EU Scraps Grant For Popovic’s Women’s Project

11 Aug 15
EU Scraps Grant For Popovic’s Women’s Project

On the request of 52 human rights groups from the region, the European Commission has withdrawn from financing the Western Balkans Female Government project, run by the controversial Serbian figure, Vladimir Beba Popovic.

Dusica Tomovic, Sasa Dragojlo
Podgorica, Belgrade

The Europen Commission

A group of regional NGOs on Tuesday welcomed the decision of Brussels not to fund a project on women’s rights run by the Montenegro-based Institute for Public Policy, found by Vladimir Popovic “Beba”.

Under pressure from the civil sector, the EU changed its decision to award 127,000 euros to Popovic’s organization, after the organizations said he had promoted an unworthy campaign against Montenegrin right activist Vanja Calovic, which they said discredited his right to deal with women’s issues.

“Given the concern at regional level about the allocation of grants, I asked the executive agency responsible for the implementation of the programme to suspend the signature of this contract,” the response from Matthias Ruete, the director general of the Directorate of Migration and Home Affairs in the European Commission, said.

The Belgrade-based NGO Autonomous Women Centre on Tuesday said it was “pleased that the European Commission has adopted such a decision.

“It is generally good news,” the NGO added.

In another reaction on the EU decision, the Montenegrin Centre for Women’s Rights said the decision gave hope that EU funding competitions are not “just a formality”.

In June, 52 NGOs from Montenegro, Serbia, Croatia, Macedonia and Slovenia sent a letter to the President of the European Commission regarding the financing of the Public Policy Institute through the program Europe for Citizens.

The NGOs said the Institute director, Vladimir Beba Popovic, had led an “unworthy campaign” against the civil society activist Vanja Calovic and indirectly against other civil society activists who are critical of the Montenegrin authorities.

The latter called the campaign against Calovic “perfidious and ruthless”, said it was based on gender discrimination, and aimed to destroy not only her professional integrity, but also her personal reputation and the ability to lead a normal life.

“It is therefore incomprehensible that an organization headed by a man who has publicly stated that he distributed videos intended to seriously harm a woman’s integrity was awarded EU funding for a project to promote women’s rights,” the NGOs said.

This heated reaction from the non-governmental sector about Popovic followed a series of articles in the Montenegrin edition of the Belgrade-based tabloid Informer last year, accusing Calovic of bestiality.

Calovic, a prominent critic of the Montenegrin government, accused Popovic of being responsible for a video posted on the internet that led to the accusations printed in Informer.

Popovic denied having played any role in the campaign conducted against Calovic in the pages of Informer but added that he would be happy to share the video on the internet “whenever I have the chance”.

Popovic was the former information chief for the Serbian government and in 2013 founded his own NGO in Montenegro and in Serbia.

Critics says he acts as an informal media adviser to Montenegrin Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic and to Serbian premier Aleksandar Vucic – and has been behind media attacks on the opponents of both leaders.

Source: Balkan Insight (Montenegro)