In the shadow of coronavirus, the new Slovenian government is taking rights from environmental and nature conservation non-governmental organizations (NGOs), according to green law NGO network Justice and Environment (J&E).
According to the organization, anti-coronavirus provisions in Slovenia, which set out to disable environmental and nature protection NGOs in the procedures involving integrated building permits (in which EIA procedure is included), are now transposed in a similar fashion to the Nature Conservation Act but with much more serious consequences.
The law regarding building permits prevents most NGOs from accessing legal funds – entering into procedures for issuing an integrated building permit for facilities with environmental impacts
On the other side, new rules could speed-up the start of the construction of the hydropower plants (HPP) Mokrice.
New rules are part of the measures to mitigate the effect of COVID-19
The network said that on the last day of April, the Act Amending the Act on Intervention Measures to Contain the COVID-19 Epidemic and Mitigating its Consequences for Citizens and the Economy was published in Slovenia.
Some NGOs that are already parties to proceedings will be stripped of that status
The law regarding building permits for facilities that have a greater impact on the environment (integrated building permits) prevents most environmental protection and nature conservation NGOs from accessing legal funds – entering into procedures for issuing an integrated building permit for facilities with environmental impacts, the J&E said on its website.
The additional conditions required by law for NGOs to participate in the integrated building permit procedure for the current year and the previous two years are:
- for associations – 50 active members (evidenced by the regularly paid membership fee by transfer to the bank account of the association and participation in members’ meetings);
- for institutions – 3 full-time employees and with a university education in the field of NGO operation;
- for funding institutions – to have at least EUR 10,000 in assets at all times. Some NGOs that are already parties to proceedings will be stripped of that status.
Most organizations, according to the network, do not meet the new conditions. Out of 77 organizations, the J&E has managed to collect data for 56. Only 9 of them, or 16%, meet the new conditions (5 environmental, 4 nature conservation), the network said.
According to the network, the content of the law is contrary to Slovenia’s Constitution, Article 9 of the Aarhus Convention, and Article 11 of the Directive on the assessment of the effects of certain public and private projects on the environment.
It inadmissibly narrows and interferes with acquired rights and reduces the protection of legality in the field of environmental protection and nature conservation
It inadmissibly narrows and interferes with acquired rights and reduces the protection of legality in the field of environmental protection and nature conservation, the J&E said.
Three NGOs that are losing their rights have filed a complaint to the Constitutional Court. The complaint was prepared by a J&E member, the Legal-Informational Centre (PIC).
Nature conservation sector is faced with similar problems
On May 12, there has been further negative development in the field of narrowing the rights of nature conservation NGOs.
The current government has, despite a public protest in front of the Slovenian Parliament and several thousand emails sent to MPs, proposed and adopted a new amendment, which imposes the same conditions as mentioned above, to the Nature Conservation Act.
The amendment proposes that NGOs have 6 months to comply with the new provisions
By imposing such harsh and unreasonable conditions, a vast majority of nature conservation NGOs will lose the right to defend nature in all administrative and court proceedings – by our rough estimation, only 4 nature conservation NGOs meet these conditions, the J&E said.
The amendment proposes that NGOs have 6 months to comply with the new provisions/conditions. Unlike the Intervention Act described above, in this case the provisions have no time limit.
Provisions regarding NGOs and the construction processes are to be valid until the end of 2021
The Slovenian government has proposed the third Anti-coronavirus Law with anti- and post-coronavirus provisions on May 20. It is expected to enter into force in the May 25-29 period.
The Law stipulates, in Article 2, that the above-mentioned provisions regarding NGOs and the construction processes are to be valid until the end of 2021, which further aggravates the situation, the J&E said.