Switzerland’s transition assistance in Macedonia is based on mutual interests in attaining socio-economic development, stability, security and European integration. Significant progress has been made since Macedonia gained independence in 1991, but the country still lags in some areas of reform, such as decentralisation, rule of law, economic development and public services.

Map of Macedonia

According to the most recent census (2002), the population comprises several ethnic groups: Macedonians (65%), Albanians (25%) and other minorities such as Turks and Roma. Despite a solid democratic framework, the system has been undermined by the sluggish pace of reform, a non-inclusive approach to state-building and a decline in freedom of the press. This is manifested in a weakening of parliamentary and judicial control and in institutional corruption and political interference. Economic growth remains stymied by the recent downturn and high unemployment, particularly among women and young people. Macedonia has been a candidate for EU membership since 2005 but is slow to implement the reforms necessary for accession.

Democratic governance

The programme seeks to strengthen democratic governance through measures to increase social inclusion, public accountability and parliamentary control over the executive. Swiss cooperation also fosters citizen participation in local and regional decision-making as well as civil society involvement in representing the population’s needs and concerns.

State and Economic Reforms

Economic development

Switzerland’s support in the economic sector is aimed at improving employment prospects and achieving sustainable economic growth. It helps job seekers to access the labour market through vocational education and training programmes that are geared to the needs of the market. At the same time, it promotes private sector development, particularly start-ups, by encouraging employers to offer decent work opportunities. Switzerland is also actively involved in efforts to improve employment conditions, promote trade and institute better business practices.

Private Sector Development and Financial Services

Infrastructure and the environment

The country’s water resources and wealth of biodiversity are considered a major factor in its development. With Switzerland’s support, the institutions and organisations in selected municipalities can better protect the environment and mitigate the impact of climate change. By investing in infrastructure and capacity building in public services, Switzerland is helping to raise the quality of service in water supply and in waste and wastewater management.

Water – A Vital Resource Under Threat

Organisation and partners

The 2017-2020 cooperation strategy is implemented jointly by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) and the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO). Switzerland’s work is grounded in formal agreements with the government in question and requires co-funding by the recipient country wherever possible and appropriate. Particular effort is placed on building partnerships with new actors of change, such as youth associations. Partnerships with the private sector are also sought as vectors for development, especially in regard to jobs and economic growth.

Switzerland’s main partners in Macedonia:

  • Ministries and local governments
  • National and local parliaments, parliamentary administration
  • Civil society organisations, e.g. the media
  • Private sector
  • Local and international NGOs

Bilateral and multilateral donors and organisations, e.g. UNDP and UN Women

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 - 28.02.2021

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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