Prime Minister: Gjorgje Ivanov
Head of State: Nikola Gruevski
Foreign Minister: Antonio Milososki
Area: 25,713 sq km
Population: 2,061,315 inhabitants (July 2008 estimate)
Capital City: Skopje
Major Languages: Macedonian, Albanian (official in the areas where they are spoken by over 20% of inhabitants)
Independent of Yugoslavia following a referendum on September 1991, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (an internationally recognised name but one which is not accepted by the local government) is a parliamentary democracy. The unicameral parliament comprises 120 members elected for four years by universal suffrage under a proportional system. The Head of State is elected by universal suffrage for five years. Following the political elections of June 2008, a coalition government was formed by the Nationalist Party, the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organisation-Democratic Party of National Unity (VMRO-DPMNE) of Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski (the largest ethnic Albanian party), and Ali Ahmet’s Albanian Union for Integration (DUI).
Since gaining its independence FYROM has had to face problems stemming both from tensions with Greece, which disputes the use of the name Macedonia in international forums, and issues associated with ethnic conflicts with neighbouring Kosovo, which risked splitting the country in 2001. A civil war was avoided only thanks to decisive international intervention. On the heels of a compromise between representatives of Macedonian and Albanian ethnic groups – the Ohrid Agreement – Skopje undertook the process of integrating into European and transatlantic institutions. Skopje participates in the NATO Membership Action Plan (MAP) and has had EU Candidate Country status since 2005 as it awaits the formal opening of accession negotiations. As of 19 December 2009, Skopje also enjoys the benefits of a new visa liberalisation regime with the EU along with Serbia and Montenegro.
Following the ethnic crisis of 2001, the country’s economic growth suffered another blow as a result of the general global economic downturn. GDP fell by 3% in 2009 while a slight recovery (around 0.5%) is expected during 2010. Unemployment, estimated at 33%, in the country’s main social and economic problem. To alleviate the effect of the economic downturn the government has arranged for a package of measures aimed at reducing public spending by 9% and facilitating business’ access to credit. In the 2009 budget law measures were approved that should reduce the State deficit to 2.8% of GDP. The EIB made a €100 million line of credit available small and medium sized enterprises in October 2009.