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Ombudsman Zoran Pašalić said today that in the past 10 years, the Institution of the Ombudsman received 725 complaints from the residents of Leskovac, which, he said, mainly concerned the property-legal and socio-economic sphere.

After talking with the citizens of Leskovac, representatives of the local government, non-governmental organizations, public institutions and businesses, Pašalić said that the number of complaints from residents of that city is decreasing from year to year and that in most cases they concern problems not only typical for Leskovac, but for the whole of Serbia.

The transition to an entirely different property rights system has brought many problems. Citizens in Leskovac, as well as other cities, also complained about the environment and illegal landfills. He said that, in cases when cooperation with local self-governments is good, problems related to local governments can be resolved very quickly.

“However, the biggest problems we have are with local governments, and by that I do not mean in Leskovac. Only persistence, frequent visits and more conversations will give us specific results. If one does not open up to the citizens, but rather thinks that he is there for his own sake, it is very unlikely that the situation in that local self-government will be good and that citizens will be satisfied”, Pašalić said.

According to him, the citizens of Serbia “know astonishingly little” about the powers of the Protector of Citizens. “The amendments to the Law on the Protector of Citizens should strengthen the capacities of the Ombudsman institution, but my goal is to solve some systemic problems during my term of office that would in turn solve some individual problems, or to solve some individual problems that would solve some systemic problems, which is not easy at all”, said Pašalić.

He stated that currently, in his work, attempts of politicization of the work of the Protector of Citizens bother him the most. “I know that I will change the fact that the Protector of Citizens is seen as a political body. The Protector of Citizens is not a non-government organization nor a civil society organization, but a state institution, an independent one, that only accounts to the Serbian Parliament”, Pašalić said.

Stating that Leskovac is the ninth city in the past year in which citizens have had the opportunity to speak directly with the Protector of Citizens, Pašalić announced that by the end of the year, the “Day of the Protector of Citizens” will be organized in four more cities, but that visits will also be organized in the future because, as he added, not all citizens have the opportunity to come to Belgrade to the institution's headquarters.

The Ombudsman, Zoran Pašalić and the Mayor of Leskovac, Goran Cvetanović, attended the opening of the renovated premises of the Social Welfare Center in that city today.

The visit to Leskovac was realized within the project of increasing the accessibility of the Protector of Citizens to citizens living in the interior of Serbia. The project is implemented by the Protector of Citizens of the Republic of Serbia with the financial support of the Embassy of the Republic of Bulgaria in Serbia.