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02 Apr 09

Macedonia's 'Baby Boom' Program Falls In Court

The government’s policy aimed at boosting the country’s population growth by giving cash bonuses to mothers with more than one child has crumbled before the Constitutional Court, on the grounds that it is discriminatory. 
The court ruled on Wednesday that the government’s provisions in the child protection law, envisaging state benefits only for mothers that live in municipalities where the annual birth rate is below 2.1 children per 1000 people, cannot stand.

From now on, all mothers living in the entire territory of Macedonia who give birth to a second, third or fourth child, will start receiving money from the government.

The Constitutional Court’s decision “reflects the spirit of the multi-ethnic, multi-cultural and multi-confessional character of the state”, civic association Wake Up said today in a statement. This association was responsible for bringing the initiative before the Constitutional Court.

According to them and other local NGOs, the government programme as originally envisaged discriminated against the ethnic Albanian community, since the municipalities with low birth rates are predominately those with majority Macedonian and other non-Albanian populations. Macedonia’s Helsinki Committee also condemned the government programme as being ‘selective’.

Last month the Court also banned similar provisions in the health insurance law that only applied to some municipalities. 

The conservative VMRO-DPMNE’s proposal stipulated that, starting from this year, parents in municipalities with a low birth rate will receive state support of around €90 for their second offspring for the first nine months. If they decide to have a third child, they are eligible for €120 support over a ten year period. Should a couple have four children, they will receive about €190 euros for 15 years.

However, only two municipalities with an Albanian majority fulfilled the birth rate requirements, with the rest populated mainly with Macedonians. 

Reporting by Sinisa-Jakov Marusic

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