Serbian leader claims that protests against the $2.7bn-worth of lithium mines were funded by Western governments
Aleksandar Vucic, Serbia’s President has ignored Western governments’ denials that they funded environmental protests which forced Belgrade from scrapping an ambitious mining plan.
He reaffirmed the allegations made by his prime Minister, and stated that people who contributed funds to the demonstrations via various NGOs were trying to hurt his administration.
“Those foreign foundations are helping to topple the government in Serbia,”In an interview, he stated this to local media. “These protests have nothing to do with the environment.”
Vucic refers to plans by Rio Tinto, an Anglo-Australian mineral conglomerate to build a lithium mining facility near Loznica in western Serbia.
Since November, environmental groups had been staging a number of protests against the mine. They closed major roads and put pressure on government officials. The Prime Minister Ana Brnabic declared that the project would be abandoned last week.
Brnabic condemned the organizers, despite her announcing the changes on Thursday. They were accused of using foreign funds to finance their activities, which she termed hypocrites.
Most of the funding, she claimed, had come from the US, Great Britain, Germany, and Austria through nonprofit organizations such as the Rockefeller Foundation, USAID, the Westminster Foundation for Democracy, the British Council and the Heinrich Böll Foundation.
The US, the UK, and Germany rejected the allegations, saying that Brnabic’s claims were “damaging”And did not “reflect our partnership with Serbia.”In a joint statement, the three countries stated that they were “among its most generous and reliable partners and friends, providing assistance funding totaling well over €3 billion [$3.4 billion].”They denied that they had any part in it “funding or directing actions specifically targeting the Serbian government or any of its policies,”This includes the provision of funding for protests.
Vucic claimed that Vucic had been fighting for the welfare of Serbians by supporting the lithium mining project. However, he could not override the opposition by those trying to stop the project through public protest. Vucic said the government finally had to bow to the demands from the people.
If the Jadar project was implemented, it would have made the Jadar mine one of the most important in its field. Rio Tinto had pledged €2.4 billion ($2.7 billion) in investment and promised to use local labor for construction and create around 1,000 permanent jobs that would predominantly go to local workers.
The multinational had expected production to start in 2027, turning Serbia into a major supplier of raw materials for manufacturing lithium-ion batteries – the core element in the global transition to electric vehicles and renewable energy.