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Overseas Security Advisory Council
Bureau of Diplomatic Security
U.S. Department of State

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North Macedonia 2019 Crime & Safety Report

This is an annual report produced in conjunction with the Regional Security Office at the U.S. Embassy in Skopje, North Macedonia.

The current U.S. Department of State Travel Advisory at the date of this report’s publication assesses North Macedonia at Level 1, indicating travelers should exercise normal precautions.

Overall Crime and Safety Situation

The U.S. Embassy in Skopje does not assume responsibility for the professional ability or integrity of the persons or firms appearing in this report. The American Citizens’ Services unit (ACS) cannot recommend a particular individual or location, and assumes no responsibility for the quality of service provided.

Review OSAC’s North Macedonia-specific page  for original OSAC reporting, consular messages, and contact information, some of which may be available only to private-sector representatives with an OSAC password.

Crime Threats

There is moderate risk from crime in Skopje. The primary crime concern remains non-violent petty crime (e.g. pickpocketing, petty street crime), particularly in areas frequented by where tourists and foreigners.

There were no instances of pickpocketing or vehicle break-ins reported by Embassy personnel in 2018. Numbers of reported thefts from the grounds of Embassy residences remained consistent with the year prior (3 cases, in addition to one attempted theft). There was a 25% increase in reported break-ins at residences and commercial properties located next-door to Embassy residences (4 cases).

Nationwide, instances of theft increased 22% in 2018 (4,465 cases), while rates of “severe theft,” using a tool to break into a residence or vehicle, fell by six percent (9,618).

Incidents of violent crime, including murder and attempted murder, increased across North Macedonia in 2018. There was a 12% increase in the number of murders (27 cases), a 21% increase in cases of attempted murder (58), and a 31% increase in acts of violence (266 cases).

The number of reported rape cases decreased 36% (34 total) while sexual assaults of a juvenile rose 50% (30 cases) and reports of other sexual crimes increased (18 cases compared to 4 in 2017). There was one reported physical assault and one report of attempted sexual assault against Embassy personnel in 2018.

North Macedonia reported seven cases of kidnapping in 2018, while drug-related offenses rose 37% (682 cases). Reports of human trafficking rose sharply with 42 cases, a 250% increase from 2017.

Southeastern Europe (North Macedonia, Albania, and Kosovo) continues to face challenges from organized crime, particularly in drug trafficking, money laundering, trafficking of migrants, extortion, and property crimes.

Cybersecurity Issues

Cybercrime in North Macedonia continues to be a concern, as hacking and data breaches have increased worldwide. Cybercriminals use spam and phishing e-mails to compromise online accounts and steal personal information.

In 2018, there were 69 documented cybercrime offenses in North Macedonia, with damage and illegal access to computer systems being the most common, followed by computer fraud. There were 11 reports of production and use of fraudulent payment cards.

Transportation-Safety Situation

For more information, review OSAC’s Report, Security in Transit: Airplanes, Public Transport, and Overnights.

Road Safety and Road Conditions

Road conditions differ significantly from those in the U.S. Unpredictable drivers, speeding vehicles, poor vehicle maintenance, uneven road surfaces and widths, and poor lighting contribute to precarious driving conditions. Drivers may not use a cell phone while driving. Pedestrians should exercise extreme caution when crossing the street.

A valid U.S. driver’s license in conjunction with an International Driving Permit is required for Americans to drive. Driving is on the right side of the road. Many vehicles are quite old by Western standards; horse-drawn carts, animals and/or other objects are regularly visible on the roadway.

Use of headlights is mandatory. Most major highways are in good repair, but secondary urban and rural roads vary widely in condition and lighting. Mountain roads can be narrow, poorly marked, lacking guardrails, and quickly become dangerous in inclement weather. Roadside emergency services are limited.

According to the Ministry of Interior, the number of traffic accidents in 2018 fell by 8% (3,520 reports).  Traffic fatalities continued a downward trend, decreasing by 15% (119 killed).

Take care to comply with imposed safety restrictions, such as maintaining proper distance between vehicles and speed. The maximum speed limit (if not posted) is:

Highway - 120 km/h

Open road - 80 km/h

In town - 50 km/h

Residential areas - 30 km/h

In case of emergency, contact the police at 192, ambulance services at 194, and roadside assistance at 196.

For more information on self-driving, review OSAC’s Report Driving Overseas: Best Practices.

Aviation/Airport Conditions

North Macedonia’s international airport (SKP) is located approximately 17 kilometers (11 miles) from Skopje and is accessible by vehicle. The airport adheres to international air-safety standards. Security measures include passenger and bag screening practices that are on par with international norms.

Terrorism Threat

Local, Regional, and International Terrorism Threats/Concerns

There is a moderate risk from terrorism in Skopje. There were no terrorist acts committed in North Macedonia in 2018. The Balkans and North Macedonia continue to face concerns of returning foreign terrorist fighters and the potential for radicalization to violence. North Macedonian authorities assess that ISIS members and sympathizers maintain a presence in the country. The North Macedonian National Coordinator for CVE and CT (NCCVECT) estimates that at least 156 North Macedonia nationals traveled to join terrorist organizations in Syria and Iraq, which is illegal under the North Macedonian Criminal Code. Of that number, 35 died, approximately 38 remain, and 83 returned home to North Macedonia. In August 2018, North Macedonia successfully repatriated seven North Macedonian citizens from Syrian Democratic Forces custody, all of whom were indicted under the North Macedonia Criminal Code, which criminalizes membership and participation in a terrorist organization.

