Serbian government donated money to right-wing organizations

Transfers from the Serbian budget amounting to several thousand euros ended up in the accounts of numerous non-governmental organizations over the past year.

The money was also transferred to right-wing organizations, some of which are connected to the party of Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić, reports Radio Free Europe (RFE).

RFE cited data from the State Auditor Agency (DRI) from an audit of The Directorate for Cooperation with the Diaspora which was headed up to mid-May this year by Frenchman Arnaud Gouillon who was part of a right-wing organization in his native country. Gouillon’s Directorate received 1.8 million euros in budget funds for hundreds of projects and made donations to 342 organizations from across the world.

The Directorate for Cooperation with the Diaspora is part of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and is responsible for protecting the rights of Serbian citizens abroad, enhancing relations between the Serbian diaspora and their homeland, and promoting Serbian culture beyond the country’s borders. Arnaud Gouillon was head of the Directorate from November 2020 until May 23 of this year, when he was appointed acting director of the Office for Public and Cultural Diplomacy.

Gouillon arrived in Serbia 20 years ago, presenting himself as a humanitarian. In 2015, he obtained Serbian citizenship, became a government official in 2020, and has been a member of the ruling Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) since 2023.

The DRI audit showed that budget funds also went to organizations promoting extreme nationalist views on social networks.

The Auditor’s report also states that the Directorate for Cooperation with the Diaspora, which had €2.4 million at its disposal, “did not establish a financial management and control system” and “did not keep records of work attendance.”

The State Auditor Agency further notes that the Directorate transferred funds allocated through competitions to organizations in Serbia via commercial banks, instead of to special purpose accounts at the Treasury Directorate, as required by the Budget System Law.

Funds were also awarded to organizations that promote extreme nationalist views on social media, as well as associations that are in economic violation for failing to publish financial reports. In 2023, money was allocated to the Association of Students of the Republic of Srpska in Serbia – Novi Sad. On their website, they state that they strive to “build and strengthen student connections on both sides of the Drina.”

This association was founded in 2019 by brothers Milan and Dejan Pudar, who, along with leaders of right-wing organizations Eco Chetniks and Serbian Royal Youth of Novi Sad, participated in the blockade of the Faculty of Philosophy in Novi Sad at the end of March this year, demanding the resignation of professor and journalist Dinko Gruhonjić.

The Directorate also subsidized the Center for Youth Education and Development from Belgrade with budget funds.

According to a video published by CINS (Center for Investigative Journalism) – whose authenticity RFE could not verify – daily wages were paid in the premises of this organization to people who worked in call centres of the Serbian Progressive Party during the campaign for the parliamentary elections held in December 2023.

(N1, 01.07.2024)

This post is also available in: Italiano

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