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News 21 Dec 17

Belgrade Mayor Shamed Over Pricey Christmas Tree

Red-faced over reports about how much it cost, the Serbian capital's mayor has pledged to cancel the city's contract for its super-costly plastic Christmas tree - although the tree is already up.

Filip Rudic
Belgrade's Christmas tree. Photo: BIRN

Belgrade's embarrassed mayor, Sinisa Mali, on Thursday pledged to cancel the city's deal for an 18-metre-high plastic Christmas treet, after a Serbian website claimed that it had cost far more than the splendid Norway spruce in front of New York’s Rockefeller Centre.

The city reportedly made a deal to hand over 83,000 euros for the plastic tree, while the lavishly decorated Norway spruce in New York is estimated to cost a little under 62,000 euros, the Serbian investigative website Pistaljka.rs said on Thursday.

"I was surprised by those numbers,” Mali told journalists in Belgrade, adding that he was unaware of the procurement. He insisted that any money that may have been paid to the contractor would be returned.

It remains unclear how the city will retro-actively cancel the deal for the tree that is already up.

As well as costing 21,000 euros less, the Rockefeller Centre tree is also decorated far more splendidly than its counterpart in Serbia.

Pistaljka.rs claimed the Belgrade tree was “one of the most expensive in the world", also beating the Christmas tree in Rome, which cost 50,000 euros.

However, Rome has nothing to boast about, either. The city's tree, brought from the Austrian border, has already died, dried out and shed most of its needles, long before Christmas.

Many Italians complained that it looked more like a toilet brush, Pistaljka writes, while its common nickname is "baldy" - owing to the lack of pine needles.

According to the contract that is supposedly to be terminated, the Serbian tree came from the Keep Light company, which controversially won tenders to install New Year ornaments in Belgrade in 2017 and 2016.

In 2016, Pistaljka revealed that the city authorities conducted the public procurement by asking for decorations identical to those offered by the Greek company Fotodiastasi, whose sole distributer in Serbia is Keep Light.

The same company was awarded the job in 2017.

This is not the only controversy surrounding the New Year’s and Christmas decorations in Belgrade.

Recently the authorities decided to decorate the city centre on September 29 - a whole three months before the year runs out - attracting criticism from some citizens.

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