North Macedonia has taken measures to increase border security, but illegal border crossings may occur. North Macedonia conducted no significant counterterrorism operations in 2018.

In March 2018, the North Macedonian government adopted a national counterterrorism strategy, accompanied by respective action plans, and on June 26, Parliament approved a new comprehensive Law on the Prevention of Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing, which expands criminal liability of those who finance terrorist activities or are involved in terrorism offenses.

North Macedonia continues to cooperate with U.S. counterterrorism efforts, demonstrating its strong commitment to the Global Defeat ISIS Coalition.

Anti-U.S./Anti-Western Sentiment

There are no known specific, credible threats against U.S. citizens in North Macedonia at this time. During political protests throughout the year, some demonstrators and speakers made calls for specific U.S. officials to withdraw from North Macedonia. Several online personalities regularly denounced U.S. officials on social media platforms, frequently using hate speech, obscene memes, and conspiracy theories.

Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence

Civil Unrest 

There is moderate risk from civil unrest in Skopje. Protests are common in North Macedonia and a frequent platform for social or political movements. The Regional Security Office recorded 182 demonstrations in Skopje in 2018, a 32% increase from the year prior. Protests related to the country’s name negotiations with Greece, and subsequent Prespa agreement, occurred regularly, with almost daily anti-government demonstrations in the summer of 2018.

Demonstrations varied in crowd size, with the largest gathering drawing 40,000 participants in support of the government’s agreement with Greece and its EU and NATO aspirations, but most draw less than 1,000.

Beyond general traffic control, only two events required police response:

  • On June 13, demonstrators threw a Molotov cocktail toward the Parliament building.
  • On June 17, a protest of 800 demonstrators gathered in front of the Parliament building turned violent, prompting police to use water cannons, tear gas, and other measures to disperse the crowd. The melee resulted in seven injured police officers and 25 arrested protesters.

 

Fewer demonstrations featured a prominent anti-U.S. element in 2018, unlike 2017, when anti-U.S. sentiment was more overt in demonstrators’ speeches and banners. There have been no protests at or near the U.S. Embassy. On November 4, members of the “Christian Brotherhood” held a peaceful gathering and gave statements at an intersection across from the Embassy’s main entrance.

Demonstrations are usually peaceful, but protestors routinely block traffic near the Government building. The Ministry of Interior deploys riot police equipped with water cannons to maintain order, if necessary. The majority of demonstrations in North Macedonia occur outside government buildings near the city center, located approximately two kilometers from the U.S. Embassy.

Religious/Ethnic Violence

North Macedonia is a multi-ethnic, multi-religious, and multilingual state. While there is little religious/ ethnic violence in North Macedonia, inter-ethnic and inter-religious tensions remain high. There were no reports of inter-ethnic violence or skirmishes in 2018.

Post-specific Concerns

Environmental Hazards

North Macedonia is at risk for various natural and manmade disasters to include earthquakes and floods. Air pollution is a significant problem in certain areas of the country. In some cities including Skopje, Bitola, Kičevo, Tetovo, and Veles, particulate pollution exceeds acceptable norms more than 150 days per year. Pollutants, especially the PM 2.5 particulates, are linked to a number of significant health effects; those effects are likely to be more severe for sensitive populations, including people with heart and lung disease, children, and older adults. Weather conditions and pollution can result in delayed and canceled flights during the winter months.

Police Response

Crime Victim Assistance

For police assistance, dial 192.

For local first responders, refer to the Embassy’s Emergency Assistance page.

Medical Emergencies

For medical emergencies, dial 02-194 (or 194 from a local cell or +389 194 from a foreign cell). If you suspect a heart attack, explicitly request cardiac assistance.

Contact Information for Available Medical Services

For medical assistance, refer to the Embassy’s Medical Assistance page.

Available Air Ambulance Services

International SOS Assistance (ISOS) provides medical transport for neonatal, obstetric, infectious disease, cardiac and other issues. Their certified regional flight desks coordinate all logistical aspects of travel with support from doctors trained in aeromedicine. Reach them by dialing +1(800)523-6586 or +1(215)942-8226.

Global Air Rescue provides emergency medical teams, medical equipment, ground transport, and air ambulances equipped with state-of-the-art advanced cardiac life support systems. Reach them by dialing +1(866)299-6870

Country-specific Vaccination and Health Guidance

The CDC offers additional information on vaccines and health guidance for North Macedonia.

OSAC Country Council Information

The Country Council in Skopje is active, meeting biannually. Interested private-sector security managers should contact OSAC’s Europe Team with any questions.

U.S. Embassy Location and Contact Information

Embassy Address and Hours of Operation

21 Samoilova Street, 1000 Skopje

General Embassy hours are 0830-1630 hours, Monday-Friday. Times may vary according to section

Embassy Contact Numbers

If you are a U.S. citizen with an emergency, call U.S. Embassy Skopje at +389 2-310-2000. Website: https://mk.usembassy.gov/

Embassy/Consulate Guidance

U.S. citizens traveling to North Macedonia should register with the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to ensure they receive pertinent security updates and notices.

Additional Resources

North Macedonia Country Information Sheet

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