In winter, Skopje, the Capital of North Macedonia, is one of the most polluted cities in Europe.
According to estimates from the World Bank Study, over 1000 people die each year as a result of air pollution in North Macedonia and its population is only 2 million.
The South Eastern Europe Health Network is a regional organisation located in Skopje. It encourages health and wellbeing among member states and is working actively in the area because of the alarming situation.
Mira Jovanovski Dashic, the Director of the South Eastern Europe Health Network says a report that was made by experts from its member states shows that "it was clear that the damage of air pollution to health is extremely big, and the consequences can be seen on heart disease, allergies and cancers".
Several investigations have shown that some large-scale energy consumers use fuel forbidden for use by European regulations. But as North Macedonia seeks to become a member of the EU, it has adapted a large part of its legislation to fit EU norms. So now the public and its representatives want to know how this harmonisation of legislation will truly affect them.
Naser Nuredini is the Environment Minister in North Macedonia, he tells us that the country has to implement its laws. "We can’t just harmonise them", he explains. "We need to work on different fronts. This is why we need to have better inter-sectorial collaboration". He says that the Ministry of the Environment proposed new laws in North Macedonia, but to him, it is not enough to just pass them in parliament. He thinks they need to work together with inspectors, other ministries and agencies to implement them.
The conversion of the letter of the law into reality is one of the biggest systemic weaknesses of transition countries, like North Macedonia. The European Commission notes this chronic weakness in all its progress reports.
For now, citizens are still waiting for the government to implement EC recommendations which will likely give residents in Skopje a breath of fresh air.