The Association of Environmentalist Organisations in Serbia staged roadblocks on Monday from 1 to 4 pm, after President Aleksandar Vucic said the Rio Tinto' Jadar Project' on mining lithium could not be terminated since that would cost Belgrade a billion euros.
The roadblocks organised in the west of Serbia, where Rio Tinto’s plans a lithium mine, in the northern city of Novi Sad, western town of Sabac and some other places, have seen much fewer people than during three weekends in December.
Most of them ended as planned at 4 pm.
On Monday, unlike during previous protests, in Sabac, some rightists were seen with banners against COVID-19 passes and nationalist messages and songs, and seemingly due to that, the roadblock instead of three lasted for an hour.
„There is no agreement between Serbia’s Government and Rio Tinto company about the lithium mining. Every insistence to annul something that doesn’t exist is either ignorance or deliberate confusion of people,” Zorana Mihajlovic, Energy and Mining Minister, said on Monday.
In Belgrade, the protest was not announced, but a group of people spontaneously blocked one motorway lane for 15 minutes.
Previous demands included the changes in two controversial laws. Vucic told the Parliament to withdraw the Law on Expropriation and to amend the Law on Referendum.
The Parliament did that, but the environmentalists demanded that the ‘Jadar’ spatial plan regulation be annulled. „That is the only request; we will insist on that,“ Vesna Jakovljevic, an activist, told N1 in Novi Sad.
The N1 reporters say the uniformed police are not visible, and only more minor verbal incidents have occurred with nervous drivers who either have not been informed about the roadblocks or have been against it. Some plainclothes police officers were seen filming the protests.
At Preljina, a village in the western municipality of Cacak, a driver hit a woman in her legs in an attempt to go through the blockade. She was not seriouslu hurt, but emergency servise took care of her. She was upset, telling N1 the man did it on purpose. He said he did not hit, „but just pushed“ her to make his way through.
Nebojsa Zelenovic, the head of the opposition Together for Serbia party, told N1 in Preljina that „today’s rallies are a natural reaction of citizens who do not want to feel crazy after Aleksandar Vucic’s ‘confession’ that the ‘Jadar Project’ will continue.“
Zlatko Kokanovic of the ‘Ne Damo Jadar’ (We don’t Give Jadar) said, „the roadblocks are the result of President’s statements.“
„He first said the Project would stop then that we will have to pay a billion euros if that happens. Are we all worth just a billion? And who signed what and took money for it,“ Kokanovic asked.
He added they expected the President and Government „to come to their senses“ and listen to the people’s will.
Aleksandar Jovanovic, a leading activist, told N1 that „it seems there are two Vucics. Common man, decide whether we have to pay something or not. Who signed what and when…“
The environmentalists announced new protests on Saturday with Jovanovic saying the main roadblock would be in Belgrade.
In the meantime, former EC Secretariat Director Janez Kopac, said sulfur dioxide emissions from thermal power plants in Serbia in 2020 were six times higher than projected in the National Emission Reduction Plan, which is in line with the Energy Community’s Large Fireplaces Directive (EC).
The air pollution in Serbia has been among the worst in the world in recent times.
Kopac said that such a „frightening“ state of harmful gas emissions was a consequence of the operation of thermal power plants without the use of filters, which were installed only in the thermal power plant in „Kostolac B“, but had not worked for four years.