The fourth episode transcript
In accordance with the directive, its area was around 4,000 ha, out of which 1,000 ha was a private property. Three years later, the Government of Mirko Cvetkovic decided to extend the land – a nature reserve – to be managed by Emir Kusturica to a total of 11,000 ha, out of which 6388 ha was a private property. Local residents claim that the Constitution has been violated and that their fundamental rights, including the right to property as guaranteed by Constitution, are threatened. This property is protected – from local residents as well – by armed rangers led by Emir Kusturica. At the same time, officials claim that they have not done anything contrary to best interest of citizens.
Milomir Stanojcic, president of the local community Bioska: Everything would have been all right if we, the common people, had not witnessed inappropriate connections between the government and certain individuals. This is a simple and obvious example of corruption and relationships between the government and individuals. It is no wonder that we have so many tycoons.
Obren Bogosavljevic, member of the Council of Residents of villages Kremna, Bioska, Vrujci and Stapari: We are angered by actions of the state and state officials, and that is the main issue. It is not... the director of the natural park is only a collateral damage. The director of the park does what the state allowed him to do.
Ljubodrag Djurdjic, president of the Council of Residents of villages Kremna, Bioska, Vrujci and Stapari: Regardless of what the Constitutional Court may decide, we will probably try to protect our rights by filing a complaint with European courts.
Vlada Moljkovic, member of the Council of Residents of villages Kremna, Bioska, Vrujci and Stapari: In this way and under these conditions, we will never accept this position of discrimination and violation of rights. Our rights are taken away and given to somebody else and we will never accept it.
Emir Kusturica, film director, director of the company "Mokra Gora": A man has got himself a mountain – this is an idea which is a mixture of rightist backwardness and a quasi-leftist, I'd say 'Pentagon-leftist', political conception that is opposed to most aspects of my public work, and which results in lies that are created and circulated from the Parliament to newspapers and among people. Envy and negative projections join and morph into a complete lie.
Everything began in 2004, while Emir Kusturica was making a film "Life is a Miracle" at the location of Mokra Gora. In September of the same year, the film was premiered at Mokra Gora, in Drvengrad, and the event was attended by highest state officials – Vojislav Kostunica, Boris Tadic and Dragan Jocic. Kusturica liked the filming location and decided to buy a cottage. The railway station Golubici and nine kilometers of rail were constructed for the film and financed by the film crew and Serbian Railways. After that, in 2005, the Government of Vojislav Kostunica, specifically the Ministry of Ecology, decided to declare around 4.000 ha of the region of Mokra Gora a natural park to be managed by Emir Kusturica.
Miroslav Nikcevic, director of the Republic Environmental Protection Agency 2004-2007: This is, in a certain way, a realization of the spatial plan, the existing spatial plan of Serbia, according to which Mokra Gora is designated as a protected nature reserve. This was independent from Mr. Kusturica, this was a national framework within this general trend of protection in Serbia. Of course, Mr. Kusturica's name and influence could have helped and moved the things, but I think that it was not a decisive factor.
This decision was opposed by the public company "Serbian Forests", which manages the forests in Serbia, as well as the Ministry of Agriculture, which was responsible for forests.
Ivana Dulic, minister of agriculture, water resources and forestry 2004-2006: Emir Kusturica was rewarded probably for his past successes. I was responsible for forests, forestry and agriculture. Mr. Kusturica came to me – previously he had been demanding a meeting for quite some time – and brought a map of that area, I suppose. He said that he was told in the prime minister's cabinet that I had a discretionary right to award the right to use 7,000 ha of forest.
Emir Kusturica, film director, director of the company "Mokra Gora": I had a meeting with her, a very unpleasant meeting, and asked her – skiing facilities had already been built at the time – to help with regulation of the hunting ground and its return to "Serbian Forests", assuming that she had a discretionary right. We did not talk about 7,000 ha. I don't understand where that number came from, I don't know what she is talking about.
Ivana Dulic, minister of agriculture, water resources and forestry 2004-2006: I had no idea what that discretionary right meant and he was not able to explain it to me. The meeting therefore lasted only two or three minutes. After that, the Ministry of Agriculture did not sign any approval, at least while I was there.
In 2005, when the Government of Serbia adopted the Directive declaring Sargan – Mokra Gora a nature reserve to be managed by Emir Kusturica, the public company "Serbian Forests" sent an analysis to the Government voicing their strong opposition to the decision, of which they were informed by accident. No one notified them officially.
The public company "Serbian Forests" manages 96 protected nature reserves in the Republic of Serbia with a total area of 242,440 ha. The company has organizational and technical capacities, as well as professional staff, necessary for taking care of the protected zone. The analysis that was delivered to the Government states that the company employs 493 engineers of forestry.
