by | 27 August, 2021

Are we taking the wrong road to Ohrid?

1 Signatures are being collected for so many independent civil initiatives for candidates for councilors in almost all major municipalities, and that’s an encouraging sign for democracy. People are organizing themselves. They want to protect their houses, their backyards, they want to free up their streets, their sidewalks, their parks… That’s what the politicians from the parties they voted for should have provided for them. If the politicians performed their duties, and the parties positioned themselves to be in service to all citizens and the public interest, then we wouldn’t have these independent lists. But, once you come to power, it’s our custom to do what the party tells you to do. You forget what the street in front of your house looks like.

I don’t expect for these independent lists to take over the power in their municipalities. I don’t doubt it for a second that the parties will team up against them or try to buy them. But still, I expect them to be a voice different than the order coming from the party headquarters. Because, at the end of the day, those people have their jobs, run their businesses, have their hobbies, they are well-known names, they’ve left their mark in their professions and in the communities they live in and know what they want, so they’ve decided to spend some of their spare time fighting for quality life in their neighborhoods. In order for them to be a part of the Councils where decisions are made for their own lives, they don’t even have to dance at Komitadji Evenings, spend the nights at the party’s headquarters, butter their way to the central and municipal committees, or be driven around in buses just to applaud at rallies.

The parties can come up with hundreds of slogans, spend millions of euros for videos and billboards, collect signatures for counter-independent lists, dig up the candidates’ biographies, troll them on Facebook and order texts on media. However, all of that won’t change the view from my apartment’s window, won’t free up my sidewalk on which my kids go to school, won’t bring me quality drinking water and clean air, won’t solve my parking issue, won’t clean up the garbage, won’t stop my neighbor from forcibly building a new “investment” at the open seating area where I have my coffee…

It’s quite simple. People have seen that no good comes from parties.

2SDSM themselves were shocked when in 2017 they crushed VMRO-DPMNE in almost every municipality. With that kind of massive victory, the citizens expressed what they didn’t want. They didn’t want VMRO-DPMNE with their massive robbery from Skopje 2014, their land plots which were “a real bargain” and their urban rampage. It’s the very same citizens whose help SDSM used to get into power, and not just the party followers they’ve hired and are still hiring in the state administration, who are now making the independent lists. Why would they cast their votes for those who have said that they won’t be acting like their predecessors, and yet they still do? Now the mayors are shrugging their shoulders and saying: what can we do, we cannot change anything. Oh, really? In 2017 you said you could.

It’s not only up to the changes in the urban plans. And it’s not only up to the construction laws and the legalization of the illegal buildings. It’s up to the political will.

For four years, SDSM and DUI haven’t shown political will to change the law on municipal financing. Therefore, in order to survive, local authorities have to charge for utilities, sell the land, or beg the central government and their leader to throw in a million here and there, so their administration’s salary account wouldn’t get blocked.

For four years, they haven’t managed to pass a law on communal police. We’re wasting our expensively trained police officers, at their full strength, healthy as horses, strong as bulls, with them just giving tickets for wrong parking, instead of the Municipality collecting that money. Was it that hard to secure 61 vote to pass that law?

Why are we even discussing laws that need to be put up for voting in the Assembly, when the local authorities can’t implement even a simple ban on the supply of goods at a certain period of the day? They can’t even protect a bar in front of a pedestrian zone which we’ve all paid for. Just imagine if in any other city in Europe you could park your truck or van whenever you wanted, in front of grocery stores, restaurants, or if you could unload beers in front of an elementary school or a kindergarten, while kids are running around your van. Imagine walking on a pedestrian zone in a downtown area or a promenade and then a car comes up and hits a child who’s wandered off and let go of their parents’ hands, just because the Mayor gave a permit to some private company directors. They can’t even make pub owners use special dumpsters, so they mix up the muck with the residential garbage. Apparently owners of fancy restaurants find it too expensive to pay money to the municipality, so they even threaten the authorities that they won’t vote for them.

