A quick visit to the Kolubara mining basin reveals that the resettlement there looks nothing like the presentation from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development that financed the project to which it is related.

posted on the Bankwatch blog by Nikola Perusic, Campaigner in Serbian Bankwatch member group CEKOR

During a recent visit to the headquarters of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development in Belgrade, Bankwatch staff and journalists met with the bank’s country director and senior advisor for power and energy, Mr. Ian Brown (as reported here and here). His presentation of the Kolubara lignite mine project included a picture of a beautiful new house, supposedly intended for the people that needed relocation due to the Kolubara mines expansion, aided by an EBRD loan. On enquiry, Brown confirmed that the type of house (which looked almost like stock photography) was only one example from Vreoci, a village adjacent to a mining field that the EBRD – as it often points out – did not support. [*]

We had a hunch that this beautiful house may not represent the situation for all resettled people.

A few days ago we met Selimir Milutinović from Radlievo, who was relocated to a nearby spot by the Kolubara mines. The house that Selimir was resettled to was a far cry from what Mr. Brown had shown to us. It is an old house left behind by someone else. The cracks in the house (due to the mining works) are clearly visible on the images we took (see below).

Selimir told us the mining company still owns the house but doesn’t want to invest in its renovation. Neither does Selimir, since it is not his property.

We have already heard from the EBRD that they appreciate on-the-ground information that NGOs like Bankwatch provide. But the EBRD is the one dealing out about 80 million euros to a wildly controversial company. It should therefore not shy away from assessing the real situation, even if it means uncovering some unpleasant truths about their client EPS. Instead, by showing one of the (maybe very few) archetype resettlement cases from Vreoci, the EBRD is supporting EPS’s claims that they are carefully adhering to international standards for resettlements. If the EBRD really wants to offer “additionality” by improving social and environmental standards, it has to exercise pressure, not bury its head in the sand.

The real situation

[*] Update (June 4, 2013): The text has been updated to reflect that the house presented by Ian Brown was not stock photography, but from resettlements that the EBRD had not been involved in.

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