The Slovenia Times

Debate on Magna investment points to unresolved issues


The debate, organised by the regional daily Večer featured both advocates, including Economy Minister Zdravko Počivalšek and Magna Steyr representative Wolfgang Zitz, and opponents of the planned paintshop by the Austrian subsidiary of the Canadian giant.

Počivalšek and Zitz remain convinced that the project involving in the first phase around 400 jobs would bear fruits and that it would start operating by the end of next year.

Acknowledging responsibility for the success of the project, the minister said that "we will do everything" to bring the project home. He added that while only the first phase of the project had been confirmed so far, there would be no reason to build the paintshop if there were no plans to expand further.

While figures have not been confirmed by Magna, the investment is said to include up to four phases that could potentially create up to 6,000 jobs in a full-fledged car plant.

Zitz agreed that the paintshop was only a small step in Magna's plans and that the project was part of its strategy, which did not change every three months.

Quizzed about the value of the project, estimated at EUR 457m in the first and second phases, but could potentially expand to EUR 1.2bn if the third and fourth phases were completed, Zitz said that "if we wrote this down, this must be the case".

Magna could still withdraw from the project, with obtaining the construction permit being a major obstacle, but Zitz would not comment on the floated date of 1 July as Magna's final deadline.

Setbacks for the permit include the appropriation of agricultural plots of four farmers, an agreement on the felling of a local forest and problems with the sewage system in the nearby Mikalvž municipality. The latter supposedly could not take the increased flow from Magna.

One of the farmers who have not yet reached an agreement on their land, Rado Lobnik, said today that he was willing to give up his land, but that he had not been offered suitable replacement yet, because the proposed plots were still rented out to poultry producer Perutnina Ptuj.

The Agriculture Ministry meanwhile demanded that the plots be replaced by reclaiming the land from the local forest in Rogoza. This in turn is opposed by a local civil initiative.

Initially the plan was to cut down around 60 hectares of the forest, but it was later brought down to eight and in the end to four hectares. The initiative continues to oppose the idea, because it believes that other suitable areas could be found for the farmers to use.

While Agriculture Ministry State Secretary Tanja Strniša agreed that other plots could be found, she added that there was probably no time left for such a solution.

On the other hand, Mayor of Maribor Andrej Fištravec said that the land surrounding Maribor Airport had long been intended for an industrial zone and that Maribor could not be the victim of misguided agricultural policies.

Environment Minister Irena Majcen meanwhile said that Magna could get an environmental permit soon after 26 June, when the deadline for potential opposition runs out.


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