives meet
freely with foreign representatives without government interference.
Several independent forums for human rights exist and operate freely, but
their activities have not been prominent. In November one such forum, with
the support of the Human Rights Ombudsman, widely distributed an
information card for citizens on basic human rights.
In 1997 Parliament passed a law establishing an Ombudsman, intended to
ensure the protection of citizens' constitutional and legal rights. The
Ombudsman's office became fully functional in 1998. However, most
complaints filed to date are not human rights issues and are instead about
city licensing and municipal code problems.
The Government allows independent missions by foreign observers and during
the year hosted a delegation from the Council of Europe's Committee for the
Prevention of Torture. In late 1997 the country was removed from the
mandate of the Special Rapporteur for the former Yugoslavia of the United
Nations Human Rights Commission.
Section 5 Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Disability,
Language, or Social Status
The Constitution provides for equal rights for all citizens regardless of
their sex, race, color of skin, national or social origin, political or
religious beliefs, property, or social status. However, societal
discrimination against ethnic minorities and the protection of women's
rights are problems.
Violence against women, especially in the family setting, is common.
Criminal procedures are available for victims of rape, including limited
legal recourse in the case of marital rape.
Cultural norms discourage the reporting of such violence, and criminal
charges on grounds of domestic violence are very rare. Public concern
about violence against women is not evident in the media, although some
women's groups are working to raise awareness of the issue. Shelters for
victims of spousal abuse are operated by nongovernmental organizations. A
hot line remains open, but its hours are limited.
The trafficking of women and girls for prostitution and pornography is a
problem. In several cases during the year, women from Bulgaria, Russia,
and Ukraine were discovered in several large towns. They are believed to
have been recruited by traffickers in women for the purposes of sexual
The sexual harassment of women in the workplace is a problem. Maternity
benefits are good, with 9-months paid maternity leave. Women also retain
for 2 years the right to return to their jobs.
The Constitution provides that women possess the same legal rights as men.
Macedonian society, in both the Muslim and Christian communities, is
patriarchal, and the advancement of women into nontraditional roles is
limited. Women are severely underrepresented in the higher levels of the
private sector, although some professional women are prominent. Women from
some parts of the ethnic Albanian community do not have equal opportunities
for employment and education, primarily due to traditional and religious
constraints on their full participation in society. In Muslim communities,
especially among more traditional ethnic Albanians, some women are not
enfranchised fully, due to the practice of family/proxy voting, through
which men vote on behalf of the women in their families.
Women's advocacy groups include the Humanitarian Association for the
Emancipation, Solidarity, and Equality of Women, the Union of Associations
of Macedonian Women, and the League of Albanian Women.
The Government is committed to the rights and welfare of children but in
some areas is limited by resource constraints. Education is compulsory
through the eighth grade, or to the ages of 15 or 16. At both the primary
and secondary levels, girls in some ethnic Albanian communities are
underrepresented in schools. The Government encouraged ethnic minority
students, particularly girls, to enroll in secondary schools. Medical care
for children is adequate but hampered by the general difficult economic
circumstances of the country and the weak medical system.
There is no societal pattern of abuse against children.
People With Disabilities
Social programs to meet the needs of the disabled exist to the extent that
government resources allow. Discrimination on the basis of disability is
forbidden by law. No laws or regulations mandate accessibility for
The population of 2.2 million is composed of a variety of national and
ethnic groups, mainly Macedonians, Albanians, Turks, Roma, Serbs, and
Vlachs. All citizens are equal under the law. The Constitution provides
for the protection of the ethnic, cultural, linguistic, and religious
identity of minorities, including state support for education in minority
languages through secondary school and the official use of ethnic minority
languages in areas where ethnic minorities make up a majority of the
Ethnic tensions and prejudices are present in society. The Government is
committed to a policy of peaceful integration of all ethnic groups into
society but faces political resistance and continued popular
Representatives of the ethnic Albanian community, by far the largest
minority group with 23 percent of the population according to government
statistics, are the most vocal in charging discrimination. The
underrepresentation of Albanians in the military and police is a major
grievance of the community. In areas where the ethnic Albanian population
is large, the police force remains overwhelmingly Slavic Macedonian.
Members of ethnic minorities constitute 8 percent of the Ministry of the
Interior; their numbers among police officers are lower. To raise this
figure, in 1994-95 the Ministry introduced a quota of 22 percent for ethnic
minorities when enrolling pupils at the police secondary school, although
attrition has meant that graduating classes are not represented
The military has achieved some success in its efforts to recruit and retain
minority officers and cadets. Military service is a universal male
obligation, and most young men, whatever their ethnic origin, answer their
conscription notices. The proportion of ethnic Albanians in the ranks is
now estimated at 25 percent. There are fewer ethnic Albanians in the
officer corps, but some progress is being made in this area as well. Of
junior officers, 8 percent are from ethnic minorities, while 14 percent of
new cadets at the military academy are from ethnic minorities. Just over 8
percent of the civilian employees are from ethnic minorities; ethnic
Albanians constitute only 3 percent of Ministry of Defense civilians. The
deputy minister of defense and one of eight general officers are ethnic
The Constitution provides for primary and secondary education in the
languages of the ethnic minorities. Primary education is available in
Macedonian, Albanian, Turkish, and Serbian. Albanian-language education is
a crucial issue for the ethnic Albanian community; it is seen as vital for
preserving Albanian heritage and culture. Almost all ethnic Albanian
children receive 8 years of education in Albanian-language schools. The
number of ethnic minority students who receive secondary education in their
mother tongues is increasing, and was 14 percent during the year, up from
13 percent in the previous school year. Still, most students from ethnic
minorities do not go on to high school, partly because of the lack of
available classes in minority languages at the secondary level and partly
because the traditional nature of parts of Albanian society leads many
families in rural areas to see no need to educate their children,
especially girls, beyond the eighth grade.
