As part of the 70th anniversary of the European Convention on Human Rights, the office of the Council of Europe in Belgrade and the office of the Heinrich Böll Foundation in Belgrade organized an online panel discussion on environmental disputes and human rights in Serbia on March 10, 2021, which was attended by over 80 participants. The event was preceded by an expert discussion for legal professionals organized in September 2020 as part of the action “Strengthening effective legal remedies against human rights abuses in Serbia”, carried out under the joint program “Horizontal Facility for the European Union and the Council of Europe” became Western Balkans and Turkey 2019-2022 “.
While the right to a healthy environment is not explicitly set out in the European Convention on Human Rights, the European Court of Human Rights has ruled over 300 cases related to environmental protection to date. However, only one of these cases was filed by a Serbian citizen. In this discussion, the underlying reasons were assessed and the path taken by human rights protection mechanisms to raise the profile of environmental protection cases before Serbian courts was examined.
Natalia Kobylarz, Senior Attorney in the Register of the European Court of Human Rights, presented the relevant environmental case law of the European Court of Human Rights and highlighted cases of environmental concerns that are most relevant to the Serbian context. In particular, she stressed that the Court of Justice has given increasing priority to cases related to the environment and climate change. The following panelists, Nebojša Zelenović, former Mayor of Šabac, and Jovan Rajić, Chairman of the Executive Board of the Institute for Renewable Energy and Environment, presented the challenges they faced in pursuing environmental protection in their respective fields.
This event took place at a time when the issue of environmental protection is becoming more and more important in the public debate in Serbia and in Europe in general. The panellists agreed that the human rights path to environmental protection has advantages that have not been fully exploited in the Serbian context. They expressed the hope that the panellists would raise their awareness of the overlap between the environment and human rights in order to transfer these findings into their work despite the outstanding challenges.
The recording of the discussion is available on the website Facebook pages of the Council of Europe office in Belgrade
and from Heinrich Böll Foundation office in Belgrade.