Switzerland is supporting Macedonia's transition to an inclusive social market economy and a democratic political system as part of its European integration. . A key element is the support of reform processes relating to decentralisation, the economy, water management and nature conservation.

Map of Macedonia

According to the last census in 2002, the population is 65% Slav and 25% Albanian Macedonian. Minority groups include Turks and Roma. The official language is Macedonian. Albanian is the second official language in municipalities where at least 20% of the population is ethnic Albanian. The Macedonian economy went into a deep depression after independence, from which it only recovered at the end of the 1990s. It experienced a boom between 2002 and 2008 but this growth slowed sharply as a result of the global financial crisis and is currently stagnating at a low level. Unemployment is high in particular among young people and women. The World Bank estimates that more than a third of Macedonians work in the shadow economy. Macedonia has been a candidate for EU membership since 2005 - the necessary reforms however are advancing only slowly.

Democratic governance and decentralisation

Up to now, partner municipalities have succeeded in raising standards in the provision of education, local services and urban planning. Half of Macedonian municipalities conduct forums where citizens have a say in determining planning and budgetary issues. Switzerland continues to support such reform efforts at the local and national levels in order to continue improvements in services. Civil society organisations are taking on an important  function in monitoring the state and in providing the impetus for change. For this reason, Swiss cooperation is strengthening the project-management capacities of selected organisations. Complementing this, action by civil society is influencing local administration and contributing to social and democratic change.

State and Economic Reforms

Economic development

Switzerland's involvement in the economy is directed at creating a competitive private sector through, for example, providing easier access to financing, strengthening entrepreneurial skills, or improving business management. In addition, Switzerland is also involved in creating a better business environment and equal opportunities for men and women with regard to jobs and income.

Private Sector Development and financial services


The new Macedonian law on water stipulates that drinking water and sewage systems must be financed by tariffs that cover costs. Switzerland supports the state in the implementation of this law and assists with financing the renovation and expansion of the drinking-water and sewage systems in the municipalities.

As a result, the proportion of the population connected to a sewage system has increased from 4% to 13%.   Thanks to the construction of wastewater treatment plants, pollution has been reduced in the Kumanovska, Black Drim and Bregalnica rivers.  In addition, the inclusion of environmental issues in the Macedonian education system contributes to raising awareness among teachers, school directors, pupils and parents.


Approach and partners

Switzerland is closely coordinating its commitment to Macedonia with local authorities, other donor countries, and international organisations such as the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). All Swiss programmes incorporate the principles of good governance and equal rights.

Switzerland's key partners in Macedonia are:

  • Ministries and municipal authorities
  • Local civil society organisations, the local authority association (ZELS)
  • Multilateral organisations, e.g. UNDP, UN Women

History of cooperation

Switzerland active since the disintegration of Yugoslavia

Macedonia has been an independent nation since the break-up of Yugoslavia in 1991. Since 1992, Switzerland has supported the country within the framework of bilateral cooperation and through contributions to international programmes. An SDC cooperation office was opened in Skopje in 1996. From 1996 to 2012, Switzerland carried out projects in the areas of infrastructure, inter-ethnic relations, economic development, democratic governance and water. Since 2013, the SDC has focused its transition support on democratisation and decentralisation, economic development and water.

Current projects

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Promoting equal opportunities for women and men in Macedonia

Three women look on as a young man writes something on a piece of paper.

01.01.2014 - 31.03.2018

In Macedonia, women are disadvantaged in the areas of employment, social protection and political participation. To promote equal opportunities, in 2006 the government passed a law on equal opportunities for men and women. To complement Macedonia's reform efforts jointly with national counterparts SDC is funding an equal opportunities project at the municipal level.

Country/region Period Budget

01.01.2014 - 31.03.2018

CHF 1'670'400

lncreasing Market Employability in Macedonia

Biljana, co-founder of The Good Earth organic cooperative, holding a basket of organic fruit and vegetables.

01.11.2013 - 31.03.2019

Unemployment in Macedonia is particularly high, especially among young people and women, and a large segment of the population lives in poverty. That is why Switzerland is involved in developing business growth and improving the quality of products and services by helping SMEs in certain sectors of the economy.

Country/region Topic Period Budget
Economy and Employment
Labor market development

01.11.2013 - 31.03.2019

CHF 7'500'000

Restoration of the Prespa Lake Ecosystem

The countryside around Lake Prespa. © UNDP

01.12.2011 - 30.06.2018

Lake Prespa is situated in the three-country border area of Albania, Macedonia, and Greece. Thanks to its biodiversity, the local ecosystem is of global significance. The widespread, improper disposal of waste is polluting both surface and ground water. The SDC is helping to decontaminate these waterways and to raise awareness of environmental issues.

