"DISCRIMINATING AGAINST LIVING AND DEAD PENSIONERS":
Unequal Treatment of Trebinje Pensioners

Autor: Direkt Drugi pišu
13 minuta čitanja
Risto Masleša i Mirko Milojević

For years, there has been a disproportionate allocation of funds from the City of Trebinje's budget to two pensioner associations. The official Association of Pensioners (UP) of the City of Trebinje will receive 12,000 KM from the city budget for this year, through three projects.

Risto Masleša i Mirko Milojević
Risto Masleša i Mirko Milojević

In contrast, the younger association – the City Association of Pensioners (GUP), which is not recognized by the umbrella republican organization, will receive 62,000 KM. This association

is led by Risto Masleša, who is also the president of the SNSD pensioners’ active group i Trebinje.

Building of the Pensioners’ Association in Trebinje

Playing with Numbers

Trebinje is the only local community in Republika Srpska that has two pensioner

associations. According to official data from the Pensioners’ Association of Republika

Srpska, there are currently a total of 7,818 pensioners in Trebinje.

The larger association, the Pensioners’ Association of the City of Trebinje, founded in 2003,

currently has 4,482 members. It is recognized by the umbrella Pensioners’ Association of

Republika Srpska, and its members pay membership fees through the Pension and

Disability Insurance Fund (PIO). However, they claim to have been discriminated against by the city for years.

Pensioners’ Association of the City of Trebinje

The other association, with a similar name, is the City Pensioners’ Association (GUP). It was

formed in 2017 by splitting from the already existing Pensioners’ Association in this city, and

its establishment was surrounded by numerous controversies. Just a month after its

Udruženje penzionera Grada Trebinja
Udruženje penzionera Grada Trebinja

formation, the GUP received 52,000 KM from the city's budget through a budget reallocation,

while the grant for the UP was reduced from the planned 90,000 to just 12,000 KM.

The founder of the GUP was Đoko Tarana, a former councillor of the United Pensioners’

Party, who previously admitted to Direkt that the allocation of money to this association was

influenced by politics.

According to the current president of the GUP, Risto Masleša, the association has about

3,700 members.

Considering that around 25 per cent of pensioners in Trebinje are not members of any

pensioner association, it becomes evident that the membership number of this pensioner

organization is significantly lower. However, Masleša claims otherwise but refuses to explain

to Direkt how he arrived at the number of 3,700 members.

Based on this calculation, there are more pensioners in the associations than there are in

the entire city of Trebinje.

When asked how he keeps track of the membership, given that they do not collect

membership fees through the PIO Fund, Masleša responded that they have their own

records.

“I am telling you that we have that many members. We have application forms and all

records… They have signed declarations stating that they are our members. There are

annual variations, we haven't done a revision of the list yet, but generally, that's the number

and we are on an upward trend”, said Masleša, adding that “everything is clear to him” and

that he did not want to answer any more of our questions.

Thus, we were left without many answers, including those about the political activities of this

organization.

“Please, don't ask me, I know where the wind is blowing from, I know what is north, south,

and west”, he said and hung up.

Raspodjela sredstava iz trebinjskog budžeta za 2024. godinu
Raspodjela sredstava iz trebinjskog budžeta za 2024. godinu

City Pensioners’ Association of Trebinje

Although it is not recognized by the umbrella republican association, nor do its members pay an annual membership fee, the City Pensioners’ Association receives the largest percentage of public money from the City of Trebinje intended for the pensioner population.

The table below provides an overview of the amounts of money approved by the City of Trebinje to these organizations over five years (2024, 2023, 2020, 2019, and 2018).

Izdvajanja za penzionerska udruženja za pet godina

For the years 2022 and 2021, Direkt's journalists were unable to find official documents on the allocation of funds from the City of Trebinje to pensioner associations, so below is an overview of the income of both associations for 2022 and 2021.

Prihodi dva penzionerska udruženja u Trebinju za 2022. i 2021. godinu
Prihodi dva penzionerska udruženja u Trebinju za 2022. i 2021. godinu

It is evident that over these five years, the association currently led by Risto Masleša received at least 349,000 KM through projects from the city's budget.

During the same period, the other association, which gathers the majority of the pensioner

population in Trebinje, received at least 48,800 KM.

“It is shameful how the City treats our pensioners”, Mirko Milojević, president of the

Pensioners’ Association of the City of Trebinje, told Direkt.

For Some Nine, For Others Three

This year, the City of Trebinje has allocated 85,000 KM from its total budget of 50 million for

the pensioner population. In the latest call for projects, it distributed funds amounting to

77,000 KM.

Mirko Milojević, predsjednik Udruženja penzionera Grada Trebinja
Mirko Milojević, predsjednik Udruženja penzionera Grada Trebinja

The association led by Milojević will receive funds for only three out of the eleven projects

they applied for.

The other association was approved for all nine projects they applied for, as confirmed to us.

