Fighting for the city in Belgrade

On my first day of arrival in Belgrade I went to a protest in the city center. The movement has been going on since last year but got new momentum in late april this year after a violent eviction. The eviciton wasn’t legal and has been questioned by Serbian PM Vucic. Demands that the responsible for the eviction should resign and a call for more transparency gathered up to 25 000 people on the streets of Belgrade. That is quite a lot for a country who hasn’t had that much people on the streets during the last decade.

– The movement is out of great importance for the civil society in Serbia, but for its continuation choosing a political direction is crucial. Even though the initiative is against the entire project, demands are remaining the same from one protest to another: a resignation of the city authorities. This is not enough and even if the demands are fulfilled, that would not solve the main issue because people are tired of non-transparency of decisions out of their direct concern. In the end, people want to have a voice on how their city and country is built, and corrupted and manipulative government doesn’t really help it, says Katarina Pavlovic from CDN, one of the Green Forum project partners.

The protest centers around a proposed building project under the name Belgrade Waterfront.  The project consists of a tall building resembling one of the superstructures in Dubai. But it also involves the whole area Savamala by the river Sava and the surrounding buildings. Belgrade Waterfront is seen as a boost for the local economy but what often follows from these projects is that the project budget bleeds and makes the city pay for a lot more of the costs than they had counted with. In Sweden New Karolinska Hospital is an example of that.

The name of the movement Ne da(vi)mo Beograd literally translates to “We won’t let Belgrade d(r)own”. It’s a hint towards the actual problems that escalating climate change will pose to Waterfront Belgrade. Since no definite plans on the project exists local political actors can not examine the problems related to increased flow in river Sava. During the floods on the western balkans in 2014, Sava had extremly high flow and the area closest to the river is by law forbidden to build on. Most likely Belgrade as well as other cities close to water will face more of these problems with escalating climate change.

The Young Greens in Serbia are working together with other groups of making the Ne Davimo movement more political to be able to withstand in the political debate. Citizens movements are getting more and more attention and the political parties are rarely good at adapting to the movements.

– Politization of the protest is possible, but it is uncertain in which direction. The initiative is most likely trying to keep the massiveness of the protest and therefore not taking direction, even though there is a clear demand for it from the certain protests’ fractions. We expect to find it out in the next couple of months, says Katarina Pavlovic.

/Albin Arleskär

Intern at Green Forum

Convenor of International committé of Young Greens of Sweden

Read more: