2.1 General context
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The Republic of North Macedonia is a small Balkan country which became independent in 1991. Volunteering in North Macedonia has not seen any attractiveness in the past, and even today we cannot boast of a large number of voluntary activities at the state level.
The National Youth Strategy 2005-2015 (Национална стратегија за млади 2005-2015) emphasizes that “the development and strengthening of the civil society, volunteering and civil association are vital step in the promotion of responsible citizenship and democracy guarantee”. One of the measures of this Strategy was: The Parliament to adopt a Law which will regulate the volunteer work. This is the first state official document that raises the question of regulating the volunteering in the country, and recognition of the volunteering on the other hand.
The Law on Volunteering (Закон за волонтерство) was adopted in July 2007. Prior to its adoption, the legal system imposed several obstacles to volunteering and in some instances reflected a misunderstanding of the concept. For example, reimbursement of expenses incurred by volunteers was subject to taxation, the lack of volunteer status led to misapplication and misunderstanding of the concept, and the status of foreign volunteers was not regulated. The law remedies these problems.
The law regulates organized volunteering, i.e., volunteer activities that take place between a volunteer and a host organization. The law states explicitly that it does not aim to limit other types of volunteering (such as informal, occasional, etc.). Article 4 of the Law on Volunteering (Official Gazette of the Republic of Macedonia No. 85, July 9, 2007) defines a volunteer as a natural person who provides services, skills, or knowledge for the benefit of other people, bodies, organizations and institutions on a voluntary basis without financial or other personal gain. The principle of free will embodied in this definition distinguishes volunteering from unpaid mandatory services such as military or apprenticeship.
The Law has undergone four amendments. The first one in 2008, (Закон за изменување и дополнување на Законот за волонтерство) related to the reimbursement of the costs of the volunteers (about food and travel), the second one in 2015 (Закон за изменување и дополнување на Законот за волонтерство), related to the penalty provisions, the third one in 2019 (Закон за изменување на законот за волонтерство), and the fourth one in 2021 (Закон за изменување и дополнување на Законот за волонтерство) related to the changes on monetary penalty.The new amendments do not bring any substantial changes, but aims at terminological alignment with the new Law on Personal Tax.
In 2013, the Ministry of Labor and Social Policy proposed amendments to the Law on Volunteering (Предлог на Закон за дополнување на Законот за волонтерство) regarding the personal data protection of foreign volunteers. For unknown reasons, the proposed amendments were not incorporated in the amendments of 2015 and they have never been voted.
Research analysis indicates that a low number of citizens participate in the civil society sector and in other community activities in general. According to the Central Registry of the Republic of North Macedonia there are more than 15,000 civil society organizations in North Macedonia, however, not all of them are active. According to the previous Strategy, about 15% of the citizens’ volunteer in various activities and initiatives, and only 10% volunteer in civic organizations despite encouraging legal and fiscal framework for volunteering. Citizens do not have continuity in voluntary activities; a total of 10 volunteer hours a year on various unrelated objectives / activities. According to National Youth Strategy 2016-2025 local self-governments and government institutions do not contribute adequately to encourage volunteer work among young people, despite the fact that the majority of the young population support this type of engagement as an opportunity for training that will make them better prepared for future job positions. Therefore, it is important to continue to raise the awareness among citizens, especially young people about the opportunities and benefits that civil society provided in order to encourage their active participation, and the importance of monitoring and participation in policy and decision making. In December 2021, the Government adopted the new Strategy of the Government of the Republic of Macedonia for Cooperation with and Development of the Civil Sector 2022-2024 (Стратегија на Владата на Република Македонија за соработка со и развој на граѓанскиот сектор 2022-2024), together with Action Plan (Акциски план за спроведување на Стратегијата на Владата на Република Македонија за соработка со и развој на граѓанскиот сектор 2022-2024) which in the Priority area 3: Civil Society as an Actor in Social and Economic Development, provides concrete activities for promotion and development of volunteerism at the state level.
Civil society organizations have developed their own initiatives based on their program needs and priorities, such as establishing international and local volunteer centers, exchange services for volunteers, such as the European Voluntary Service, organizing local volunteer actions, capacity building, and development of manuals or guides, organizing promotional events, volunteer camps and so on.
With the adoption of the Law on Volunteering the Government laid the foundation and framework for encouraging people to engage in social processes through the activities of public and private entities.
 National Youth Strategy 2016-2025, Agency of Youth and Sport of Republic of Macedonia (Skopje, 2016), p. 13 http://ams.gov.mk/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/National_Youth_Strategy_2016-2025_mkd.pdf (Accessed November 20, 2018)
Definition on volunteering
Volunteering (in terms of the Law on Volunteering, Official Gazette 85/2007, article 3) is understood as free will (voluntary) providing personal services, knowledge and skills and/or commitment of other activities in favor to other persons, bodies, organizations and other institution, without compensation. This Law does not limit the possibility to provide volunteer services that are inconsistent or accidental by nature voluntary, without compensation.
According to the Law on Labor Relations (Закон за работни односи) if the volunteering experience is requirement for a professional exam or for independently performing activities in accordance with a special law should be carried out by signing a contract for volunteer service, between the employer and the volunteer. For the volunteer in these terms apply the provisions of this law regarding the duration and performance of the internship, limitation of working hours, daily breaks and leaves the responsibility for compensation, as well as ensuring safety at work, in accordance with the law. Contract for volunteer work must be concluded in writing and a copy of it within three days of signing, must be submitted to the labor inspection.