Monday, January 17, 2022

Anti-government protesters block bridges, roads in Serbia NWN News

BELGRADE, Serbia (NWN) – Clashes broke out in Serbia on Saturday between police and anti-government protesters who blocked roads and bridges in the Balkan country in protest against new laws they say are destroying the environment for foreign investors. favor the interests.

On Saturday, hundreds of people gathered in the capital Belgrade, the northern city of Novi Saad and other places to block main bridges and roads for an hour in what organizers described as a warning blockade. He promised further protests if laws on confiscation of property and referendum are not withdrawn.

A police cordon was put in place to prevent protesters from reaching the bridges, leading to clashes as police helicopters flew over them. Protesters then marched in Belgrade, managing to block traffic on a major bridge and various central streets.

Organizers said several people have been detained. Police had earlier warned that any blockade of bridges was illegal.

Many environmental groups and civil society organizations are outraged that officials have lowered referendum limits and allowed faster acquisitions of private property if deemed in the public interest. Activists argue that this would pave the way for foreign companies to quell popular discontent over projects such as the Rio Tinto company’s bid to start a lithium mine in western Serbia.

Serbian officials dismissed the allegations, saying the infrastructure projects needed new laws. Autocratic President Alexander Vucic will hold a referendum on the Rio Tinto mine.

The environmental issue has recently caught public attention as local activists have accused the populist government of allowing the destruction of nature for profit. Experts have warned that a planned lithium mine in western Serbia would destroy agricultural land and pollute the water.

After decades of neglect, Serbia has faced major environmental problems such as air and water pollution, poor waste management and other issues. Serbia is a candidate country for entry into the European Union but so far little has been achieved with regard to improving the environmental situation.

Protesters during the blockade on Saturday whistled and chanted, “We will not leave Serbia.” Cars and other vehicles were built in large numbers in many places as protesters allowed only emergency services to pass through.

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