The Corona crisis is used in Slovenia as a cover to allow more environmental destruction by the new government that took place just as Corona lockdown began. In order to speed up economic recovery, the environmenetal minister Andrej Vizjak (who used to be the Minister for Economy) decided to ease the legislation for construction. In doing so, he also limited the possible involvement of NGOs by setting difficult limits on their partipation. Specifically, only NGOs with over 50 active members, 10 000 € of income and three employees with university education within the last two years could take part in the legal processes concerning construction. These conditions mean that over 90% of all Slovenian NGOs that have a status of an organistion in public interest will now lose it.
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What does the new law mean for nature conservation?
While the law with these conditions has already been passed for construction, this modification is also now going to be applied to the Act on Protection of Nature. This will mean that the majority of NGOs will not be able to get involved into legal processes. So, let’s say an environmental decree is passed that does not fit the EU Habitats Directive. At the moment, one of the NGOs would likely pick it up on court, stopping the decree. However, with the new legislation, very few NGOs will have the right to do this. Thus, most legislation not meeting the EU requirements will still be in place with little resistance. A concrete example we have reported about is culling in Slovenia, that has recently been found illegal by the Constitutional Court as two NGOs led the lawsuit. With the new law in place, such opposition will be very limited, leaving culling legally unchecked.
There is a large resistance by biologists, environmentalists, scientists and NGOs to the new laws. Three NGOs have already announced they will take up a lawsuit, as they believe the new legislation is against the Aarhus Convention. In addition, Balkan River Defence organised an action “Flood of e-mails to MPs” with the intention to prevent the MPs to pass the law. In addition, despite the ban on public gathering, they organised a protest in front of the parliament that around 300 people attended.
What follows next?
Unfortunaly the law was passed with small amendments despite the public opposition. In accordance to this, the government is now already preparing a list of future construction projects by priority. Among those is also the construction of Hydroelectric powerplant Mokrice on Sava river, a project that the minister led before his current mandate. However, the construction plans were stopped after NGO Society for Fish Research won on court, proving that the powerplant would destroy a Natura 2000 site. Now, the minister will surely be content that this project can continue without any further obstacles posed by NGOs.