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Republic of Macedonia

Republic of Macedonia
Click here to view a map of Macedonia's entire territory

 The Name Dispute | Why Did Macedonia Change Its Flag? |  Basic Information |  Geographical Position
 Macedonia in the World |  Fundamental Values of the System | Organization of State Authority |  Foreign Policy

The Name Dispute

When the Republic of Macedonia declared independence in 1991, Greece immediately objected to its name and flag, claiming that the name Macedonia belongs to Greece and therefore, no country can use this name. Greece subsequently started a propaganda campaign against Macedonia in order to prevent it from receiving international recognition.

Despite Greece's objections, over 40 countries recognized Macedonia under its constitutional name, including Russia, China, Bulgaria, Turkey, Croatia, Slovenia, Bosnia-Hercegovina, Yugoslavia (Serbia and Montenegro), Ukraine, Belarus, Estonia, Lithuania, Iran, Pakistan, Malaysia, the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, the Phillipines, among many others. The rest of the world, (including the United States, Canada, Australia, Great Britain, France, Germany, etc.), following the direction of the United Nations, recognized Macedonia under the temporary name "Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia."

Greece's original position was that "no state entity appropriating the name Macedonia will ever be recognized" and that the name Macedonia ca Macedonia for the Macedonians United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights (to which Greece is a signatory) states that

  • "Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty."
What gives Greece the right to name another country? This issue is straightforward, every country has the right to call itself whatever it wishes.

The Greek government, the Greek public and Greek diaspora united in order to "prove the Greekness of Macedonia" and therefore, prevent international recognition of Macedonia. They claimed that if Macedonia is recognized under its constitutional name, that it would have territorial ambitions on Aegean Macedonia (within Greece's borders since 1913). There are three main reasons why Greece's claims are unfounded:

  1. If Macedonia made these territorial claims, a third Balkan War would start, involving Macedonia, Greece, Bulgaria, Serbia, Albania, Turkey, Russia and eventually the rest of Europe and the United States. Why would Macedonia risk this?
  2. Macedonia added a clause in its constitution that states that it has no territorial disputes with any neighbouring country.
  3. Macedonia's army is very small with an inadequate supply of weapons and equipment. Even if Macedonia wanted to invade another country, it would be impossible.

Greece fears that if Macedonia is recognized, that they would have to acknowledge the large ethnic Macedonian minority within its borders. They refuse to grant any minorities human rights, and do not want to be forced into it by the recognition of the Republic of Macedonia. For more information, please click on Human Rights, and Greek Propaganda.

Greece gained only limited success in blocking international recognition of Macedonia. Instead, many international observers condemned Greece's actions against the Republic of Macedonia. (See below). Realizing that their hardline position was not getting support, Greece softened its stance. The Greek government realizes that Macedonia will be recognized under its constitutional name by the United Nations, so they began to suggest names that included the term Macedonia such as "Slav-Macedonia", "Northern Macedonia" and "Vardar Macedonia." This was in complete contradiction to their earlier position.

It is obvious by Greece's reversal in policy that it realizes that the so-called "name dispute" has been lost.

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Why Did Macedonia Change Its Flag?

'Old' Macedonian Flag'New' Macedonian Flag

In 1995, the Republic of Macedonia changed its flag from the sixteen-pointed sunburst (shown on left) to the eight-pointed sunburst (shown on right). After the Republic of Macedonia's declaration of independence in 1991, Greece immediately objected to this country's name and flag, claiming that both were "historically Greek". (See Greek Propaganda).

Despite Greece's objections, many countries recognized the Republic of Macedonia under its constitutional name. Because Greece's pleas were largely ignored, they turned to more drastic measures. They closed the border with the Republic of Macedonia and denied Macedonia access to its main trade route, the "Greek port of Thessaloniki". (Actually Solun in Aegean Macedonia, occupied by Greece since 1913). Macedonia was already suffering due to sanctions imposed on Serbia as that trade route was also closed. They were forced to rely on dirt roads going through Albania and Bulgaria. The international community reacted with outrage against Greece's illegal border closing and threatened to sue Greece at the European Union court.

