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City council puts a political pressure on FoE Crotia because of Varsavska street

Friends Of The Earth Croatia condemns City council's use of political pressure in battle for Varsavska Street

Green Action/Friends of the Earth Croatia has exposed a series of fees imposed by Zagreb City Council during recent months which could cost the organisation around EUR 70 000 and threaten its closure. The measures appear to be aimed at putting pressure on the organisation as a result of its campaign against the Cvjetni city centre redevelopment project and the construction of an entrance ramp for an underground car park in Varsavska Street pedestrian zone.

"We'd like to think that these are just bureaucratic mistakes, but as our official requests for clarification to Mayor Bandic and Director Jelavic have gone unanswered we can only assume that these measures costing us up to EUR 70 000 are pure political pressure as a result of our campaign to save Cvjetni Square and Varsavska Street pedestrian zone", said Green Action's President, Tomislav Tomasevic.

Green Action together with the Croatian Nature Society has been using office space at No. 1, Frankopanska Street, owned by the City of Zagreb, since 2001, under a contract for temporary usage with reduced rent for non-profit organisations. Although according to the contract Green Action also has the right to use the adjoining areas, on 4th February 2009 the City Property Department claimed that in addition to the office space specified in the contract, Green Action is illegally using the storage area of 120 m2 at the same address.

Green Action immediately responded with a letter to which there was no response until 30th November 2009 when the City Construction Department - without any legal basis - sent retroactive bills for 22 months rent for the use of the storage area. The period being charged for begins completely arbitrarily in February 2008, with each monthly bill totalling the EUR 780 - or EUR 17 200 for the whole period.

Since then bills have been arriving monthly, with the invented debt now totalling around EUR 20 650. There have been no answers to the three letters sent in response to the Mayor, the Deputy Mayor and the City Property Department, and the bills keep coming.

A second source of pressure is the recent withdrawal of financial support for Green Telephone - Green Action's longest running programme, founded in 1992 and supported for 16 years by Zagreb City Council. During the last few years this support has totalled around EUR 45 500 per year, financed by the City Department for Construction and Municipal Services, headed by Mr Jelavic.

Although the report for the previous year and request for funding for 2010 were delivered on time and although it has been confirmed that the funding had been allocated in the 2010 budget, nothing has been forthcoming so far. The City Department for Construction and Municipal Services has not provided any written explanation, instead referring to other departments, which have refused support for Green Telephone in writing.

"The Green Telephone programme is currently borrowing from Green Action's other programmes, but if we're not able to secure financing from the City Council soon, we'll be forced to close this valuable service after 18 years of work", said Gordana Klaric, programme coordinator. "We're aware of the difficult socio-economic situation in the City of Zagreb and we're ready to accept a reduction in support for Green Telephone in comparison to last year, but it's totally unacceptable for the City Council to suddenly break off support after 16 years without any explanation".

"If the city authorities don't start to resolve these problems immediately, it will be obvious that we're talking about a calculated political attack on Green Action, due to our campaign about Varsavska Street. In that case we ask Zagreb City Assembly to use the tools at its disposal to defend Green Action from the arbitrary behaviour of the City's executive body. Whatever happens though, we won't give up our fight to defend Varsavska Street pedestrian zone", resolved Tomasevic.

Tomislav Tomašević, mob. 098 719253

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