[As at April 1998]

The Government

Organisation and membership
The preparation of submissions
The preparation of decisions
Decision making and recording
Implementation of decisions
Legislative and regulatory

Subordinate Bodies of the Council of Ministers

The Government

Organisation and membership

The Government consists of the Prime Minister (literal translation: President of the Government) and the ministers. The latter include the Deputy Prime Ministers (literal translation: Vice-Presidents of the Government), ministers who head line ministries, and ministers without portfolio. The Prime Minister directs the work of the Government and its members; he convenes and chairs Government sessions. The Deputy Prime Ministers assist the Prime Minister in carrying out his duties. They may be asked to co-ordinate the work of the ministries in specific policy areas, but do not need to hold a portfolio.

In addition to the Prime Minister and the ministers, a number of officials regularly attend Government sessions; they do not, however, have the right to vote. They include the Secretary of the Government; the head of the Secretariat for Legislation; officials from the central expert service of the Government, including assistants and counsellors working in the Prime Minister's Office; and members of other administrative bodies, at the invitation of the chairman. If a minister is prevented from attending a Government session, his or her place is taken by his or her deputy.

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Government sessions usually take place every week, on Monday afternoons. The Government's plenary sessions are typically preceded by meetings of the Government's permanent commissions (see Subordinate bodies of the Government).

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Government sessions are convened by the Prime Minister on his or her own initiative; upon a proposal of the President of the Republic of Macedonia or of Parliament; or at the request of at least five members of the Government. The agenda of the Government sessions is determined by the Prime Minister. In preparing the agenda, he or she is assisted by the Secretary of the Government, who heads the Government's expert service.

All matters to be included on the Government's agenda must be submitted by the proposer through the Secretary of the Government. Those entitled to make submissions include the Prime Minister, ministers, the Secretary of the Government, and the heads of other administrative institutions (the latter must submit any material through the responsible minister or the Secretary of the Government). Submissions that relate to basic laws or other issues of major importance must be submitted to the Secretary of the Government at least fifteen days prior to the session of the Government at which they are to be considered. Less important matters need to be submitted at least eight days in advance. In exceptional cases, late additions to the agenda are permitted.

The draft agenda of the Government sessions and all supporting documents are distributed to members of the Government at least five days before the Government is scheduled to convene. Invitations to attend the Government's sessions also go to officials whose attendance is requested for consideration of specific items on the agenda. In the latter case, only supporting documentation relating to the specific item under discussion is made available. In exceptional cases, Government sessions can be convened verbally and without the prior circulation of supporting materials.

The agenda is divided according to policy sectors, mirroring the remit of the permanent commissions that constitute the Government's main working bodies.

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The preparation of decisions

The Statute on the Work of the Government of the Republic of Macedonia (in the following: Working Statute) provides for a multi-stage interministerial consultation and co-ordination process prior to the submission of materials to the Government. The primary responsibility for ensuring proper consultation and co-ordination lies with the minister proposing a policy measure. According to the above-mentioned Statute, consultation and co-ordination with the following ministries are required before a proposal is submitted to the Secretary of the Government:

  • the Ministry of Finance in all matters affecting public revenue and expenditure;
  • the Ministry of Defence in all matters affecting national security;
  • the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in all matters concerning international relations.

In addition, all legislative proposals must be submitted to the Secretariat for Legislation. It should be noted, however, that none of these institutions can exercise formal veto powers.

In cases where proposals do not emerge from within a ministry, but special commissions, academic or expert bodies, it is the responsibility of the Secretary of the Government to consult with the relevant ministries, the Secretariat for Legislation and, if necessary, other administrative institutions.

Following this first stage of interministerial consultation and co-ordination, the relevant ministry formally submits its proposal to the Secretary of the Government. The latter carries out a technical assessment of the proposal, before passing it on to one of the counsellors in the Government's 'Cabinet Office', ie the sector within the expert service dealing with professional, normative and administrative matters. This Office is organised in a way that mirrors the Government's six permanent commissions (see below), and the counsellors act as clerks of the permanent commissions. Membership of the commissions is normally restricted to ministers, but their working sessions tend to be attended by officials rather than executive politicians. The Secretariat for Legislation is also represented on all commissions. The counsellor submits a proposal to the relevant commission. The commission considers the proposal and formulates an opinion and recommendations.

The responsible counsellor in the Cabinet Office communicates the commission's opinions and recommendations to the Secretary of the Government. The latter, in turn, informs the Prime Minister of the outcome of the discussions in the commission. The decision on whether a matter should be put to the Government lies with the Prime Minister. In this process, the Secretary of the Government may provide both technical and political advice to the Prime Minister.

The commission's report forms part of the submission to the Government. In the case of legislative proposals, the submission to the Government should set out the reasons for the proposed legislation; the basic principles of the draft legislation; the main constitutional-legal norms on which the proposal is based; the costs of the proposed measures and the manner of their financing; and any other important considerations that might assist the Government in deciding on the proposal.