While diplomatic solutions were being pursued, Macedonia's economy continued to suffer. US mediator, Richard Holbrooke brokered a deal between the two countries on September 13, 1995. Macedonia agreed to change its flag and to include provisions in its constitution that prevent it from making any territorial claims against neighbouring countries. Greece agreed to lift the trade blockade and the ban on Macedonian passport-holders and to stop vetoing European Union aid for Macedonia. Click here to see the agreement in full.

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The following is a quote from the Makedonski Icelenuchki Almanac '97 1

Basic Information

Macedonia is a republic having a parliamentary democracy and a political system with a strict division into legislative, executive and judicial branches. From 1945 Macedonia had been a sovereign republic within federal Yugoslavia and on September 8, 1991, following the referendum of its citizens, Macedonia was proclaimed a sovereign and independent state.

Macedonia is divided territorially and politically into 34 municipalities. Economic and demographic movements have created some 200 urban inits. The new law on territorial and political organization envisages the establishment of about 90 new municipalities. The country has 1,753 settlements. In 1993 there were 1660 local communities.

The Republic of Macedonia has been a member of the United Nations since April 8, 1993. It was admitted as the Organization's 181st member; however, as a successor to the former Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, it has the status of one of the UN founders.

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Geographical Position

National Geographic Map of Macedonia

National Geographic Map of Macedonia

The Republic of Macedonia is situated in southern Europe on the Balkan Peninsula. Occupying a central geographical position in the Balkans, it is a transportation and communications crossroads linking Europe, Asia and Africa. Lying at the centre of the Balkans, Macedonia is at the junction of the main routes which have for millennia linked the West to the Orient. It covers an area of 25,713 square kilometres (the entire area of Macedonia covers approximately 66,000 square kilometres) and borders with Bulgaria to the east, Greece to the south, Albania to the west and Serbia to the north.

Macedonia has 850 kilometres of frontiers with its neighbours. The longest is the border with Greece-262km; that with FR Yugoslavia is 232km in length, that with Albania is 191 and that with Bulgaria is 165.

The borders with the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, Bulgaria and Albania are predominantly natural, following high mountain ridges. The border with Greece is less natural as it crosses Lake Dojran, Lake Prespa and the Pelagonija Valley. However, only the border with FR Yugoslavia (ie. Serbia) is simultaneously an ethnic one. The frontiers with the other three neighbouring countries are not ethnic, since large and compact groups of ethnic Macedonians live there.

Macedonia's borders are mostly land frontiers (786km); only 48km lie across lakes and 16km along rivers. Until the proclamation of its independence, Macedonia had only seven international border crossing points. There were three with Bulgaria: Deve Bair (Kriva Palanka), Delcevo and Novo Selo (Strumica), and three with Greece: Dojran, Bogorodica (Gevgelija) and Medzitlija (Bitola). There was only one border crossing point with Albania: Kafasan (Struga).

The small number of international border crossing points, particularly with Albania, created serious difficulty for the normal circulation of people and goods. In 1992, on the basis of international agreements with Albania, border crossings were opened at Sveti Naum (Ohrid), Stenje (Resen) and Blato (Debar). Arrangements for the opening of another international border crossing point to Bulgaria, Hlepalo (Berovo), are in their final stage.

Six international border crossing points have been set up with the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia: Blace, Tabanovce, Jazince, Sopot, Pelince and Volkovo.

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Macedonia in the World

The Republic of Macedonia's Location in Europe

Macedonia received a remarkably large sponsorship in its admission to the UN and has attracted the attention of international political circles, newspapers, agencies and electronic media since the very day it proclaimed its independence. In addition to the country's designation 'new', the other most often heard attribute is 'small.' Yet Macedonia has a larger population than almost a third of the UN members, and its territory is larger than nearly a quarter of them. As a comparison, Belgium has only a slightly larger territory than Macedonia.

