SLOVENIA: New push to restrict environmental and nature conservation NGOs

In Slovenia, according to Environmental Protection Act, non-governmental organisations that obtain the status of acting in the public interest in the field of environmental protection can be parties in the procedures and can go to court and challenge the decisions in environmental matters. So far, several major investments, which would severely affect the environment, have been successfully challenged by environmental organisations in the courts or within the administrative procedure for obtaining an environmental permit.

In 2020, the Government passed two amendments to the Construction legislation (in April, prolonged in June 2020 until the end of 2021) and the nature conservation act (in May) attempting to change this inside the Coronavirus packages. The first law was challenged in front of the Constitutional Court that suspended its implementation until a decision would be reached. In recent years, environmental NGOs had faced smear campaigns and threats when engaging in environmental impact of construction projects.

In January 2021, the Ministry of Environment is once again proposing changes to the Environmental protection and spatial planning acts which would exclude environmental NGOs from key relevant procedures. The law is currently under consultation.

The proposed legislation removes an article providing judicial protection that could be used to challenge implementing spatial acts in court. Moreover, according to the national press agency, STA, the government aims to restrict further conditions for the participation of NGOs in administrative procedures.

As the draft bill currently stands only individual citizens demonstrating legal interest – and not environmental and nature conservation NGOs – would be allowed to initiate an administrative dispute against spatial implementation acts.

In the new environmental protection act proposal […] NGOs are simply excluded from key environmental procedures. They would not be able to take part in [environmental impact] assessments, the only thing they could do would be to appeal against the adopted decision,” reads Umanotera’s press release.

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