MARINA MALISH SAZDOVSKA: Illegal buildings must be demolished
In order to safeguard Ohrid’s status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, recommendations have been made that the Ohrid authorities should implement if they do not want Ohrid to be placed on the endangered World Heritage List. And there is a deadline of February 1, 2020. One of the main remarks of the World Heritage Committee is the state of the illegal buildings and the request for rapid intervention concerns the demolition of illegal buildings that have a negative impact on the protected area, as well as the introduction of a moratorium on urban coast transformations until there are legal solutions to which will edit this matter. UNESCO’s remarks also refer to increased water pollution in Lake Ohrid, environmental disruption, inadequate urban development and increased shoreline exploitation.
This state of devastation of all ecosystems related to environmental protection in Ohrid is the result of years of neglect of the environment and disregard of the legal norms regarding urbanization of space in protected coastal zones by the current and previous authorities. It was found that there are 409 buildings that are illegal buildings, located on sites that represent a UNESCO protected area. For this activity the Mayor of the Municipality of Ohrid asks for help from the state.
In Ohrid it is not only a problem of environmental protection, but also of spatial planning and construction works which are not in accordance with the building permits. Namely, the construction of the minaret of Ali Pasha Mosque is not in accordance with the construction documentation. Citizens ‘protests against the observance of legal solutions seem impassable, the government remains silent on citizens’ demands for protection of cultural heritage, as well as for sanctioning those who do not comply with the law.
At the same time, a Draft Law on Management of Natural and Cultural Heritage in the Ohrid Region is under parliamentary procedure, stating that one of the goals is to “prevent activities that adversely affect the exceptional values of the natural and cultural heritage in the Ohrid region”. Regarding the financial implications for the law, additional funds in the amount of MKD 840,000.00 will be provided as compensation for the work of the President, the Vice-Presidents and the members of the Council for Monitoring and Coordination of Natural and Cultural Heritage Management in the Ohrid Region. and other expenses related to the one-year work of the Ohrid Council. The draft law proposes that the management of the Ohrid region be implemented by adopting an action plan, monitoring plan, establishing inspection supervision and so on. A fine of 6,000 euros in denar counter value for a legal entity shall also be established for managing the natural and cultural heritage in the Ohrid region in a manner and to the extent contrary to that set out in the Management Plan; fine in the amount of 30% of the weighed fine for the legal entity shall be imposed on the responsible person in the legal entity and a fine in the amount of 200 to 400 EUR in MKD equivalent shall be imposed on the natural person for the misdemeanor referred to in paragraph (1) of this Article. . It is hoped that the envisaged fee for members of the Monitoring and Coordination Council will be a sufficient impetus for a serious approach to the protection of this region, and that the envisaged fines will indeed be applied with a view to sanctioning the perpetrators of the offenses. the current practice of impunity that is increasingly becoming a recognizable hallmark of our society in which the legal system has serious flaws.
In this context, the case of the illegal buildings of Matka Canyon, which is a monument of nature and third category protected area, can be mentioned. The question arises as to why the authorities have not taken concrete steps to remove the platform that constitutes illegal construction.
These are just a few cases of non-compliance with environmental and nature protection laws, and we therefore call for compulsory demolition of illegal buildings as well as other measures needed to preserve the natural and cultural heritage of Macedonia.
Macedonian national law in Chapter XXII of the Criminal Code regulating the field of environment and nature prescribes Article 225 which refers to the usurpation of real estate. This article provides that anyone who, by intention of taking possession of another’s real estate declared by law to be a property in common use, a cultural monument, a natural rarity or other natural wealth, shall be punished with a fine or imprisonment. These and other offenses related to environmental and nature disrespect are legal grounds for criminal investigations and call on the current authorities not to apply selective justice but to approach all perpetrators of offenses and crimes in this field, and to sanction them in accordance with the positive legislation in the country.
Prof. Marina Malish Sazdovska, PhD,
Vice-President of INTEGRA Macedonian Conservative Party and expert in environmental crime