  • Population: Over 50 UN Members Have Smaller Populations Than Macedonia
With its 1.1 billion inhabitants, China is the largest state among all the UN members, while San Marino, with a population of 22,000, is the smallest. The following states have smaller populations than Macedonia:

1.Andorra, 2.Antigua and Barbuda, 3.Bahamas, 4.Bahrain, 5.Barbados, 6.Belize, 7.Bhutan, 8.Botswana, 9.Brunei, 10.Cape Verde, 11.Comoro Islands, 12.Congo, 13.Cyprus, 14.Djibouti, 15.Dominica, 16.Equatorial Guinea, 17.Estonia, 18.Fiji, 19.Gabon, 20.Gambia, 21.Grenada, 22.Guinea-Bissau, 23.Guyana, 24.Iceland, 25.Kuwait, 26.Lesotho, 27.Liechtenstein, 28.Luxembourg, 29.Maldives, 30.Malta, 31.Marshall Islands, 32.Mauritania, 33.Mauritius, 34.Micronesia, 35.Monaco, 36.Mongolia, 37.Namibia, 38.Oman, 39.Qatar, 40.San Marino, 41.Sao Tome and Principe, 42.Seychelles, 43.Slovenia, 44.Solomon Islands, 45.St.Christopher and Nevis, 46.St.Lucia, 47.St.Vincent, 48.Suriname, 49.Swaziland, 50.Trinidad and Tobago, 51.United Arab Emirates, 52.Vanuatu, 53.Western Samoa.

Jamaica, Liberia, Panama and Eritrea have slightly more inhabitants than Macedonia.

  • Area: About 40 UN Members are Smaller Than Macedonia
In terms of size of state territory, as many as 38 UN members are smaller than Macedonia and 8 of them are of almost the same size or slightly larger.

The following states are smaller than Macedonia:

1.Andorra, 2.Antigua and Barbuda, 3.Bahamas, 4.Bahrain, 5.Barbados, 6.Belize, 7.Bhutan, 8.Cape Verde, 9.Comoro Islands, 10.Cyprus, 11.Djibouti, 12.Dominica, 13.Fiji, 14.Gambia, 15.Grenada, 16.Israel, 17.Jamaica, 18.Kuwait, 19.Lebanon, 20.Liechtenstein, 21.Luxembourg, 22.Maldives, 23.Malta, 24.Mauritius, 25.Monaco, 26.Qatar, 27.Salvador, 28.San Marino, 29.Sao Tome and Principe, 30.Seychelles, 31.Singapore, 32.Slovenia, 33.St.Christopher and Nevis, 34.St.Lucia, 35.St.Vincent, 36.Swaziland, 37.Trinidad and Tobago, 38.Vanuatu, 39.Western Samoa.

Slightly larger are Rwanda, Haiti, Burundi and Equatorial Guinea, and a little larger still are Albania, the Solomon Islands, Lesotho and Belgium.

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The following is a quote from Macedonia FAQ

Fundamental Values of the System

"The Republic of Macedonia is a sovereign, independent, democratic and social state." This sentence, being the initial sentence of the Constitution of the Republic of Macedonia, adopted on November 17, 1991, accurately defines the character of the state, from which its system of government derives.

The fundamental values of the constitutional order of the Republic of Macedonia are the following: the basic freedoms and rights of the individual and the citizen, recognized in international law; the free expression of national identity; the rule of law; the division of the state powers into legislative, executive and judicial; political pluralism and free, direct and democratic elections; the legal protection of property; the freedom of the market and entrepreneurship; humanism, social justice and solidarity; local self-government; proper urban and rural planning to promote a congenial human environment, and respect for the generally accepted standards of international law. Anything that is not prohibited by the Constitution or by law is permitted in the Republic of Macedonia.

