Some municipalities are renaming of streets, squares, schools and bridges to recognise national or ethnic heroes, but the proposals sometimes spark debate.
By Misko Taleski for Southeast European Times in Skopje -- 30/08/12
Many streets in Gostivar may be renamed. [Miki Trajkovski/SETimes]
Macedonia's inspectorate for local government has rejected an effort by Gostivar's mayor to rename public spaces after controversial figures, including Nazi collaborator Dzemail Hasani (Dzemo Hasa) who conducted massacres against the local population in WWII.
The controversy is part of a larger effort throughout Macedonia, where the two largest Albanian parties are proposing to rename hundreds of streets after ethnic Albanian heroes.
Vanco Sehtanski, director of the inspectorate, told SETimes that the effort by Mayor Rufi Osmani and the city's Albanian population is contrary to the constitution and legal norms.
The Macedonian parliament is expected to review the proposal. Gostivar streets could be renamed only through implementation of the Badenter rule, which demands a majority of votes from an ethnic minority for a proposal to be adopted.
"Everywhere the Badenter majority rule is not respected, we nullify the decision and make it legally inapplicable," Sehtanski said.
"There is disharmony between the existing street names with the real situation on the ground which comes from the [town's] ethnic composition. Postponing [the renaming] cannot be tolerated anymore," Fadilj Zendeli, president of the Gostivar municipal council, said.
The Democratic Union for Integration (DUI) and the Democratic Party of Albanians (DPA) are leading efforts to rename streets and landmarks. As many as 50 streets would be renamed in Skopje, with writer Ismail Kadare and former Albania Prime Minister Hasan Prishtina among those who could be honoured.
Struga officials plan to rename streets for Albanian heroes as well. "If we do not reach a joint agreement, the streets, squares and bridges will first be numbered and then we will rename them upon agreement," Mayor Ramiz Merko said.
Some oppose the idea, however, saying that the renaming can only inflame ethnic tensions.
"It is absurd to change a name of a street named after an anti-fascist fighter [to the name of] a fascist who caused rivers of blood among all ethnicities here," Velko Stefanovski, 67, retiree and a resident of Gostivar, told SETimes.
The issue has been part of a wider debate in the region. An ongoing debate in Serbia concerns the request for equal treatment of Chetniks, who also collaborated with the Nazis, and the rights of their descendants with those of anti-fascist partisans.
The postal service in Stara Pazova, Serbia, delivers letters to a street renamed for Ratko Mladic, though the change is not officially approved.
"The fact that the municipality says such a street does not exist is a lie and is foolish," Slavko Rudakijevic, a 53-year old resident of Stara Pazova who renamed the street, said.
In south Serbia, ethnic tensions flared last January after the local government renamed 17 streets with names of UCK fighters and Albanian historical figures.
"Such decisions will change nothing. The co-ordinating council will not let the citizens be hostages of the 1990s. Local politicians should solve existential problems rather than provoke," Milan Markovic, former minister for human and minority rights, told SETimes.