At the university level, ethnic minorities are underrepresented, but there
has been much progress in increasing the number of ethnic minority
applicants and students since 1991. There are eased admission requirements
for minorities at the universities in Skopje and Bitola for up to 23
percent of entering places, a quota that was not filled in 1998. Ethnic
minorities in the 1998-99 school year constituted 16 percent of the
enrolled students. Most university education is in Macedonian, although
there is Albanian-language university education for students at Skopje
University's teacher training faculty who study to teach in Albanian-
language primary and secondary schools. An obstacle to increasing
university attendance of ethnic Albanians and Roma is their low but
increasing enrollment in secondary education, especially of girls.
Demands for the legalization of an unofficial Albanian-language university
in Tetovo during 1995 led to a violent clash between demonstrators and
police in which one ethnic Albanian died and about 30 people were injured.
Since then the Government has tacitly allowed the university--which it
still considers to be illegal--to function without giving it any official
recognition. The issue of Albanian-language university education was
debated productively during the parliamentary election campaign
The Government has not supported three other demands of some ethnic
Albanian leaders that would require parliamentary approval: Use of the
Albanian language in dealings with the central government and Parliament,
relaxing citizenship laws that now require 15 years of legal residence (see
Section 2.d.), and official use of the Albanian flag.
Ethnic Turks, who make up about 4 percent of the population, also complain
of governmental, societal, and cultural discrimination. Their main
complaints center on Turkish-language education and media. One continuing
dispute has been over the desire of parents who consider themselves Turkish
to educate their children in Turkish despite the fact that they do not
speak Turkish at home. The Education Ministry refuses to provide Turkish-
language education for them, noting that the Constitution provides for
education in the mother tongues, not a foreign language. The parents have
banded together to hire teachers of their own, but this kind of private
education is not legally authorized.
Ethnic Serbs, who comprise about 2 percent of the population, also
complained about discrimination, alleged censorship of the Serbian press,
and their inability to worship freely in the Serbian Orthodox
Little tension is evident between the Roma and other citizens of the
country, although Roma tend to occupy the lowest economic rung of society.
In 1996 optional education in the Romani language started at four
elementary schools, although there has been no call for a full curriculum.
Although there were two Romani members of the previous Parliament, only one
was elected in the October-November elections. There is some Romani-
There are also a number of Macedonian Muslims and Bosnian Muslims in the
country. Some Macedonian Muslims contend that they are identified too
closely with ethnic Albanians, most of whom are also Muslim, with whose
policies the Macedonian Muslims disagree.
Section 6 Worker Rights
a. The Right of Association
The Constitution provides for the right to form trade unions, but this
right is restricted for military members, police, and civil servants.
Independent trade unions have been allowed to organize since 1992, when an
Association of Independent and Autonomous Unions was formed. However,
there is still a national trade union. The Confederation of Trade Unions
of Macedonia is the successor organization to the old Communist labor
confederation. It maintains the assets of the old unions and is the
Government's main negotiating partner, along with the Chamber of Economy,
on labor issues. While its officers may tend to oppose strikes because of
the legacy of the past, they appear to be genuinely independent of the
Government and committed to the interests of the workers they
The number of strikes declined in 1998. The reasons for the strikes varied
from demands for increases in the state budget (judicial employees) to
strikes opposing privatization proceedings (Bitola brewery workers).
Strikes were generally small and confined to factory grounds, but striking
bus factory workers marched in front of the government building. Strikes
were calm and well organized and passed without serious incident.
b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively
The Constitution implicitly recognizes employees' right to bargain
collectively, a concept nevertheless still in its infancy. Legislation in
this area has yet to be passed by Parliament.
There are no export processing zones.
c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor
Legal prohibitions against forced labor, including that performed by
children, are observed in practice.
d. Status of Child Labor Practices and Minimum Age for Employment
The constitutional minimum age for employment of children is 15 years. The
law prohibits forced or bonded labor by children, and the Government
enforces this prohibition effectively (see Section 6.c.). Children may not
legally work nights or more than 40-hour weeks. Education is compulsory
through grade eight, or to the ages of 14 or 15. The Ministry of Labor and
Social Welfare is responsible for enforcing laws regulating the employment
e. Acceptable Conditions of Work
The average monthly wage in November was about $179 (9,283 denars). The
minimum wage is by law two-thirds of the average wage. By comparison, an
average month's worth of food for a family of four cost $184 (9,566
denars). This economic situation meant that few workers could support a
family on their wages alone. Many households are dual-income, and many
people take on additional work in the gray market.
Yugoslavia had extensive laws concerning acceptable conditions of work,
including an official 42-hour workweek with a minimum 24-hour rest period
and generous vacation and sick leave benefits. The country adopted many of
these provisions, including the workweek and rest period. There is
pressure on the Government to reform the welfare system in order to cut
government expenditures, but no reforms were undertaken during the year.
The Constitution provides for safe working conditions, temporary disability
compensation, and leave benefits. Although laws and regulations on worker
safety remain from the Yugoslav era, credible reports suggest that they are
not strictly enforced. The Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare is
responsible for enforcing regulations pertaining to working conditions.
Under the law, if workers have safety concerns, employers are obliged to
address dangerous situations. Should employers fail to do so, employees
are entitled legally to leave the dangerous situation without losing their