Arben Taravari: Never again in government with Zaev

Half a year has passed since you sat at the mayor’s chair in Gostivar. When you entered the campaign, did you expect that you would face such resistance from SDSM and DUI, with whom you led the Ministry of Health, and were also coalition partners in the Government?

– I still cannot believe it! I cannot believe, especially for SDSM, that it could stoop to this level. For DUI I knew, it has been functioning this way for many years, after all, it was part of the ten-year regime. At no point DUI did try, at least once, to tell stop to Gruevski. They voted four times for Gruevski’s personnel decisions, which were then frustrating for the Macedonian society. However, we as the Alliance for Albanians (AA) believed in the reform government, although in that government we were part of the former regime, but it was a government of forced numbers. Only in that composition could a miserable regime fall, and we are very proud that we were part of the majority that liberated the Macedonian society. If we turned back time, with all the experiences we have with SDSM, we would still do the same. However, I honestly do not believe that SDSM would fall under such influence of DUI that would bother them and destroy everything that is not with them. That SDSM headed by Zaev and certain young and promising staff in just six months will start to function just as the VMRO-DUI binomial was functioning, it’s unbelievable, but in reality, unfortunately, this happens.
In what condition was the municipality when you took over? You mentioned a debt of 3.5 million euros only in the Municipality and about 6.5 million euros in the Public Enterprise “Komunalec”. What are your projections for the city, what are the projects that you want to implement immediately, and what are the projects that will be implemented by the end of your term?

– Exactly, the total debt of the municipality along with the public enterprises that are under the municipality is about 10 million euros. I will try to implement the things I promised during my campaign: transparent and accountable work, depoliticization of education and administration (as much as I can), clean and filtered water, clean air and clean city, investment in educational infrastructure, laboratories and smart – school boards, children’s center for children with special needs, sewage and asphalting roads, multi-story garage, investments in improving the sport and healthy lifestyle and helping cultural events in Gostivar … Having in mind that we are almost completely excluded from the central government.

In very short time, from close associates with Prime Minister Zoran Zaev, you became political enemies. How do you assess the current governance of the new government?

– It is very strange that, from one of the average ministers in the Government, I suddenly became Zaev’s biggest enemy because of one, single reason: I defeated him and with DUI in Gostivar. This is what the citizens of Gostivar decided to do, and now they have to suffer because they have decided otherwise than the Prime Minister’s desire. That is why elections are being held, for someone to win, and someone to lose the citizens’ trust.  If it were otherwise, the prime minister would appoint the mayors himself. Even after this, Zaev decided with his DUI-induced party to do everything possible to make Taravari unsuccessful. Things went so far as to make all the possible obstructions that the central government could over the local. According to many politicians in Macedonia, even Gruevski did not do this to Zaev when he was mayor of Strumica. How did we deserve this? Should 100,000 citizens of Gostivar suffer, who decided against the will of the Prime Minister and DUI? If you are not with us, you must be blocked at all costs and be unsuccessful! These are signs of totalitarian regimes.

How do you evaluate the work of your healthcare successor, Venko Filipce, in the past months since he came to office?

– I would not like to make estimates for my successor. I wish him all the best and many successes. I’m glad that now all these attacks, allegations and criticism from the opposition (VMRO-DPMNE) towards this ministry have been stopped. I have the impression that now the work in the Health Ministry runs peacefully and relaxed. I wish for more successful healthcare reforms, in order to improve the health system for patients and healthcare professionals.

If you could decide now – would you give up the ministerial post in order to run for mayor? If you did not leave the Ministry of Health, maybe there would have been no dispersal of the coalition with SDSM, who “stumbled” on the decision for a new minister in this portfolio?

– I did not change my mind at all. There is no greater pleasure than to receive support from your fellow citizens from all ethnic communities, in an unfair competition, when two parties (SDSM and DUI) have a single candidate, and all the state mechanisms engaged in the campaign, with the prime minister, the Ministry of Interior, pressures, bribes, threats… Hypothetically, even if I did not run for mayor, I would not have stayed as health minister. This I guarantee! DUI was already afraid of the support we received from the citizens, and would have done everything to deprive us of the Ministry of Health. That way we would have been left without municipalities, and without any credibility in the Government. Although we were part of the Government incorrectly, we didn’t know that SDSM will not run for the mayor posts in Gostivar, Tetovo and Cair. Many other things in the government went without our knowledge as well, so we already realized that there are dishonest and insidious games in the new “reform” majority.

After all developments in the alliance Alliance for the Albanians – DUI – SDSM, would they return to the ruling coalition, given the Prime Minister’s announcements for the enlargement of the parliamentary majority and the reconstruction of the Government? In that context, how do you comment on the new leadership of VMRO-DPMNE, and is it possible that you might find common language with it against the current government?

– So far there have been no bids for returning to the now-real “reform government”. Personally, after everything that happens with this Government, I would not want to go back, but this is my personal opinion. Zaev’s government is the same as the previous one, there are Amdi Bajram and many other regime personnel and, frankly, very much resembles and reminds us of the bad past of the Republic of Macedonia. I would very much like to make a mistake and be misled, everything to run as it should, because in the end we all want to bring a normal life for the citizens of Macedonia. For the new leadership of VMRO-DPMNE, I have no comment. I would like them to reform, and the new leadership to distance itself from the previous management. How much will they have capacities in this direction, I do not know, but time will tell. It is good for the society and for Macedonia to have a quality, rational and constructive opposition.

I inherited Gostivar with a €10m debt

In what condition was the municipality when you took over? You mentioned a debt of 3.5 million euros only in the Municipality and about 6.5 million euros in the Public Enterprise “Komunalec”. What are your projections for the city, what are the projects that you want to implement immediately, and what are the projects that will be implemented by the end of your term?

– Exactly, the total debt of the municipality along with the public enterprises that are under the municipality is about 10 million euros. I will try to implement the things I promised during my campaign: transparent and accountable work, depoliticization of education and administration (as much as I can), clean and filtered water, clean air and clean city, investment in educational infrastructure, laboratories and smart – school boards, children’s center for children with special needs, sewage and asphalting roads, multi-story garage, investments in improving the sport and healthy lifestyle and helping cultural events in Gostivar… Having in mind that we are almost completely excluded from the central government.
Goran Adamovski