New buildings and monuments open as part of ‘Skopje 2014’.
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 city 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 is around 80 million EUR.
The critics (mostly from the opposition parties and intellectuals) say that it is only a facelift, an "ugly, money-wasting, architecturally failed and politically lunatic project". The main argument for the opposition is that in a time of recession it is unreasonable to spend that much money on such a project. Macedonia's Muslim Albanians also argued that if there is to be a new city church, then it is necessary to reconstruct the old mosque that was in the city centre (demolished at the beginning of the 20th century).
In spite of the protests, most of the controversial buildings (e.g. the Museum of Macedonian Struggle) and monuments (30 metre high monument Warrior on a Horse, etc) were solemnly opened to the public on National Day (September 8th) 2011. Although it was said that the whole project would not cost more than 80 million EUR, the opposition claims that, so far, 300 million EUR has been spent and that an additional 200 million EUR will be spent by the end of 2014. The "Skopje 2014" project and money spent for non-productive things is still one of the most controversial (not only) cultural issues. The 2012 Parliamentary debate on this topic showed the completely disparate attitudes between the government and the opposition. 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.
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. Topics range from promoting ethnic tolerance, family values and patriotism to promoting the city-wide makeover known as Skopje 2014. The problem is that while ministers say the campaigns educate people in important social issues, experts and opposition politicians say their primary purpose is to trumpet the government's own achievements and buy the media's favour. The opposition indicates that only several pro-government media are included in these campaigns, insisting that this expenditure should be regulated by law.