The Constitution protects the inviolability of ownership of property and the right of inheritance, with the explicit provision that "no person may be deprived of his/her property or the rights deriving from it" (Article 30). The freedom of the market is constitutionally guaranteed (Articles 8 and 55). Foreign citizens may also acquire the right to ownership of property in the Republic of Macedonia under conditions stipulated by law.

"Foreign investors are guaranteed the right to the free transfer of invested capital and profits" (Article 59).

The Constitution of the Republic of Macedonia guarantees the freedoms and rights of the individual and the citizen: "Citizens of the Republic of Macedonia are equal in their freedoms and rights, regardless of sex, race, color of skin, national and social origin, political and religious beliefs, property and social status" (Article 9). Human freedom is inviolable. Citizens are guaranteed freedom of association to exercise and protect their political, economic, social, cultural and other rights and convictions. Citizens may freely establish associations of citizens and political parties, join them or resign from them. Citizens have the right to assemble peacefully and to express public protest without prior announcement or a special licence.

Every citizen on reaching 18 years of age acquires the right to vote. The right to vote is equal, universal and direct, and is exercised at free elections by secret ballot. The freedom of scholarly, artistic and other forms of creative work is guaranteed.

The Macedonian language, written using its Cyrillic alphabet, is the official language in the Republic of Macedonia. In the units of local self-government where the majority or a considerable number of the inhabitants belong to a nationality, in addition to the Macedonian language and its Cyrillic alphabet, their language and alphabet are also in official use, in a manner stipulated by law. The capital of the Republic of Macedonia is Skopje.

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Organization of State Authority

Macedonian GovernmentThe Assembly of the Republic of Macedonia is a representative body of the citizens and the legislative power of the Republic. The Assembly consists of 120 Representatives. Representatives arc elected for a term of four years at general, direct and free elections by secret ballot. A Representative's mandate cannot be revoked. The Assembly of the Republic of Macedonia adopts and changes the Constitution of the state. It also adopts laws and gives authentic interpretations of laws, determines public taxes and fees, adopts the budget of the Republic, ratifies international agreements and carries out political monitoring and supervision of the Government and other holders of public office responsible to the Assembly.

The first multi-party elections of Representatives to the Assembly of the Republic of Macedonia were held between November 11 and December 23, 1990. Seventeen political parties and 43 independent candidates took part. From the total number of 1,157 candidates, 120 Representatives were elected to the Republic's Assembly. The first multi - party Assembly of Macedonia was officially constituted on January 8,1991. The Assembly works in sessions which are open to the public.

The President of the Republic is elected at general and direct elections, by secret ballot, for a term of five years. A person may be elected President of the Republic twice at most. The President of the Republic must be a citizen of the Republic of Macedonia and be over the age of 40 on the day of election. A Presidential candidate can be nominated by a minimum of 10,000 voters or at least 30 Representatives, and can be elected President if he/she wins the majority of votes of the total number of voters.

The President of the Republic nominates a mandator to constitute the Government. He appoints ambassadors and other diplomatic representatives of the Republic of Macedonia abroad. The President of the Republic is Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Macedonia and President of the Security Council of the Republic.

Executive power is vested in the Government of the Republic of Macedonia. The Government is elected upon the proposal of the mandator who, proposing the composition of the Government, also proposes a program of its work. The Government is elected by the Republic's assembly.

The Government determines the policy of carrying out the laws and other regulations of the Assembly and is responsible for their execution. It proposes laws, the Republic's budget and other general acts adopted by the Assembly, and also adopts bylaws and other acts for the execution of laws. In accordance with the Constitution, the Government decides on the recognition of states and governments, as well as on the establishment of diplomatic and consular relations with other states.

Political organization and activity within the bodies of the state administration is prohibited. There is also a provision that the bodies of state administration in the areas of defense and the police must be headed by civilians.

In addition to the specific Ministries and Ministers without Portfolio, there are a number of independent agencies and institutions performing special functions.

