Review of the Civic Initiative for Borik

28.6.2016 - Banja Luka

Today, after the fight is over, and with the children’s playground and green surface preserved, we wish to remind you of the steps we took with the Civic initiative for Borik, and to share a few information about the next ones.

The Civic Initiative for Borik was created as a reaction to the neglect of public complaint of the citizens of Borik that they expressed during the public scrutiny and the public debate on the draft amendments to part of the regulatory plan of the residential area of Borik.

This draft planned to build an Orthodox church with supporting facilities on a area of over 1000 m², instead of the already existing children’s playground and the public green areas along Bulevar vojvode Živojina Mišića.

When it was clear that the city government will not take into account numerous complaints of citizens and that they won’t give up the predicted changes in the regulatory plan, and that the citizens do not want to abandon the intention to preserve this area, together with the citizens of Borik we launched Citizens’ Initiative with the aim of repealing the decision on making amendments to part of the regulatory plan in the residential area of Borik.

We would like to thank all the citizens that were a part of the Initiative Board, the active participants of the Civic Initiative for Borik, citizens who gave their signatures of support for the initiative, and the citizens who have collected those signatures. We thank the journalists, because their media support was of great importance.

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Some journalists have repeatedly placed the information that the Citizens’ Initiative for Borik was against the church and this was not the case. Citizens’ Initiative for Borik insisted that they were exclusively for the preservation of children’s playgrounds and public green areas, no matter the building concerned.

According to the Law on Referendum and Civic Initiative RS, citizens for the exercise of citizens’ initiatives educate the preparatory committee of at least three members who have the right to vote. In the Citizens’ Initiative for Borik they were Sanda Vukojević and Niko Anušić, as representatives of the citizens of Borik, and Miodrag Dakić, as a representative of the Center for the Environment. However, in addition to members of the Initiative Committee, Citizens’ Initiative for Borik members were also Magdalena Kasun, Zrinka Džumić and Dunja Pejić as citizens of Borik, and Alexander Štrbac, Tanja Boromisa and Branislav Ristić as representatives of the associations “Hi Neighbour” and Jelena Brkic on behalf of the Center for environment.

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Citizens’ Initiative for Borik was founded 13th of October .2015., but this was not the beginning of the struggle for the children’s playground. It all started with the public access to the draft amendments to part of the regulatory plan of the residential area Borik, which lasted from 21st of July. to 21st of August 2015. During the public review, the Centre for Environment on June 20th, through the Initiative “Our space” on the premises of the Ministry of Health Borik organized a public presentation of the predicted changes in the regulatory plan, after representatives of the Department of Spacial Planning refused our proposal to organize a public presentation, in order to clarify the planned changes to the citizens Borik. In order to inform citizens of Borik, we placed posters at all entrances near the children’s playground and public green areas, which proved to be an excellent choice. During the public presentation, the hall of the local community Borik was full of citizens who were not satisfied with the selected location and the fact that there were construction plans to be done in the area of the children’s playground, or how Uncle Niko likes to say: “They wanted to take our Jahorina.”

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One of the most important date in the fight for public green area and playground is 17th of September 2015. when the public hearing was held in the Hall of the Cultural Centre Banski Dvor. The public hearing was attended by representatives of the City Administration of Banja Luka, the Serbian Orthodox Church, the firm Civil Engineering Institute “IG” that drafted the changes of urban planning, representatives of associations and a large number of citizens. The hall was full, which is the first case when it comes to public debate on the regulatory plans in question. We believe that it greatly contributed to the fact that we have, through “Our space” initiatives, sought to hold the public hearing after 16 hours. Citizens have expressed their views and concerns, and representatives of the “IG” would answer. Since our public participation in decision-spatial planning documents is very important to us, the issue was the fact that not a single note of the citizens who opposed the choice of location was not accepted.

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In order for the coordination of activities for the Civic Initiative for Borik was good, there were meetings held regularly every week, but most of the activity was carried out on a volunteer basis and during the free time of the members of the Civic Initiative for Borik.

One of the first official activity was collecting signatures in support of the citizens’ initiative. This was the first citizens’ initiative, which is organized in accordance with the Law on Referendum and Civic Initiative RS, and addressed one of the institutions of the City of Banja Luka. During the seven days, which is the maximum provided by law, a total of 5,110 signatures were collected from citizens of Borik, but also from other parts of the city. We wish to note that, although the Law on Referendum and Civic Initiative was adopted back in 2010, the city authorities of Banja Luka have yet to comply with city regulations Law, which caused additional difficulties. For example, we had problems with the locations of the stands to collect signatures, the exemption from the payment of the stands, as well as the handover of the citizens’ initiative to the Assembly of the City of Banja Luka. We hope that our citizens’ initiative will encourage the city government to finally harmonize regulations so that some subsequent initiatives would not have the same difficulties.

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After the collection of the signatures, Civic Initiative for Borik, on 24th of November.2015.came on the agenda of the City of Banja Luka, which had to decide citizens’ initiative to repeal Decisions on making changes to a part of the regulatory plan for the residential area of Borik. After the scandalous discussion councilors, who have not commented on the arguments of the Civic Initiative for Borik, present board members did not give the necessary support for the Civic Initiative for Borik. Nine councilors voted in favor and ten against, with three abstentions, while nine councilors did not attend the vote.

Although we were disappointed by the decision of the Assembly, we were not discouraged, but only further motivated because we knew that the Civic Initiative for Borik had the right attitude regarding the needs of the citizens and had a contemporary approach to spatial planning in urban areas. The first step after the refusal in the Assembly was an appeal to the Ombudsman for Children of RS, and then was followed by an appeal to the Supreme Court of RS, which is the only legal possibility of questioning the decisions of the Assembly. We had difficulties in re-submission of the appeal, because the Supreme Court of the Republic of Srpska also did not harmonize their decisions to the Law on Referendum and Civic Initiative RS. The Supreme Court on the 28th of January.2016. issued a judgment in our favor. However, the court did not take into account our arguments about the neglect of the fact when deciding in the City of Banja Luka, but ordered the retrial in the City because of errors in the process, because the relevant parliamentary committees did not provide their opinion on the Civic Initiative for Borik.

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The session which again decided on the Civic Initiative for Borik was held on 31st of May 2016. and the Civic Initiative for Borik this time received the unanimous support of the 18 members present. This was for all of us the process through which we learn together how to be an active citizen and use the rights given to us by the Constitution and guaranteed by law.

To presented to the citizens of Borik the steps that preceded this victory, and the significance of it and the possibility of future planning courses in Borik, we had a meeting with them on the 16th of June 2016. Citizens’ Initiative for Borik has fulfilled the purpose for which it received support and it’s legitimacy provided by 5,110 people with their signatures,it preserved the children’s playground and a public green area. In the future, citizens and representatives of associations involved in the Citizens’ Initiative for Borik continues with activities and further organizing of the children’s playground and public green spaces. Also, together we will start an initiative to plan funds in the budget for maintaining and organizing this area in the year 2017.

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Dear citizens, this is our victory! The victory of 5110 people that signed the petition, 60 of us that have collected these petitions, and a victory for all citizens of Banja Luka, who will in the future run similar initiatives in order to fight for their right to a quality life in the city. We have proved that it is possible!

Initiative “Our space” will in future continue activities involving citizens in the process of developing a proposal for the regulation of children’s playgrounds and public green spaces. Our goal is to improve the quality of the current equipment and also the acquisition of new playground equipment with new machines for children. Also, in the future we plan to write a manual for citizens ‘initiatives, which we will explain in detail each step that future citizens’ initiatives should take in order to have the least difficulty in achieving its objective.

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