"In every country with developed forestry, forests are managed by professionals. We propose that this task be given to a public company. Article 6 of the draft Directive violates the Law on Forests because the protected forests belong to forest area Tara-Zlatibor, and in accordance with the Law on Forests, the public company "Serbian Forests", in this case the forestry department of Uzice, is tasked with management of national forests."
This analysis and the letter to the Government were signed in 2005 by the director of "Serbian Forests", the dean of the Faculty of Forestry in Belgrade, the director of the Institute of Forestry and the president of the Association of Forestry Engineers and Technicians.
B92: The Directive was adopted despite all these arguments?
Miroslav Nikcevic, director of the Republic Environmental Protection Agency 2004-2007: That is nothing, I mean, in this process the Law and the Rulebook have not been violated in any way. Some things have been confused. "Serbian Forests" and "Vojvodina Forests" manage forested areas, except national parks. Therefore, "Serbian Forests" have not been excluded from management of forests.
Emir Kusturica, film director, director of the company "Mokra Gora": This analysis was flawed and had less significance than some other arguments made to the legal department and other people... which pointed out that it is much more important to protect the whole spectrum than their idea of what forests are.
Regardless of the opposition from the relevant institutions tasked with protection of forests, like the public company "Serbian Forests" and the then Ministry of Agriculture, the Government of Serbia adopted the Directive in 2005. In a highly unusual move, the Government formed its own company, "Mokra Gora" d.o.o, appointing Emir Kusturica as its director.
Jovan Markovic, mayor of Uzice, Democratic Party: I think this is a unique case – the Government of Serbia forming this company in such a way. And it is unprecedented that a company receives this kind of power and authority. I can't think of any other such case.
Miroslav Nikcevic, director of the Republic Environmental Protection Agency 2004-2007: If you ask me whether it is unusual for a d.o.o. company to be tasked with management, I can say that perhaps it would be more unusual if an Association of Boy-Scouts was chosen for such a task, but...
B92: Let's put it this way, what was the main idea, i.e. in what way is the protection improved because it is a d.o.o. company?
Miroslav Nikcevic: In what way is it improved because it is a d.o.o. company? Because the state appoints the members of the board, which means it has direct control. The connection between the state and the manager of the reserve is stronger in this case. Frankly, it is stronger than in the case of "Serbian Forests". Regardless of the fact that "Serbian Forests" is a public company, the control, or the possibility of control, to put it that way, is stronger in this case.
B92: How did you become the director of a company formed by the Government of the Republic of Serbia?
Emir Kusturica, film director, director of the company "Mokra Gora": That was the idea of the Government of Serbia.
B92: Was there any contest?
Emir Kusturica: Was there any what?
Emir Kusturica: I don't know. I believe there wasn't, because, it is difficult, how should I put it... this is a decision made by the Government and I cannot comment on it, I don't know what its legal background is, but it is difficult to find anyone in Serbia who has so much experience, so many contacts, and who would have more chance to achieve effective protection.
B92: What is your response to accusations that you have been given this position because of your relationship with Vojislav Kostunica and the Democratic Party of Serbia?
Emir Kusturica: Vojislav Kostunica was in power at the time, but he was not alone. There was also a man called Boris Tadic, who has wholeheartedly supported the idea of activating this region. I'll tell you what this is all about. We are having a conversation, and you are trying to direct it where at least a minimal conflict may occur. There is no conflict, and why? I have stimulated life. Life flourishes here.
At the same time, Emir Kusturica is the owner of the company "Lotika", which owns Drvengrad and skiing facilities "Iver". These two locations, which are his private property, are also located at the area that was declared a nature reserve. The nature reserve is managed by the company founded by the Government of Serbia, "Mokra Gora" d.o.o., whose director is also Emir Kusturica.
B92: But it is a conflict of interest.
Emir Kusturica: What is a conflict of interest?
B92: You are at the same time the director of a Government's company and your own company.
Emir Kusturica: All your quibbles, which I find very likable, are shattering against the clouds. Clouds have a force that lifts them up, and all these things have already been discussed earlier, including this idea that, because I am the director of a public company and at the same time have, since it is a d.o.o. company, and it is a fortunate circumstance, someone has probably assumed that, taking into account that I am building something here. There is no conflict of interest.
In 2005, apart from the Directive that declares Mokra Gora a nature reserve, the Government of Serbia established its own company and appointed Emir Kusturica the director. The Directive gave great authority to the manager of the land. The content of the Directive is the same as those related to other nature reserves and natural parks, but the main issue is the implementation of the Directive, which gives extremely wide-ranging authority.
The first paragraph of this article specifies rules for enforcement of the protection regime, especially the manner and conditions regarding the behaviour of visitors, owners and users of real estate during their movement, stay and activities at the protected nature reserve; conditions and the procedure of planning construction works; conditions of protection during science research activities; and the rules of preservation and conservation of the protected nature reserve.
