by | 12 April, 2024

We haven’t finished ruining Ohrid, we haven’t saved ourselves from UNESCO despite our best efforts, but we’re determined to preserve the memories of “Golden Nightingale”

1 The consistent policy of rewarding bandits and punishing taxpayers continues in Macedonia.

The European Commission demands that the state return 2.2 million euros within 30 to 45 days, money that was misused within the EU education programme “Erasmus Plus” from 2016 to 2018. That means that all of us will have to contribute from our next salaries to return 2.2 million euros because the European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) discovered a series of irregularities in grants awarded to 22 beneficiaries.

The fraud was reported to the Macedonian Prosecutor’s Office back in 2019. However, there hasn’t been an investigation into that case yet. It’s still in the preliminary investigation stage.

We’re already paying well-known criminals damages for cases whose statute of limitations has expired, but on top of that, they’ll now take our money to pay off the debt to the EU and the people from the EU who caught them stealing.

Wait a minute. Let them tone down their stories about the EU. Let them start putting European habits into practice back home. The people who embezzled European money have names, surnames, signatures, company stamps… The authorities know who they are. Why should we pay for them? This is similar to a police bulletin. They caught a thief, they know who he is, they know what and how much he stole, and they announce that the stolen items and money have been returned to the owner.

In this case, the European Anti-Fraud Office caught them embezzling. There’s no need to lecture people about the standards of Macedonian justice. First a preliminary investigation, then an investigation, then complaints that the prosecutor was appointed by DUI, the judge was appointed by VMRO, although he’s a close associate of SDSM, then a discussion whether translation was or wasn’t provided, then the juror retired, then the judge got sick, then the judge was promoted, then a retrial, the verdict was lost on the way from the Court of Appeals to the Court of First Instance… and just like that – the statute of limitations expired, and the EU is demanding its money – now.

That’s where the story ends. We shouldn’t be put in a position where we listen to Deputy Prime Minister Bojan Marichic telling us: “we’re looking for a way to return some of the funds and some to be factored in some future projects.” It makes it seem like we’re charging the EU a subscription fee. Give us more money so we’d be able to return some of the stolen money. To return the money of those who stole it, we’ll take money from those who (perhaps) don’t intend to steal.

If only we could repay the Europeans with compensation, so we’d be able to give them our politicians, to entertain them with stories about EU standards, tackling corruption, good governance and transparency. At the same time, we’d be saved from them and we would reduce the debt to the European Commission. Unfortunately, it’s a pipe dream. It turns out that bandits are in a favourable position in every single scenario.

2 That’s why I don’t follow the election campaign. The moment I see a Macedonian politician on TV, I don’t even wait to hear what he has to say. I immediately change the channel to crime series and movies. At least the story is resolved there eventually. Criminals are caught and taken to court. Here, the story never ends. Even if they catch the criminal, they let him go. Or the statute of limitations on his case expires. Or the head of state pardons him. Regardless of the fact that there are investigations and trials against him, he’s able to run for MP. Even if he’s on the US blacklist for serious evidence of corruption, he’s able to run for president of the country. He’s able to be a mayor. And if his party wins, he becomes a minister.

There’s no criminal responsibility for any of them, but apparently there’s political responsibility. It’s a scary thing, isn’t it? It’s obvious how strong political responsibility affects them. They haven’t come off TV, they’re laughing in our face from billboards.

Just look at all those who’ve spent years in courtrooms only to have the Assembly expedite the expiration of the statute of limitations on their cases. They’re suffering from political responsibility. They’re in agony. For instance, the one who’s suffering from a serious case of political responsibility is Nikola Gruevski. Not because he needs to study Hungarian to run his business in Budapest, but because he doesn’t miss a single opportunity to greet us on holidays on Facebook.

In Macedonia, it’s been proven that the responsibility of politicians ends on the day of voting. All those we vote for and who win in the elections are given a permission to steal.

3 For fifteen years, people have been talking about the need to renovate the Universal Hall in Skopje. The venue started to fall apart and hasn’t been operational for nine years. And just when the reconstruction began – it caught fire.

Now, with the Universal Hall gone in a literal sense, let’s try to talk about it without the emotions for the “destroyed memories of the citizens of Skopje” and the “destroyed symbol of solidarity.”

The Universal Hall was a prefabricated building erected after the earthquake in 1963. The people of Skopje are now upset that a prefabricated building was destroyed, but they weren’t upset when residential buildings popped up at the sites of the prefabricated houses and destroyed housing in individual houses. There were other symbols of solidarity, among which the neighbourhoods of Kozle, Taftalidze, Vlae, Vodno. Those neighbourhoods, which were once built with donations and a plan for humane living, have now become unlovable. There isn’t a single normal neighbourhood anymore. The houses with one family and one car they’d park in their yard have become residential buildings with over twenty families and at least that many cars parks on the street. When the Universal Hall caught fire, at least the ambulance and the fire engines were able to access it. Whereas the destroyed neighbourhoods all over Skopje can’t be accessed even by a dustcart to collect the refuse of the tenants.

Therefore, the best option is for the state to sell the site under the burned Universal Hall “as a real bargain” to one of those “investors” and “reputable businessmen” favoured by both the government and the opposition. That way, “the beautiful city will blossom again” with a single investment for utilities that would cover the salaries of the local administration. It would be a magnificent building – a combination of a theatre, a multi-level parking garage, a shopping mall, about twenty floors of apartments, and a kindergarten in the basement.

When a public goods needs to be built, politicians will find a million excuses why it’s not built. This institution is the competent authority, that institution is the competent authority, let’s open a debate, let’s see what the citizens will say, let’s see what the experts will say, let’s wait for permission from the municipality, let’s wait for permission from the City of Skopje, let’s wait for permission from the state, followed by problems with the expropriation of the land, let’s wait for the opinion of this enterprise, let’s wait for the opinion of that enterprise… And when it comes to satisfying the greed of the government and their investors, then it doesn’t matter what the citizens say, nor what the expert public says, nor what the ecologists say, nor what the NGOs say, they can’t be bothered even by protests… If it’s a private interest – it can’t be a No. It has to be a Yes.

We sold the Skopje Fair so they could build a shopping mall and residential buildings. We ploughed Vodno to build towers of Babel. The entire Skopje has been destroyed, yet we’re mourning a big prefabricated building where concerts were held. Because, no matter what it looked like, it was the only one we had.

We haven’t finished ruining Ohrid, we haven’t saved ourselves from UNESCO despite our best efforts, but we’re determined to preserve the memories of “Golden Nightingale”

Translated by Nikola Gjelincheski