06 Oct 2010 / 12:24

Skopje: Controversy Over Albanian Monuments Continues

Skopje’s Centar district has denied reports that it has decided  to include monuments from Albanian history as part of the government-financed Skopje 2014 downtown revamp project.

Sinisa Jakov Marusic

The Municipality of Centar, which is already home to several monuments built as part of Skopje 2014, confirmed that the ethnic Albanian Democratic Union for Integration, DUI, part of the ruling coalition, had submitted an initiative for the monuments.

“But this has not yet been put on the agenda for discussion and no funds have been approved,” the municipality's press service said.

This week several DUI politicians, including Deputy Prime Minister Abdulakim Ademi, told media that ethnic Albanian heroes will definitely become part of the controversial revamp project.

“The decision has already been reached for three key figures from Albanian history to be put in the [main] ‘Macedonia’ square”, said Izet Mexhiti, a member of the DUI and mayor of Skopje’s Cair municipality.

Monuments to ethnic Albanian heros will be placed “not only on the [Macedonia] square, but also in the VMRO museum” that is currently under construction, Deputy PM Ademi added the same day.

The Macedonian government, led by the centre-right VMRO DPMNE party, launched the controversial “Skopje 2014 project” last year. It envisages the installation of at least 17 large statues as well as the construction of several buildings in the city centre.

Nearly all ethnic Albanian leaders in the country deemed the project to be discriminatory towards ethnic Albanians in the country, as it only profiled heroes from the ethnic Macedonian majority.

One quarter of Macedonia's population identifies as ethnic Albanian.

Local media have speculated that writer Pjetr Bogdani, Catholic priest Josif Bageri and Nexhat Agoli, a minister in the first Macedonian government in 1945, are the figures proposed by the DUI.
The party wants to see their statues erected on the central square along with the existing monuments in honour of two Macedonian revolutionaries from the Ottoman era, Goce Delcev and Dame Gruev, and several others.

In addition to the debate on the representation of the ethnic Albanian minority in the project, Skopje 2014 has faced controversy over the cost of the project, which by some estimates stands at more than EUR 200 million, as well as the government's insistence on a mix of classical architectural styles.

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