Macedonians Protest Again Over Price Hikes

Several thousand protestors gathered in Skopje and other towns in what has become a regular weekly protest against hikes in utility bills.For the third week running, several thousand Macedonians protested in central Skopje on Tuesday before the headquarters of the State Regulatory Commission, which determines the prices of commodities.Thousands also gathered in Bitola in front of the local headquarters of EVN, the Austrian company that operates the electricity distribution grid.

Protestors shouted “Thieves!” at the utility companies and the regulatory bodies and carried banners reading: “We Don’t Drink Oil” and “Who Regulates the Regulatory Commission?”.

The civil initiative that staged the protests, called “Aman”, which was formed on social networks, wants electricity bills cut back to 2008 levels, before EVN started pushing for higher bills. It also seeks government intervention in cutting prices of other utilities such as central heating and gasoline.

As part of a spiral of price hikes, the price of electricity recently went up by another 10 per cent while heating bills in parts of Skopje also increased by several per cent. Gasoline also went up this week by 1.5 euro.

“These prices are insane. How can an unemployed person or a person on a salary of 200 euro pay these bills? There are thousands [of people] like that in Macedonia,” Zvonko Sarevski, one of the organizers, told Balkan Insight.

During the past few days, some protestors have also accused the government of trying to install its own people in the protests in order to foil the cause and divert anger from the authorities.

The government has denied such claims and blamed the opposition Social Democrats for standing behind the gatherings.

Protestors called for more mass protests next Tuesday.

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