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Macedonia 2018 Crime & Safety Report

Europe > Macedonia

 

According to the current U.S. Department of State Travel Advisory at the date of this report’s publication, Macedonia has been assessed as Level 1: Exercise normal precautions.

Overall Crime and Safety Situation

U.S. Embassy 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.

The U.S. Department of State has assessed Skopje as being a MEDIUM-threat location for crime directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests.

Please review OSAC’s 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

Below reported statistics are from January-November in CY2017.

The primary crime concern remains non-violent petty crime (pickpocketing, petty street crime), particularly in areas frequented by where tourists and foreigners. Visitors to Skopje should remain particularly alert for pickpockets and other attempts to steal mobile phones, laptops, tablets, wallets, purses, bags or backpacks in public areas, such as:

  • Skopje Square

  • Vicinity of the Vardar River

  • Large shopping areas (such as City Mall)

  • Matka Canyon

  • Public transportation (buses)

  • Restaurants

There were no instances of pickpocketing of American personnel. There was a 33% decrease (4 cases) in vehicle break-ins reported by American personnel. Criminal elements watch parking lots and do break windows or open unlocked vehicles when items are left in plain view. There was a 25% decrease (3 cases) in reported thefts from the grounds of Embassy residences. There were three reported break-ins at private residences and commercial properties located next door to American personnel residences.

Countrywide, cases of theft and “severe theft” (using a tool to break into a residence or vehicle) declined roughly 5%, with 3,659 cases of theft and 10,244 cases of severe theft reported in 2017.

Incidents of violent crime, including rape and murder, increased across Macedonia in 2017. There was a 41% increase in murders (24 cases) and a 56% increase in rape cases (47).

There was a 62% decrease in reported abductions (14 cases), and drug-related offenses fell by 21% (495 cases). 

Southeastern Europe (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 continues to be a concern, as hacking and data breaches have increased worldwide. Cybercriminals use spam and phishing e-mails to compromise victims’ online accounts and steal personal information. In 2017, there were 72 documented cybercrime offenses in Macedonia, with damage and illegal access to computer systems being the most common, followed by computer fraud.

Transportation-Safety Situation

For more information, please 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 are not allowed to 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. The maximum speed limit (if not posted) is:

Highway - 120 km/h

Open road - 80 km/h

In town (populated areas) - 50 km/h

Residential areas - 30 km/h

Many vehicles are quite old by Western standards, and horse-drawn carts, livestock, and/or other objects are sometimes found in 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.

The Ministry of Interior provided the following statistics on vehicle accidents in Macedonia:

2017: The number of traffic accidents increased by 34% (3,815 traffic accidents). However, traffic fatalities decreased by 14% (164 killed).

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

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

Aviation/Airport Conditions

The airport adheres to international air-safety standards. Security measures include passenger and bag screening that are on par with international norms.

Terrorism Threat

The U.S. Department of State has assessed Skopje as being a MEDIUM-threat location for terrorist activity directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests.

Local, Regional, and International Terrorism Threats/Concerns

There were no terrorist acts committed in Macedonia in 2017.

The Balkans and Macedonia have been viewed by extremists as a potential area for recruitment of foreign fighters. Macedonia’s authorities have assessed that ISIS members and sympathizers maintained a presence in Macedonia. The Ministry of Interior and Intelligence Agency estimate that at least 150 Macedonia nationals traveled to join terrorists in Syria and Iraq; this is illegal under the Macedonian Criminal Code. Of the 150, 30 were killed, 40 remain there, and 80 have returned to Macedonia. Macedonia continues to cooperate with U.S. counterterrorism efforts, demonstrating its strong commitment to the Global Defeat ISIS (D-ISIS) Coalition. Potential ISIS members and sympathizers represent the greatest terrorist threat in Macedonia, as calls for self-radicalization on extremist forums and social media continue to be a global concern.

Macedonia has taken measures to increase border security, but illegal border crossings may occur. Macedonia conducted one significant counterterrorism operation in 2017. Authorities conducted approximately four terrorism investigations into suspected terrorism-related activity of approximately 50 individuals.

