Strpce, to whom does the land by the river belong?

After entering the territory of „Kosovо Suma“ near the Obe Reke site in the municipality of Strpce, the Matkos Group wants to continue with the road construction and laying pipes for the mini hydroelectric power plant along the old riverbed, which is privately owned – the Strpce locals claim. The company has been trying to convince the plot owners that the area next to the river, where the pipe line is planned to be laid, is „state property“, but that is not the case, Milovan Filipovic, Master of Laws, an honorary member of the Lawyers Association of Serbia and a Strpce resident, said in an interview with KoSSev.

After addressing the public with his op-ed via KoSSev, Filipovic speaks now of the fear of locals to lose their land next to the Strpce river.

„There is no legal act that says that the area next to the river is not private property, although it is not registered as privately owned, because the river meanders over time…somewhere it may go through a someone’s land next to the river, or pulls back and leaves more space,“ Filipovic stressed. He explained that the property issues have been regulated on the basis of the former Yugoslav laws which stated that if a river runs through or next to the privately owned land, there cannot be any other land owner along the river but the owner himself or herself. He added that the same was also confirmed by the Brussels agreement.

In addition, there are some parts of the Shar Mountain, where locals have repeatedly complained for the past fews years about excavation breaching the borders of the National Park itself. Filipovic presented the same allegations:

„In the area near Durlovo Potok, they have already entered the borders of the National Park, while here they also intend to cross three to four kilometers into the National Park. An even more dramatic question arises – what are they thinking (while doing it)?! The National Park decided to ban construction within the National Park. I was present when this decision was handed over to the bulldozer operators who worked there and their management. Therefore, at the same time, we have the decision of the National Park – Kosovan Shar Park banning the construction and the (preparation for) construction in Durlov Potok, which is in the very center of the National Park. In the first zone, so to speak.“

„The pipes are stored there. The machines are there. Although there is no ongoing construction, the grounds have been prepared for it in such a way that it will bring everything into question, the whole zone, and people built cabins there because of the ambiance and water.“

Filipovic also recalled the municipality’s decision back in 2016 to suspend the works of the Matkos Group until the issue of drinking water is resolved, reminding that this is still in force.

“It is still in force, and the construction was carried out, while the issue of the water supply has not been resolved”, he said. He also recalled the Ombudsperson’s recommendation last year to halt the works.

 Drinking water cannot be provided by the company that is taking it

The attempts to build MHPPs in the Shar region are thus breaching both, the constitutional system and political system, underlined Filipovic.

„There is a lack of public debate here. It was a condition for this endeavor to be carried out. There was no public debate. Why? Because the central civil institution is completely being rejected here – the Ombudsman and civil society.

According to Filipovic, the main goal is for private land to be expropriated at cheap prices after a few years, and this land, after landscaping, would reach a high price and be „snapped up by the monopolizers involved“.

„The question arises who is behind this company which, despite the decision of the municipality and the Ombudsman’s recommendations to suspend the works on the construction of MHPP, it continues to carry out the works,“ Filipovic told KoSSev.

He blamed police for receiving commands, as per an „army-like“ structure, that the Matkos Company must be provided with conditions for unhindered performance of activities, while simultaneously believing the state was not behind the project.

„Because commands are given without explanation. The working method is manipulation. A psychological indoctrination of people is being carried out. There are rumors that this group is powerful, that no one can stand in their way. People are discouraged and a special war technique that resembles special military techniques is applied.“

Although the works are currently blocked due to the coronavirus pandemic, Filipovic is convinced that they will continue with road construction attempts “by any mean“. According to Filipovic, during that time, the locals, both Serbs and Albanians are united over the idea to protect their property and National Park. They will address the issue in Brussels.

“We want them (EU) to declare its stance on the issue – whether it is an attempt to usurp land or not. Nobody would be against it if this is really legal and if they had a path to use which was actually theirs! And if they have another path, let them do it, let them pass through. But then they would have to regulate the issue of drinking water.“

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