Country/region Topic Period Budget
Environment protection
Integrated water resource management (watershed)
Water resources policy and advocacy
Integrated water resource management (watershed)
Water resources policy and advocacy

01.12.2011 - 30.06.2018

CHF 6'682'000

Macedonia: Nature Conservation Programme

01.01.2017 - 31.01.2021

Switzerland will assist Macedonia in sustainable management of natural resources through practical application of conservation measures such as regional protected areas and integrated forest management in the Bregalnica region. Further framework conditions will be improved and support is provided in implementing national legislation and the Strategy on Nature. By promoting ecologically and sustainably produced products and services, economic benefit for the local population will be generated.

Vocational Skills Development in Macedonia

01.09.2016 - 28.02.2018

Macedonia has one of the highest unemployment rates in Europe (25%), especially among youth (48%). One of the key factors for youth unemployment is that the education and training system does not provide skills needed by the economy. The Vocational Skills Development project aims to address youth unemployment through supporting market relevant skills development by strengthening the engagement of the private sector (e.g. through systematised internships), thus increasing the employability of vocational training graduates.

Sustainable and Inclusive Regional Economic Development in Macedonia

01.11.2015 - 31.12.2020

Living standards for citizens across Macedonia are highly unequal providing few opportunities to citizens in rural regions. SDC contributes to the GIZ Regional Economic Development Programme that promotes more balanced regional development. More transparent and equitable allocation of national funds to the regions and enhanced competences of regional bodies shall foster inclusive regional development planning for more innovation and higher competitiveness of underdeveloped regions.

Support to establishment and development of Macedonian Parliamentary Institute

01.01.2015 - 31.12.2017

SDC will continue to support the development of the Macedonian Parliamentary Institute (PI). The PI is department of the Parliamentary Services of the Assembly that shall provide research, archive, library, inhouse training and visltor services. Through the PI services, Members of Parliament (MPs) will have access to information for fact-based debates on laws, contributing to greater quality of laws for citizens.

Civil Society Support Facility – Constituency Building

15.09.2014 - 31.12.2018

The overall objective of the Civil Society Support Facility – Constituency Building project is to contribute to enhanced engagement of CSOs with their constituents and to joint agenda setting to promote  positive social change in Macedonia. Through enhanced levels of organisation and legitimacy CSOs will be enabled to promote good governance at national level and improve accountability of the state towards citizens – elements which are crucial to building a more transparent and democratic society.

Community Forums - Exit Phase

09.09.2014 - 31.08.2017

The Community Forum instrument has been introduced as a mechanism for citizen participation in decision making at local level, thus fulfilling an institutional gap in the context of good governance in the country. The concept was developed through several phases and was applied in two third of the Macedonian municipalities. To foster sustainability the exit phase focuses on independently organised Forums and on the knowhow transfer to the municipalities association.

Restoration of the Strumica River Basin

01.07.2014 - 30.06.2021

As a continuation of the support to the Macedonian water and nature sector, Switzerland developed a group of projects that will assist the country to have cleaner water and a healthier environment, as well as to move forward in meeting its obligations towards the EU. Through this project, Citizens and farmers in the Strumica river basin will benefit from improved economic wellbeing as a result of a better ecological status of the river basin and reduced flooding hazards.

Empowering Municipal Councils

01.07.2014 - 30.06.2020

Municipal Council Members play a significant role in the decentralized democracy in Macedonia. However they lack knowledge, information and independence from the executive government. Through specific trainings and peer learning, councillors will gain in knowledge which will lead to their empowerment and increased independence from political party interference in local matters. Consequently the empowered councillors will ensure that policies and budgets reflect citizens‘ needs expressed in a participatory manner.

Regional Program: Scientific Cooperation between Eastern Europe and Switzerland (SCOPES), Institutional Partnerships and Research

01.01.2013 - 30.06.2018

Der Schweizerische Nationalfonds setzt das seit 1990 laufende Projekt SCOPES mit Partnern aus Osteuropa und der GUS um. Im Rahmen dieser Zusammenarbeit werden Forschungsinstitutionen aus Partnerländern in ihren Aufgaben unterstützt. Als weiteres Element führen Forschungsteams aus Osteuropa und der Schweiz in gemeinsamen Forschungsprojekten Grundlagenforschung durch. Deren internationale Vernetzung trägt wesentlich dazu bei, qualitativ hochwertige Forschungsresultate nutzbar zu machen.

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