Disputes between local residents, on one side, and the Government of Serbia and Kusturica, on the other side, escalated last year at the time when the Government led by Mirko Cvetkovic decided to declare private property owned by 4,500 locals – 6,388 ha of land in total – a nature reserve to be managed by Kusturica.
Ljubodrag Djurdjic, president of the Council of Residents of villages Kremna, Bioska, Vrujci and Stapari: Rights of citizens at their private property are threatened in many ways, since the Constitution in its Article 58, paragraph 2 guarantees inviolability of private property and the right to use legally acquired property.
Obren Bogosavljevic, member of the Council of Residents of villages Kremna, Bioska, Vrujci and Stapari: Can you imagine a government, or its Ministry of Ecology, that can't be bothered to come here. Let me show you, we have 5,000 signatures that have been submitted to the Constitutional Court. Aside from these, we have another 2,000-2,500 signatures. They ignore 7,000 signatures, which means 7,000 voters. They would come here only during election campaign.
Vlade Moljkovic, member of the Council of Residents of villages Kremna, Bioska, Vrujci and Stapari: What is the purpose of this? What have we done, in the last three hundred years, to destroy the nature here? Have we preserved it or ruined it? Do we intend to ruin it, necessitating its protection?
Oliver Dulic, minister of ecology and spatial planning: Let me tell you something, these people's main complaint is this: "My grandfather and grand-grandfather have been building houses and cutting trees at will. Emir Kusturica and Oliver Dulic cannot tell me if I'm allowed to cut trees or not." Well, this has nothing to do with Emir Kusturica or Oliver Dulic, tomorrow there will be someone else in our place, it doesn't matter who we are. What matters is that the decision was made that this area must be protected because it is a very interesting natural habitat.
The Government of Serbia decided to declare 6,388 ha of private property a nature reserve, to be managed by Kusturica, without any consultation with the government of Uzice, where the nature reserve is located.
Jovan Markovic, mayor of Uzice, Democratic Party: I don't know what were their motives and reasons to extend the nature reserve to this area. I don't know why Emir Kusturica was appointed director of the nature reserve and why he is doing this job. You have to ask the ministers and the Government about that. We have not been consulted and no one asked us, we could not influence the decision-making. We have demanded that people who live in the area be appointed in the Managing Board, etc., etc., that the activities of the company be public and transparent, in the best interest of citizens. That is our goal. Why the things have turned out differently, I really don't know.
Oliver Dulic, minister of ecology and spatial planning: In accordance with the Law on Environmental Protection, even the newly adopted one, we are not obliged to consult the local self-government when declaring a protected nature reserve.
B92: But they have a problem now. They have a problem with local residents?
Oliver Dulic: No, the problem with local residents is a different matter and it can be solved through negotiations. Local residents must realize that order has to be introduced.
Obren Bogosavljevic, member of the Council of Residents of villages Kremna, Bioska, Vrujci and Stapari: Imagine this – one day you wake up and find out that your 40 ha have been given to a nature reserve and that, without any fault of your own, you have become a part of this machine and your only role is to applaud, admire the stories about the Bible, Old and New Testament, and similar stories for children.
Ljubodrag Djurdjic, president of the Council of Residents of villages Kremna, Bioska, Vrujci and Stapari: This is a land of great value, but how did it become such? It didn't happen when Mr. Kusturica came here, and he is not the one who should be protecting it. This land has been taken care of by our forefathers and ourselves. Generations that lived before us have planted trees, preserved the environment... They made it healthy and that is why it is so healthy now.
Obren Bogosavljevic, member of the Council of Residents of villages Kremna, Bioska, Vrujci and Stapari: Because the government has allowed an individual, the director of the nature reserve, to act in this way, because he is allowed to do anything. We are second-class citizens, we are only allowed to pay taxes and vote, and we have to put up with all of this.
B92: In accordance with the Directive adopted by the Government of Serbia, you have wide-ranging powers, and you make rules of behaviour, this is what I have just read?
Emir Kusturica, film director, director of the company "Mokra Gora": Come on, please, I have told you that this is a rulebook of internal organization that was taken from national parks' regulation. These are not my rules.
B92: No, this is a separate Directive by the Government of Serbia, which declares this area a nature reserve.
Emir Kusturica: But you say that I make the rules. How is it so?
B92: "The first paragraph of this article specifies rules for enforcement of the protection regime, especially the manner and conditions regarding the behaviour of visitors, owners and users of real estate during their movement, stay and activities at the protected nature reserve."
