An awkward moment occurred during the welcoming ceremony for European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen in Skopje.
While exchanging pleasantries with Zoran Zaev, Von der Leyen remarked that “it’s a beautiful house you have“, referring to the Government building. Zaev responded with a nervous “yes, yes”, as well he might, given how strongly he criticized the refurbishing of the building done by former Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski as part of the Skopje 2014 urban renewal project.
The old socialist style building that used to house the executive board of the Communist Party was redone in a Neo-Classical style, as were many other buildings from the Communist period. SDSM, the party that is heir to the Communists, responded with often violent protests which included throwing paint at the white facades of the buildings. Zaev was pledging to remove much of Skopje 2014, but in his fifth year, he removed the cast iron fence around the Government building in a gesture of “openness” and one monument.