The European Movement in Serbia held an online meeting with representatives of Belgrade civil society organizations and activists who expressed interest in joint action in the field of combating climate change. The online meeting was organized as an activity within the project “Green Agenda at the Local Level”, which is implemented by the Network of the European Movement in Serbia in 6 local areas: Leskovac, Belgrade, Valjevo, Kraljevo, Krusevac and Sremska Mitrovica.

The aim of this online meeting was to encourage the strengthening of civic activism and the network of civil society organizations and individuals working on policies related to climate change mitigation and environmental protection.

In the introductory part of the meeting, the project assistant of the European Movement in Serbia, Milan Vranjkovic, briefly presented the project “Green Agenda at the Local Level” and the survey “What do citizens think about climate change”. The survey showed that the largest number of respondents are concerned about air and water pollution in Belgrade, as well as that the cause are the activities of the economy, industry and poor waste management.

In the further discussion, the focus of interest of the participants was on air pollution, endangered status of green areas in Belgrade and the problems faced by CSOs when implementing actions in the field of environmental protection.

The representative of the informal group of citizens “Battle for Kosutnjak”, Dejan Jovanovic, believes that the implementation of actions to preserve the green area is a real challenge, given that construction investors and the police are often on the same side.

“We have this situation every other day. So, some person comes to the park in Rakovica or Cukarica and starts the illegal construction of a certain facility. Instead of reacting and banning the construction, the police decided not to show up at all. That is exactly why the Kosutnjak uprising happened to them. Ordinary citizens were overwhelmed, and when they saw a clear goal that was achievable and concrete, they decided to take action,” Jovanovic pointed out.

The Executive Director of the Center for Environmental Improvement, Ivana Jovcic, said that the continuous work in the field of environmental protection is hampered by the lack of financial resources and the lack of cooperation with the authorities.

“I am a representative of the non-governmental sector in the National Climate Change Council. It is problematic that you have no support at all when you work in the Council of this kind, since there are representatives of ministries and public companies who see you as collateral damage. Whenever you want to say something and no matter how much it all makes sense, you always have to fight and occasionally suffer unpleasant comments,” said Jovcic.

The Director of the ISAC Fund, Nikola Petrovic, believes that it is necessary to create a wide network of informal associations and interested individuals who would be willing to focus on raising public awareness on current issues of vital importance, such as the fight against climate change.

“The only way to achieve the desired effect is to spread the movement in order to raise environmental awareness of citizens. I am not in favor of NGOs becoming political organizations in order to achieve this goal. We must raise our voice for what is no longer a question of the European Union or political affiliation, but a question of survival, “said Petrovic.

The participants in the meeting concluded that achieving stable long-term effective results in the fight against climate change requires a stable source of funding that is not subject to political pressures, and that it is necessary to focus resources on educating citizens in order to reach a broader consensus on environmental protection. Furthermore, participants also stressed the need to implement environmental projects that ultimately have the economic empowerment of women as an end-goal in order to promote gender equality in the business environment.