Emir Kusturica: Right, that is what our rulebook of internal organization says, that is what the Ministry of Ecology approved. It was almost literally taken from the rules pertaining to the other 614 protected nature reserves. No, I am your servant, Brankica, I am your servant. In fact, regarding your TV station... I am a part of the oxygen that you breath, thanks to these forests and these leaves that I have preserved, and these tree branches that need carbon monoxide from all parts of Serbia.
Ljubodrag Djurdjic, president of the Council of Residents of villages Kremna, Bioska, Vrujci and Stapari: We have nothing against Kusturica or the nature reserve "Sargan – Mokra Gora", we have nothing against his Drvengrad, his ski-lifts or everything else he does. We just want to have equal rights here, like all other investors and citizens.
Emir Kusturica: I don't have any dispute with them, they have...
B92: They have a dispute with you?
Emir Kusturica: No, not with me. They have a dispute with the state of Serbia. I am here to protect the interest of the state of Serbia, which has made a decision to increase the protected area from six to ten percent. I was appointed to the position that is in many ways experimental. The concept of protection of underground waters and everything else, including this oxygen, I have already mentioned that – I am here to protect it. The government has adopted the Directive and I am obliged, as well as my co-workers, to implement it.
B92: How do you implement it? Give me an example. If I have 20 ha of my own forest and I want to sell it, do I have to ask you for a permission?
Emir Kusturica: Not you, I am not the one who gives a permission.
B92: I have to ask you, am I allowed to sell my property?
Emir Kusturica: I just give an opinion. I give an opinion about that, depending on the degree of protection – first, second or third degree, depending on where you want to do it, then the municipality of Uzice or the Republic, depending on whether it is a business or private property.
B92: That means that you have to give your opinion before the municipality?
Emir Kusturica: It doesn't matter who does it first.
B92: All right, but you have to give your approval.
Emir Kusturica: Depending on the degree of protection, we give our opinion, as well as the Institute of Environmental Protection, and after that the municipality issues conditions related to urban planning. Therefore the municipality has the final word.
On the other side, you have mentioned that roads have been built, that the price of land has increased significantly, which means that in a certain way he has improved... Do you agree that he has improved it in some way?
Obren Bogosavljevic, member of the Council of Residents of villages Kremna, Bioska, Vrujci and Stapari: We don't deny that. We don't deny that he has achieved media promotion of Mokra Gora and everything. We don't deny that, but we cannot allow... for example, I have a hectar of land at Tara. I am not giving it away. I will not give it away. It can't be replaced. They want to take it away from me.
Emir Kusturica: You are talking about taking away something. Nobody is going to take away anything from anyone.
B92: But if I can't use my own property.
Emir Kusturica: Dear girl...
B92: Without your permission, how do we call it?
Emir Kusturica: Of course you can use it, why do you say that you can't use it?
B92: What if the rangers come and prevent me from doing it?
Emir Kusturica: Well, here is the empirical proof, at the territory 4700, there has not been a single such report for four years. Civilization has defeated anticivilization and life has been triumphant. In Mokra Gora, life has been victorious.
Jovan Markovic, mayor of Uzice, Democratic Party: I think it is not good, it can't be called normal: Emir Kusturica and the government are trying to protect people who have been living here for centuries from themselves. This is a concept that is very difficult to implement precisely because of the way in which it has been presented. I think that local residents, people who live in that area, cannot accept that someone is trying in this way to protect their natural environment from themselves.
Emir Kusturica: They tell lies about this, they claim that I was given the mountain, without taking into account that this is only one of 614 protected nature reserves, and without taking into account that I have my own land within this area of 11,000 ha, just like many others, but my piece of land is much smaller than some other people's hundreds of ha. One of my employees, in my own company, a machine driver, he has a hundred ha of forest. Everywhere in the world, where the society is classified, a man with one hundred ha is a rich man, while this man is a machine driver. Even more interesting, some people, when asked: "what is Mrga doing?" - that's the name of the man who played a role in my last film – reply: "he's warming up". This verb relates to your activity and it is absolutely passive, but this man owns a large piece of land, 50-60 ha of forest, a lot of meadow and perhaps one cow.
Article 8 of the Directive of the Government of Serbia specifies that the manager is obliged to secure order and protection of the nature reserve, in accordance with the statute adopted with the approval of the Ministry. On the basis of the Directive, with the approval of the relevant Ministry, Emir Kusturica has organized rangers who protect the nature reserve.
B92: Do you know that there are armed rangers?
Oliver Dulic, minister of ecology and spatial planning: Yes, I know. Rangers will exist everywhere. We have to give these people...
B92: All right, but in this way you have given police authority to individuals?
Oliver Dulic: That is correct. We have given certain authority to people who are tasked with maintaining order, because order sometimes have to be defended by force. How else would you prevent poaching?
B92: Why isn't the police doing that?
Oliver Dulic: Because this is a protected nature reserve, because it is necessary to stop illegal hunting or fishing, or stealing of woods. A protected reserve requires physical protection. What is the problem with that?
