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News 20 Sep 17

Bosnian Serbs to Protest Over Officials’ Luxury Limos

 A civic group has announced a protest in the capital of the Bosnian Serb entity, where they will call for a cap on the purchase of costly official cars for politicians.

Mladen Lakic
BIRN
East Sarajevo
Stefan Blagic from “Restart Srpska”. Photo courtesy of “Restart Srpska”/Facebook

“Restart Srpska”, a civic association in the mainly Serb entity of Bosnia, Republika Srpska is staging a protest on Wednesday in the entity capital, Banja Luka, demanding an end to the spending of budget money on luxurious cars.

“We expect at least 1,000 citizens who want a more responsible government,” Stefan Blagic, head of the association, told BIRN.

The move comes after the purchase of several vehicles by ministries in Republika Srpska made headlines over the summer, and angered many citizens.

The Education and Culture Ministry, for example, bought an Audi A6 in July for around 55,000 euros, only days after announcing the closure of 15 schools in the entity.

Shortly after, the Trade and Tourism Ministry also bought a car for some 50,000 euros.

While the RS government and assembly did not answer queries from BIRN about how many cars the various RS government institutions own, local media previously reported that seven of the 16 ministries had 95 official cars at their disposal.

In August, Restart Srpska gathered 6,500 signatures for a petition calling on the authorities to limit the amount it pays for such vehicles to 25,000 euros.

The petition was sent to the RS government, which did not respond.

The group also is seeking the resignation of Education Minister Dane Malesevic, a hike in the culture budget, the printing of school textbooks in Serbian for children with disabilities, and measures to stop nepotism in appointments in schools.

“It is important to show that many citizens aren’t happy with such irresponsible behaviour. Some people have told us that we are making too much noise about the cars, but this is just something to begin with,” Blagic said.

He added that the group had prepared facemasks for the rally, featuring the face of Minister Malesevic, for people who want to come but who might be afraid to show up in public.

“Some of them face different risks, such as losing their job or something similar, so this is our solution,” Blagic said.

“Getting out to the street is the only way we have to show that we want government that works in the interest of citizens. Only together we can show them that we are serious,” he added.

Meanwhile, some days ago, it was announced that Republika Srpska President Milorad Dodik will also have a new car, costing around 30,000 euros.

The mayor of Bijeljina, Mico Micic, earlier promised to scrap plans to buy a car that would have cost around 50,000 euros.

“This is positive, of course, but we don’t want ad-hoc solutions, we want them to change the regulations, so that public money is used in other ways,” Blagic said.

Disgruntled railway workers who have gone on hunger strike in pursuit of pay claims against the RS government are among those expected to join the protest.

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