The Republic of Macedonia (Република Македонија, Republika Makedonija, Albanian: Republika e Maqedonisë), often referred to as Macedonia, is a landlocked country on the Balkan peninsula in southeastern Europe. It is bordered by Serbia to the north, Albania to the west, Greece to the south, and Bulgaria to the east. It was admitted to the United Nations in 1993; however, the UN and many other international institutions and countries use the provisional reference the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (F.Y.R.O.M.), pending resolution of a naming dispute with Greece.
The capital is Skopje, with 500 000 inhabitants, and there are a number of smaller cities, notably Bitola, Kumanovo, Prilep, Tetovo, Ohrid, Veles, Štip, Kočani, Gostivar and Strumica. It has more than 50 natural and artificial lakes and sixteen mountains higher than 2 000 meters (6 550 ft) above sea level.
The country is a member of the UN and the Council of Europe and a member of La Francophonie, the World Trade Organization (WTO), and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. Since December 2005 it is also a candidate for joining the European Union and has applied for NATO membership.
The Republic of Macedonia is a parliamentary democracy with an executive government composed of a coalition of parties from the unicameral legislature (Собрание, Sobranie) and an independent judicial branch with a constitutional court. The Assembly is made up of 120 seats and the members are elected every four years.
The role of the President of the Republic is mostly ceremonial, with the real power resting in the hands of the President of the Government. The President is the commander-in-chief of the state armed forces and a president of the state Security Council. The President of the Republic is elected every five years and he or she can be elected twice at most. The current President is Branko Crvenkovski.
With the passage of a new law and elections held in 2005, local government functions are divided between 78 municipalities (општини, opštini; singular: општина, opština). The capital, Skopje, is governed as a group of ten municipalities collectively referred to as the “City of Skopje”. Municipalities in the Republic of Macedonia are units of local self-government. Neighbouring municipalities may establish cooperative arrangements.
Judiciary power is exercised by courts, with the court system being headed by the Judicial Supreme Court, Constitutional Court and the Republican Judicial Council. The assembly appoints the judges.
The country’s main political divergence is between the largely ethnically-based political parties representing the country’s ethnic Macedonian majority and Albanian minority. The issue of the power balance between the two communities led to a brief war in 2001, following which a power-sharing agreement was reached. In August 2004, the Republic’s parliament passed legislation redrawing local boundaries and giving greater local autonomy to ethnic Albanians in areas where they predominate.