Combating racial discrimination and intolerance in North Macedonia

Skopje 28 November 2019
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Combating racial discrimination and intolerance in North Macedonia

The Council of Europe’s anti-racism body, the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) co-organised a round table in Skopje on 14 November 2019 to discuss the follow-up given by the authorities to the recommendations of the ECRI 2016 report on North Macedonia, including the efforts to combat hate speech in the country in the framework of good practices and European standards.

The event was held in co-operation with the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy of North Macedonia and with the support of the European Union in the framework of the joint European Union and Council of Europe programme “Horizontal Facility for the Western Balkans and Turkey II”.

The event was opened by Ms Gjulten Mustafova, Head of the Equal Opportunity Department in the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy, who stated that the concept of equal opportunities was part of the government programme and that fighting discrimination was a priority for the government and all ministries. “There is a new law on preventing discrimination and in the future, we need to focus on developing further measures for implementing it”, she said.

This topic is very important for the EU Delegation in North Macedonia and we are hopeful, since there are positive developments regarding non-discrimination”, said Ms Virve Vimpari, Head of Section for Infrastructure, Agriculture and Social Policies from the EU Delegation. As she underlined, the process of raising awareness and engaging all levels of the society must continue and the EU delegation and EU have significantly contributed to this area.

In his introductory remarks, Mr Stefano Valenti, Head of the No Hate Speech Co-operation Unit from the Anti-discrimination Department of the Council of Europe emphasised the importance of this event as an open discussion forum. “The ECRI report is an official document accepted by the government and this round table was also organised to look at the progress made and to see what the joint EU/CoE programme “Horizontal Facility for Western Balkans and Turkey II” could do to help the government regarding these issues”, he concluded.

The 2016 ECRI report on North Macedonia, presented by ECRI member Mr Gerald Schöpfer, focuses on four common topics: national legislation to combat racism and intolerance; hate speech; racist violence and integration policies, but it also addresses the situation of LGBT persons. It expresses concerns about shortcomings in the criminal, civil and administrative legislation in combating racism or racial discrimination, deficiency of the powers and resources of the Ombudsman and the Commission for Protection against Discrimination, the rise in racist and homo-/transphobic hate speech, as well as persisting problems with the socio-economic integration of Roma.

During the round table, representatives of the North Macedonia’s authorities pointed out that the Anti-Discrimination Law is in line with European standards and that the overall legislation in the country will be harmonized with this Law by 2021. Furthermore, they presented the measures that are being undertaken to improve the integration of Roma at all levels of society, in particular by ensuring better access to rights, education and healthcare.

It was concluded during the round table that Europe is facing a general crisis in this area and that hate speech is a complicated phenomenon with different manifestations requiring different responses. The role of the media and Internet was discussed, as well, and the participants concluded that both can have a very positive or negative effect. In the case of North Macedonia, as presented by Mr Valenti, there were difficulties in 2015 of understanding what hate speech is and very few court cases on hate speech, with no convictions. Furthermore, regulation and self-regulation of the media was not working well, and negative stereotyping of sexual minorities was prevalent in the media. In the future, greater efforts need to be made in the area of combating hate speech.

 ECRI’s 2016 report

 ECRI’s 2019 Interim follow-up conclusions on the implementation of priority recommendations

What is the Horizontal Facility II?

The European Union/Council of Europe Horizontal Facility for the Western Balkans and Turkey (Horizontal Facility II) 2019-2022 is a co-operation initiative of the European Union and Council of Europe for the Western Balkans and Turkey. It is one of the results of the Statement of Intent signed on 1 April 2014 by the Secretary General of the Council of Europe and the European Union Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy, in which both Organisations agreed to further strengthen their co-operation in key areas of joint interest.

The first phase of the programme included various Beneficiary-specific and regional initiatives and ran from 2016 to 2019. The second phase of the programme (worth €41 million between 2019 and 2022) keeps building on the results of the phase I and broadens the thematic areas to new topics crucial for the Western Balkans region and Turkey – freedom of expression and media.

The second phase of the programme covers Actions in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo*, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia as well as Turkey and the regional dimension of the programme is strengthened. The Expertise Co-ordination Mechanism that provides legislative expertise and policy advice within the Council of Europe system remains an important part of the programme available to all Beneficiaries.


How long will the Horizontal Facility II last?

The Horizontal Facility is a three-year programme, which is being implemented by the Council of Europe from May 2019 over a period of 36 months. 


How much will the Horizontal Facility II cost?

The envelope of this facility amounts to ca. 41 Million EUR (85% funded by the EU, 15% by the CoE).


What will the Horizontal Facility II do?

The Horizontal Facility enables the Beneficiaries to meet their reform agendas in the fields of human rights, rule of law and democracy and to comply with the European standards, including where relevant within the framework of the EU enlargement process. The Horizontal Facility relies on the Council of Europe’s unique working methods, whereby tailor-made technical co-operation activities are based on conclusions and recommendations of the Council of Europe’s monitoring bodies highlight areas where improvements are needed in legislation and policies of the Beneficiaries to comply with the Organisation’s treaties and other standards.

Themes covered by the Horizontal Facility include:

  • Ensuring justice;
  • Fighting economic crime;
  • Combating discrimination and protecting the rights of vulnerable groups (including LGBTI, minorities and Roma) and
  • Freedom of expression and freedom of the media.

All the themes are key priorities of the two Organisations in the Western Balkans region and Turkey.

All Horizontal Facility actions address cross-cutting issues such as gender mainstreaming, protection of minorities and vulnerable groups and foresees the engagement of civil society organisations in the implementation of the Horizontal Facility.

This website has been produced using funds of a Joint Project between the European Union and the Council of Europe. The views expressed herein can in no way be taken to reflect the official opinion of the European Union or the Council of Europe.

*This designation is without prejudice to positions on status, and is in line with UNSCR 1244 and the ICJ Opinion on the Kosovo Declaration of Independence.