Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Macedonia: Lions Add Bite to Skopje Revamp Row

Text by Sinisa Jakov Marusic for Balkan Insight   
25 August 2010 | Two of four giant bronze lion statues costing 2.5 million euro have been erected in the Macedonian capital - as the country struggles with the economic crisis.

The seven-metre tall lions, cast in the Italian town of Florence and mounted on 3.5 metre-high posts, were placed in guarding positions on the Goce Delcev bridge as part of the controversial state-funded “Skopje 2014” revamp scheme.

Andrej Petrov from the main opposition Social Democrats accused the government of unnecessary spending during a period of crisis.

"Instead of erecting the lions, the government could have spent the same money on renovating two hospitals," he said.

But Macedonia's ruling VMRO DPMNE party insists the erection of the lions was justified as they symbolised the country's struggle for independence.

The remaining two lions are to be mounted within the next week, officials said.

Presented in February as an endeavour to bring back the old glitter to a city full of its fair share of grey architecture from the communist era, the revamp project includes plans for at least 17 large statues and about 15 buildings that will depict classical architecture styles.

Critics have objected to the project's high cost, rumoured to be more than 200 million euro, although the authorities’ have not disclosed precise figures.

The lack of public debate and doubts over the project's architectural value have also sparked controversy.

Eight of the planned statues have been erected to date.

In May, two bronze statues of the early twentieth century Macedonian revolutionaries, Goce Delcev and Dame Gruev - both mounted on horses, were erected in Skopje's central square.

A marble bust of the first president of the Anti-Fascist Assembly of the National Liberation of Macedonia, Metodija Andonov Cento, followed in July.

The bronze statues of the inventors of the first Slavic alphabet, St. Cyril and Methodius and their disciples Clement and Nahum of Ohrid, were also erected in the centre along with a statue of a group of young Macedonian intellectuals who fought for freedom in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

The Skopje revamp project survived a round of spring cuts in the state budget, which is projected to accrue a total income of 2.34 billion euro in 2010 against an expenditure of 2.51 billion euro.

Critics and opposition politicians have said the costly project should have been the first to be put on hold, while the ruling VMRO DPMNE party has argued many of the statues and buildings had already been commissioned and paid for.

This article is courtesy of Balkan Insight, the online publication of the Balkan Investigative Reporting Network, which contains analytical reports, in-depth analyses and investigations and news items from throughout the region covering major challenges of the political, social and economic transition in the Balkans.

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