Described as a city right out of the “Arabian Nights” stories set in a scene with stunning 19th-century architecture, Bitola, the imperial seat of consuls, pianos and home of the first cinematographers of the Balkans spreads its charm to every visitor. Working to offer attractive investment opportunities as well, Vladimir Taleski, its Mayor, has had a chance to service the public needs coming from Bitola’s impressive legacy.
European Times: How did Bitola progress during your tenure?
Vladimir Taleski: At the beginning of my first mandate we concluded that the main problem in our municipality is unemployment, so we started looking for solutions how to improve that situation as soon as possible. That is how the industrial zone next to our city, in the proximity of the border with Greece called “Zabeni” was created, with the support of the central government. Another idea which they supported nationwide was a policy for selling state-owned land to investors for a price of €1 euro per meter square to boost the creation of new jobs.
These policies attracted a significant investment by the German company Kromberg and Schubert which employs 3,000 people, and with the expansion which is under way, it will hire another 1,500 citizens. With the other plants being built in this zone, it will reach 5,000 employees very soon.
European Times: Apart from unemployment, which other projects have been in your focus?
Vladimir Taleski: Two other projects that are of immense importance are the gasification of the city and thermo-energetic heating, by using the heat generated by the largest thermoelectric power plant in the country which is nearby. As large projects, their implementation will require a longer period and substantial resources.
When it comes to housing, we have taken the former military base, which with the investments from eight companies will be transformed into a housing district for 5,000 persons. We have invested in necessary services such as the fire-fighters, the schools, but also in sports, building four new sports centres and working to reconstruct the main stadium. Our Zoo Garden was reconstructed too.
The results in the field of culture are tremendous. Our Bitfest festival, which marks its 10th anniversary, lasts for 60 days each year, from the end of June till the end of August. We have supported the “Manaki Brothers” international film festival which is held for over four decades and managed to enlist Bitola in the Network of Creative cities of UNESCO in the category Film.
European Times: People from Bitola are very proud of the city’s heritage, what is your message to our readers?
Vladimir Taleski: Once you come here, whether it is for business, art, holidays or exploring the beautiful Mount Pelister, I am sure that you will keep returning.