On November 2, the Skopje Criminal Court found 33 defendants guilty under terrorism charges and acquitted four in connection with the May 2015 armed incident in Kumanovo that left eight police officers and 10 members of the armed group dead. The court issued life sentences to seven defendants while another 13 were sentenced to 40 years in prison. An additional 13 were sentenced to lesser terms, ranging from 12-20 years. Another defendant, tried separately, was sentenced to life in prison, on November 3.

Anti-American/Anti-Western Sentiment

During political protests in January, some demonstrators and speakers made calls for specific U.S. officials to withdraw from Macedonia, sometimes using violent or threatening language. Several demonstrations included anti-American elements (signs, effigies, and banners). Several online personalities regularly denounce American officials on social media platforms.

Political, Economic, Religious, and Ethnic Violence

The U.S. Department of State has assessed Skopje as being a MEDIUM-threat location for political violence directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests.

Civil Unrest 

Protests are common in Macedonia and a frequent platform for social or political movements. Demonstrations are usually peaceful, but protestors will routinely block traffic near the Government building. The Ministry of Interior deploys riot police equipped water cannon to maintain order, if necessary. The RSO recorded 138 demonstrations in Skopje in 2017. While protests related to ongoing political issues occurred with more regularity, crowds were not as massive as those seen in 2016 “Colorful Revolution” demonstrations.

There were no protests at/near the U.S. Embassy. The majority of the demonstrations are conducted at the Government building, which is approximately two kilometers away. Several months (March, April, May, and December) brought near-daily pro- and anti-government protests. The largest protest consisted of 20,000 demonstrators, but most gatherings numbered in the hundreds or several thousands.

In response to the election of the new speaker of the parliament on April 27, approximately 200 protestors stormed the parliament, resulting in injuries to seven members. The media reported that members of the Ministry of Interior aided the protestors and failed to uphold their duty to protect members of the parliament and journalists. The ministry punished dozens of officers for failing to carry out their duties and disciplinary procedures are ongoing.

Religious/Ethnic Violence

Inter-ethnic and inter-religious tensions remain high.

  • In 2017, ethnic Macedonians and ethnic Albanians disputed over the construction and use of religious and ethnic symbols.

  • There were no specific reports of religious/ethnic violence during the massive influx of migrants who transited Macedonia in 2015 and 2016.

Post-specific Concerns

Environmental Hazards

Macedonia is at risk for various natural and man-made disasters, to include earthquakes and floods.

Air pollution is a significant problem in certain areas around the country. In some cities, including Skopje, Bitola, Kicevo, Tetovo, and Veles, particulate pollution exceed acceptable norms more than 150 days per year. Pollutants such as particulates, especially the PM 2.5 particles, are linked to a number of significant health effects, and 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 cancelled flights during the winter months. 

Police Response

Crime Victim Assistance

For police assistance, dial 192.

For local first responders, please 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 a heart attack is suspected, explicitly request cardiac assistance.

Contact Information for Available Medical Services

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

Available Air Ambulance Services

Global Air Rescue provides the following medical services: emergency medical teams, medical equipment, ground transport, and air ambulances equipped with state-of-the-art advanced cardiac life support systems.

U.S. tel: (866)-299-6870

http://www.globalairrescue.com/airports/air-ambulance-skopje-alexander-the-great-airport-skplwsk.php

Country-specific Vaccination and Health Guidance

The CDC offers additional information on vaccines and health guidance for 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

U.S. Embassy Skopje

21 Samoilova Street

1000 Skopje, Macedonia

General Embassy house are 0830-1630 hours, Mon-Fri. Times may vary according to section

Embassy Contact Numbers

If you are a U.S. citizen with an emergency, please call U.S. Embassy Skopje at: +389 2-310-2000.

Website: https://mk.usembassy.gov/

Embassy Guidance

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

Additional Resources

Macedonia Country Information Sheet