The citizens of Nis, the regional centre in the south of Serbia, have been organising protests for days after their municipality recently decided to transfer its ownership over the local airport “Constantine the Great”, to the central government of the country. The airport, they say, has been generating profit for the locals, while the government claims that it has been producing only loses; so, the government has decided to “save” it.
At the same time, according to media accounts, the government led by the Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) has ordered the local government in Nis, which is also led by SNS, to transfer the ownership over the airport because it has been taking the customers from the “Nikola Tesla” Belgrade airport; namely, “Constantin the Great” has arranged a number of cheap flights with different low cost companies.
In that sense, the claims about a “secret clause” between the government and the French company Vinci which has got the concession to run the Belgrade airport in January also appeared. In its today’s edition, Danas daily reports that the airport in Nis “has become the victim of the airport in Pristina”; allegedly, Vinci, which also runs the airport in Pristina, “has the interest to repress the competitors”.
Some 1,000 people have protested in Nis on Tuesday. They symbolically “voted” against the decision which transferred “Constantin the Great” as a “gift” to the government.
Rastislav Dinic, one of the initiators of the protests, said that the gathering was “not the end, but rather the start of the struggle for the airport in Nis”.
“They will try to take our airport, but we should be ready to go to the streets at any moment”, he explained. The citizens, he said, should be aware of who can decide about the airport’s ownership.
“Such a decision cannot be made neither by the president nor by the prime minister. We can make it and therefore we have to remind our city councilors that they represent us and our interests”, Dinic said.
Although the decision over the transfer was made on March 30, it remains unconfirmed.
Milan Jovanovic, the representative of the National coalition for decentralisation, said that Nis “has been struggling for its airport” since the 1980s. “When the city was put in charge of the airport in 2000, there were holes in the runway. Trees have been growing in the middle of it because the airport was bombed and destroyed (by NATO in 1999)”, Jovanovic said.
He concluded that the Serbian government had been undermining the development of the airport in previous years, and stressed that its smooth operation would bring an economic boost to the local society…. / IBNA