Debate has broken out in Macedonia over promised monuments to Albanian figures as part of the controversial revamp of the capital, Skopje 2014.
Statues of Albanian author Pjetr Bogdani, Catholic priest Josif Bageri and Nexhat Agoli, a minister in Macedonia's first government in 1945, were due to be established in Skopje’s Centar municipality in 2010.
The Democratic Union for Integration (DUI), the largest Albanian political party in Macedonia and the country’s junior ruling party, argues that the promised statues should be erected promptly and accuses the other parties of arguing among themselves and causing delay to the project.
“We sense that both [Macedonian] parties lack any sense of building a cohesive society or of the feelings of the second biggest ethnic community in Macedonia,” the DUI stated in an interview with Balkan Insight, “They are trading responsibility over this instead of just erecting them at once.”
Andrej Zernovski, the Mayor of Centar and part of the opposition bloc, told a press conference that he would not erect the statues at the municipality's expense, making reference to the contract signed by his predecessor that obliges the Italian foundry that made the statues to also install them. He accuses the ruling parties of using the monuments to stir ethnic tensions, citing missed and postponed deadlines for the statues.
The pedestals for the three monuments were completed under Zernovski’s predecessor, Vladimir Todorovic, but the whereabouts of the Italian-made bronze statues is unknown.
The Skopje 2014 project has drawn harsh criticism for its alleged predominant showcasing of ethnic Macedonian heroes. Under pressure from the DUI, the government agreed to include three statues representing ethnic Albanians, but these have yet to appear.
Source: Balkan Insight