Vreoci, a village in central Serbia, is located in the Kolubara lignite basin. Kolubara is the center of the Serbian energy sector and has been exploited by the publicly owned company MB Kolubara since 1896, including open pit technology since 1952.
After several decades of exploitation many open pits were expanded eventually reaching the Vreoci village. In order to respond to the Serbian energy strategy predictions of increase in electricity use, the company acknowledged its plans to expand the existing ones and to open new pits. The first attempt to open a new mine pit, including the expropriation of private property and the relocation of households and the graveyard of the Vreoci village, occurred at the end of 1990s and was repeated in 2003 but without success due to opposition from citizens . In another attempt in 2007, the plan for Vreoci relocation was backed by the national government, the municipality of Lazarevac, the public electricity company of Serbia (EPS), and also received consent by local government of Vreoci. Moreover, in 2009 the government recognized the project as of national interest. Finally, the expropriation and resettlement process started in January 2010. It provoked another citizen protest and obstruction of relocation preparation work in the graveyard. The citizens demanded relocation of the households first, before proceeding with the graveyard, as they were afraid they might be left living among the mining pits. In 2011, the projects received support from the minister of environmental protection, when relocation of 850 household started. As soon as the first graves were exhumed in July 2011 the local community burst out in protests in Vreoci and even police had to intervene. The citizens supported by the NGO Ekoloski pokret Srbije organised another protests in front of the Serbian Assembly and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) in Belgrade. Later on, the Ecological Society Vreoci, NGO CEKOR, and the local government sent a formal complaint to the EBRD and KfW bank asking them to withdraw the loan assigned to MB Kolubara. In September 2011, as a result of the lawsuit filed by the activists against the Serbian Government, the Administrative Court cancelled the decision in which the relocation project was considered as of national interest. However, the decision was reverted one year later, after which 90% of Vreoci citizens signed the expropriation contracts. In 2012, Vreoci's mayor and citizens organized 10 days of hunger strikes in a reaction to a negative resolution of the lawsuit against the illegal grave exhumation. The new mining pits were opened and relocation was continued in 2013, and it is planned to be finalized in 2018. Many relocated citizens of Vreoci are not satisfied with their new locations, while those still waiting to be relocated suffer from pollution originating from the open pits.
The whole process was followed by corruption allegation, such as when one of the EPS board members was paid an overvalued sum in compensation for relocation of his property in Vreoci. Finally, the investigation against former EPS managers was opened in 2012 (still without results, except for some minor cases resulted in an acquittal), while the Serbian government openly reacted in 2013 through its Ministry of energy. MB Kolubara set up an online application for an anonymous corruption report. The new management claim that corruption crisis at Kolubara basin is past. The basin was heavily affected in the floods in Serbia in May 2014. In November 2015, in a response to the formal NGO and citizens complaints from 2012 and 2013, EBRD recognized that the bank and EPS as its client failed to accomplish several requirements related to the EBRD Environmental and Social policy. The resettlement process is ongoing. The authorities of Vreoci participated in a meeting with representatives of EPS and MB Kolubara on the actualization of conditions and dynamic of the relocation in accordance with “Programmatic principles for resettlement of Vreoci community” (so called “Blue Book”) from 2007 and the Law on Expropriation. Given that the remaining households have been subject to important health impacts and property damages, NGO CEKOR demanded from EPS to speed up the relocation process as well as do the same in other villages affected by the open pit expansion within the Kolubara region as well as in other regions in Serbia, such as Kostolac.