“The commission considered only three of our projects. The maximum amount per projectcould be 8,000 KM, and they awarded us three projects at 4,000 KM each. So, a total of12,000 KM, and this has been the case for the last five years”, Milojević told Direkt.

Allocation of Funds from the Trebinje Budget for 2024

Discriminating Against the Dead

One of the projects approved for the Pensioners’ Association (UP) concerns providing aid to

the families of deceased pensioners, for which they were allocated 4,000 KM.

The other association, however, was granted 21,000 KM through three projects named

“Posthumous Benefits”, “Posthumous Benefits 1”, and “Posthumous Benefits 2”, with each

project receiving 7,000 KM.

“Approximately 250 of our pensioners pass away annually. When you divide these 4,000 KM

by that number, it turns out that each deceased pensioner's family receives about 15 KM

fewer posthumous benefits annually, received 21,000 KM from the City of Trebinje for this

purpose through their projects. Their posthumous benefit was recently 150 KM, now they

may have raised it to 200, meaning they receive significantly more money per deceased

pensioner. The surplus funds should be returned to the City, but this never happens—they

misuse it for other purposes”, claims Milojević, estimating that the other association might

have only around 1,500 members.

Raspodjela sredstava iz trebinjskog budžeta za 2024. godinu
Raspodjela sredstava iz trebinjskog budžeta za 2024. godinu
Raspodjela sredstava iz trebinjskog budžeta za 2024. godinu

Mirko Milojević, President of the Pensioners’ Association of the City of Trebinje

Due to what he calls discrimination against both living and deceased pensioners, he has

repeatedly addressed Mayor Mirko Ćurić in writing but has never received a response.

“I asked the mayor at a meeting, if you already discriminate against living pensioners, why

do you discriminate against deceased pensioners? Verbally, the mayor agreed with what I

said, but it seems someone else is directing and making these decisions”, Milojević

suspects.

“Every pensioner buys food and water, pays for utilities, and pays VAT on all of this. The

City of Trebinje's budget is funded by that VAT. If all pensioners equally contribute to the

city's budget, they should receive approximately equal returns from the city. But no, we get

crumbs compared to this other political association”, Milojević states.

He announces an appeal to the City of Trebinje and the president of the commission that

scored the projects, Marina Herbez, although he does not expect much from it.

Commission President Marina Herbez refused to speak to Direkt on this topic.

“I prefer not to comment”, she said briefly in a phone conversation.

Membership Fees Controversy for the Mayor

Trebinje's Mayor Mirko Ćurić does not see this situation as discrimination. He explains that

the assessment of the submitted projects takes into account whether an association has

additional funds from membership fees.

“According to the information I have, one association has funds from membership fees, while

the other does not. This fact is considered to determine what funds they need to function. I

even have data from the association without membership fees indicating that the total

amount of money they receive is significantly higher than the other association, which gets

funds through membership fees”, says Ćurić.

However, the criteria used for evaluating the projects, as we present below, do not mention membership fees at all.

Kriterijumi za dodjelu projekata
Kriterijumi za dodjelu projekata

Ratko Trifunović, president of the Pensioners’ Association of RS, agrees that paying

membership fees should not be a hindrance when approving projects.

“This should be proportional to the number of members, regardless of whether someonepays membership fees or not. It's their choice not to pay membership fees”, Trifunović told

Direkt.

Trebinje: The “Pensioner Case City”

Trifunović emphasizes that the situation in Trebinje is unique in Republika Srpska.

He explains that their Statute allows for only one pensioner association in a local community,

which in Trebinje's case, is the Pensioners’ Association of the City of Trebinje.

“This association in Trebinje is the majority, and its members pay membership fees, which

fund their activities. Members of the other association practically cannot be members of our

republican association because only one association, the one that pays membership fees, is

recognized”, Trifunović states, adding that the establishment of this other association

undermines the interests of the pensioner population.

Penzioneri Trebinje
Penzioneri Trebinje

There have been attempts to unite these two pensioner organizations, but they did not gain

support.

“If they want to work in the interest of pensioners, they must work together”, Trifunović

asserts.

Mirko Milojević claims that the City Pensioners’ Association is purely a political organization

and, according to his knowledge, has been lobbying pensioners in every possible way to

vote for the SNSD in recent years.

“There's no SNSD gathering where their president (Risto Masleša) isn't the first to be

photographed”, Milojević concludes sarcastically.

On the other hand, the Pensioners’ Association of the City of Trebinje does not engage in

politics but cooperates with whichever government is elected.

TREBINJE – THE PENSIONER CASE CITY

For years, there has been a disproportionate allocation of funds to pensioner associations in

Trebinje.

In 2024, one association will receive 62,000 KM, while the other will get 12,000 KM.

Mirko Milojević calls the association led by Risto Masleša “political”.

Risto Masleša refuses to provide any explanations.

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