Macedonia (FYROM)



Largely a country of emigration, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) has slowly started to become a country of transit and permanent immigration. FYROM attracts immigrants mainly from Turkey, Albania and Kosovo, but also more recently people from Afghanistan and Pakistan, as well as Syrian refugees. In 2008, the government adopted the first national migration policy and national strategy on integration of refugees and foreigners 2008-2015. FYROM has ratified the main ILO and UN conventions but has not yet signed the UN International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families, the Council of Europe Convention on the Legal Status of Migrant Workers, and the Convention on the Participation of Foreigners in Public Life at Local Level. 

With an overall MIPEX score of 44/100, the country’s policies are barely halfway favourable for societal integration. These policies score just below the European average and slightly better than other countries in the region, such as Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia and Bulgaria. The country’s anti-discrimination legislation could contribute the most to the integration of future immigrants, as in other countries with similar laws in Central and Eastern Europe. Victims of discrimination have access to slightly favourable enforcement mechanisms and a relatively strong equality body.  The obstacles to immigrant integration lay less in anti-discrimination law than in foreigners’ law. Temporary foreign workers, families, and permanent residents cannot benefit from key rights that are guaranteed in other EU member states through the EU acquis. Common across the region, the discretional powers of the authorities hamper the procedures for family reunion, long-term residence and naturalisation. Immigrants must also endure one of the longest waiting periods to be eligible for naturalisation. Beyond the law and their legal status, immigrants lack targeted state support to find the right job, improve the education of their children or benefit from consultative bodies, enabling their voice to be heard in political debates. 

Areas of Integration

  • Show Labour Market Mobility

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    Opening labour market access in new countries of immigration

    The most recent MIPEX study found that many new immigration countries are increasingly opening equal access to the labour market to all legal temporary residents. The major countries of immigration in Southern Europe (Italy, Portugal, Spain) grant newcomers nearly equal opportunities to change jobs and careers, and equal access to general support. Poland in 2009 and Hungary in 2010 granted all non-EU temporary residents the right to self-employment. General and targeted support for migrant workers is already more favourable than average in several new immigration destinations, including Portugal, Spain, Estonia, and Romania.  

     Some temporary migrant workers do not have immediate access to employment and the right to change jobs and sectors, which is also a problem in Croatia and Serbia. They cannot benefit from public employment services on an equal footing and are not entitled to register in their unemployed persons’ records, unlike in most European countries. After becoming permanent residence holders or getting a personal work permit, migrant workers in FYROM can benefit from much better general support than is generally available in most of Central and Eastern Europe. They can then use general education and training programmes, as well as benefit from the same procedures for recognition of foreign qualifications as nationals. However, they will not be able to benefit from any targeted integration measures or information campaigns, unlike in some of the new countries of immigration in MIPEX.

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    Conditions and procedure: from law to practice

    Many Central European countries create few legal obstacles for non-EU citizens to apply for family reunion, but maintain very discretionary procedures with many grounds for authorities to reject them. This is not the case in Poland, where the law contains only few additional grounds for rejecting family reunion applications or withdrawing the status of family members (as in CA, IT, ES). AT, NL provide entitlements in cases of death, divorce, separation and violence, while several countries (e.g. FR, PT, ES, SE, NO, US) are working on clearer residence autonomy for all families after a few years. Slovenia’s 2011 Aliens Law broadened the definition of the family to registered or co-habitating partners, regardless of gender or sexual orientation.  Lithuania and the Czech Republic also use inclusive definitions, recognising registered partnerships.  

     Reuniting family members in FYROM face as many obstacles as opportunities and miss out on key rights guaranteed in other MIPEX countries under EU law. Most of the non-nationals in FYROM have a legal right to reunite with their families and can quickly apply for their nuclear family. However, they cannot reunite with their partners, since long-term relationships and partnerships are not recognised. Meeting average housing and income requirements does not bring full security in their status, as permits can be denied or lost on a wide range of grounds – for example where the original conditions no longer apply. Even though rejected applicants have the right to a legal remedy in the case of refusal or withdrawal of status, only the solidity of the sponsor’s family relationship is taken into account, which is below the EU legal standards. As in most MIPEX countries, family members are entitled to the same employment and social benefits as their sponsor. However, they have limited access to autonomous status, even in the case of death of the sponsor or domestic violence, below the EU legal standards and unlike traditional countries of immigration. 

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    Adapting schools in recent countries of immigration

    Estonia provides all newcomer pupils with compulsory, continuous, and standardised support to learn Estonian, as well as their own language and culture. Similarly in Czech law, language courses should be needs-based, professionally taught, and regularly evaluated, while mother tongue and cultures should be available. Czech teachers can integrate multicultural education into their curriculum through state-supported pedagogical materials and teacher trainings like the much-used information portal ( Slovakia also recently introduced ‘multicultural education’ into its curriculum as well as intercultural education trainings for qualifying and working teachers.

     As in almost all Balkan countries, the education of immigrant children in FYROM is unfavourable for integration, scoring 10/100 - way below the average for most Central and Eastern European countries. Positively, all children, irrespective of their legal status, enjoy equal access to compulsory education and to vocational training available for nationals, as in half of the MIPEX countries. However, children cannot benefit from any integration measures for their specific needs, unlike in most new immigration countries in Southern and Central Europe. Macedonian schools are not prepared to meet the needs and opportunities that immigrant students bring, and do not encourage their contribution to society, as in most of the Balkan countries. Even though intercultural education is an official policy aim, it is largely absent from the curriculum and school life. Government support for cultural diversity promotion depends on ad hoc funding and implementation of the few available measures is mainly done through initiatives of NGOs and international organisations. 

