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FYR of Macedonia/ 4. Current issues in cultural policy development and debate  

4.3 Other relevant issues and debates

One of the burning cultural issues in 2010 and 2011 was the promotion of the controversial government project "Skopje 2014". The project includes building fifteen new public buildings in Baroque and Neo-classic style (new foreign ministry, constitutional court etc.), a new church, memorial monuments in the centre of the capital city (including a giant 30 metre high monument to Alexander the Great), triumphal arch etc. The estimated cost of the project was around 80 million EUR.

The critics (mostly from the opposition parties and intellectuals) said that it was only a facelift, an "ugly, money-wasting, architecturally failed and politically lunatic project". The main argument for the opposition was that in a time of recession it was unreasonable to spend that much money on such a project. Macedonia's Muslim Albanians also argued that if there was to be a new city church, then it was necessary to reconstruct the old mosque that stood in the city centre (demolished at the beginning of the 20th century).

Although it was said that the whole project would cost not more than 80 million EUR, the opposition claimed that, so far, over 580 million EUR has been spent and that additional millions EUR will be spent by the end of 2015. In April 2013 the government provided the first and so far the only report of expenditure on the "Skopje 2014" project, with a controversial statement that only 208 million EUR was so far allocated. This was opposed by some experts and the opposition saying that the number is at least three times higher. At the same time, the new (opposition) mayor of the "Community Centar" local government published an expert audit report showing numerous financial and legal irregularities in realising the "Skopje 2014" project.

On the other hand, the so called "Wiretapping" scandal, involving the prime minister and other government ministers, unveiled numerous irregularities, arbitrariness and low flexibility around this notorious project.

Another constant public debate is the money that the government is spending to promote its projects in the media. The latest data shows that Macedonia's government has spent up to 20 million EUR in the past five years on around 40 public awareness campaigns. The opposition indicates that only several pro-government media are included in these campaigns, insisting that this expenditure should be regulated by law.

Chapter published: 06-10-2015

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