The Municipality of Istočni Stari Grad Donates Land Worth Three Million BAM to “Jahorina” Olympic Centre

The Municipality of Istočni Stari Grad Donates Land Worth Three Million BAM to “Jahorina” Olympic Centre

The significantly underdeveloped Municipality of Istočni Stari Grad has donated nearly 70 dunums of land worth three million BAM to the “Jahorina” Olympic Centre for the construction of “the largest toboggan run in the Balkans”. They will allow the clearing of first and second-class forests and provide an additional million BAM from the citizens of this municipality to “support” the construction of the toboggan run. This move continues the sale of Trebević Mountain towards its eventual destruction, with entities, municipalities, and various political factions collaborating effectively in this effort. As for the citizens, they are left without even clean air.

Written by: Sanja Vasković

Late last year, the Assembly of the Municipality of Istočni Stari Grad adopted a Decision on determining an investment project of special interest for this municipality, which concerns the construction of the largest toboggan run or ski resort in the Balkans.

Thus, they donated almost 70 dunums, specifically 69,763 square metres of land owned by the municipality, to the “Jahorina” Olympic Centre without any compensation.

The value of the real estate being transferred, which includes the land and infrastructure, amounts to three million BAM. The value of the investment project is 11 million BAM, of which “Jahorina” Olympic Centre is obliged to allocate ten million, while the Municipality of Istočni Stari Grad, in addition to losing land worth three million, will provide another million BAM for the toboggan run, which has not yet even started. Therefore, the total amount that will benefit the Olympic Center Jahorina is four million, while the total budget of this municipality is barely five million.


Decision on the Transfer of Ownership of Real Estate

To expedite the transfer of 1/1 land ownership to the “Jahorina” Olympic Centre, the officials from this municipality continually justified it by citing a “special interest for the municipality”, and the decision came into effect immediately upon adoption.

“The special interest of this point lies in the justified need to enhance the tourist offerings on Trebević, and it is considered that the construction of the most modern toboggan run (ski resort) in the Balkans is a project of crucial importance for the Municipality of Istočni Stari Grad, but also for the City of Istočno Sarajevo”, the Decision states.

However, the basis on which this municipality assessed that it is in their interest to increase the profit of the “Jahorina” Olympic Centre and certain individuals, rather than working to increase their own budget, has not been validly explained anywhere.

Attorney Din Tešić told SPIN info that there must be some act confirming that such a decision by the Municipal Assembly is indeed of public interest. This act must be clearly explained and factually supported. Furthermore, between commercial entities, the possibility of gifting is not legally foreseen.

“The Prosecutor’s Office should review this type of contract because they had the option to convert their capital into shares and become co-owners to some extent. This way, they would have dividends, achieve their goals, and have the ability to manage the ski resort. This is the only lawful and legally valid solution in the interest of the municipality. In the manner it was done, we come to a transfer of ownership without compensation, a payment of one million BAM, all of which goes to some shareholders’ ownership for them to enrich themselves, without clearly defined economic parametres. It is certain that the Municipality of Istočni Stari Grad and the City of Istočno Sarajevo would have had far greater benefits if they had become co-owners, where they could also control the way the operations are conducted”, says Tešić, emphasizing that the municipality has been harmed in this manner and that the competent prosecutor’s office should consider whether it is a criminal act and possibly initiate an investigation.

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Din Tešić, provided photograph

Uncontrolled Forest Clearing Continues

Within the 69,763 square metres of land that will be transferred to the “Jahorina” Olympic Centre without compensation, there are 7,090 square metres of first and second-class forests that will be cleared.

“Since the ownership of the land in question has changed, the new owner is obligated to bear all costs of the further forest clearing process and changing the purpose of the forest land. The resulting assortments belong to the Public Enterprise ‘Forests of RS’ a.d. Sokolac”, the Decision states.

Trebević was protected as a park forest with special features back in 1954. Although the City of Istočno Sarajevo declared part of Trebević a Nature Park a few years ago, during the presentation of the Protection Study prepared by the Republic Institute for the Protection of Cultural, Historical, and Natural Heritage, it was stated that the forest would not be cut, UNLESS someone deems it necessary… which leaves the possibility of uncontrolled logging, a significant problem in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Azra Berbić, an activist from the Foundation Atelier for Social Changes – ACT, believes that such a decision by the local authorities will lead to a reduction in forest areas and that it is more important to make decisions that protect this green treasure. Azra questions whether this decision truly satisfies the public interest, considering the consequences of the climate crisis we witness year after year.

