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Gazela Bridge rehabilitation, Belgrade, Serbia

Summary

With a population exceeding one and half million people and an outdated urban plan that is unable to absorb increasing volumes of passengers and cargo transport, Belgrade is facing a critical traffic situation. Plans for a bypass of Belgrade and the rehabilitation of the bridge on the E70/E75 highway crossing have been revived in order to move transit traffic out of the city.

However, serious shortcomings for preventing and mitigating negative environmental and social impacts – specifically resettlement issues – have been recorded during the projects’ assessment process.

Serbian authorities are in danger of repeating the mistakes from Gazela in a new project bearing an uncanny resemblance to Gazela - in an area known as Belvil. And they are again set to receive funding from the EIB and EBRD.

Both the European Investment Bank (EIB) and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) are involved in the project and thus at least indirectly in a resettlement process that includes the discrimination of Roma families who have been threatened, evicted without proper consultation and in many cases resettled to remote places, usually without access to work, and some without sufficient hygienic installations.

Resettlement went ahead with deficient planning


See the stories of displaced families on Bankwatch's video blog Out of Sight.

In August 2009 the predominantly Roma families from the Gazela informal settlement in Belgrade were resettled to temporary accommodation at four sites in Belgrade area. 61 families were sent back to their home towns in the south of Serbia.

Serbian authorities followed a Resettlement Action Plan (RAP) that does not include measures regarding long-term housing, education and employment. Visits to the four sites – Rakovica, Mladenovac, Barajevo, Cukarica – revealed that the living conditions, the access to jobs and to education urgently need to be addressed if the IFIs are to disburse financing and the projects are to go forward.

Resettlement is not the end of the story

Through dialogue with affected people, city authorities and bank representatives Bankwatch is promoting participatory and transparent consultations on the projects, particularly where resettlement is at stake. These must ensure that resettlement or compensation processes are inclusive and ensure benefits for all project-affected people.

At the least, adherence to the World Bank’s Operational Directive on Involuntary Resettlement, which has been accepted by EIB and EBRD as an operational standard, would mean a step forward in this regard.

In general, much better coordination still needs to be established between the IFIs involved in the projects, the Belgrade city authorities, interested NGOs and the affected population. Sound solutions must be found for resettling and compensating the population.

This solution needs to take into account the real needs, abilities, knowledge and future sustainable life of the affected populations in both of the envisaged resettlements.


For more information, contact Zvezdan Kalmar, the Bankwatcher from Center for Ecology and Sustainable Development (CEKOR), Serbia, monitoring the project's development.

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Latest developments


 

Press release | June 8, 2016

CEKOR, as a non-governmental watchdog organisation, has since 1999 strived to promote sustainable development in Serbia and has a strong track record in supporting local communities harmed by development projects to advocate for their rights.

Press release | March 5, 2014

(London) – The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development’s (EBRD) new draft Environment and Social Policy would fail to weed out abusive development projects, seven human rights and bank watchdog organizations said today in a joint statement. The bank’s consultation on the draft policy closes on March 5, 2014. It then has an opportunity to revise the policy before sending it to the bank’s board for approval in the coming months.

Blog entry | July 26, 2012

The EBRD's claims it has helped turn Serbia into a "role model for social inclusion of Roma" ring hollow in light of the plethora of abuses of Romas' rights in other cases in Serbia.

Press release | April 13, 2012

Belgrade – By the end of April, one hundred Roma families are expected to be illegally resettled from Belgrade neighbourhood Buvljak to several locations including Resnik, where current inhabitants are these days protesting against their arrival [1]. The resettlement is being carried out by Belgrade authorities without a proper resettlement plan or any consideration of the needs of the Roma and potential for inter-racial conflict [2]. The move is deemed necessary as part of the Sava Bridge and adjacent road construction, financed by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the European Investment Bank respectively. [3]

Balkans
Blog entry | June 22, 2011

Bankwatch’s coordinator in Serbia Zvezdan Kalmar finds himself in a situation similar to the one when campaigning on the Gazela bridge project: Roma families live in uncertainty about when they’ll be resettled to make way for road construction, all the while with little influence about how decisions are made.

Publications

Bankwatch Mail | October 8, 2012

This summer’s 'silly season' featured a a blog post on the EBRD website replete with the claim that the bank has helped turn Serbia into a "role model for social inclusion of Roma". This claim immediately rang hollow in light of the ongoing plethora of abuses of Roma rights in Serbia.

Official document | February 9, 2011

Bankwatch's Serbian member group Center for Ecology and Sustainable Development (CEKOR) has worked together with three Serbian human rights organisations on a shadow report complementing the country's official statement to the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. Analysing the legal and factual status of Roma in Serbia, the shadow report draws heavily on examples from the Gazela bridge rehabilitation project in Belgrade.

Official document | July 14, 2010

The report confirms Bankwatchs allegations that EIB did not pay sufficient attention during the project assessment: the severe social impact of the project should have led the EIBs competent services to exercise a cautious and targeted social assessment with a view to pro-actively identifying (and therefore promptly addressing) the major social concerns during the appraisal of the projects, while EIB documents do not contain any documental evidence of an appropriate identification of the social issues at stake.

Advocacy letter | July 2, 2010

The protest letter, sent by the Regional Centre for Minorities and Bankwatch member group Center for Ecology and Sustainable Development (CEKOR), describes recent incidents of threats and assault on families to be resettled to allow for a road construction. Belgrade authorities have apparently not improved their approach following the poor Gazela resettlement process. The letter calls upon the EIB to demand proper resettlement preparation and planning, including the participation of affected families.

Briefing | May 10, 2010

The removal and resettlement of the informal Gazela settlement from beneath the Gazela Bridge on highway Corridor X over the Sava River in Belgrade's downtown took place in August 2009. Despite the involvement of international financial institutions (the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the European Investment Bank) and foreign development
agencies (the European Agency for Reconstruction and the UK Department for International Development), the resettlement has not brought satisfactory results.