Green Front, an association of environmental groups, wrote to the Swedish embassy in Bosnia regarding their Facebook post in which they declared Macedonia and its capital Skopje as models for reducing air pollution. Both Skopje and Sarajevo are frequently featured among the most polluted capital cities in the world and it is unclear what improvements the embassy is talking about.

The embassy listed some declared measures announced by the Macedonian Government, such as replacing air pollution monitoring stations, expanding the natural gas distribution network, or banning the use of coal for heating – none of which were actually done, and its stated goal to reduce air pollution in Skopje by 50 percent, as actual achievements.

Our initial reaction was that this is some kind of a fake news. But we were shocked to realize that this is the official position of the embassy which declares that “Skopje was able to improve air quality”. With all due respect to the diplomatic mission of the Kingdom of Sweden in Bosnia and Herzegovina, but their comment can only be attributed to a complete lack of understanding the local context, and is in the service of transmitting a desperate set of policy announcements which were trotted out by the Government PR machine. If Sweden wanted to help, instead of being part of an international propaganda machine, it would have first looked into the effects of the listed measures, Green Front said in its comment.

Many Macedonians took to Facebook to respond to the embassy that their report is far from reality. Macedonia did have an unusually warm and windy winter, which helped clear the air at times, but as in previous years, the capital would still frequently top the list of most polluted cities in the world, or at least rank among the top 10.