“Additionally, it is important to note that this action violates the Law on the Temporary Prohibition of Disposal of State Property in Bosnia and Herzegovina, given that the forests are state-owned, as confirmed by the Constitutional Court of BiH in its decision, which states that ‘state ownership can also include public goods that by their nature primarily serve all people, such as running water, forests, and state infrastructure networks in the sense of Annex 9 of the General Framework Agreement for Peace in BiH, etc.'”.


Azra Berbić, provided photograph

Furthermore, it is much more important to consider the public utility values of the forest, which protects against erosion, retains water, and cleans the air. These functions are crucial not only in the long term but also in the short term, far more so than building a toboggan run which, in a few years, might not have any snow and thus no potential financial benefits from such an endeavour.

“We witness year after year that precipitation is decreasing, especially during the winter ski season, making this sector of tourism in our country the most vulnerable. The question arises, what is more important at this moment: preserving seven dunums of high-value forest or building a toboggan run that soon may not have enough snow during the winter season?” says Azra Berbić to SPIN Info.

Ironically, on some of the buildings currently under construction on Trebević, there is a sign that reads:

“Clean air has no price”.

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Trebević, photo: Spin info

Mayor Bojo Gašanović is Dodik’s Choice, Not the Choice of the Citizens of Istočni Stari Grad

The example of this small municipality within the City of Istočno Sarajevo shows that profit and investor interests have long outweighed political divisions. Mayor Bojo Gašanović (SDS) and City Mayor Ljubiša Ćosić (SNSD) no longer even pretend to be opposing political factions in public. When it comes to the sale of Trebević, they are indeed good partners. This was confirmed to our portal by a former SNSD councillor in the Municipal Assembly of Istočni Stari Grad, Ljubo Tadić, who has come under fire from his political party for pointing out illegal activities in the Municipal Assembly.

“The contentious issue is that as far back as 2016, the municipality submitted a request for the clearing of forests on 82 plots covering an area of 260,000 square metres on Trebević. The responsible ministry added another 15 plots on its own initiative. This addition was made by a certain Mr. Goran Zubić from the ministry, and it was discovered completely by accident”, says Tadić.

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Ljubo Tadić, photo: Valter

He adds that the illegal transfer of ownership is at play and that “boss Dodik” intervened last January-February to ensure that Istočni Stari Grad received a cadastral unit instead of a branch office belonging to Pale. This move facilitated the illegal transfer of ownership on Glog Hill. It is clear that the goal is faster and more efficient parcelling of the land.

“Ljubiša Ćosić and Bojo Gašanović cooperate better than you and I do. They belong to opposing parties but make deals. For years, there have been obstructions in Istočni Stari Grad to prevent the formation of SNSD because people are against it. Dodik’s supporters who vote for SNSD are causing trouble and are seen as obstacles. We constantly face obstruction from the City Committee; they want to humiliate us and keep us weak. The mayor is not the choice of the citizens but the choice of Dodik and others, because that is more convenient. It’s better for SDS to handle it rather than putting pressure on an SNSD candidate. Also, the inspection in Istočno Sarajevo obstructs certain matters because they are controlled by SNSD. I have been waiting for a response from the head of the Inspection Department, Ratko Đurović, for almost a year regarding illegal construction on Glog Hill. I am in the SNSD Istočni Stari Grad Municipal Committee, and I want to try to protect this”, appeals Ljubo Tadić, suggesting that the transfer of ownership will depend on the agreement between Mayor Bojo Gašanović, Milorad Dodik, and legal advisor Milimir Govedarica.

Bojo Gašanović: Don’t Ever Call Me

We attempted to get a comment from the mayor of the Municipality of Istočni Stari Grad, Bojo Gašanović, regarding the construction of the toboggan run. We didn’t even manage to ask the question completely; he attacked us because we called him on Saturday afternoon… because he’s going to a wedding in Novi Sad to be a godfather… because he thought something had happened… because he felt offended, and so on, accompanied by a few curses. When we suggested calling on Monday morning, he said, “Don’t ever call me again”, but at the end of the conversation, he changed his mind and said we should call after all.

While the meagre population of only 1,116 residents of the poor Municipality of Istočni Stari Grad barely survives (they even use three modes of transportation to reach Kasindo Hospital), the mayor, in agreement with the SNSD and investors from RS and the Federation, quietly sells land, working in favour of individuals from the Olympic Center “Jahorina”, a matter not openly discussed.

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