Macedonia is one of the poorest countries in Europe. However, a recent documentary reveals that its ruling party VMRO-DPMNE amassed more wealth than its counterparts in the richest countries on the continent.
The Center for Investigative Journalism SCOOP Macedonia published online an English version of its documentary that compares the amount of properties owned by political parties in Macedonia with those in Western Europe. Macedonia's ruling political party has 93 title deeds among its party offices around the country with 33,238 square meters in buildings, agricultural lands and pastures. The estimated market value of all that property is around 60 million euros (66 million US dollars).
The documentary compares the real-estate owned by other political parties, including some from the richest countries in Europe:
After VMRO-DPMNE, one of the parties with largest assets is the Centre Party of Sweden, whose property is valued at around 53 million euros (58.3 million dollars). Angela Merkel's CDU in Germany owns a property worth 50 million euros (55 million dollars). The Labor Party in the UK has real estate worth 9 million pounds (11 million dollars), while the Conservative Party, 11 million pounds (13.4 million dollars).
According to World Bank data, Macedonia's gross domestic product (GDP) per capita is about ten times smaller than Sweden, Germany and the UK. With two million citizens, its annual total GDP is around 10 billion dollars. To compare, Sweden's GDP is 579.7 billion dollars, Germany's is 3.73 trillion dollars, and UK's 2.68 trillion dollars.
Macedonia also has highest income inequality in Europe, with a higher geni coefficient (43.6) than Russia's (42).
SCOOP has documented their findings about the properties of Macedonian political parties in a multimedia-rich investigative piece, which is also available in English. It contains an interactive map (not in English) of the officially owned real-estate.
According to the the documentary, one of the highest valued properties of VMRO-DPMNE is their eight-story party headquarters, estimated to be worth 40 million euros (43.9 million dollars). The party claimed it had not paid a cent for it, as it was built by a contractor who ‘donated’ construction services in exchange for future use of a portion of the complex for a hotel.
The contractor, Mincho Jordanov, is one of the richest men in the country, and his company D.G. Beton A.D. Skopje had been building parts of the controversial Skopje 2014 urban beautification project, receiving over 215 million euros (236 million dollars) of taxpayers’ money.
No independent journalist has entered the building since its inauguration in 2015. Named “Palace Dr. Hristo Tatarchev” after a turn-of-the-20th-century revolutionary, it is allegedly adorned with 50 giant oil paintings in the style of socialist realism with alleged cost of several million euros.
The information about the number of people working in the numerous offices within the VMRO-DPMNE headquarters is not available to the public. According to public auditor reports, in 2013 VMRO-DPMNE had no registered employees, in 2014 it had one employee, and in 2015 it had two employees, with average salaries of up to 1,500 euros per month.
Belgian expert Peter Vanhoutte, who facilitated the negotiations of the Przino Agreement (a deal that was overseen by the European Union and the United States in 2015 to end political crisis in Macedonia and ensure fair elections), was declared ‘persona non grata’ by party president Nikola Gruevski after he revealed that the total amount paid for personal income tax by the party in 2014 was about 3,200 euros. The income tax amounts to 10% of net salaries, so it's easy to extrapolate the above monthly amount. Vanhoutte explained:
According to my calculations, with this amount of money you can hire one person. So the biggest party in the country formally employs only one person? I see this as a problem and it may imply that the people working in the party are paid by the Government. I told them that this is a problem and that if they do not investigate the issue, I would do it. This theme, raises a red flag. It was the same with the Agency for Electronic Communications. We know that they gave money for the Ferris wheel in Vardar and the tower on Vodno, but when I read the bill, I did not think it is part of their job. Is this abuse of state funding? Obviously the auditor did not like what I was saying, and called someone in the party. That evening Gruevski in an interview said that I should be declared a ‘persona non grata’.
VMRO-DPMNE is a member of the European People's Party, “the centre-right, pro-European political party which gathers over 70 national parties from 40 countries.” According to SCOOP, the party's properties significantly increased after it gained power in 2006.