According to the constitution, state and religious communities are separate and religious freedom prevails. However, this does not prevent the Macedonian Orthodox Church, among others, from having great power and sometimes intervening in political decisions.
About two out of three residents of Northern Macedonia, especially ethnic Macedonians, belong to the Macedonian Orthodox Church which was formed in 1958 following an outbreak of the Serbian Orthodox Church. The then Communist regime under Tito (see Modern History) wanted to reduce the power of the Serbian Orthodox Church and therefore helped restore the old Macedonian Archbishop’s seat in Ohrid this year. However, the Macedonian Church was not fully independent until 1967, but the relationship with the Serbian Orthodox Church has remained tense.
Most of Northern Albania’s Albanians are Muslims, but in the capital Skopje there are also a small number of Albanian Catholics. One of them was Mother Teresa, who was born in Skopje in 1910 and founded a nun in India in 1950. She received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979 for her extensive charity work among the poor in Calcutta (Kolkata), and was declared saint by the Catholic Church after her death in 1997.
In addition, small groups of followers live on other Orthodox Christian and Muslim orientations in the country.
- Countryaah: Population statistics for 2020 and next 30 years in Macedonia, covering demographics, population graphs, and official data for growth rates, population density, and death rates.
New Albanian opposition movement
In Skopje, a number of Albanian intellectual opposition movements are forming Besa in protest against the incumbent Albanian parties, which they do not consider seriously trying to improve the conditions of the Albanian population in the country.
The opposition again in Parliament
The 32 MPs from the opposition, mainly the Social Democratic SDSM, which boycotted parliamentary work for 15 months, are reintroducing their seats. This is done according to the agreement that was made during the summer and which will lead to new elections 2016.
EU summit on the refugee crisis
Macedonia belongs to the Western Balkan countries participating in an EU summit in Vienna on the refugee crisis. The EU promises SEK 1.7 billion in emergency aid to Macedonia and Serbia, but the countries also want to see a common EU policy, where all EU countries share responsibility for the refugees, something that does not currently exist. Until then, Macedonia expects around 3,000 refugees to cross the border each day. (27/8)
An emergency permit in an attempt to stop the refugee wave
20th of August
The government is introducing emergency permits at the borders in an attempt to stop the ever-increasing flow of refugees through the country. Most refugees come from Syria and have no plans to stay in Macedonia, but want to continue north through Serbia into the EU. In the last two months, well over 40,000 refugees have arrived in Macedonia from Greece.
In the capital Skopje, as in the cities of Tetovo, Struga, Kumanovo and Gostivar, a total of nine Macedonian citizens of different ethnic backgrounds are accused of trying to recruit people to the Islamic State, IS, and its war in Syria and Iraq; they would also have participated in battles for IS. Another 27 people have been wanted by the police. Several hundred Macedonian residents are believed to be fighting for IS and at least 19, all Macedonian Albanians, have been killed in combat.
Agreement on transitional government and new elections
Following a visit by Deputy US Secretary of State Victoria Nuland and new mediation efforts by EU’s Johannes Hahn, the knots can be disbanded and a detailed agreement signed. According to this, parliamentary elections will be held in 2016 and Gruevski will resign by January at the latest so that a transitional government can take office. The Social Democratic SDSM agrees to end its boycott of Parliament and is promised several ministerial posts.
Locked mode despite mediation attempts
Following a long series of unsuccessful EU-led discussions between government and opposition, EU Commissioner for Enlargement Johannes Hahn, after a marathon call in Skopje, announces that it has been agreed that new elections should be held by April 2016. The election will be preceded by a “transition period” (none details are given) when, among other things, a thorough review of electoral lengths etc. is to be done to prevent electoral fraud. However, when the government and the opposition try to agree on how the agreement should be implemented, they do not succeed and a new deadlock occurs.
Counter-demonstration for the government
Government loyalists hold a counter-demonstration in Skopje that gathers tens of thousands of people (though not as many as the opposition did). However, according to the opposition, for example, many government employees have felt more or less forced to participate in the manifestation. Prime Minister Gruevski gives speeches explaining that he does not intend to resign. The government supporters also set up tent camps right next to the government opponents.