They’ve made bicycle lanes, they’ve planted bushes, they’ve installed bollards on the sidewalks, they’ve even changed the asphalt on the streets after God knows how many years. Imagine if they hadn’t done that. That’s the equivalent of not cleaning up your home, not throwing away your garbage, not changing the light bulb when it goes out. They are deceiving us with cosmetics. It’s all very nice. The bicycle lanes and the benches contribute for a better life, but not even in one municipality have we seen an attempt for a more thorough, quality change that will bring about a more humane living. We’re tired of their “achievements” for doing the job that’s in their job description and for which they’re paid.

3The disappointment is always bigger when you expect something from someone. We know what to expect from VMRO-DPMNE. We know who created the urban chaos, who amended the urban plans in the early hours, who passed the laws for selling state-owned lands or for the legalization of illegal buildings, who used face slaps on counter-protests… You can’t get disappointed by them. It’s all the same to you. But it hurts when you get disappointed by those who lied that they’d change those practices.

The most I expect them to achieve at this year’s election, according to the candidates that VMRO have announced and the candidates they’ll support, is to erase the “North” from the municipal boards, or maybe bring back the Sun of Kutlesh on the manhole covers. But, that won’t contribute to a quality humane housing.

Besides, what has the leadership of VMRO-DPMNE after Gruevski offered, apart from some semi-nationalistic gestures and opposing views on everything – on the census, on the wildfires, on the beginning of the school year, on the digitalization…? They’ve even undermined the vaccination against Covid-19 every step of the way, when they should’ve shown responsibility. As if only SDSM members and Albanians are dying due to the pandemic.

4 We’re proud to have Ohrid, luckily still protected by UNESCO, a world cultural and national heritage site, yet we can’t reach it.

Ten days ago, they pruned the branches and the bushes around the road at Strazha. They haven’t collected the waste, of course. The branches are still on the road. The waste, naturally, just piles up more and more.

Not only have they not finished the new road, they’re not even fixing the old one. If the world built roads with the same pace it took us to build 50km of road between Kichevo and Ohrid, the civilization would’ve stayed disconnected. After all, there are mountains, rivers, bridges, tunnels and fields everywhere to buy out…

As for the construction of the road – whatever. The Chinese are to blame. And VMRO-DPMNE. And Gruevski. But, how come no one is picking up the trash? How come the roadside barriers are overgrown with grass, so the dangerous road becomes even more dangerous and narrower?

There was this director, he was appointed by SDSM, but at least he was good, rolled up his sleeves, changed the traffic signs, cleared up the traffic barriers, collected the trash from the roads, the difference was evident, and yet they dismissed him. Because that director was supposed to be appointed by DUI. Now, we shouldn’t even criticize the one from DUI, out of fear they’d label us as chauvinists.

Fair enough, we’ll be politically correct. People are despicable, we’ll agree to that. They throw away bottles, handkerchiefs, diapers out of their cars. They spill rubble along the road, they leave old furniture, broken down refrigerators, you can find pretty much everything when you look left and right while driving to Ohrid and Struga. But, how come no one is picking up the trash? There is trash at every turn. Not only at the parking lots.

The road goes through at least ten municipalities. But the municipal utility companies are not the competent authority for the waste. The buildings around Strazha are privately owned. They’re not the competent authority either. Toll staff aren’t the competent authority for collecting waste. How about the Public Enterprise for State Roads, are they the competent authority? If they aren’t the competent authority either, then, who is? Is perhaps the Public Enterprise “Macedonia Roads” the competent authority?

We don’t have a problem with incompetence. We know who’s incompetent. But, who is competent?

For crying out loud, when the Prime Minister, or the ministers, or the President of the State drive to Ohrid, can they please tell us which road they’re taking? Are they taking some road we’re not aware of? Are we taking the wrong road to Ohrid?

Translated by Nikola Gjelincheski