SKOPJE / THESSALONIKI -  Investigative teams from IRL in North Macedonia and Inside Story in Greece secured and analyzed thousand of pages of documents, interviewed tens of stakeholders and authorities and surveyed the Axios/Vardar basin and its facilities in order to identify the environmental pressures on the river and expose the reasons behind them.  

The Axios (or Vardar) river originates in North Macedonia and drains in the Aegean, near the Greek city of Thessaloniki. The basin covers an area of more than 24,000 km2 and includes essentially the whole of North Macedonia and parts of Serbia, Bulgaria and Greece. Around two million people live in the area and depend on Axios/Vardar, making it a vital lifeline for both Greece and North Macedonia.    

The investigation discovered chaos in credentials in  North Macedonia, willful negligence, complete failure of the existing protection mechanisms, and abuse of European funds designed to protect the river.  In Greece, although chemicals in the watch lists are within EU limits, the environmental situation of the river is “poor, bad or moderate”. Our research identified a multitude of stressors ranging from diminishing water flows to man-made interventions and climate change, leading to a dangerous paradox: Although the values used as indicators are within EU limits, the actual ecological indicators of the river suffer, with fish and other flora and fauna in and around the river in distress or no longer existing.  

Team members

Saska Cvetkovska

Saska Cvetkovska is an investigative journalist based in Skopje, Macedonia.

a woman with dark blond shoulder-length hair, smiling

Sofia Christoforidou

Sofia Christoforidou is a Greek journalist based in Thessaloniki.

Sofia Christoforidou

David Ilieski

David Ilieski is investigative journalist based in Skopje, North Macedonia.

David Ilieski

Lila Karatasheva

Lila Karatasheva is an investigative reporter at the Investigative Reporting Lab. She is based in Skopje.

Lila Karatasheva

Tasos Telloglou

Tasos Telloglou is a Greek journalist based in Athens.


Inside story

Inside Story is an exclusively digital subscription-based media outlet that publishes investigative and in-depth journalism.

Inside story

Investigative Reporting Lab Macedonia

The Investigative Reporting Laboratory (IRL) is a non-profit media organization whose reporting focuses on corruption, crime and good governance.

€14,470 allocated on 28/08/2023



  • "Αξιός/Βαρδάρης: Ένα κοινό ποτάμι σε κίνδυνο, Newspaper Macedonia, 07/04/2024, p. 50-51


  • Borders, ET-3 (Greek National TV Broadcaster),  broadcast 22/03/2024


  • Greece
  • North Macedonia

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