The Slovenia Times

Koper councillors oppose law on rail expansion project


Councillors welcomed the initiative to hold a referendum on the law and called on the people to vote the law down.

According to Popovič, the Divača-Koper rail law not only allows corruption risks but enacts them.

Moreover, he said the special purpose vehicle 2TDK that has been set up to manage the project was unnecessary and should also not be co-owned by Slovenia and Hungary.

He further opposes the law putting additional levies on port operator Luka Koper. The operator would need to pay at least EUR 10-19m a year for 45 years, Popovič stressed, adding that this would mean paying at least EUR 5m a year to Hungary.

The mayor said the project should include two new tracks, since he thinks one will no longer suffice by the time it is built. The existing track should be closed down because of fire hazard, he said.

He believes the project could be much cheaper than stipulated by the law. According to Popovič the price tag should be up to EUR 500m and not EUR 3.5-4bn as envisaged in the contested law.

The councillors of the Modern Centre Party (SMC) of Prime Minister Miro Cerar meanwhile boycotted the emergency session, arguing that the council was overstepping its jurisdiction in supporting the referendum.

After his meeting with Cerar in Ljubljana in the afternoon, Popovič told the press he got the impression that the authors of the project had been withholding information from the prime minister.

Although the prime minister told him he trusted his aides and the two remained on opposite sides, Popovič was happy that Cerar at least promised to review his concerns and meet again afterwards.

Cerar already rejected the accusations regarding the project voiced by the opposition during Q&A time in parliament today, stressing that the project had been conducted transparently.

Opposition Democrat (SDS) deputy Ljubo Žnidar stressed that the law clearly paved the way for financial machinations, as 2TDK was given a 45-year concession with no accountability.

The special purpose vehicle had been set up before the law was passed and the government gave it EUR 200m with no clear basic framework, no investment programme and without the necessary paperwork that would allow calculating the price tag.

However, Cerar said the project had the support of international institutions with very high criteria for such projects - the European Commission, the European Investment Bank and the European technical assistance agency Jaspers.

The project, which is designed to pose the lowest possible burden for taxpayers, is also supported by five other countries - four hinterland countries and Spain, the prime minister reiterated.


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