bne IntelliNews – Mass protests across Serbia against the Expropriation Law and the Rio Tinto project
Tens of thousands of people in more than 50 towns in Serbia demonstrated on December 4 against the referendum law, the expropriation law and Rio Tinto’s plan to build a lithium mine near Loznica.
As they had announced earlier, the protesters blocked all main roads throughout Serbia at 2 p.m. In Belgrade, protesters blocked all city bridges except the Old Sava Bridge.
Police had to intervene in Novi Sad when a group of around 30 young men attacked the demonstrators. But the protesters united, beat up the hooligans and forced them to flee. Violent incidents were also reported in Belgrade, Stara Pazova, Vranje and Valjevo.
Protesters, led by a number of environmental organizations, expressed widespread dissatisfaction with the expropriation law passed by the Serbian parliament, arguing that the law allows for the “sale” of the state to corporations. foreign countries such as Rio Tinto.
The Rio Tinto project is one of the most hated projects in Serbia, with many Serbs viewing it as classic neocolonialism, which will only pollute the country.
Serbian journalist Boris Malagurski recently made a very popular documentary on Rio Tinto in Serbia, highlighting all the negative aspects of Rio Tinto’s work around the world.
Some political representatives of the opposition in Serbia have tried to use the protests to confront the current government. Dragan Djilas, leader of the Freedom and Justice Party, participated in the protests in Belgrade.
However, like other opposition leaders, he said that while he supported the protests, he had nothing to do with their organization.
Serbian Defense Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic said that while the people are suffering, Djilas and others are trying to cause instability and regain power at any cost, against the will of the people. “The President of Serbia, Aleksandar Vucic, speaks to the inhabitants of the Loznica region, and it is these people that Djilas leads to the blockades of Belgrade,” he said.
During the protest, Vucic visited the villages around Loznica, where Rio Tinto’s research is causing the most concern. He called on citizens to keep in mind that investors’ exit from Serbia is very expensive and reiterated that no one from Belgrade will take a decision against their interests.
“We will resolve the issue related to the expropriation law within the next seven to eight days,” he said.
The Jadar lithium project will help Rio Tinto meet the demand for lithium, which is expected to increase sharply in the coming years as the metal is used in electric car batteries, consumer electronics like smartphones and others. applications. According to Rio Tinto, if the project comes to fruition, the company will become Europe’s largest lithium supplier for 15 years.
The protests ended on Saturday afternoon and organizers announced new protests next Saturday.
After the protest, Finance Minister Sinisa Mali said the amendments to the new expropriation law should be discussed by the government of Serbia during the session scheduled for December 9.
He said the recent expropriation law passed by parliament had not yet been signed by Vucic, adding that the law was in line with the constitution, but would be amended due to the short timeframe of just five days to decide on the sale of the property.
According to Mali, the amendments to the law on expropriation were not made due to the Jadar project or the Rio Tinto lithium mine in western Serbia, a charge brought by the protesters.