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An International disaster response exercise organized by NATO – EADRCC (Euro-Atlantic Disaster Response Coordination Center) will be held in Ohrid in September 2021, with participation of specialized rescue teams from several NATO countries.
As an integral part of the national disaster response system, the Red Cross of the Republic of North Macedonia with several of its departments is involved in preparation of the exercise, including Ohrid Red Cross Mountain Rescue Service. For the first time in this type of exercise, on our initiative, scenarios with complex mountain accidents will be included, which our teams will perform in cooperation with the army teams, as well as with other rescue services from NATO countries, interested in participating in the exercise.
Currently, the preparatory part is underway. In the period of Monday 14 till Thursday 17, the final planning conference for the exercise will be held, in which the head of MRS Antonio Dodevski has active participation. The Ohrid Red Cross Mountain Rescue Service offered its entire staff and material and technical capacity to the planning committee for quality and safe implementation of the exercise.
Previously, during last year, the capacities of MRS were highly evaluated by the planning committee and will be involved as an important part in the preparation and implementation of the exercise itself.
During the exercise in September, as an integral part of our teams, volunteers from other organizations, members of the National Union for Mountain Rescue will be included. This will actively continue the mission of unifying and harmonizing the standards for performing rescue operations, in all members of the union, and thus in the country.
Involvement in the planning process, as well as active participation in the exercise, for MRS, is a serious opportunity to upgrade its own capacity, improve communication and coordination with other domestic and international institutions, as well as our contribution to the affirmation and promotion of Ohrid to the international professional public in the field of rescue and protection.
Dear fellow citizens and media,
We cannot but react to yesterday’s statements of the Mayor and the coordinators of the councilors groups, who tried to relativize the arguments and justify their restraint, which showed that in fact, they have no position, i.e. they are not interested in solving this issue at all.
Namely, we believe that the Mayor has sincere intentions and seriously believes that a solution should be found for the Service sustainability, but we cannot agree with the statement that the Ohrid Red Cross requested funds for volunteers’ salaries. Also, we cannot agree with the statements of the coordinators of the councilors groups, quoted by media, in which according to some “they did not receive precise financial indicators, on how much the functioning of the Service costs and what is the part of the municipality in the total costs”, and according to others that “they abstained for the sole reason that the draft decision did not have a financial structure and clear indicators, regarding the exact purpose of the funds required to be allocated from the municipal budget.” From these statements, one can only conclude that the councilors from the government and the opposition are either not interested in this issue at all or act under the influence of other centers of power, which dictate how they should vote.
Nevertheless, the request for support of the Service is based on detailed analysis and assessments presented in the Feasibility Study for sustainability, prepared by top experts in the field, according to which municipalities should participate with 50% in the total budget of the Service, the state in the future through the Directorate for protection and rescue (or in another form) with 30% and 20% the Service would provide from donations and additional services. In the total calculation of the budget, in addition to the material costs for the maintenance of the entire system, there are also costs for insurance, professional development, and for covering the volunteers’ costs they make during the regular training activities and rescue operations, in this case obviously mixed with the term “salary”.
So far, in the past 19 years, the Service has not received a penny from the local authorities and everything that has been achieved is due to the enthusiasm of the volunteers, who in addition to their passion for mountaineering, alpine climbing, and saving lives, are professionally and intellectually realized persons and proven professionals in their fields (engineers, architects, lawyers, doctors, etc.). They do not expect a “salary” as a reward for what they do voluntarily, but expect appropriate treatment and care for them, from the system in which they invest.
Their enthusiasm and selfless commitment brought investments from European funds to Ohrid and built an efficient system, for whose results and financial performance we gained the highest marks from donors. Obviously, this system of European values, the councilors cannot or do not want to understand, although they say they are aware of its significance.
We will continue further at the same pace, because we know that the progress and prosperity of society bring enthusiasm and striving for high goals. Also, we would like to encourage and motivate other colleagues, enthusiasts from other sectors, to be actively involved in building a healthy society and together, obviously through a long process, to educate future generations of politicians and councilors about the values that exist in the developed world, which are necessary to be implemented in our country. We are here to help everyone who understands and wants to be part of this mission because, as we have said many times before, that is how we understand patriotism.
As it is obvious that the councilors did not read or understand the Feasibility Study, on this occasion, we once again urge them to do so, although, with their act of restraint at the last session, they have already been deprived of the opportunity to decide again, given that according to the Rules of Procedure, the same item must not be again on the agenda of the council in the next 6 months, a period in which their term will have already expired.
In the end, we can only conclude that this composition of the Municipal Council of Ohrid, for two years (half term) remained without position, regarding the importance and significance of the Mountain Rescue Service for the local population and the tourism sector. This act of restraint of the Council will be remembered not only in the history of Mountain Rescue in Ohrid but also in the country.
On this occasion, we express our gratitude to all citizens who in this process express their unreserved support, as well as to all organizations with which we continuously cooperate and support each other.
Due to our obligations, we will end here. We think that to the public everything is more than clear!
FOR THOSE WHO WANT MORE DETAILS WHY DO WE NOT AGREE WITH THE EXPRESSED OPINIONS, IN THE CHRONOLOGICAL EVENTS BELOW:
July 09, 2019, a working meeting was held in the office of Mayor Georgievski, attended by the mayors of Struga, Vevcani, and Debarca, where the sustainability study of the Mountain Rescue Service was presented in detail. Everyone agreed to start a process for a joint resolution of this issue.
October 24, 2019, in the Municipality of Ohrid, a Memorandum of Cooperation was signed by the Mayors of Vevchani and Debarca, and the Mayor of the Municipality of Ohrid, due to absence at the moment, signed it later on November 15, 2019.
