Officially recognised ethnic (cultural) minorities are those mentioned in the Preamble of the Constitution: Albanians, Turks, Roma, Serbs, Bosnians and Vlachs. According to the latest census of 2002, the total population was 2 022 547, of which 64.18% are Macedonians (1 297 981). The rest of the population is made up of:
Table 2: Share of ethnic minority groups, 2002
|Ethnic minority groups||Total number||% share of total population|
Source: State Statistical Office, Census of Population, Households and Dwellings in the Republic of Macedonia, 2002
In 2006, there was an official demand made by Croatia to recognise the Croatian ethnic minority as a Constitutional minority, but this demand was not accepted by the Macedonian government.
These minority groups have the constitutional right to freely express, nurture and develop their own cultural, religious, and linguistic identity and national features. The Ministry of Culture pays great attention to this, particularly in the decision-making process about projects submitted in open competitions, and in the creation of the yearly cultural programmes.
Following the signing of the Ohrid Framework Agreement of August 13th 2018, the following amendments were made to the Constitution for the different cultural communities:
The new Census that started in October 2011 was interrupted and then completely cancelled after only 4 days. It started with the resignation of the president of the State Census Commission, and very soon with the resignation of the whole Commission because of some differences in the legislative interpretation and serious disagreements about the methodology for conducting the census in the field (especially in areas with ethnically mixed populations), which would have resulted in incorrect data. Government officials stated that there were technical problems and a lack of preparedness for this large statistical operation to be finished in 15 days. It was planned that a new Census would be organised within 6 to 12 months, but it never happened.
The new Government (2017) stated that the new Census would be organised in 2020 but it was postponed until September 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
What concerns other social groups and communities, unofficially, is that there is a gay community that consists of nearly 30-40 000 people, but it has never been officially recognised. On the other hand, the gay community has recently been the subject of vigorous public polemics over whether people with “different” sexual orientation should be included in the new Law on Protection and Prevention of Discrimination, the Law on Family etc. The former government refused to mention this group in the laws.
The Law on Protection and Prevention of Discrimination was adopted in January 2011, without explicitly mentioning sexual orientation. The U.S. State Department stated in its 2012 report that in Macedonia there is social prejudice towards members of the LGBT community, who were exposed to harassment and demeaning language in the media.
In 2013 the Network for Prevention of Discrimination (founded in 2010 by a number of NGO’s and citizens’ associations) published an open letter to members of the Parliament asking them to demand additional detailed information on the 2013 Report of the Parliamentary Commission for Prevention of Discrimination. The open letter said that the report had no educational points, did not establish causes for certain kinds of discrimination, nor affirmed measures to overcome the situation.
In September 2013 the Macedonian ruling party at that time in the Parliament raised the question of changing the Constitution in order to re-define marriage as a union between a man and a woman and that a child can be adopted only in that kind of marriage. The Parliament did not support the initiative. But the new Parliament (April 2014), without the participation of the opposition parties, supported the initiative to change the Constitution not only in redefining marriage but also on several other points.
North Macedonia is a multi-cultural, multi-confessional and multi-linguistic country where intercultural dialogue is one of the most important issues. In fact, the whole political system is designed on these bases. In strictly cultural terms, the main authority responsible for programmes and policies addressing the issue of intercultural dialogue at national level is the Ministry of Culture. The Ministry has also established an Office for the Promotion and Advancement of the Cultures of Nationalities. On the governmental level there is an Office of National Coordinator for Inclusion and Intercultural Dialogue.
The main policy document identifying intercultural (interethnic) dialogue as an objective or priority of the government is the Ohrid Framework Agreement from 2001. In that context, the general intercultural dialogue has been fostered, especially after the Ohrid Framework Agreement. ICD has been on the agenda of all the ministries and government agencies, especially the Ministry of Culture, the Ministry of Education and Science, the Secretariat for European Affairs, the Agency for Youth and Sport, the Agency for the Rights of the Communities etc. ICD is an important part of several national strategies, including the National Strategy for one society and inclusion (2019), National Strategy for Cultural Development 2018-2022 (2018) etc.
In 2003, the Parliament established the Committee on the Political System and Ethnic Relations. It consisted of 19 members, including seven seats reserved for ethnic Macedonian legislators and seven for ethnic Albanian deputies. The Serbian, Vlach, Turk, Romany, and Bosnian minorities have one member each. The formation of the committee was part of the implementation of the Ohrid Agreement.
After the 2020 Parliamentary elections, the new Government established a new Ministry of Political System and Inter-Community Relations.
The NGO sector is a big promoter of intercultural dialogue, especially the Foundation Open Society Institute Macedonia which has several programmes for intercultural dialogue.
Religious values are also a topical issue of intercultural dialogue, especially religious education that was introduced for the first time (since the Second World War) in elementary schools in 2008. However, religious education was voluntary and children could choose between two subjects: religious education or history of religion. The religious communities (Orthodox, Islamic etc.) were in favour of this initiative. There was a kind of public debate about this development regarding the way it should be organised, who should be allowed to teach it, etc. Religious symbols were also a relevant issue. The main effect of such issues has been a growing awareness of the need for ICD.
On the other hand, after the introduction of religious education in elementary schools in 2008, the Constitutional Court in 2009, acting on a citizen’s submission, ruled against religious education in elementary schools.