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Exemption of paragliderists from discriminating fees for paragliding training in the Galichica National Park, Macedonia

Exemption of paragliderists from discriminating fees for paragliding training in the Galichica National Park, Macedonia

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This petition has been created by Aleksandar V. and may not represent the views of the Avaaz community.
Aleksandar V.
started this petition to
Prime Minister of Republic of Macedonia, Mr. Nikola Gruevski
Dear Mr. Prime Minister,

I am writing this letter in order to appeal to your healthy and logical reasoning. From the moment you came to power I have always supported all the government ideas simply because they were reasonable and progress oriented. However neither myself nor the pragladersists from other countries (as you can see from the petition posted on your Facebook profile) can believe that such a reasonable and progressive government could make a decision that would totally destroy not only paragliding as a sport in Macedonia but it would also seriously harm Macedonia's international fame as a tourist destination. I am talking about the recent introduction of a fee for paragliderists to use the take off terrain in the national park Galichica. And it is not just a 'normal' fee. Not only that we are talking here about enormous fees like 1.200 denars per day or 300 denars per 30 minutes, 10.000 denars for taking photos and 20.000 denars for video recordings but what is more, we are talking about the broken promise given by the Ohrid mayor in the election campaign, who promised to build a take-off and landing ground for the paragliderists. Last year when I explained to him the benefits of paragliding for Ohrid and its surrounding and how paragliding is organised in other countries in the world, he was so impressed that he promised to build a camping site right next to the Ljubanista camp for the sole use of paragliderists and also at a very reasonable price, almost symbolic.

Allow me to briefly introduce you to the history of paragliding in Macedonia, a sport that I myself introduced 30 years ago. Within that period I managed to spread the sport to such an extent that Macedonia became a very important place on the paragliding map of the world and as a result has already hosted a few world cups. Of course there were obstacles on the way, especially from the previous government, but we managed. My colleagues and I participate in competitions all over the world and have achieved some remarkable results. Thanks to us, the paragliderists of Macedonia, Galichica and Mechkin Kamen have become world known paragliding centers. Flying from Galichica is extremely important for paragliding acrobatics and safety courses which have to be performed over a lake for safety reasons i.e. to avoid tragic consequences in case something goes wrong.

Every year paragliderists from many different countries come to Galichica. These include: Croatia, Bulgaria, Serbia, Romania, Austria, France, Italy, Spain, Switzerland, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Russia, Ukraine, Poland, the Czech Republic, Germany, Argentina, Chile, Brazil, Australia, Malaysia, New Zealand and many more. This is of enormous benefit to the development of tourism in Ohrid and its surrounding which can be even confirmed by the local residents. Unfortunately, all this will come to an end most probably due to ignorance and not having enough knowledge about the contribution of paragliding to tourism. Lack of paragliding tourism harms tourism in general. The money we earn with tandem flights is a pittance and hardly enough to cover bare minimum costs. We use the terrain mostly for the purpose of training and preparation for competitions, both national and international. Last year as part of the preparation for this year's World Paraglidng Cup Pogradec 2014 (http://www.aeroclubalbania.com/paraacrobatics-2014/pilots)

We made a decision to organise for the most renown paragliderists to do the preparations and training in Ohrid. The French team arrived a few days ago but when they realised that they have to pay an entry fee for the usage of the Galichica take-off terrain, they immediately relocated to Krushevo, in spite of less safety there because of lack of water to land in, in case of emergency. The same is happening with all the other teams which arrive in Macedonia on a daily basis.
Since you became a prime minister, I felt supported in my ideas simply because we moved along the same way. In numerous occasions I was listened to and had an opportunity to explain things. However, it is obvious that this was a rushed, irrational and discriminating decision, made on purpose by a few politicians who either falsely believe that tandem flights make us rich or alternatively support animal and wood thieves who cannot freely 'operate' due to the presence of the paragliderists. The decision for introduction of an entry fee for paragliderists will be most welcomed by a few local 'somebodys", mainly pathetic remains from the previous communist regime. Two years ago in their act of desperation to prevent paragliderists from using the public road going past their unlawfully built renting apartments they made an executive decision to cut all the trees on the beach. No one was prosecuted for this act of vandalism I just wonder who is destroying nature in this case.

For your information, there are about 30.000 paragliderists in Austria, 40.000 in Germany, 25.000 in Switzerland, 20.000 in France and so on but nowhere in these countries paragliderists have to pay for using the terrains. On the contrary, they are considered as free tourist advertisers of the places they fly from. What is more, paragliderists are often invited to fly, are given free accommodation and even have their travel costs covered, with the sole purpose of coming and promoting tourism.

We send a request to the Ministry of Environment and Environmental Planning via the Aero Federation of Macedonia in which we requested that paragliderists be exempt from the entry fee but we never received a reply. A reporter asked the Minister why this decision and received the reply that paragliderists earn a lot and that it was a government decision. It is so hard to believe that the same government which constantly works on promoting tourism in Macedonia and unemployment reduction, would make such a controversial decision.

In my name and in the name of all the paragliderists both in and outside Macedonia I urge you to reconsider and quickly withdraw this decision in order to prevent the destruction of what has been being built for 30 years. It took us decades to convince the paragliderists from all over the world that Macedonia is a paragliding heaven but it will take us only a few days to irrevocably destroy all that we have created.

Yours sincerely,
Mendo Veljanovski
Paragliding Master Instructor
Ph. +389 77 670 858
Posted (Updated )