Jovan Markovic, mayor of Uzice, Democratic Party: One of the biggest problems in realization of this Directive and its interpretation is the role of rangers and security personnel, which is tasked with taking care of this area on behalf of the state. Who has hired these people, on whose orders, have they passed all the tests necessary to carry firearms, have they fulfilled all required conditions to carry firearms? In what way do they do it? I think this is a very important issue.
Emir Kusturica, film director, director of the company "Mokra Gora": They are armed and they act in accordance with the rules of internal order. Here and everywhere else in the protected territory they are allowed to carry a handgun.
B92: Who gave them the license to carry it?
Emir Kusturica: Licenses are issued by the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Republic of Serbia and it is valid at the entire protected territory. They don't have... of course, they don't carry their firearms in Belgrade or Uzice.
In response to "Insider"'s request, the police department of Uzice states that it has issued no licenses to carry firearms to armed guards or rangers in the nature reserve "Mokra Gora" d.o.o. In accordance with the article 17, paragraph 2, point 1 of the Law on Firearms and Ammunition, the police department has approved acquisition and issued license for storage of firearms to the nature reserve "Mokra Gora" d.o.o. for the purpose of performing their business activities. The license was issued after it was confirmed that the company had fulfilled all legal requirements and that its activities include physical protection. The police department of Uzice also states that 16 employees have fulfilled legal requirements for the position of supervisors, while five employee have not fulfilled legal requirements necessary to carry firearms.
Emir Kusturica, film director, director of the company "Mokra Gora": Thanks to the state's understanding and its need to have its interests protected at this location, we have received funding, 25 million at first, and used it to provide all the vehicles, uniforms, firearms and everything else necessary, including 10 quads, motorcycles, motor sleds... We have provided everything and succeeded in protecting the wildlife, which has tripled, as I've already mentioned.
In words of Emir Kusturica, the money was provided by the Government for the purchase of uniforms for rangers, as well as all-terrain vehicles. In accordance with the Law on Free Access to Information, "The Insider" has received information that the company "Mokra Gora" d.o.o. received 25 million dinars from the budget, which was contrary to the law. In February 2006, the Government of Serbia adopted the Decision in accordance to which the nature reserve received 25 million dinars from the budget. The Decision was passed despite the fact that only two days earlier experts had pointed out that the budget cannot be used to finance salaries and activities of the nature reserve. Regardless of this, it was decided to pay the said amount.
B92: Who is the head of these rangers? You?
Emir Kusturica: Well, I am their director, they are organized in units on the basis of their activities. They have teams which patrol the third zone – the urbanized part of Mokra Gora – as well as the second and the first zone... According to the rulebook, people are practically banned from entering the first zone, excluding official persons. So there are...
B92: It seems to be a state within the state. You have...
Emir Kusturica: This is not a state within the state, because the state has adopted this rules for the purpose of protection. What we've got here... the interest of the state is protected here, so that this wonderful wind which brings so much oxygen in certain designated zones may provide sustainable existence.
Ljubodrag Djurdjic, president of the Council of Residents of villages Kremna, Bioska, Vrujci and Stapari: What did they do? There are complaints written and signed by citizens – we have recorded these complaints – describing how the rangers confiscated tools and prevented construction of cottages or vacation houses. This means they have engaged in executive activities.
Vlade Moljkovic, member of the Council of Residents of villages Kremna, Bioska, Vrujci and Stapari: The man tried to renovate his old family house. The rangers came, remove his three workers, confiscated their tools and issued him a decision signed by the ranger Cancarevic.
Emir Kusturica, film director, director of the company "Mokra Gora": For example, they have the right to confiscate a tool used to commit the offence. It may be a firearm, a shovel or anything else.
B92: What do you mean by confiscate?
Emir Kusturica: Confiscation.
B92: But if people cannot use their private property anymore, because of a decision...?
Emir Kusturica: That's not true, they are not allowed to commit criminal offences, while the rangers, who are paid...
Emir Kusturica: That's not true, they are not allowed to commit criminal offences, while the rangers, who are paid...
B92: Well, isn't that what the penal code is for? If you commit a criminal offence, you go to jail. Why do we need Emir Kusturica for this?
Emir Kusturica: Let me ask you something – what is your question? Would you like to remove the Government, to make new directives and new ideas about protection of territory?
However, local residents want to know why Kusturica, who is tasked with protection of public and private property, is allowed to cut trees and construct private skiing facilities.
Obren Bogosavljevic, member of the Council of Residents of villages Kremna, Bioska, Vrujci and Stapari: A skiing ground was constructed. They bulldozed 23 ha of highest-quality forest to make skiing facilities.
Emir Kusturica: I was not allowed anything by the state. Before this area became a protected territory, there was an idea to make a skiing ground that would provide...