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    The participation of foreigners in public life at local level

    Although policymakers increasingly list participation in public life as a key area of integration, opening political opportunities often takes time and significant reforms. New immigration countries in Central and Southern Europe have made progress. Several Central European countries have granted long-term residents the right to vote in local elections (Czech Republic in 2001, Estonia and Slovenia in 2002) and to stand as candidates in local elections (Lithuania in 2002 and Slovakia in 2003). Most countries have used the new European Integration Fund to support associations working on integration. Local and national authorities have started a dialogue and consultation with associations of foreign residents. Examples range from Portugal and Spain to Ireland, Greece, Estonia, Latvia, and Poland. For instance, the Spanish Forum for the Social Integration of Immigrants has an independent chair and issues opinions or reports on any drafts affecting social integration. The Forum has the right to prepare reports, plans, programs on request or own initiative, and to formulate its own proposals and recommendations. Members from immigrant-run associations participate extensively in the preparation and discussion of reports and resolutions, and secure much government consensus around their recommendations.

     Apart from the right to create media and become members of associations, foreigners in FYROM cannot participate in the democratic life in the country, as in several other new countries of immigration in the region (Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, RO, BG). They cannot vote in any elections, unlike in half of the MIPEX countries or even join political parties, unlike in most countries of immigration, including the Czech Republic, Estonia and Slovenia. The state does not encourage new communities to organise and represent their civic and political interests. They cannot influence the decisions that affect them because they cannot participate in the integration policy making through consultative bodies, as in several new countries of immigration (IE, ES, PT). 

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    An entitlement to long-term residence

    EU Member States agreed and implemented the EC long-term residence directive (2003/109/EC), with the common objective that the integration of long-term residents will promote economic and social cohesion. Since then, several new immigration countries introduced the entitlement to long-term residence for most temporary residents. For example, Portugal’s 2007 law opened long-term residence to nearly all categories of legal residents and protected them from deportation anyone born in the country, living there since childhood, or raising their children there. According to the ECHR case law, expulsion decisions must take into account several of their life circumstances.


    To enjoy indefinite residence rights and equal social and economic rights, migrants in FYROM need to meet rather restrictive eligibility criteria and go through a costly procedure. Students, researchers and humanitarian migrants in FYROM are excluded from permanent residence, because their temporary permits will not be considered for the 5-year residence requirement. Moreover, residence time as a student or pupil is not counted, unlike most Central European and Balkan countries, and below the EU legal standards. However, the 5-year permit brings only half-way security to the successful applicants, since it can be refused or withdrawn for several reasons, including an absence of more than 12 continuous months. Some personal circumstances will be considered before withdrawal, but this will not guarantee enhanced protection against expulsion (see countries like Italy, Portugal, Poland, Slovenia). 


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    Accepting dual nationality and birthright citizenship

    Dual nationality and some form of birthright citizenship are becoming the norm in most established countries of immigration across Europe. The past decade has seen significant reforms in Germany, Belgium, Sweden, Finland, Portugal, Luxembourg, and, until recently, Greece. Since the last edition of MIPEX in 2010, similar citizenship reform bills or laws have been introduced in Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Italy, and Poland. For more, see:

     Immigrants face one of the longest and most discretionary paths to citizenship, including the renunciation of their previous citizenship. To be eligible to apply for Macedonian nationality, foreigners in FYROM must have 8 years of permanent residence, which can mean at least 13 years in practice. Applicants must then go through a costly (100 EUR) and discretionary procedure with no support. They can still be refused if they do not pass a criminal record requirement and cannot meet the vague language and economic requirements. For example, they prove their knowledge of the Macedonian language by filling in a questionnaire, assessed on criteria which are not publicly available. They must give up their previous nationality, unless they can prove that their country of origin does not allow renunciation of citizenship or sets unreasonably high fees for renunciation, contrary to the trend in the majority of MIPEX countries (e.g. GR, HU, IT, RO, SK).  Furthermore, immigrants’ children are not entitled to Macedonian nationality at birth, as they would be in the majority of MIPEX countries. 

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    Where are the strongest equality bodies in the region?

    Bulgaria’s Commission for Protection Against Discrimination, Hungary’s Equal Treatment Authority, and Romania’s National Council on Combating Discrimination, offer victims independent advice and can issue binding appealable decisions. Romania’s Council is an independent administrative body with a jurisdictional mandate. Hungary’s Authority also has the legal standing to intervene on behalf of the complainant, while also instigating its own procedures, although only against certain public bodies. In the policymaking process, Bulgaria’s Commission can submit legally binding recommendations to the parliament and government to prepare bills and abolish discriminatory laws.

     In FYROM, anti-discrimination legislation could contribute the most to the integration of future immigrants, as in Serbia and other Central European countries with similar laws.  Victims of ethnic, racial, religious and nationality discrimination can use slightly favourable mechanisms to enforce their rights in all areas of life but are not protected against discrimination by association or on the basis of assumed characteristics, and racial profiling. They can benefit from legal aid, interpretation, shifts in the burden of proof and alternative dispute resolution procedures. Victims can also look for support from NGOs and from the country’s Commission for Protection against Discrimination, which is a relatively strong equality body, rating above the MIPEX average. However, procedures are rather long and the equality body cannot make binding decisions and enforce findings, unlike equality bodies in BG, HU. In addition, the state could do more to promote equality through social and civil society dialogue, equality duties, and compliance monitoring (see PT, ES).