Western embassies reject Serbian PM’s claims about funding environmental protests
BELGRADE — The embassies of the United States, United Kingdom and Germany denied in a statement Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic’s claim that they financially supported environmental protests that pushed the government to end its agreement with the Anglo-Australian mining company Rio Tinto.
“These statements do not reflect our partnership with Serbia,” the joint statement added.
He recalled that since the beginning of the democratic transition process in Serbia, the United States, the United Kingdom and Germany had been among Serbia’s most generous and reliable partners and friends, providing financial assistance totaling more than three billion euros.
The embassies’ joint statement says they “are clear and transparent about this assistance and our objectives: support for reforms, good governance, democratic development, green transition and prosperity”.
“Significant funds under this assistance have been allocated to the Government of Serbia or distributed in cooperation with the Government of Serbia and its agencies. These goals support Serbia’s proclaimed policy of moving forward with the EU accession process, as well as support for reconciliation and stability in the Western Balkan region,” the statement read.
“We unreservedly reject all suggestions that our states, or the organizations through which we provide technical assistance and support, are funding or directing any actions, in particular against the government of Serbia or any policies it pursues, including financing protests. This is a harmful and particularly difficult accusation to understand when it comes to organizations that have supported and worked with the government of Serbia – and the Assembly of Serbia – on their reform and development of democratic institutions,” Western embassies in Belgrade said.
In the face of protests against the lithium mining project, the Serbian government has resorted to a rhetoric already known from Hungary and Russia, which consists in labeling non-governmental organizations as foreign agents, writes the Austrian newspaper last Standard.
“The government in Belgrade ‘sees everything as a plot against Serbia,’ the newspaper writes, noting that Prime Minister Ana Brnabic recently named organizations such as USAID, the Open Society Foundation, but also the German Heinrich Foundation Bell and the Austrian NGO River. Watch the organization and funding of protests in Serbia,” writes der Standard.
According to the daily, pointing the finger at foreign traitors is something that is already well known in Hungarian or Russian politics.
“NGOs are bureaucratically harassed and defamed as foreign agents,” writes Standard, adding that Brnabic only shows “the democratic and political state of his country”, which Freedom House, like Hungary, does not was no longer a democracy but a hybrid regime. “, of the norm underline.
Defending his government’s decision to sever ties with Rio Tinto after listening to the will of the people, Brnabić last week accused Western governments and NGOs of organizing and funding roadblocks across the country in the late of last year and at the beginning of this year.
Brnabić said she had no words to describe the hypocrisy of foreigners funding environmental organizations opposed to the opening of the Rio Tinto company mine and their protests, adding that the biggest protest funders were from the United States, Great Britain, Germany and Austria such as the Rockefeller Foundation, USAID, the Westminster Foundation for Democracy, the British Council and the Heinrich Bell Foundation.
The Serbian presidential elections, the first general elections, those in Belgrade and some local elections are due to take place on April 3. Earlier, the authorities suffered a slight blow with the low turnout in the referendum on judicial constitutional changes. Although the overall result was as they wished, the people of Belgrade and other big cities voted no.