The Let’s Not Drown Belgrade (Ne da(vi)mo Beograd) campaign group led a protest against the impending eviction of the last family still living in the state-backed Belgrade Waterfront luxury redevelopment area.
Protesters gathered on Friday in front of the Timotijevic family’s home – the last house still standing in the state-backed Belgrade Waterfront project area – in an attempt to prevent the delivering of a scheduled eviction notice by the city authorities.
Robert Kozma, a member of the Let’s Not Drown Belgrade campaign group, told BIRN that they wanted to show support for the family of six, which could lose the house in which they have lived for more than two decades.
“We are here to show them they are not alone and also to again emphasise how Belgrade Waterfront is damaging all the citizens of Serbia. They are moving people from their homes and spending all Serbian taxpayers’ money in order to build a luxury, elite resort,” Kozma said.
Due to the requirements of Belgrade Waterfront project, a total of 227 families from the Belgrade districts of Savamala and Bara Venice have been displaced.
A scandal erupted in April after a couple of dozen unidentified masked men blocked Hercegovacka Street in Savamala, abused locals and demolished buildings with bulldozers under cover of the darkness.
The dispute between the state and Ivan Timotijevic has continued for two years already, with both sides claiming they own the house.
Timotijevic claims that his former employer, a company called Iskra, gave him the house and says he has documents to prove it.
However, the company went bankrupt in the meantime and did not legalise his ownership documents, which were previously certified by a court.
Now, according to the authorities, the state enterprise Zeleznice (Serbian Railways) is the owner of Timotijevic’s house.
Timotijevic said that the real problem is that the authorities do not want to wait for the end of a case at the Higher Court over the ownership, which is scheduled to finish in September.
If he loses the case, the city authorities are offering him a new apartment on a five-year lease, but Timotijevic does not wants to accept it because, as a pensioner, he says he does not have the money to pay.
“If I lose, I will be on the street… I don’t know why they do not want to wait for the court to sort things out,” he said.
Danilo Prnjat, one of those who joined Friday’s protest, has criticised media for not asking the right questions, arguing that the way the state got the ownership in the first place should be exposed.
“Nobody is mentioning the Privatization Law in 2001, under which public property became the state’s property and now, as we can see, the state has started to sell it,” Prnjat said.
While Serbia’s government sees the Belgrade Waterfront development as a major contribution to the city’s economic future, critics claim the deal struck to build the project with Eagle Hills, a company based in the United Arab Emirates, is unconstitutional because it has involved suspension of Serbian laws on the Waterfront’s territory.
Many people living along the Sava river quayside also say the development will be bad for society as a whole and will only serve the rich.
The case of the illegal demolitions in April has still not been solved.
Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic admitted in June that the top city officials were responsible.
But four months on, the state prosecution has not released any more information about who, if anyone, might be brought to justice.
City officials were supposed to come at 11am to deliver the eviction notice to the Timotijevic family, but they did not arrive by the time this article was published.
(Balkan Insight, 26.08.2016)
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