North Macedonia has been taking part in various activities of the Council of Europe since 1993 through its participation in intergovernmental co-operation and assistance programmes notably in the fields of legal reform and human rights. The Council of Europe is currently represented in North Macedonia by the Programme Office in Skopje, which was established in 2012 to co‑ordinate and support project implementation and to ensure co-ordination with both national and international partners present in the field.
The co-operation with North Macedonia was further strengthened in 2016 with the launch of the European Union/Council of Europe Horizontal Facility for the Western Balkans and Turkey, aiming to assist the beneficiaries in the region in addressing the Council of Europe monitoring bodies’ recommendations and relevant European Union accession priorities. Six actions are currently ongoing in North Macedonia under the second phase of the programme, launched in 2019. These actions contribute to providing access to higher quality free legal aid services, enhancing the capacities of the penitentiary system and the external oversight mechanism, fighting economic crime, and preventing and combating trafficking in human beings. The Council of Europe also promotes diversity and equality in North Macedonia through awareness-raising campaigns and strengthened capacity of the Commission for Protection against Discrimination and Ombudsman to address discrimination and hate speech against vulnerable groups, including LGBTI persons. Support is also provided to guarantee freedom of expression and freedom of the media through better protection of journalists and reinforced capacities of Media Regulatory Authority.
North Macedonia is also a beneficiary of two European Union/Council of Europe regional Joint Programmes implemented in South East Europe. The capacity of the authorities to search, seize and confiscate cybercrime proceeds, prevent money laundering on the Internet and secure internet evidence are further reinforced through the second phase of the regional programme iPROCEEDS 2, while support in promoting good governance and Roma empowerment at local level policies is streamlined through ROMACTED.
North Macedonia also benefits from the regional actions of the Horizontal Facility focusing on the following areas: quality and sustainability of justice, judicial training institutes, legal certainty, the fight against economic crime, promotion of diversity and equality, freedom of expression and freedom of the media (JUFREX2) as well as enhancing penitentiary capacities in addressing radicalisation in prisons. Additional regional actions focus on addressing radicalisation in prisons, PACE co-operation with the parliamentary assemblies with a view to achieving legislative improvements, human rights education for legal professionals (HELP) and the quality and sustainability of justice through the Council of Europe flagship initiative based on CEPEJ methodology “Dashboard – Western Balkans”.