North Macedonia and the Challenging Process Ahead

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The end of the Cold War and dispertion of Yugoslavia in the following period made the Balkan geography a fragile structure and a chessboard on which the global power struggle is experienced. At the point reached today the Balkans, which preserved this fragile structure at the point reached today, became a risky geography again with the ongoing Russia-Ukraine War. In particular, the unstable structure of the countries in the region and the conflicts between these countries that reach ethnic and religious dimensions, constitute a threat area at the regional and global level. North Macedonia is one of these unstable countries.

Since the independence of North Macedonia from Yugoslavia in 1991, the country has faced many challenges is far from a sustainable environment of stability and prosperity. Conflicts with Greece and Bulgaria, tensions between ethnic elements in the country, failure to achieve a sustainable momentum in the economic field and emerging corruptions are accepted as prominent problems.[1]

North Macedonia, which prioritizes consolidating its position in international institutions, especially in the process of harmonization and integration with Euro-Atlantic institutions, became a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in 2020. It is possible to talk about a long process in relations with the European Union (EU), just like in other Balkan countries. North Macedonia, which applied for membership in 2004, obtained the status of candidate country in 2005. [2]  However, it is still far from EU membership.

Undoubtedly, the problems with the neighboring countries and the instability in the country’s politics were effective in this situation. One of these problems which is the name cris with Greece has solved in 2018 and one of the obstacles of on the way to the EU of North Macedonia has been removed. Another obstacle is the disagreement with Bulgaria. On the basis of this issue lies the conflict between the two parties arising from historical and linguistic issues.

The risk on Balkan countries because of Russian-Ukraine War, the European Union, give more support for initatives towards to the region. In this direction they aim to boost the relationship with North Macedonia. A proposal was presented to the parties in order to resolve the problems between France, North Macedonia and Bulgaria. While Sofia accepted the proposal, the politics of North Macedonia were split in two. The main problem here is that the claims that Macedonians will be assimilated with this proposal come to the fore. [3]

Despite all the reactions, the aforementioned proposal was accepted in the North Macedonian Parliament in July 2022. However, at this point, it is worth to indicate that the opposition left the parliament during the voting and there was a strong reaction among the people.[4] Although this development accelerates the relations with the EU, the tension still exist and carries some risks with it. In this context, it is claimed that the views of the Macedonian people are ignored for the sake of EU membership.[5]

Continuing its membership negotiations with the EU, North Macedonia entered the year 2023 with many difficulties. Especially the mentioned problems on above, are at the forefront of them. First of all, the problems in domestic politics cause North Macedonia to be one of the instability points in the region. In particular, problems such as widespread corruption in the country, the lack of inclusiveness of political institutions and the corruption of these institutions negatively affect the economic field. In addition, the risks encountered in the field of inflation and energy are considered as an element of instability.

On the other hand, it is observed that the existing risks in the field of foreign policy and security have deepened even more in the current conjuncture. In the last few years, there have been [†]many bomb threats and cyber attacks in the country. The prominence of the Russian threat caused concern in NATO member North Macedonia.[6]

Although institutional and constitutional arrangements have been made at the point of intelligence organization, it is also known that the inclusiveness and sustainability of these arrangements is limited. In addition, ethnic conflicts create instability, as in most of the Balkan countries. All these troubles lead to the young population migrate from the country, even region.[7]

In other words, North Macedonia, which has become a country with intense brain drain, will lose its qualified population if the situation continues like this. In this context, EU membership is an important priority for North Macedonia, but in order for this process to yield tangible results, it is expected to ensure the transformation and reform process within the country itself. Undoubtedly, the main issues that need to be resolved are the crisis experienced in the fields of economy and energy and the problems in the domestic politics of the country. On the other hand, there are important developments for North Macedonia recently. Chief among these is the transfer of the Chairpersonship of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to North Macedonia. [8] If North Macedonia makes good use of this opportunity, it can go a long way in finding solutions to many of the problems it faces.

Similarly, the rapprochement in relations with Bulgaria bore fruit as cooperation in the field of energy. With the agreement that entered into force in January 2023, it was decided to increase gas shipments from Bulgaria to North Macedonia.[9] Thus, there has been a decrease in dependence on Russia for energy. More importantly, regional cooperation mechanisms have been seen for work.

As a result, a difficult process awaits North Macedonia in 2023. It is possible to say that problems with neighbors, economic depression and political instability will continue to cause headaches for the country. However, the continuation of the membership negotiations with the EU, also contains important opportunities.

[1] Julia Wang, “Challenges to Self-Determination: North Macedonia’s Difficult Journey to Joining International Organ”, Berkeley Journal of International Law,, (Date of Accesion: 05.01.2023).

[2] “North Macedonia Country Report 2022”, BTI Transformation Index,, (Erişim Tarihi: 05.01.2023).

[3] “S. Makedonija u 2022: Deblokada puta ka EU i unutrašnje tenzije”, Al Jazeera Balkans,, (Date of Accession: 05.01.2023).

[4] Марија Митевска, “Собранието ги усвои заклучоците за францускиот предлог, ВМРО-ДПМНЕ не гласаше”, Radio Slobodna Evropa,, (Erişim Tarihi: 05.01.2023).

[5] Јасминка Павловска, “Вистински лидер е оној што го чувствува пулсот на граѓаните”, Nova Makedonija,, Date of Accesion: 05.01.2023).

[6] Сашо Таневски, “Проблемите детектирани, решенијата (не)познати”, Nova Makedonija,, (Date of Accesion: 05.01.2023).

[7] – Пајке Хаанс, ““Одливот на мозоци” – причина и последица од економските маки на Балканот” , Nova Makedonija, , (Date of Accesion: 05.01.2023).

[8] “Sjeverna Makedonija preuzima jednogodišnje predsjedavanje OSCE-om”, Al Jazeera Balkans,, (Date of Accesion: 05.01.2023).

[9] “Bugarski plin za S. Makedoniju, smanjena ovisnost o Rusiji”, Al Jazeera Balkans,, (Date of Accesion: 05.01.2023).

Mustafa Çuhadar, İstanbul Üniversitesi Edebiyat Fakültesi İngiliz Dili ve Edebiyatı Bölümü mezunudur. Lisans döneminde disiplinlerarası çalışmalarına ağırlık veren Çuhadar'ın başlıca çalışma alanları, Balkanlar ve İstihbarat çalışmalarıdır. 2021 yılında Ankara Üniversitesi Türk İnkılap Tarihi Enstitüsü’nde yüksek lisans eğitimine başlayan Çuhadar, halihazırda Bosna Hersek’teki siyasi partileri inceleyen yüksek lisans tezini hazırlamaktadır. Çuhadar, iyi derecede İngilizce, Boşnakça, Hırvatça ve Sırpça ve temel seviyede Almanca bilmektedir.