The request for financial support from the municipality is in accordance with the detailed financial parameters set out in the Study, which was submitted to the Ohrid Municipality services, in printed and electronic form, and it can be downloaded at any time from the MRS website (https://pss.org.mk/za-nas/).
In addition to the detailed financial parameters, the study made a comparative analysis of the organization of rescue services in 4 European countries, as well as a precise legal analysis of the positive legal regulations in the country, according to which municipalities are obliged to form teams for rescue and protection of the population, as well as to allocate funds for that purpose.
November 23, 2020, online coordination of the councilors groups was held, attended by the President of the Ohrid Red Cross and the Head of MRS, who presented in detail to the present councilors the work of the MRS, as well as the results of the Study, based on which the request for financial support.
December 21, 2020, a letter was sent to the mayors and councilors from the region by the European Delegation in Skopje, stating that the process of supporting the MRS has stalled and that it should be intensified in the next period.
Ohrid Red Cross Mountain Rescue Service
Despite hundreds of successful interventions in the past 19 years, despite the huge sacrifices of volunteers who risk their own health and lives to alleviate the suffering of others, despite strong support from the European Union and a written warning to the Mayor and Councilors, still at today’s session, The Council of the Municipality of Ohrid, almost unanimously rejected the decision for financial support of the only Service in the country, which offers 24-hour service according to highest world standards to the citizens of the territory it covers. By this, the Municipal Council confirmed that the safety and health of the citizens are not part of their priorities.
Thanks to our quick and successful interventions, we saved the municipality from media attacks similar to the latest “Kratovo case” on at least five occasions. Still, we did not do that for the politicians and their vanities, but for the citizens, often left at mercy by the same politicians, especially when it comes to rescue and protection.
Ashamed for living in a time when human life is completely devalued, on this occasion, we want to thank the Mayor and the Councilors for their false support, which they express to us at every meeting, and which they confirmed with the awarding of St. Clement Charter in 2019.
We are publicly renouncing the Charter, with a unanimous decision of all volunteers from the Service, and in the coming days, we will officially return it to the Municipality.
We, the voluntairs of the Ohrid Red Cross Mountain Rescue Service remain in citizens’ service, as long as we can endure, doing what we know best about our fellow citizens because our greatest reward is the tears of joy from the people we help and their families.
We hope that this unanimous decision of the Council will remain deeply written in the history of the municipality of Ohrid, as an example for future Councils, but also as a feature of the time we live in, a time when the authorities do not value human life and volunteer work of their own citizens, those they are to serve.
According to our statistics, the MRS receives several SOS calls for lost or injured berry pickers, in the period of May-June. We received such a call today at 5:15 p.m. from citizens, who reported that their relative due to the storm that hit the region this afternoon was disoriented on the mountain and in hypothermia. Fortunately, the person had a full battery on his mobile phone and access to the mobile network almost throughout the operation and was in constant contact with the Operational Center, who gave him instructions and tried to locate him. In parallel, a seven-member team of MRS with an off-road vehicle headed to the high parts of the mountain, in order not to waste time from the location to the possible interception of the person.
After receiving the call, the Operational Center informed the police, who also went to the field with a patrol. After a short time, the person informed that he came to a wide dirt road. In communication with the team, it was decided to move down the road, which according to the description should go down to the village of Velgoshti. Later that was confirmed and at 07:17 pm, the person went out on asphalt road, where he was greeted by the patrol of the SIA Ohrid.
The most common causes for straying and injuring among berry pickers are unstable meteorological conditions, poor readiness, and equipment, as well as the underestimation of mountains. Therefore, we appeal to special attention, regular monitoring of meteorological forecasts, movement in groups of at least two people, proper equipment, carrying sufficient amounts of food and fluids, as well as mobile phones with full batteries. In case of any accidents, it is of great importance to quickly and timely alert the MRS, to prevent further complications of the situation.
During the past week, we had meetings with Mr. Elvis Ali, Program Director of the EU Delegation for the IPA 2 Cross-Border Cooperation Program between R. North Macedonia and R. Albania, and with representatives of the Ministry of Local Self-Government from RNM and the Ministry of European Affairs from Albania.
The old school building in the village of Brezhani was presented at the meetings, which needs to be reconstructed and adapted into a mountain lodge. This is another activity within the project “New Opportunities for Safe Winter Adventures”, funded by EU and the Ministry of Local Self-Government of RNM, through the IPA 2 Programme. The project manager, Mr. Antonio Dodevski, and the Mayor of Debrca Municipality, Mr. Zoran Nogacheski, presented to the guests the already realized activity: specialized off-road vehicle Dacia Duster for Debrca Municipality with additional rescue equipment in winter conditions. In this municipality, reconstruction of the culverts from the village of Brezani to Ilinska Church is also planned, as well as training for rescue on an accessible, non-technical terrain.
This was followed by a visit to the Operational Center of the Ohrid Red Cross Mountain Rescue Service in Ohrid, where the guests had the opportunity to get acquainted with newly purchased ATVs and specialized rescue equipment in winter conditions.
Once again, we take this opportunity to express our gratitude to the EU Delegation to RNM and to the Ministry of Local Self-Government, as well as the readiness for further cooperation.
European donors recognized the successful story of the Ohrid Red Cross Mountain Rescue Service. By joint implementation of cross-border projects, introduction of international recommendations and standards, investments in education, infrastructure, and modern equipment, using funds of the IPA Programme, our country is approaching the European family. To deliver a successful implementation of projects and to achieve top results, a clear goal, strategic planning, and efficient process management by European criteria are necessary. We have proved that we know and can make a quantum leap in the field of mountain rescue and provide top services for the citizens in our region.
In addition, watch our guest appearance on the show “Agenda 35”.