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Panel Issues Notice of Non-Registration in Serbia Case

The Inspection Panel on May 31, 2017, issued a Notice of Non-Registration of a complaint about the World Bank-supported Floods Emergency Recovery Project in Serbia. The project supports the rehabilitation of flood protection and drainage control infrastructure and “aims to reduce imminent risk of recurring floods by restoring and/or improving the functioning of existing infrastructure.” The Panel received a Request for Inspection regarding the project on January 6 from two residents of Novi Pazar who claimed their lands along the Raska River had been acquired for the project without any financial compensation and that authorities started construction activities without informing residents. The Requesters also expressed concern over a lack of consultation and the determination of the market value for their properties. To better understand the project and the issues raised in the Request, the Panel held several phone calls with the Requesters and met with Bank management on different occasions. At an early February meeting with the Panel, Bank management said that, as a result of the complaint, it intended to work with the government of Serbia to find a solution to the Requesters’ concerns. Subsequently, the municipality initiated a process to renegotiate the compensation amounts for expropriated lands in order to reach in-court settlements with project-affected people in Novi Pazar. On March 21, one of the Requesters confirmed his intent to settle in court during an upcoming hearing, and on May 16 he informed the Panel he had accepted the settlement and had received the agreed compensation amount. The Requester expressed satisfaction with the outcome of his case and said there was no need to pursue his complaint with the Panel. Since one of the two Requesters no longer wants to pursue the case, the Request for Inspection lacks the two signatures required under the Panel’s procedures and, as a result, the Panel is not registering it. In its Notice of Non-Registration, the Panel noted that 25 of the 41 project-affected people in Novi Pazar have recently accepted higher compensation offers as a result of negotiations with the municipality and have signed in-court settlements, and that another five are scheduled for settlements. However, the Panel also noted that the affected people retain their right to re-submit a Request for Inspection of the project should new evidence become available.