B92: But this is private property?
Emir Kusturica: That's right. One hundred jobs. Skiing ground was made and placed under protection, just like many other territories in the region. But this is what I tried to explain in the library, regarding the 7,000 ha of leased territory of sixth category trees which have been cut. Don't be confused by its size, because this one kilometer of track and two annexes, whose other side touches the so-called private land, is leased for the period of 99 years, in accordance with the law and the needs of "Serbian Forests".
B92: Does it mean that the company "Serbian Forests" has allowed you to cut seven ha of forest?
Emir Kusturica: Look, you have mentioned specific numbers. Seven ha of forest sounds dramatic, but if you add information that it belongs to the fourth, fifth or sixth category, that means that it is also made of bush and does not contain too much highly valuable trees.
Private company "Lotika", owned by Emir Kusturica, possesses Drvengrad and the skiing ground. These properties are located within the area of the nature reserve that is also managed by Emir Kusturica, who is the director of the company established by the Government of Serbia. Apart from the budget funds allocated to the nature reserve "Mokra Gora" since 2006, several hundred million dinars from the National Investment Plan have been approved for various projects.
Jovan Markovic, mayor of Uzice, Democratic Party: Around 600 million dinars was given to Mokra Gora, and around 588 million to Uzice, including some regional projects like the bypass or tunnels, etc. But during all these years Emir Kusturica has received more money for his projects than the city of Uzice.
B92: Wait a minute, if the company "Mokra Gora" d.o.o. has received money from the National Investment Plan since 2006, this information is...?
Emir Kusturica, film director, director of the company "Mokra Gora": "Mokra Gora" d.o.o. has not received anything, the company has only submitted applications... in accordance with project documentation, we are entitled to...
B92: Each one of your projects was approved, but it hasn't been finished yet.
Emir Kusturica: They are approved, but nothing has been realized yet. The difference between the one who submits application, who gets the approval, but it doesn't get implemented by the nature reserve, I'm telling you, other applications have failed and the only one, which is active now, is the investment called "Collector Mokra Gora" that is not being implemented by the nature reserve. The nature reserve has not received money. The nature reserve...
B92: The nature reserve has not received it, but has the d.o.o. company received anything?
Emir Kusturica: No, no, dear girl, the point is that it has not received any money. It initiates...
B92: So why do you send projects?
Emir Kusturica: Because I am trying to accomplish something. Do you understand what it means trying to save underground waters in the area of 11 thousand ha?
B92: Yes, but if your project wins...
Emir Kusturica: All right.
B92: If it doesn't win, if they give you an approval, for example it's not a contest, but if the National Investment Plan approves your project...
Emir Kusturica: Yes.
B92: Then why don't they give you the money?
Emir Kusturica: Well, we are not the mechanism... because we don't have expertise and we don't have enough capacity to continue this process, this is why there is a construction directorate in Uzice, and the National Investment Plan has diverted the money through the directorate and delivered it to a big and powerful company, "Jedinstvo Uzice", which has already started working on projects there.
In December 2006, the Ministry of Capital Investment took over from "Serbian Roads" the debt for maintenance of main and regional roads in Mokra Gora, Tara. The minister for capital investment, Velimir Ilic, signed the contract and accepted the obligation to pay the amount of 144,220,000 dinars from the National Investment Plan. 35 million was paid in 2006, while 93 million was paid in 2007. In 2008, the Ministry of Agriculture, headed by Slobodan Milosavljevic, requested and received money from the NIP intended for construction of facilities for collection, drainage and filtration of waste water within the nature reserve Mokra Gora. The sum of 127.5 million dinars was approved for this purpose, but according to official information only the amount of 21,218,691 was actually paid. Also in 2008, the amount of 83,200,000 from the NIP was approved to the company whose director is Emir Kusturica. The application was submitted by the Ministry of Economy and Regional Development, headed by Mladjan Dinkic. The application states that the number of tourists has exceeded the number of available beds, necessitating extension of the visitors' center. According to the project documentation for the company managed by Mr. Kusturica, 1,300 square meters of area – a cinema hall, tourist desk, restaurant, souvenir shop and 10-15 rooms and apartments – are being built. In accordance with the Law on Free Access to Information, "The Insider" has received information that one of the subcontractors is supposed to be the company "Lotika" d.o.o., which is Emir Kusturica's private company. Mr. Kusturica is also the director of the nature reserve.
B92: You and your company have applied for this project?
Emir Kusturica: Which company?
B92: "Lotika" d.o.o.
Emir Kusturica: "Lotika", where...? I'm afraid that...
B92: This project envisions that the subcontractor for works will be the company "Lotika" d.o.o.? This is related to construction of the visitors' center?
