CIVIL Media spoke with the Mayor of Gostivar, Arben Taravari, about the European values, democratic reforms, green alternatives and the preparedness at the local level to develop and promote them with the assistance of the local self-government.
CIVIL Media: How prepared is the Municipality of Gostivar to promote and practice European values?
Taravari: Honestly, we are far from European values, but we are trying as much as possible through projects, with the little resources that we have in the municipality, where we have participated with specific projects. These projects also always depend on the cooperation between the local and central government. Especially when it comes to environmental projects, it is very important to know how much support you also have from the Ministry of Environment.
In the specific case, in Gostivar, unfortunately, there is no significant communication, that is, there is no communication with the Ministry of Environment, therefore, we are trying to do some things by ourselves, as much as we can.
CIVIL Media: Recently in an interview for CIVIL Media, the Deputy Minister of Environment and Physical Planning, Jani Makraduli, stated that no matter how much effort the Ministry invests, that still, many things depend on the local self-government, and that it is not them who are obstructing, but rather the municipalities.
On the other hand, you say that the Ministry is not at all meeting your needs.
Taravari: I would like to illustrate through a couple of examples what depends on us, and what depends on the central government. For example, Gostivar previously promoted itself as a European city, but we are far from being a European city. Why I say this? Because these nine months, as much as I have been the Mayor of Gostivar, we have started working on a sewage system in at least six villages. So, imagine six villages in the Gostivar region that have a population of around 20 to 30 thousand inhabitants who do not have a sewage system for wastewaters. And these are projects that are realized entirely by the Municipality of Gostivar, with its budget, without any assistance from the central government.
Furthermore, in terms of the water supply, there are places, settlements and villages that do not have water, or they are not connected with the central water supply. And there also we have a project of the municipality. The only thing that has been taken away from the municipality, and which I as a former candidate for mayor promised, is Rusino, which is a regional landfill of the Polog region, for which the competencies have been taken over by the central government. Even though more than 20 delegations of various investors have come to my office, who are interested in investing in the Municipality of Gostivar, in that landfill. However, we have no response from the central government.
I as a mayor promised also in the campaign last year that we would place an air quality meter, and truly we are not like Tetovo and Skopje, but still we are definitely a polluted city.
So to summarize, all the projects that are in the competence of the municipality are already started and we are working on them, and what is in the competence of the central government, and that is the landfill, the process is in stagnation. Unfortunately, that is not only the case in Gostivar, the illegal landfills are a problem throughout Macedonia.
CIVIL Media: Can you say that the citizens have developed environmental awareness?
Taravari: Unfortunately, they do not have awareness on preserving the environment…We now plan on making a campaign with promotional material on that we need to preserve the environment. We have already ordered additional waste bins that we plan to place them in places that do not have any…Much work is needed on this process…
CIVIL Media: Does the budget of the municipality allow for the projects to be implemented successfully?
Taravari: Regrettably, we still do not have a Council of the Municipality of Gostivar, and we are obstructed in every possible way…Even though ultimately it is about the citizens…Those citizens are not Taravari’s citizens nor SDSM’s or the Alliance’s citizens, they are citizens of this country who are regularly paying taxes to the state like all the rest. That is why they should be treated equally regardless who the mayor is. However, we have the same things being repeated. Those who do not think as a central government, they have to be punished…this is the reality in Gostivar…
CIVIL Media: How will you deal with this situation, what are your plans?
Taravari: If we take into consideration the projects that have been implemented, I do not want to brag, but there is not a municipality that has asphalted more in these 9 months and that has developed sewage systems and water supply. With all the obstacles and obstructions, but the people know this. They know that some things are done deliberately, and that what is happening is not all right. But, here we have the assistance of the World Bank, the Swiss Development Agency, the European Union…they see that obstructions are being made to us…
CIVIL Media: Is there a lack of greenery in Gostivar and how do you deal with the illegal structures?
Taravari: Certainly that there is a lack of greenery, but we are investing as much as we can in greenery. There has always been illegal constructing and there still is, but I think that in this period it is the least compared to the past 28 years…perhaps we opened more fronts with the “urban mafia”, but regardless of the obstacles we will continue, regardless of whether some people are angry…we started with the demolishing of structures, we will continue…
Text editing: Маја Ivanovska
This post is also available in: Macedonian