North Macedonia

Country reports

NORTH MACEDONIA

Expert author: Zlatko Teodosievski
Last update: April 27th

The “dilemma” whether the Law on Culture allowed monthly financial support to the independent cultural sector was successfully solved by the Government’s decision (from the beginning of April) to include the self-employed artists (140) in the monthly financial support plan with minimal salary (14.500 denar) for April and May. (This measure follows the Government’s decision for a general deduction of the salaries of all state/local appointed or elected officials to a minimal salary for at least two months). The Government is also considering other measures to help the independent cultural sector, artists and cultural workers under temporary contract, film workers, etc.

The City of Skopje has also introduced certain measures to help culture in these “corona times”, i.e.: postponing the non-priority capital projects; advance payments for independent sector projects; community open space concerts that can be watched from terraces during the curfew hours; logistic and psychological support from volunteers for elderly (70+) artists and cultural workers; defining a post-crisis cultural strategy, etc.

March 30th

The situation in the cultural sector of North Macedonia resembles the rest of Europe, with regard to a complete lockdown. Since February 28th, following the governments recommendation, all major public cultural events were canceled until March 6th. However, with the increase of the local transmission of the COVID-19, this measure was prolonged until March 13 (including sport events etc.) and on March 10th all schools and universities were also closed. On March 13th, the measures were taken one step further and all cultural institutions (cinemas, museums etc.) were completely closed to visitors. Finally, an emergency situation was declared in the whole country. It means not only a shut down of institutions, but also reducing staff members. 

Following the development of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Government is introducing necessary measures on daily basis, specifically economic and security measures, but culture was never mentioned in this context. To make matters worse, the web site of the Ministry of Culture does not even mention the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on its field. It gives the impression that the situation in culture is completely “normal” and that there is no need for any special measures. Although there were a few lonely voices in favour of some “first aid” or necessary course of action by the Government in the cultural sector, nothing has happened so far. Not even an effort to make approximate assessments of possible damages.

However, the so called independent cultural sector (or at least part of it), together with the Syndicate of Cultural Workers have filed an Initiative to the Prime minister, Deputy prime minister, Minister of Culture and the Mayor of Skopje for special measures to help the independent cultural sector in the time of COVID-19 crisis. The Initiative suggests 3 basic measures: 1) A six month special fund for monthly subventions for the independent sector; 2) Urgent overdue payment of the grants for 2019; and 3) Urgent payment of at least 70% of the grants for 2020. Following the Initiative, a meeting with the Minister of Culture was held on March 24th. The Minister has agreed to urgently pay the debt for 2019 and to fasten all the arrangements for 2020 grants, but as for the first measure, the Law on Culture does not allow monthly payments to the independent cultural sector. He suggested this issue should be discussed with the Government. However, I think that the Minister in times like this (having in mind especially the proclaimed emergency situation) has the power to suggest such a measure and even to propose necessary changes of the Law on Culture.