The Slovenia Times

Legislation restricting NGO powers in construction projects stayed


The court said on Wednesday it will review Article 2 of the second anti-corona package, which extends until the end of 2021 changes to building legislation enacted in the first anti-corona package. The relevant provisions have been stayed until a decision is delivered.

The NGOs petitioned the court to look into Article 100 d, which fast-tracks projects that were in the phase of acquiring an environmental permit in 2018, Article 100 e, which allows construction to go forward before the construction permit takes effect, and Article 100 f, which imposes new restrictions on NGOs eligible to take part in the permits procedures.

Environment Minister Andrej Vizjak said, when presenting the relevant bill, that the move would provide a boost for the construction sector.

The NGOs, on the other hand, claim that the new regulations were in breach of Slovenia's Constitution, EU law and the 1998 Aarhus Convention, which established a number of rights of the public with regard to the environment.

Moreover, the NGOs were especially bothered by the provisions under which they must meet the new requirement, such as a higher number of employees, retroactively for two years.

Senka Šifkovič Vrbica from the Legal and Information Centre for NGOs welcomed the decision of the top court today, saying it would allow for "slightly more thorough reflection and stop the emergency regimen that was introduced with force during the coronavirus crisis".

She said the court had reviewed all articles challenged bar a segment shortening deadlines for lawsuits against construction permits and stayed all of them until a final decision.

Government officials on the other hand said that the Constitutional Court decision puts on hold a number of important infrastructure projects in the country.

"The people of Koroška, Bela Krajina, Zasavje, Posajve - when you will be wondering the next time why there is still no third development axis, and when many others will wonder why there is no ring road, which was blocked by some kind of obscure goldfish protection group, turn to the Constitutional Court," PM Janez Janša wrote on twitter.

The north-south expressway in eastern Slovenia, dubbed the third development axis, was also invoked by Infrastructure Minister Jernej Vrtovec, who wrote that the decision stops the "first shovel" in the project, which was meant to begin in September this year.

The Environment and Spatial Planning Ministry expressed regret as well, saying it would study the decision carefully and take them into account.

The ministry however assessed that "an important part of the legislation drawn up to make procedure move effective remains valid", including articles that demand that stakeholders in permit procedures present clear and legally grounded positions and simultaneously present solutions.

Also still in place are articles giving priority to other public benefits, preventing the doubling of procedures and defining urgent and priority matters.

Moreover, still valid too is the amended environmental protection act, which also introduced new conditions for the involvement of NGOs in administrative and judicial proceedings, the ministry said.


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