Photo: Predrag Trokicic
Photo: Predrag Trokicic

Because of my court day with Goran Vesic, I wasn’t able to attend the first meeting of the heads of the various parliamentary groups in the City Assembly. What my colleagues reported from the meeting didn’t even come close to preparing me for what we found when we entered the institutions. And this prompted me to write this first look from the inside.

Many have told us about what awaits us, but I guess nothing can prepare you, until you feel it yourself.

And everything they told us wasn’t even half the story.

The informality

The first impression is that there are a lot of things that are neither clear nor standardized, there are no standard operating procedures, and, apart from the rules of procedure, there are no written instructions that regulate the public part of the work of the Assembly. The most common answers to the question “why do we do it like this?” are “it’s customary” and “we’ll agree on everything.”

There is no communication via email, and information from the Assembly Affairs Service is obtained via phone, Viber, exclusively by communicating with an authorized person, a representative of the organization, while later the only contact person becomes the head of the parliamentary group.

To avoid any confusion, I want to emphasize that there are wonderful and kind people working in the Assembly Affairs Service, who are very willing to help solve things together. Although what exactly we need to solve, what we can solve, how, and when isn’t written anywhere. But we’ll agree on everything…

Resources and office equipment

Before the first session, we are supposed to submit forms with information on bank accounts for the payment of fees for councilors in the amount of RSD 10,000 per month. Among other privileges, councilors were given the opportunity to park for free in the parking lot in front of the National Assembly during the session of the Assembly, but, as we learned from colleagues who came by car, those spaces were not actually provided. Convinced that it would be better to compensate councilors for the costs of using public transport, we asked if that was possible, but they answered that it was not. There is also no parking for bicycles.

Our group also got an office at Nikola Pasic Square 6, number 112, first floor.

We don’t have internet, but we do have a fax machine, a television that doesn’t work, a desktop computer, and a box of floppy disks.

In the drawers we also found religious icons as a legacy of the parliamentary group that was there before us. Our offices used to belong to SPAS, the former organization of the current mayor, Aleksandar Sapic. Coincidence? :)

We can use the office whenever, but, as we were told, usually no one comes after the end of working hours. We immediately announced that we would definitely use the office in the afternoon and asked the cleaning services to be cancelled, to spare the cleaners from waiting for the end of our first afternoon meeting, at 8:30 p.m. There is no need for the office to be cleaned every day, we can take out our own trash.

Before the session

Invitations to the Assembly session arrive exclusively in paper form. A courier from the Assembly Affairs Service delivers the materials for the sessions physically to the addresses of all 110 councilors – these are folded A5 papers produced through a special application. Font: non-uniform. Spacing: uneven. Folding: uneven. Addressed to the name of the councilor, with spelling mistakes.

Entering the session

When you enter the building, turn right to reach the registration desk. For the first session, ID cards are examined here, and for all other sessions, you need to sign an attendance sheet. There is a crowd, because the staff can’t manage all the work quickly enough and thus even the beginning of the session is delayed.

Before the start of the second session, we also received councilor identification cards. Mine has two corners cut out, for an unknown reason.

There is a bell before the start of the session. Like in school. :)

During the session

There are two entrances to the hall, also accessible to the media. In the smaller hall, there is also a space where the media can sit and follow the session via a TV screen. In the hall, there are two armchairs and two two-seaters of uneven design, a pair of sculptures, as well as two different roll-up banners with the coat of arms of Belgrade.

There is also a wardrobe, but closed. We’ll see in the winter how that works.

There is a buffet on the right. 0.5l water costs RSD 42, espresso is RSD 24. They also have juices. Tomato juice is quite popular.

The food in the buffet includes cheese pie, spinach pie, and a sandwich with Wiener schnitzel (RSD 200). Although it is clearly indicated at the entrance of the hall that it is strictly forbidden to bring in food and drinks, almost everyone brings bottles of water, and many eat in the hall during the session.

There is internet here, although only in the hall, and when a lot of people are connected, it doesn’t work very well. Also, the air conditioning is not working well. There is no system for electronic voting, the majority is determined by show of hands.

During the breaks and on the margins of the session, strange relationships prevail, seemingly trying to develop a spirit of collegiality. However, it is clear that they actually strive for some kind of pacification through pleas to speed things up: “Please, Dobrica, how long will this last, you won’t use up all the time, right, we have a wedding to get to…”

During the session, the ruling majority does not actually lead discussions, and the same people always go to the podium repeating pre-prepared scripts that have nothing to do with the topic, but serve to present the government as constructive. While the government is, therefore, presented as someone who builds bridges and tunnels, the opposition is presented as someone who represents foreign interests and is paid by foreign foundations. So far, we have not heard any debate on acts, measures and policies.

We also did not hear a reasonable discussion about the candidates for the highest positions in the city government. Before the session, we received very short biographies that did not emphasize the abilities, experiences or, at the very least, human virtues of the candidates. Those who proposed the candidates did not tell us anything about them, but only read from those same short biographies. No one presented any kind of work plan, nor spoke about it.

Even the newly elected mayor did not find it appropriate to answer the councilors’ questions (regarding the work plan and program), but instead let the councilors from the ruling majority speak on his behalf. He just occasionally threatened people with lawsuits.

While he did not find the questions of the elected representatives of the citizens relevant, the newly elected mayor was very happy to answer the questions of the journalists, so I wonder if it might be more effective to have press conferences instead of meetings in the future, because that way we will certainly learn more about the city’s development plans. This would finally and formally abolish democracy and debate, which, as we already know from experience, are not viewed as a value but as a burden, something that the Assembly has no use for and which only slows it down.


Finally, I would like to convey to you one of the questions of Nikola Nikodijevic, the new-old president of the City Assembly, which was addressed to me at the informal meeting of the heads of parliamentary groups before the Assembly session (which is a tradition, sic): “Dobrica, why do you keep trying to change everything here?”

This question perhaps best illustrates the anachronism and conservatism of the people who have been leading our institutions for over 10 years.

But what’s important now is that the geeks have finally gotten into those institutions. And there will be more and more of us.

We will change those institutions.

One by one. Step by step.

Translated by Marijana Simic

Pešč, 06.07.2022.