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Investigation 22 Sep 15

Private Investors Have Hand in Skopje 2014

While the Macedonian state has stumped up the cash for most of the city’s grand makeover, some monuments, floating galleons and kiosks are investments of private entrepreneurs.

Vlado Apostolov

Old-style galleon in the middle of the Vardar River | Photo by: Robert Atanasovski

A little known association has donated seven monuments to Skopje 2014, while private companies have built galleons and Baroque-style kiosks on the initiative of the government in the centre of Skopje.

The Skopje 2014 makeover, funded by public money, has cost the country at least 627 million euro, a BIRN database on the project has revealed.

However, some of the facilities have been financed by individual entities, foundations and associations.

These include neo-Classical hotels and commercial buildings, galleons placed on the Vardar River and some Baroque-style fast-food shops.

In central Skopje, there are currently three riverside restaurants in the form of old galleons, placed in the waters of Vardar Ruver, two of which are under construction. The one that is open, called “Royal Macedonia”, is located near the State power producing company MEPSO and the HQ of the Macedonian Post Office.

Two others are in an advanced stage of construction, located close to each other in the river, 'anchored' on the right bank of the river where they form part of the scenery around the newly built Foreign Affairs Ministry and the Holiday Inn hotel.

The galleon near the Holiday Inn and the other near the MEPSO building are the personal investment of Skopje entrepreneur Davor Andreevski, who is known as the owner of the hair salon Dior in Skopje.

The third galleon, located between these two, is the work of Skopje restaurant owner Stojan Filiposki, owner of the restaurant Vodenica. Unlike the other two ships, this one is also to serve as a hotel with 18 rooms.

The contractors will manage the galleons over the next ten years and in return they are obligated to pay a monthly fee to the city. As announced, Andreevski will pay 140,000 denars [some 2400 euro] per month for both galleons while the owner of Vodenica will pay 36,000 denars [about 600 euro] for one ship.

The Hotel Marriott on the central Skopje square was built by a private investor | Photo by: Sinisa Jakov Marusic

The urban plan for that part of Skopje foresees a total of six galleons erected over the river bed serving as various kinds of hospitability outlets.

At the end of 2012, the municipality of Centar, then controlled by the ruling VMRO-DPMNE party, in one of the many changes it made to the urban plan for the area (nine such changes were made in five years), allowed permission for the erection of 20 stylized sandwich and tobacco shops set on antique pillars in the city centre, matching the overall concept of the Skopje 2014 project.

Several months later, at auction, the Ministry of Transport and Communications offered six plots of eight square metres each in the city centre.

At the auction in June 2013, three of the six were sold for a total of about 95,000 euros.

Selim Mushe, from Skopje, bought the site in Macedonia Street next to the Memorial House of Mother Teresa for 330,800 denars (about 6,300 euros) per square metre.

He also bought the location near the Holiday Inn Hotel for around 5,400 euros per metre. Overall, he paid about 93,000 euros for the two plots of a total of 16 square metres.

At the same auction, the Suprema company from Skopje bought the third lot for a lower price. Suprema paid 6,600 denars or 106 euros per square meter for eight square metres in Zena park. The total price was thus just under 900 euros.

The author of the design and the layout of the Baroque-style sandwich shops was Zharko Chaushevski, who has been behind multiple facilities that form part of Skopje 2014.

Gifts of little known association:

The statue of St. Lydia was donated by a relatively unknown NGO | Photo by: Sinisa Jakov Marusic

Seven of the latest monuments erected within the remits of Skopje 2014 are the complete donations of a relatively unknown NGO, the Association for the Spiritual Unification of Setinci, Popadinci and Krushoradi of Florina, run by Tasko Jovanov, 74, from Skopje.

Neither Jovanov nor the City of Skopje, the recipient of the donated monuments, has revealed the cost of the monuments.

The city administration has forwarded all questions about the costs to the association whose leader, Jovanov, has not divulged further information.

In the absence of official data on the cost of the monuments, the assumption is that the association set aside at least half a million euros for the seven monuments.

This is based on the calculation that one of the cheapest monuments in the Skopje 2014 project, of revolutionary and poet Nikola Jonkov Vapcarov, cost the municipality of Butel 125,000 euros.

The same association last year donated the monument of Nikola Petrov Rusinski, placed near the University Library, the statue of St Lydia, erected at St Mary Mother of God Square, of Andon Lazov Janev-Kjoseto, placed in front of the Basic Court, and of General Mihajlo Apostolski, placed at the roundabout near the Continental hotel.

Monuments to Pere Toshev, Georgi Sougarev and the newest monument, dedicated to the child refugees from Aegean Macedonia, will stand near the Holiday Inn.

The monument of Kjoseto, showing him with a knife in hand, has sparked debate because he remains a controversial figure in history. The main focus of comment has been its location, near the Basic Court in Skopje.

The author of the monuments of Nikola Petrov Rusinski and St Lidija is the sculptor Valentina Stevanovska, who said she made them for free.

According to BIRN’s "Skopje 2014 database, Stevanovska recieved 3 million euro for the construction of her works, making her the highest paid conceptual author involved in the government project. However, her exact author's fee derived from this sum remains unknown.

The association run by Jovanov, established in 2007, often receives annual state grants earmarked for non-governmental organizations, but these are symbolic in relation to the cost of a monument.

The statue of Ottoman-era revolutionary, Andon Lazarov - Kjoseto is also listed as a donation | Photo by: Sinisa Jakov Marusic

More specifically, the NGO in recent years received a free Audi A4 car from the state plus office space in central Skopje, near the Record bus stop.

The association head, Jovanov, in 2009 was elected president of Macedon, a union of associations of Macedonians from the Aegean region, which unites ten organizations addressing the Aegean Macedonian issue.

The pedestals of the monuments are the work of the construction company Bauer BG from Skopje. The company has not revealed how much money it received from the association.

Bauer BG is in fifth place in a list of the top five contractors of the construction project. It has participated in the development of eight facilities costing a total of 31 million, BIRN database indicated.

Faux-Baroque by all cost:

Although the mayor of the municipality of Centar, Andrej Zernovski, who opposes the Skopje 2014 project, stopped the building of a new multi-storey garage in Skopje, the government still found a way to build a second faux-baroque-style garage in the capital.

The first baroque garage was built in Centar during the time of Zernovski’s predecessor, Vladimir Todorovic, a member of the governing VMRO-DPMNE party.

When Zernovski came to office, in 2013, he did not want the municipality to pay 3 million euro for the new garage, which is why the Ministry of Transport, headed by VMRO-DPMNE, changed the plan and sold the land to a private company.

The new owner of the site was obliged to build the garage in baroque style. It is noteworthy that the new owner is not a standard company but a common interest community, established by more than 240 transport companies.

Also, in the centre of Skopje, on the city’s main square, the government sold a site to a private company from Albania, Amadeus group, and committed the company to building a 16-metre-high building in baroque style with a version of Rome’s Spanish Steps in front of it.

See related gallery: Skopje 2014: The new face of Macedonia, updated

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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.