Emir Kusturica: The visitors' center is a part of this package that has failed. There are three segments – the visitors' center, water system, sewage system. The center has not succeeded, the water system...
B92: Why hasn't it succeeded?
Emir Kusturica: It failed because the National Investment Plan is a huge mess, perhaps worse than Kafka's "The Castle". In order to receive money from the NIP you have to enter a complicated procedure with action plans and a wide range of activities. You need to have a big company, not just 20 rangers, the two of us administrators, and a legal department that services us from Uzice.
Oliver Dulic, minister of ecology and spatial planning: The main point is, you should go there and see what has been achieved. I think that a lot has been done, especially regarding the water system, sewage system and construction of roads. This nature reserve has been managed well. We receive regular financial reports.
B92: Have you ever heard of the company "Lotika"?
Oliver Dulic: No.
B92: It is a private company owned by Emir Kusturica. The company is in possession of Drvengrad and the skiing facilities.
Oliver Dulic: Wait, nobody denies that Emir Kusturica owns Drvengrad, that Emir Kusturica owns some other things... But at the same time, Emir Kusturica heads the nature reserve "Mokra Gora" and it has happened... that is, since 2005.
B92: Is that a conflict of interest?
Oliver Dulic: I don't know. Emir Kusturica, who is the director of the nature reserve "Mokra Gora", manages the reserve very well. We are very satisfied, we cooperate with him and we would be very satisfied if there were more examples of such management.
In accordance with the directive adopted by the Government of Serbia, "Mokra Gora" is authorized to collect various fees and duties. The assembly of the company "Mokra Gora" has decided to collect ecological tax from vehicles passing through the territory. It has been collected since 2007 at Kotroman. The decision was signed by the president of the assembly, Sinisa Kovacevic, and approved by the Ministry of Science and Environment and the Ministry of Finance, headed by Mladjan Dinkic. Vehicles with license plates issued in Uzice are exempt from this. The ecological tax amounts to 50 dinars for cars, 150 dinars for buses, and 350 dinars for cargo trucks.
Oliver Dulic, minister of ecology and spatial planning: In my opinion, the most important thing is that now we have strict control over funding, that projects are being implemented...
B92: Who controls it?
Oliver Dulic: The Ministry of Ecology and the Ministry of Finance.
B92: So can you tell me where the money from the ecological tax goes?
Oliver Dulic: It is used for activities of the nature reserve.
B92: It means that it doesn't go back to the budget, but is paid to "Mokra Gora" d.o.o.?
Oliver Dulic: That's right, and after that, each financial report is submitted to the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Ecology. The manner in which the money is used is strictly controlled by the state.
Emir Kusturic, film director, director of the company "Mokra Gora": Each ecological tax that is collected has its own VAT bill and is paid to the nature reserve fund. What is this money used for? It is used for cleaning of Mokra Gora. The nature reserve has a waste facility. There are two workers with a small vehicle and a trailer who clean the area every day, using this money. So, salaries for three workers, operational expenses for the truck and the contract with (...) and that's it, more or less, what this money is used for. Every penny that is collected is used only for cleaning.
B92: How is it possible that "Mokra Gora" d.o.o. is allowed to collect the tax and that the Ministry has approved it? Shouldn't it be regulated by law?
Oliver Dulic, minister of ecology and spatial planning: The new law will regulate this issue. The Law on Environmental Protection is being prepared, and after that we will adopt necessary rules and unify the management of natural reserves. We will also reconsider the management of these nature reserves and if we are not satisfied, we will appoint other managers. We will do our best to define framework for their behaviour.
Ljubodrag Djurdjic, president of the Council of Residents of villages Kremna, Bioska, Vrujci and Stapari: Almost everything is taxed. Here is one example. Local community Kremna has more than 20 km of water pipes and at the time, in 2006, euro was worth less than 80 dinars. The tax for this system would be 80 dinars per meter of length, which means that the community would have to pay more than 20,000 euros to the nature reserve if this directive remains in force. I believe this is impossible, because that money would have to be collected from citizens, consumers of water, and it is much more than the cost of water itself.
Obren Bogosavljevic, member of the Council of Residents of villages Kremna, Bioska, Vrujci and Stapari: There is not a single activity that is exempt from this tax. Nothing. For example, buses. Buses with schoolchildren must pay at least 1,000 dinars. Tax per child is 14 dinars, parking, ecological tax, that's at least 1,000 dinars. Another example is setting up a tent. If you have a large tent, 20 meters wide and 10 meters long, you have to pay 330,000 dinars – 1619 dinars per square meter.
Oliver Dulic, minister of ecology and spatial planning: As far as I know, the Ministry has approved all proposals which... the financial plan and all the proposals that were made by the assembly.
B92: Does it mean that a person who owns a house in this area with an 80 meter long water pipe has to pay retroactively, for example, 100 dinars per meter for that pipe that passes through his property?