Judiciary power is exercised by courts. They are autonomous and independent. A judge is elected without restriction of his/her term of office and cannot be transferred against his/her will.

The Supreme Court of Macedonia is the highest court in the Republic. It ensures uniformity in the implementation of the laws by the courts.

Emergency courts are constitutionally prohibited in the Republic of Macedonia.

Constitutionality and Legality in the Republic of Macedonia is protected by the Constitutional Court. Its judges, consisting of outstanding members of the Legal profession and with a term of office of nine years (without the right to reelection), are elected by the Republic's Assembly.

The citizens of Macedonia are guaranteed the right of local self-government. Local self-government is exercised through the municipalities, which are financed from their own sources as well as by funds from the Republic. In the units of local self- government, citizens participate in decision-making on issues of local relevance directly and through representatives, particularly in the fields of urban planning, communal activities, culture, sport, social security and child care, preschool education, primary education and basic health care.

Budget and Finance On April 26, 1992, Macedonia became monetarily independent: in place of the Yugoslav dinar which was in circulation up to that point the Macedonian national currency, the denar, was introduced.

A tax system similar to those existing in developed countries with market economies is in process of adoption in the Republic of Macedonia. It is of particular importance to restrict expansion in the public sector, and also to achieve a higher degree of efficiency and simplicity in fiscal measures. A policy has been adopted that the macroeconomic framework of public spending should not exceed 35% of the social product.

Requirements for the country's defense will .amount to a maximum of 3% of the national income.

Attempts are being made to achieve balanced financing by budget spending, that is, to prevent monetary financing of the state and to lower the fiscal pressure on inflation.

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Foreign Policy

The Republic of Macedonia has attained its independence by peaceful and Legitimate means: through a referendum and with a new Constitution. This fact also determines its international position and foreign policy.

As a peace-loving Balkan and European country and a member of the United Nations, Macedonia bases its foreign policy on the principles of the Charter of the United Nations. The priorities of Macedonian foreign policy are the following: the strengthening of international peace and security, the development of economic cooperation and the protection or human rights as preconditions for a more secure and more just world for all.

Macedonia is developing its relations with all the states of the world in accordance with the postulates of the Charter of the United Nations. It is also governed by the principles or sovereign equality, non-use or force, non-interference in internal matters and respect for integrity and independence.

Understandably, Macedonia pays special attention to cooperation in the region. An essential characteristic of its foreign policy has been the building of good-neighborly relations and an atmosphere of complete mutual respect, confidence and comprehensive bilateral and multilateral cooperation.

As a European state, Macedonia has in the focus of its interest the process of European integration, with an unambiguously set objective-with the course or time to win its place in the Community of the European peoples.

Macedonia also sees a broad field for international activity in cooperation with developing countries of the third world and non-aligned countries.

The political parties have also made a significant contribution to the strengthening of international cooperation Branches of a number of European and world non-governmental organizations and movements are also active in Macedonia and have become a factor which has gained respect in the international standing and activity of the Republic.

An object of special interest in Macedonian foreign policy is the situation of the Macedonian ethnic minority in neighboring countries, as well as the large number of expatriates in the United States of America, Canada, Australia and the European countries. Macedonia sees in them a bridge for closer ties and a further strengthening of cooperation, and bases its policy on the highest world standards by the rights it guarantees to the nationalities living in Macedonia.

Macedonia's foreign policy is the responsibility of the President of the Republic, the Government and its Ministry for Foreign Relations, as well as the Assembly and its bodies. International agreements are signed in the name of the Republic of Macedonia by the President of the Republic, or, in some cases, by the Government.

Macedonia's foreign policy is inextricably linked to public opinion in the Republic, whose major characteristic has been the effort to attain peace and friendship between peoples and states.


  1. Makedonski Icelenuchki Almanac '97, Matitsa na Icelenuchite od Makedonija, Skopje, 1997; p.42-44

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