It should be noted that the Working Statute also allows for formal consultation with institutions of social interest representation and interested parties, prior to a decision by the Government. These formal consultation mechanisms only tend to be invoked in the case of more fundamental legislation; however, informal consultation is extensive, helped by the concentration of organised interests in the capital.

Despite a well-developed framework for the preparation of Government sessions, there is some concern over what is widely perceived as an overloaded Government agenda. In part, the heavy pressures on the Government as a collegiate decision-making body are, of course, the result of the extraordinary demands placed on executive policy making in transition countries. In part, however, they might also be attributed to the concentration of decision-making powers within the Government at the expense of ministries and subcentral authorities. Thus, it is often argued that too much of the Government's time is taken up with the discussion of issues that concern the detailed implementation of public policy and could be dealt with more effectively and efficiently by ministerial departments, central field agencies or local government. Similarly, it is often suggested that within the ministries, officials are reluctant to take decisions without first seeking explicit political authorisation. The Government has already taken a number of initiatives to ease the burden at the level of the political executive by encouraging the formal delegation of powers and responsibilities. In the longer term, the Government's efforts to create a professional career civil service and to improve staff training are likely to prove at least as important. The technical-administrative expertise that a professional civil service can provide and its party-political independence encourage officials to play a proactive part in public policy making and to make full use of their formal powers and competences.

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Decision making and recording

According to the Law on the Government of the Republic of Macedonia (in the following: Law on the Government), sessions of the Government must be attended by more than half of its members. Decisions by the Government must be approved with the majority of the votes of its members. However, decisions can be taken with a majority of the votes present at a Government session in the case of urgent measures in the sphere of economic policy, the efficient provision of security and the preparation of measures for defence.

The discussion of an item on the agenda typically leads to the adoption of an act of government. The latter can take various forms, including decrees (uredba), directives (upatstvo), resolutions (zaklucok), orders (resenie) and decisions (odluka) (for details see Articles 45ff, Law on the Government; and Articles 85ff, of the Working Statute). Amongst other things, decisions determine the Government's position on legislative proposals. They take account of the original proposal, the reports and supporting materials attached to the proposal, and the Government's deliberations. If the Government fails to arrive at an agreement, it may decide to constitute an ad hoc working group to formulate a consensual solution, usually to be confirmed at the next Government session.

The sessions of the Government are minuted. The minutes contain the agenda; the names of all those present at the session and of absent ministers; and the conclusions reached the Government. Members of the Government have the right to have their statements and suggestions minuted. This right also extends to the heads of other administrative institutions in matters that specifically concern them.

Stenographic and taped records of the Government sessions are kept. Both are classed as highly confidential, unless the Government decides otherwise. Members of the Government and officials present at Government sessions may ask for stylistic and linguistic amendments to the stenographic records; substantive changes are not permissible.

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Implementation of decisions

The prime responsibility for implementing the Government's decisions lies with the ministers. However, the Prime Minister, as head of the Government, has determined rights in ensuring adequate implementation. It is the Prime Minister's duty to take measures for the effective implementation of the Government's decisions and its annual programme, and members of the Government are answerable to the Prime Minister for the implementation of Government positions and the execution of tasks that the Prime Minister has entrusted to them. The Prime Minister also possesses a 'guideline competence' that permits him to issue compulsory instructions to the ministers in connection with tasks that arise from the guidelines of the Government.

The ministries and other administrative institutions are required to submit an annual report on their activities to the Government.


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Legislative and regulatory procedures

There is no central institution for the drafting of legislation; individual ministries are responsible for producing drafts of legislative measures they wish to propose. Within the ministries, there are specialised legal sections that take the lead in drafting legislation, but they co-operate closely with the relevant technical units. In the drafting process, extensive use is made of outside expertise, including scholars from the universities and the Academy of Science. External advice is regularly sought in the case of fundamental legislation.

The chief responsibility for reviewing draft legislation from a legal rather than political point of view lies with the Secretariat for Legislation. This Secretariat has the status of an independent advisory service to the Government, whose head is appointed and dismissed by the Government. According to Article 48 of the Law on the Government, the Secretariat has a broad-ranging remit in furthering the development of the Macedonian legal system. Amongst other responsibilities, it reviews all draft legislation before its adoption by the Government (or, in the case of ministerial secondary law, the ministries). In its work, the Secretariat has so far focused on the national legal system. To the extent that the compatibility of Macedonian legislation with EU law has been an issue, it has been the Foreign Ministry and the line ministries that have been primarily concerned with this matter.

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Subordinate Bodies of the Council of Ministers

Interdepartmental consultation and co-ordination in the preparation of policy proposals rely heavily on permanent and special commissions as the main working bodies of the Government. The permanent commissions are organised on a sectoral basis, covering a broad range of foreign and domestic policy. They include:

  • the Commission for Foreign Affairs, Defence and Security
  • the Commission for the Economic System and Economic Development;
  • the Commission for Current Economic Policy;
  • the Commission for the Political System;
  • the Commission for Public and Social Services; and
  • the Commission for Personnel and Human Resource Issues.

