17th April 2012 - Over three hundred people gathered to protest illegal and corrupt privatization outside the Government of Serbia in Belgrade on the afternoon of April 17th. Organized by Freedom Fight (Pokret za Slobodu), the demonstration took aim at the economic and social problems which have accompanied privatization and the introduction of neo-liberal market reforms: unemployment, deindustrialization, poverty, etc. The protest began with a march to the state building from a press conference in which representatives from Freedom Fight and various workers’ organizations announced that they would deliver a report on corruption and privatization to the Balkan representative of the European Commission. The report follows from a resolution of the European Parliament last month calling on Serbia to investigate 24 contentious and potentially illegal privatizations, a list that includes some of the country’s the most prominent firms: Mobtel, C Market, Jugoremedija, Sartid, Zastava Elektro and ATP Vojvodina. The resolution poses an obstacle to Serbia’s quest for EU membership and European integration more generally, and highlights the urgent need to renew the country’s manufacturing base and prevent further economic collapse. The presentation of the report also aimed to honor the legacy of Verica Barać, the recently deceased president of Serbia’s Anti-Corruption Council, and her long battle against the corruption, criminality and theft carried out in the name of privatization. Today’s protest marked only the latest effort on the part of workers, students, small shareholders in privatized enterprises and others to challenge systemic corruption and injustice in Serbia, and the state apparatuses that have enabled, tolerated and even colluded in the impoverishment and upheaval that has resulted.
by Irina Cerić