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 favor the interests of foreign investors destroying the environment.
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 He promised further protests if the laws on confiscation of property and referendum were not withdrawn.
Police officers prevented protesters from reaching the bridges, leading to a clash as police helicopters flew over them. Protesters then marched in Belgrade, managing to block traffic on a major bridge and various central roads.
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 to be in the public interest. Activists argue that it will pave the way for foreign companies to address popular discontent over projects such as a bid by the Rio Tinto company to start a lithium mine in western Serbia.
Serbian officials dismissed the allegations, saying the infrastructure projects needed new laws. The country’s autocratic President Alexander Vucic said a referendum would be held on the Rio Tinto mine.
Environmental issues have recently attracted 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 nation for entry into the European Union, but little has been achieved so far with regard to improving the country’s environmental status.
Protesters blew whistles during the blockade on Saturday 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.
Credit: www.independent.co.uk /