Serbia's President of Aleksandar Vucic told a group of people in the western village of Gornje Nedeljice he would try to change the Law on Expropriation to be passed by the Parliament in an urgent procedure before the New Year, adding the Law as it is was not unconstitutional, but had some bad provisions.
He said the deadline for signing was December 10.
Vucic’s promise came after two environmentalists’ protests last and this Saturday. They say the laws on referendum and expropriation are meant to ease Rio Tinto’s lithium mining in western Serbia.
It is unclear how that will affect the environmentalists who have called for a new rally next Saturday after mass protests earlier in the day.
Those against the laws on referendum and expropriation gathered over the ‘Ne damo Jadar’ (We Don’t Give Jadar) NGO refused to meet the President and blocked roads leading to the centre of protest, the village of Gornje Nedeljice where Vucic met with a group of villagers.
„If we can agree on these changes with the people here, we can; if not, we will go back to the old Law, as if there were no changes, so that de facto that new Law would not be valid. I cannot play with the Constitution, but what I am telling you will be fulfilled,“ Vucic said.
The new Law on Expropriation was in line with the Constitution, he said, but there were norms that he would criticise, adding he did not like „a five-day deadline in some cases if the urgency requires you to leave someone without personal property.“
Vucic said that if the state needed something, it had to pay for it.
He also promised he would talk to Rio Tinto to remove the planned landfill from the Jadra Valley and tell them they could not only count on their profit „but also take care of people’s health and their survival.“
„We will be firm and very determined“ in that request, he added.
Earlier, Serbia’s authorities promised Rio Tinto would not be allowed to mine lithium if the environmental studies showed it’s hazardous for health and the environment and before locals decided on the project in a referendum.
Vucic has signed the Law on Referendum in which a mandatory 50 plus one percent eligible voters had to turn out for it to be valid has been taken out.