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News 25 Apr 13

New Mayor Halts Government’s ‘Skopje 2014’ Revamp

The new mayor of Skopje’s Centar municipality, home of the controversial government-sponsored revamp of the Macedonian capital, has halted work on the project pending a probe.

Sinisa Jakov Marusic

Andrej Zernovski | Photo by: Sinisa Jakov Marusic

New mayor Andrej Zernovski’s first order after taking office on Thursday was a moratorium on all construction work and financial transactions until a review of the project is carried out.

“I gave instructions today to visit all [construction] sites… to determine the factual situation and the involvement of the previous leadership [in the project],” Zernovski told reporters.

He announced that next week he will formally ask for a review of the project at the municipal council.

The municipality, run until this month’s local elections by Vladimir Todorovic, was a key bastion of the ruling VMRO DPMNE. It played an important role in the distribution of money for the controversial government-sponsored revamp.

While Todorovic supported the plan and was receiving tens of millions of euros from the government to erect statues that form part of it, Zernovski was against it.

Zernovski has accused his opponents of money laundering and said that he would investigate the municipality’s involvement in the project for evidence of financial crime.

On Monday, shortly after the elections, the government revealed the first-ever report on the cost of the project, valuing it at 208 million euro so far.

Todorovic, who was present at the press conference led by culture minister Elizabeta Kanceska-Milevska, said his municipality received and spent some 60 million euro of that money, mostly for the monuments.

Insisting that the municipality has been transparent all along, Todorovic said he was not afraid of the announced review of his work.

Officials have strongly denied estimates by critics that the total cost of the project may reach 500 million or 1 billion euro.

Drawing inspiration from the architectural styles of classical antiquity, the project has seen the erection of some 30 tall bronze and marble statues so far, with more on the way.

The project also envisages the construction of some 20 other buildings, including museums, theatres, concert halls, hotels and administrative offices whose construction in most cases is finished or underway.

Since it was unveiled, three years ago, the project has attracted much criticism about the artistic styles chosen, the cost of the work and the transparency of the contracts given to the architects and designers.

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Skopje 2014: The new face of Macedonia, updated

The government-funded revamp of the Macedonian capital, called Skopje 2014, aims to give the city a more impressive and ‘historic’ appearance. See new images in this updated gallery.