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EU-Serbia partnership raises concerns: Mining interests and democracy backsliding

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The activist group “Marš sa Drine” has revealed details of a letter outlining plans for accessing critical raw materials from Serbia, alleging that the EU aims to transform Serbia into a mining colony.

According to “March with the Drina,” they obtained a copy of the signed letter of intent between the EU and Serbia, as well as the minutes from a meeting between Vučić and Vice President of the European Commission Maroš Šefčovič regarding critical raw materials. They claim that all documents are now available to the public.

The group asserts that the public deserves to know how the EU and Serbia support each other in accessing Serbian lithium and other materials for powering the automotive industries of the EU and Germany, despite continued public opposition to mining in Serbia.

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This revelation comes at a time when the rule of law is declining across the EU, and governments continue to weaken legal and democratic checks and balances. According to “Marš sa Drine,” the meeting and the Letter of Intent signed by the European Commission and Vučić in September 2023 reflect this democratic regression.

The Letter of Intent focuses on a strategic partnership regarding batteries and critical raw materials without addressing the need to strengthen the rule of law and respect for laws, according to the group. They highlight that mining and technological production are presented as solutions to the climate crisis.

The collaboration is mapped through the publicly funded “EU Horizon” platform, which includes the “Vector project” of 6 million euros, conducted in partnership with Rio Tinto to explore opposition to mining in Serbia. The letter discusses conducting business with a president known for election manipulation, media freedom restrictions, and undermining the right to freedom of speech and protest.

It should be noted that Šefčovič and Vučić have already met, the group points out. They state that after a year of requests and complaints to the EU Ombudsman, they can confirm that Vučić’s mysterious visit to Brussels in December 2022 during violent blockades in Kosovo was actually a visit to Šefčovič. The meeting minutes show that Kosovo was not mentioned, and they discussed the critical raw materials (CRM) package and their goals to ensure stocks of CRMs necessary for clean technology and digital technologies and to strengthen the resilience of the CRM value chain in Europe.

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The activists stress that the groundwork is being laid to justify potential displacement of residents from their land, and they pledge to fight against it. The Letter of Intent and meeting minutes can be found on their website, as the group recently experienced a targeted cyberattack on their website. They call on all media outlets to make these documents available through their portals.

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