Giant demonstration against the government
Around 60,000 people are expected to attend a large demonstration in Skopje. Participants come from all over the country, despite the fact that buses in their places were prevented from going to the capital. Albanians also participate in the manifestation as a sign that no hostility exists between the peoples’ groups without having a common goal: a democratic Macedonia. Opposition leader Zoran Zaev reiterated the demand that the entire government resign and a thousand protesters set up tents in front of the government building where they intend to stay until such time.
Get off the government
In an attempt to appease the opposition, Interior Minister Gordana Jankulovska, Transport Minister Mile Janakieski and the secret police chief, Sašo Mijalkov, are resigning from their posts, which is approved by Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski. The three have been close collaborators with Gruevski ever since he came to power in 2006 and Mijalkov is also his cousin. Opposition leader Zaev, however, explains that they will not resign until the entire government has resigned and an interim government has been set up to prepare a truly democratic government.
Many dead in fire fighting with police
A total of 18 people, including 8 police officers, are killed in gunfire between police and armed men for two days in the city of Kumanovo at the border in the north. According to the government, these are “terrorists” who have taken to Macedonia from a neighboring country (read Kosovo) to attack government institutions. The shooting takes place in a neighborhood dominated by ethnic Albanians. The Social Democratic opposition claims that the government is behind the unrest in an attempt to draw attention from the eavesdropping scandal.
New revelations trigger violent protests
About 20 people are injured in clashes between police and government-critical demonstrators in front of the Skopje government headquarters. According to the protesters, the police use infiltrators and take over. The demonstrations then begin one of the published secret recordings that are said to prove that the government attempted to darken the police murder of a young man, Martin Neškovski, in connection with the celebration of the VMRO-DPMNE election victory in June 2011. The protests spread the next day to other cities as well. The recordings released by the opposition since February have been revealed to reveal far-reaching corruption, rule of law and electoral fraud. The government rejects the allegations.
High school students demonstrate
It is not only university students who object to the state exams. In Skopje, high school students conduct a large demonstration against these, which they believe is only intended to get the students to think as the authorities want and a way for them to avoid real reforms within the school. The protesters are met by counter-demonstrations and threats from what are believed to be regime-loyal groups.
Demonstrations against tax increases
Thousands of contract workers and short-term employees are walking the streets of Skopje in a protest demonstration against the government’s decision to shock the income tax on their usually very modest salaries from 10 to 35 percent and they are supported by a number of trade unions and human rights movements. The demonstration ends at the university, which students occupied in protest of the government’s new law on state exams (see December 2014) and also the students give their support. The government promises to mitigate the new tax somewhat, but the protesters demand that the tax increase be fully withdrawn.
Disclosure of legal roots at government level
The opposition publishes tape recordings and transcripts of eavesdropped telephone conversations where, among other things, a Deputy Prime Minister, the Interior and Finance Ministers and the Chief of the Secret Police are heard settling on which judgments will be sentenced in ongoing court cases and which persons should be appointed to which items in the judicial system. The government rejects the accusations of having taken control of the judiciary and the prosecutor warns, contrary to the constitution, the media for publishing information in the case, which many media hear. (See also January 2015.)
The opposition leader is prevented from leaving the country
Socialist leader Zoran Zaev is accused of trying to overthrow the government with the help of a foreign security service (no country is mentioned). Zaev, who is allowed to surrender his passport, rejects the accusations he believes are an attempt by the government to make him refrain from publishing tape recordings that could be harmful to him. According to Zaev, the recordings show that Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski and the head of his counter-espionage illegally intercepted 20,000 people: his own employees, prominent politicians, opposition leaders (such as Zaev himself), activists, journalists, businessmen, academics, religious leaders, high lawyers and others. Even President Gjorge Ivanov must have been eavesdropped. Gruevski and his party VMRO-DPMNE deny eavesdropping.