Several hundred citizens responded to the invitation of a group of organizations for environmental protection and local initiatives and gathered in front of the Serbian Parliament to express their disagreement with the Draft Law on Amendments to the Law on Expropriation. The draft was put on the agenda of today’s parliamentary session by urgent procedure the day before yesterday.
The announced changes to the law and the controversial manner of their adoption have already been negatively assessed by numerous civil society organizations. The National Convention on the EU, the umbrella association of non-governmental organizations that monitor the process of EU integration, issued an open letter to the Serbian parliament yesterday. The National Convention states that according to the bill, all procedures in relation to expropriation will be treated as urgent:
“All procedures will become urgent, which in practice means that an expropriation will be carried out within 5 (+3) days. The law will also allow temporary expropriation of land for a maximum of three years, in relation to projects that the Government declares to be of state or international significance”.
As the Ministry of Space collective stated on their Facebook profile:
“The proposed amendments enable the Serbian Government to declare any project to be a project of ‘public importance’, which means that the whole country (from agricultural land to homes) will be subject to expropriation. This possibility creates serious insecurity among citizens because, once again, this will apply to all real estate, regardless of how long it has been in your possession.”
As the National Convention on the EU explains, any credit agreement, as well as any project arising from a strategic partnership agreement, will be possible to interpret as an international agreement. The open letter also states that the disputed amendments to the law will introduce the possibility for private companies to be beneficiaries of expropriation:
“This can especially be applied in the field of mining, if we keep in mind that the Law on Mining already enables private mining companies to be beneficiaries of expropriation”, the National Convention the general public and MPs.
Some citizens are worried that the government will use the amendments to the Law on Expropriation for faster implementation of the Jadar project, but also for possible confrontations with political opponents, as stated by one of the participants in the gathering. The National Convention emphasizes that the Proposal is unconstitutional:
“Such a bill on Amendments to the Law on Expropriation is an inadmissible attack on the private property of citizens, contrary to the Constitution of the Republic of Serbia and the principle of legal security, by which it endangers the constitutionally guaranteed right to peaceful enjoyment of property”.
The civil society organizations also assess that the proposal is in contradiction with the goal of joining the European Union and the legal obligations Serbia undertook in that sense. The already common practice of excluding the public from the procedure of formulating laws has also been a subject of criticism on this occasion.
Civil society organizations called on the Government to withdraw the proposal, and to the Serbian Parliament to remove it from the agenda of today’s session.
Translation from Serbian: Iskra Krstić
This article was ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED in Serbian on Nov 23, 2021.