The Numbeo database declared Macedonia the second most polluted country in Europe for 2020, following Albania. The result is published even before the 2020 winter season has begun, and with it the expected spike in air pollution driven by the use of wood, coal and plastics for heating, when Skopje and other cities like Tetovo and Gostivar regularly set world records in pollution.

The ruling SDSM party campaigned heavily in promising clean air, only to inform the public that there are no easy solutions after it grabbed power in 2017. Instead of improving the air quality, it seems that this year the Government will count on keeping the measuring stations out of service to reduce the political hit from its failure to deal with the problem. Six of the 17 stations put in place to measure PM10 and PM2.5 pollution are out of service – including some of the crucial stations that reveal the level of urban pollution in Skopje’s Karpos and Gjorce districts, in Miladinovci east of Skopje and in Bitola – the city that suffers the brunt of the pollution caused by its REK Bitola coal plant.

– We need this network of stations to expand, to have one in each town. They are crucial to measuring the pollutants in the air and in helping us determine the exact cause of the problem, said Elena Nikolovska from the Eko Svest environmental group.