Freedom House: North Macedonia sole among countries in transition in Western Balkans with democratic progress


North Macedonia as a state in transition experienced democratic progress during the past year, with an improvement of 0.07 points i.e. it has increased the democracy index from 3,75 to 3,82, unlike most of the countries in the region, states the report by Freedom House titled “Nations in Transit 2021.” This is the second-best result out of 29 countries that are analyzed in the report. Still, despite this progress, the country is still ranked in the group of “transitional or hybrid regimes.”

“In North Macedonia and Uzbekistan, piecemeal efforts have yielded some positive change on the ground, resulting in improvements in the countries’ scores… In North Macedonia, meanwhile, Prime Minister Zoran Zaev’s center-left government has repaired some of the institutional damage wrought by his right-wing populist predecessor, and still has a chance to deliver the benefits of democracy”, the Report assesses referring to the countries with biggest positive changes.

Freedom House remarks that the states from the whole Balkan region are turning away from democracy or find themselves trapped in a cycle of setbacks and partial recoveries. Despite our country’s progress, in the region the only country that progressed with the democracy index is Bosnia and Herzegovina, and a decline was noticed in Albania, Kosovo, Montenegro, Serbia, and Bulgaria.

Simultaneously, North Macedonia has the second-best result among the transitional countries and is only behind Armenia when one assesses the progress or the decline in democracy in the last five years. In the same period, the biggest democratic decline happened in Poland and Hungary.

North Macedonia also has the best mark in the area of civil society (4.75), and the worst in the judiciary area and independence and corruption (3,.5). According to the Freedom House evaluation, corruption still poses a serious problem and has wider spread impunity for corruption by government officials including members of the parliament and the judiciary.

Among other issues, the report states there were “found frequent instances of politicians instrumentalizing dangerous rhetoric for political gain — such as Bulgaria’s nationalistic reasoning for blocking North Macedonia’s European Union accession negotiations.

“Bulgaria also started a campaign of threats against North Macedonia, vowing to block its EU accession talks if it failed to settle historic disputes with Bulgaria—despite having styled itself as the major backer of Skopje’s Euro-Atlantic integration. This culminated in an explicit veto against the talks on November,5 helping to delay them, with Bulgaria upholding a 2019 promise to reverse its foreign-policy course on North Macedonia (one that had accelerated its European path) unless several bilateral demands were met,” stated the report.

According to the report’s findings, the Deputy Prime Minister for fighting corruption, Ljupcso Nikolovski stated that the country is on the right track, it is improving and is emerging from the period from 2017 and onward. Nikolovski said that all recommendations are welcome and will be seriously analyzed.

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