Oliver Dulic: I don't know.
B92: All these taxes have been introduced?
Oliver Dulic: I don't know.
B92: The railway will have to pay money to Mokra Gora because the railway line goes through the area.
Oliver Dulic: I think negotiations are underway between Kusturica, who is the manager of the nature reserve, and the railway, in order to solve this problem.
Jovan Markovic, mayor of Uzice, Democratic Party: The ecological tax is being collected by the nature reserve, as well as all other fees collected at this area. The city of Uzice has no income from that source. We receive only a compensation related to the residential tax in this area, but it amounts to around 200,000 dinars annually and it is the only income that Uzice has from the area.
The Ministry of Spatial Planning says that the income of the nature reserve "Mokra Gora" resulting from the taxes for use of the protected nature reserve amounted to 16 million dinars in 2007 and around 18 million dinars in 2008.
Oliver Dulic, minister of ecology and spatial planning: But I must add that this nature reserve is managed well and that nature is truly protected there. Unfortunately, there are some misunderstandings with local residents which we have tried to solve on several occasions. We want to solve all disputes, but people must realize that the Ministry has protected the area and that the Government of the Republic of Serbia has made a decision. We have also financed the implementation of a spatial plan in accordance to which it will be specified what can be constructed there. We have a close cooperation with the municipality of Uzice because we want to open...
B92: But they have nothing against Kusturica, they complain against you, i.e. the state?
Oliver Dulic: They have complained against Kusturica, as far as I know.
B92: No, we have talked to them.
Oliver Dulic: To my knowledge, they don't want the state to tell them when, where and what they are allowed to build, while I find it hard to understand people who have something against the law.
Jovan Markovic, mayor of Uzice, Democratic Party: They just want to be able to freely use their own property. I understand citizens' feelings and that is why I support them. I think that the state is obliged to adopt laws which take into account the needs of citizens. I believe that citizens should feel that they are backed by institutions, and in this case the city administration and I support them completely.
Oliver Dulic, minister of ecology and spatial planning: What we have here is that we have put things in order, and some people don't like order. They have got used to cutting trees, illegal construction and dumping sewage water...
B92: The problem is, does the state have competent institutions?
Oliver Dulic: Of course it has.
B92: And these institutions act in accordance with law?
Oliver Dulic: Yes.
B92: That means that illegal construction is a criminal offence?
Oliver Dulic: That's right.
B92: So why do you need Emir Kusturica to prevent illegal construction?
Oliver Dulic: Not just in this area, illegal construction is being prevented everywhere while we speak. In every individual case, we define each of them depending on the time when illegal construction was committed. And it happens every day.
B92: But that happens everywhere in Serbia, including Belgrade. Does it mean that we need to have such manager in Belgrade, too?
Oliver Dulic: All right, why don't you allow us to make a first step, and when we make it, why don't you support us instead of standing by those who are opposed to maintaining order.
Ivana Dulic, minister of agriculture, water resources and forestry 2004-2006: What is unacceptable is the fact that, on one side, the existing law cannot be enforced, which would allow people to participate in bids and pay the rent to use the land owned by the state, while on the other side this directive gives someone the privilege to manage a huge area. 2,000 ha or 7,000 ha, it doesn't matter. This is what makes me so angry. In the beginning we tried to make a society where everybody had equal opportunities, but the state has made decisions which take away every opportunity from some people, while at the same time give others the power to commit abuse.
Emir Kusturica, film director, director of the company "Mokra Gora": I could be a favourite of Vojislav Kostunica, Chavez, Putin, Obama or anybody else, but my main argument is what you can see at the location. I am not claiming that I have won a contest or that someone made a criminal offence, or that, judging by your question, someone in Kremna thinks that I must be defeated.
According to the directive adopted by the Government of Serbia, 11,000 ha at Sargan and Tara – of which 6,000 is private property – was declared a nature reserve to be managed by a company established by the Government of Serbia, whose director is Emir Kusturica. In 2005, the Government of Serbia founded its private company "Mokra Gora" d.o.o. which is authorized to manage the nature reserve. Fees and taxes collected in accordance with this directive are not paid to the budget, but to the company. Although it is widely known that he has had good relationship with people in power in the last 20 years, Kusturica says that he has never been and never will be a member of a political party. He also says that his good cooperation with politicians who are in power has nothing to do with his activities in Mokra Gora, because, as he says, environmental protection is more important than politics. Emir Kusturica is the owner of Drvengrad, located in Mokra Gora, which has around 30 buildings, the skiing facility "Iver" and a hotel. He also owns around 30 ha of land in this area, and is the director of a company, founded by the Government of Serbia, which manages 11,000 ha of land in the territory of Sargan and Tara.