More than 2,000 people rallied in Belgrade to oppose the Serbian government’s policies, which they said benefited investors rather than the interests of Balkan citizens and their environment
More than 2,000 people gathered outside the Serbian Presidential Building, blowing whistles and blocking traffic, and then went through the central city to the parliament and government buildings.
The protesters promised that if the authorities approve the proposed law, allow the rapid expropriation of private property when deemed to be in the public interest, and reduce the referendum voting requirements, they will block roads across the country.
Organizers stated that these laws would allow the state to take land and other property from citizens for the benefit of Rio Tinto and other foreign companies, which are facing protests over bidding to open a lithium mine in western Serbia.
Sava Manojlovic, one of the organizers, said the new law was “made for Rio Tinto.”
“We don’t care about the interests of any company, whether it is American, Russian, Chinese or EU,” Manojlovic said. “We must care about the interests of Serbia and its citizens.”
Serbian populist President Alexander Vucic and his government officials denied that the draft law was designed to enable Rio Tinto to control the land needed for the mine.
Vucic said at a press conference earlier on Wednesday that infrastructure projects such as roads and railways require laws.
Protesters are also angry at the start of construction of the underground transportation system in Belgrade’s main water supply area. Experts warn that this may damage the quality of drinking water in the city of 2 million people.
Environmental issues have recently attracted public attention in Serbia seeking to join the European Union. After decades of neglect, the Balkan countries are facing huge waste management problems and serious air pollution.