Photo: RERI arhive

Today, the Ministry of Construction, Transport and Infrastructure, despite obvious organizational shortcomings, tried to hold a public session of the Commission for Plans within the public insight into the draft Plan of the Special Purpose Area for the Construction of the Thermal Power Plant Kolubara B and the Report on Strategic Environmental Assessment. After the representatives of the interested public insisted to see the official minutes, which no one kept, and more than an hour of discussion on procedural issues, the representatives of the Ministry of Construction left the hall of the Municipal Assembly of Lazarevac, without any explanation.

The public session of the Commission for Plans was supposed to be organized on 15 July 2020, but the Ministry of Construction, Transport and Infrastructure postponed the session due to the epidemiological situation. Although the conditions did not improve, the Ministry scheduled a new public session for 14 of September at 10 am, at the Municipal Assembly of Lazarevac. Before 10 o’clock, there were more than 40 people in the hall and about 20 people were standing in front and they were not allowed to enter. Despite the clear Prohibition of Gatherings in the Republic of Serbia in Public Places in Indoor and Open Space for more than 30 people, and the request of the interested public to adjourn the session immediately, so that citizens would not be exposed to health risks, the chairman announced the beginning of the session at 10:13 am.

Then there was another precedent and a serious violation of the public’s right to participate in the decision-making process. Namely, the representatives of the Ministry of Construction, Transport and Infrastructure put pressure on the citizens, trying to convince them to leave the public session. Several citizens succumbed to these pressures. Although there were still more than 30 people in the hall, as well as a large number of citizens in front of the hall, the chairman, an official of the Ministry of Construction, Transport and Infrastructure continued the session, despite the warnings from RERI’s legal team and lawyer Sreten Đorđević that regulations were being violated. Despite the warnings, the session continued, but the representatives of the Ministry, who are in charge of conducting this administrative procedure, did not keep minutes at all, nor did they make any remarks to the interested public.

Mirko Popović from RERI insisted that the chairman answer his question about the minutes which were not being kept. Lawyer Sreten Đorđević requested the disqualification of the chairman, as well as for his request to be included in the minutes. However, there were no minutes, and the chairman refused to answer on the citizens’ questions.

After more than an hour, the representatives of the Ministry and the developer of the plan left the hall without informing the public whether the session was discontinued and when it will be continued.

The construction of the new TPP Kolubara B, financed by Chinese investors, has been accompanied from the very beginning by illegal actions of public authorities, hiding information from citizens and denying the public the right to participate in the decision-making process. The attempt to hold a public session in conditions in which citizens are exposed to health risk and denial of the rights guaranteed by the law, is just one in a series of attempts by public authorities to speed up the construction of TPP Kolubara B, a project that distances Serbia from the European Union.

The reason for serious concern is not only the obvious economic and environmental consequences of the construction of Kolubara B, but also the fact that public authorities are increasingly endangering the rights of citizens to participate in the decision-making process and be informed about possible environmental impacts of the agreements between the Chinese and Serbian authorities.

RERI reminds the public that the greatest threat to the environment in Serbia are not polluters, but corruption and irresponsible government.

In Lazarevac, 14 September 2020

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