UNESCO Warns North Macedonia to Protect Lakeside Heritage Site

Prime Minister Zoran Zaev said that North Macedonia is acting to preserve the lakeside town of Ohrid and its surroundings, a UNESCO world heritage site, after a critical report from the UN cultural body on Monday.

The UNESCO report said that North Macedonia has done little to fix persistent issues in Ohrid and its surroundings, threatening once again to reclassify it as an 'endangered heritage site'.

"We are aware about the yellow card from UNESCO," Zaev told media after the 125-page report, based on a visit by UNESCO experts in January 2020, was published.

"I accept that UNESCO has been warning us for several years, but much has been done since the last UNESCO experts' visit," he insisted.

Zaev said that work had been done throughout 2020 and this year, in coordination with the Ohrid local authorities, to remove illegal buildings that UNESCO says threaten the cultural and natural heritage of the area.

"Unfortunately we cannot do the same yet in Struga [another lakeside town near Ohrid] but I appeal to the authorities there to get to work," Zaev said.

He added that since early 2020, the authorities have also started repairing and upgrading the waste water collection system around Lake Ohrid, toughened the rules for issuing building permits in the protected area and halted plans for the construction of regional roads and a railway stretch inside the region.

The historic town of Ohrid along with Lake Ohrid and the nearby Galicica mountain are one of only 28 sites across the world that UNESCO has named a world heritage site in both the culture and nature categories.

UNESCO threatened to reclassify it for the first time in May 2019, following a largely unfavourable report. This sounded the alarm and the local...

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