Each commission is chaired by a President; this role is held either by one of the Deputy Prime Ministers or an ordinary minister. Membership is restricted to ministers from the relevant departments and, where appropriate, high-ranking officials; in practice, officials often deputise for ministers. Others, such as academic experts, can be invited to participate in the work of the commissions, but they have no right to vote. Also, the Secretariat for Legislation is represented on all commissions.

The composition and procedures of the permanent commissions make them well-suited to act as a means for multi-dimensional co-ordination. Thus, they

  • encourage horizontal procedural co-ordination and substantive integration within a policy sector by offering a stable institutional basis for continuous policy dialogue amongst key political and administrative personnel from the line ministries and, where appropriate, other administrative bodies;
  • connect the ministerial administration with the Government expert service. The commissions are serviced by officials from the 'Cabinet Office' that comes under the supervision of the Secretary of the Government, and the commissions' deliberations and reports feed directly into decision making at the centre;
  • offer an opportunity for integrating outside actors into the executive stage of policy development. At the discretion of the chairmen of the commissions, policy experts from outside the administration may be invited to participate in the commissions' work. In this manner, the Government is able to draw selectively on the expertise of a wide range of non-executive specialists. At the initiative of the chairman or on the proposal of one of the ministries represented, it is also possible to invite representatives of interest groups to present their views to the commission's members.

The permanent commissions serve both to prepare Government decisions and to ensure interinstitutional co-ordination in implementation. As regards the commissions' preparatory function, all legislative proposals must first be considered by the relevant commission before they are put on the agenda of the Government. The commissions' reports and recommendations, together with the original proposals, form the basis for the Government's deliberations. The Government is not bound by the commissions' suggestions; nor is it prevented from considering a proposal in cases where no agreement could be reached in the relevant commission. Nonetheless, the commissions act as critical sectoral filters prior to collegiate Government decisions. The commissions' remit is not restricted to policy preparation; they also serve an important function in implementation by reviewing policy developments on a sectoral basis.

The sectoral permanent commissions are complemented by issue-oriented special commissions that deal with specific policy problems, such as housing or emigration.

Whereas the permanent and special commissions are constituted as working bodies of the Government with a co-ordinating remit, the expert councils set up by the Government act primarily in an advisory capacity. There are, at present, three such councils: the Social Council, the Economic Council and the Legal Council. Each has ten expert members (two of whom are members of the Government) and a chair. Their remit is to provide policy advice to the Government, either at the request of the Government or ministries or on their own initiative. Unlike the permanent commissions, the Councils' function is not to debate the details of ministerial policy proposals; rather, they engage in broader strategic long-term policy reviews.

Support and advisory structures

The central support and advisory structures of the Government are build around the post of the Secretary of the Government, who is appointed and dismissed by the Government. According to the Working Statute, the Secretary acts as the head of the expert (or specialised) service of the Government. As such, the Secretary of the Government is, inter alia, responsible for assisting in the preparation and organisation of Government sessions (including the submission of documents required by the Government and its working bodies); submitting the conclusions of the Government sessions to the responsible ministries and other bodies; and ensuring that the Government fulfils its obligations vis--vis Parliament and the President of the Republic.

The expert service includes, at present, six basic organisational units: the service for expert analysis and the management of the activities of the Government and its working bodies (here referred to as the Cabinet Office); the Cabinet of the Prime Minister; the cabinets of the Deputy Prime Ministers (one of these includes the Aid Co-ordination Unit); the Department for Personnel and Human Resources; the Protocol and Translation Service; and the Service for Petitions and Complaints.

Within the expert service, the most prominent position is occupied by the sector for professional, normative and administrative matters which supports the work of the Government and its working bodies ('Cabinet Office'). It prepares the decision making of the Government as a collegiate body. This part of the expert service has its own organisational units, with approximately 90 employees. Its main units are organised on a sectoral basis, mirroring the division of labour between the permanent commissions. As pointed out above, the official heading a sectoral unit acts, as the same time, as clerk to the respective permanent commission.

The Office of the Prime Minister serves the head of the Government through providing administrative-technical assistance and expert advice. It also has a special responsibility for supporting the Government's links with Parliament and the President of the Republic. The responsibility for the administrative management of the Office of the Prime Minister lies with the Secretary of the Government.

Within the expert service of the Government, there is, as yet, no explicit distinction between administrative and political staff. The Government and ministers enjoy wide discretion in staffing matters, and there are few barriers to the recruitment of outsiders to top administrative positions. The Government is in the process of elaborating laws on the civil service and on public administration that are intended to establish the legal foundations for a stable public administration and professional career civil service.

Organigramme Organigrams of the expert service of the Government to be supplied by the Government.
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION To be nominated by the Government.

* This designation represents the provisional reference of the country in international relations following a UN decision. In order to respect both the international agreement on the provisional name and the expressed view of the country, as well as the correct references for national documents cited in the text, within the text the reference Republic of Macedonia is used.