The European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) has published its 6th monitoring cycle report on North Macedonia, assessing developments in the country's efforts to combat discrimination and promote equality.
One of the notable developments highlighted in the report, which covers the period since the previous report in 2016, is the establishment of the Commission on Prevention and Protection against Discrimination (CPPD), a new equality body.
In the field of inclusive education, the Ministry of Education and Science’s initiatives have supported multiculturalism, inter-ethnic integration, and tolerance in schools, with grants provided to numerous institutions. The report also points out the inclusion of “multicultural integration” as an indicator for evaluating schools.
The report acknowledges positive steps regarding the protection of LGBTI persons, including the inclusion of sexual orientation and gender identity as protected grounds in the Law on Prevention and Protection against Discrimination. The Ministry of Labour and Social Policy's financial support for a national LGBTI Helpline and the establishment of the Skopje Queer Centre are also recognised as important developments.
Efforts to combat hate crime have involved extensive training for law enforcement officials, prosecutors and judges, provided by the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODHIR). The report commends the participation of more than 2,000 police officers in hate crime training, demonstrating a commitment to addressing this issue.
While the report notes positively initiatives under the national Roma strategy to improve Roma inclusion, challenges persist in housing, education, employment, and health as well as the adoption of a new Strategy for Inclusion of Roma (2022-2030). ECRI welcomes the identification and support provided to Roma people who previously lacked identity documents.
Despite these positive developments, the report highlights several concerns:
- The CPPD faces challenges in securing adequate staff and budgetary resources. The CPPD as well as the Ombudsman’s Office struggle with delays caused by the need for approval from the Ministry of Finance for every financial transaction they wish to make from their own budgets, limiting efficiency and potentially posing a risk to their overall independence.
- A comprehensive study on discrimination against LGBTI persons is lacking, and there is no LGBTI action plan or legal framework for recognising same-sex relationships or addressing gender identity changes.
- Several attacks on persons self-identifying as Bulgarians and on Bulgarian cultural centres have raised concern, as did the authorities’ move towards deregistering/dissolving some existing Bulgarian cultural associations.
- The country’s school system remains largely segregated along linguistic lines (Macedonian and Albanian), as a result reducing interactions between different language and ethnic groups.
- While progress on Roma inclusion has been made, social marginalisation, education disparities, high unemployment, and health disparities continue to affect many members of the Roma community. Identity documents with special Personal Identification Numbers (PINs) for Roma individuals are not recognised by public services’ IT-systems, creating challenges in accessing essential services.
- ECRI makes recommendations to address these concerns and promote further progress, in particular: granting financial autonomy to equality bodies, regulating recognition of gender identity, intensifying efforts to combat and report hate crime, addressing segregation in education, and continuing efforts to improve Roma inclusion.