Environmental protests in Serbia 2021-2022.

Article

January 27, 2022

In September 2021, a series of environmental protests began in Belgrade and other cities across Serbia due to the adoption of the amended Law on Expropriation, the Law on Referendum and People's Initiative and the planned investment of the Rio Tinto Corporation in a lithium mine. Rio Tinto previously received a permit to only explore mines near the Jadra Valley in 2004, but in 2017 the Government of the Republic of Serbia signed an agreement on the implementation of the "Jadar Project", which would give Rio Tinto a permit for the exploitation of jadarite minerals. The project was originally supposed to start in 2023. After the 2020 parliamentary elections, the ruling Serbian Progressive Party won a large majority in the National Assembly. In November 2021, it adopted the Law on Referendum and People's Initiative and amendments to the Law on Expropriation. Both laws met with strong public opposition, sparking environmental protests that began in January. The protests from September onwards were mostly organized by environmental organizations, of which "Ecological Uprising", "Go-Change" and "Assembly of Free Serbia" received the most attention. The protests that took place on September 11 remained peaceful, and the organizations there presented their three main demands, namely that the government withdraw the law on expropriation and referendum and that Rio Tinto leave Serbia. The protests then continued in November, when the Serbian Radio and Television planned to advertise the Rio Tinto project on its channel. Shortly afterwards, protests drew more attention, and on November 27, the first roadblock protests were held in most cities in Serbia. The protests continued until December, in which tens of thousands of people took part, including the Serbian diaspora. The first violent incidents occurred on November 27, when numerous protesters were detained shortly after the protests. Government activists and armed hooligans took part in the incidents, who also organized a counter-protest on November 29. The protests were supported by the majority of opposition parties, and the protests were supported by numerous actors, athletes and celebrities, and some of them also participated in the protests themselves. The government and its supporters have criticized the protests and spread false messages. The President of the Republic of Serbia, Alexander

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