Taxi drivers blocked parts of central Belgrade for a fourth day on Thursday, continuing their protest against the CarGo Company which they say is operating illegally.
The taxi drivers converged on the area around the Serbian government headquarters from the same four directions, following the same routes as in the past three days.
The drivers gathered at four places at noon and started the protest around 1:20 pm, blocking central Belgrade half an hour later. “The rain and rush hour traffic won’t stop the taxi drivers’ protest and we are continuing what we started,” organizer Aleksandar Bijelic told Blic daily.
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Belgrade authorities kept a low profile for the fourth day, but not the retired professor at the Faculty of Transport and Traffic Engineering Milan Vujanic who told the Prva TV that “taxi drivers harass people for days since CarGo works in line with the regulations,” adding he did not understand what the taxi drivers wanted.
“I understand their appeals and that some of them are particularly vulnerable. The law must be respected, but the dialogue is necessary,” Minister of Public Administration and Self-Government Minister Branko Ruzic said, commenting on taxi drivers’ claims that both he and Energy Minister Antic supported “alternative forms” of taxi services.
“Organizations like CarGo are not registered with our Ministry but with the Agency of Business Registries. The law must be respected,” continued Ruzic, underlining that the state has the tools, mechanisms and a working group, led by the Deputy Prime Minister, to find a sustainable solution.
The taxi drivers united around the taxi drivers’ association Status and the Nezavisnost trade union managed, last year, to instigate adoption of the passenger transport law at the end of the year, also following a series of protests.
Since then, the various applications dealing with passenger transport were outlawed. However, CarGo drivers protested that the citizens of Belgrade deserved better and cheaper transport than taxi drivers, and that “a taxi cartel was stopping Serbia in modernization and development”.
They now say that the new law has destroyed a free market and that taxi drivers are pushing to cancel their 2.9 billion dinar tax debt, which, if unpaid, will cause the removal of more than 3,000 of them from the Business Agency and the loss of work permits. Although the law was passed, CarGo was still able to continue their activities by re-registering as “association of citizens for the provision of innovative road assistance”.
The amendments to the law, however, give the municipal police the authority to sanction illegal taxi drivers, which is not the case, however, and which is causing the vehement protest of these days.
This post is also available in: Italiano