Slovenia: Thousands protest & environmental organizations denounce 'government's declaration of war on nature' to facilitate investment

Civil society in Slovenia has been highly critical of the recent developments, where the new government has included in its coronavirus crisis stimulus package the provisions aimed at deregulation of construction legislation and speeding up of infrastructure investments during the economic recovery. Among the provisions are those that simplify the procedure for the construction permit by introducing stiffer conditions for environmental NGOs that want to participate in the permitting procedures. According to the journalists, academics, environmentalists and other human rights defenders, such solutions allow investors to override the public benefit of preserving the nature and environment with other public benefits. Organizations are calling the situation as "a declaration of war on the protection of nature and environment" in Slovenia. In May 2020, thousands of cyclists have for weeks been against Slovenia’s centre-right government of Prime Minister Janez Jansa and individual organizations have been staging sit-ins- protests have been peaceful, but some have been met with a heavy-handed response by the government: on the 26th of May 2020, members of Balkan River Defense were sitting peacefully in front of the Ministry of the Environment, drawing attention to the importance of nature and the dangers posed by the new law. Police officers removed them in a police van.

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Article
26 May 2020

Slovenia: Cycling protests continue as protesters claim gov't is limiting civic freedoms by attacking media & environmental defenders

Author: Marja Novak, Reuters

"Slovenia anti-government protests continue as country calls an end to epidemic", 15 May 2020

Thousands of cyclists took over the centre of Ljubljana once again on Friday to protest against Slovenia’s centre-right government of Prime Minister Janez Jansa, less than a day after the government called an end to the coronavirus epidemic, while loosening restrictions... Protesters blew whistles and honked bicycle horns as they waved Slovenian flags in the capital city. Many wore face masks. They claimed the government is clamping down on civil rights by attacking the media and limiting the rights of environmental groups. Some called for the government to resign. Among other changes, the government is pushing for legal amendments that will limit the rights environmental nonprofits in participating in the administrative review of infrastructure projects... “I am here because the government disgustingly abused the coronavirus crisis to reduce people’s rights and freedoms,” environmentalist Rok Rozman, who was among protesters, told Reuters. Protests have taken place every week since last month when the national TV Slovenia reported government officials unlawfully favored some companies while purchasing face masks and ventilators. The government denies any wrongdoing.

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Article
26 May 2020

Slovenia: Members of Balkan River Defense civil society organization's peaceful protest disrupted by police

Author: 8th of March Institute (Institut 8.marec)

This is an unofficial translation from Slovenian by the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre.

Balkan River Defense sat perfectly still in front of the Ministry of the Environment today. They drew attention to the importance of nature and the dangers posed by the new law. Police officers removed them from the doors of the Ministry of the Environment in a van.

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Article
26 May 2020

Slovenia: Traditionally strong civil society participation in construction permits process to be weakened as environmental ministry backs industry interests

Author: Brankica Petković, The Peace Institute – Institute for Contemporary Social and Political Studies

"Slovenia: New Government Restricts Rights of Environmental Groups", 21 May 2020

Environmentalists and nature protectionists are describing the recent developments in Slovenia, where the new government has restricted access to public participation and justice for environmental non-governmental organisations, as "a pogrom" and "a declaration of war on the protection of nature and environment" in Slovenia. In late April 2020, the government included in its coronavirus crisis stimulus package the provisions aimed at deregulation of construction legislation and speeding up of infrastructure investments during the economic recovery... According to the Slovenian Press Agency, such solutions allow to investors to override the public benefit of preserving the nature and environment with other public benefits... In Slovenia, non-governmental organisations that obtain the status of acting in the public interest in the field off environmental protection can be, according to Environmental Protection Act, 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...  [Some media are] taking a critical stance, while major TV channels have invited the Minister of Environment and Spatial Planning to confront representatives of NGOs. The minister is portraying the non-governmental organisations as a problem for the realisation of major infrastructure projects... 

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Article
5 May 2020

Slovenia: Civil society denounces government using anti-COVID 19 law to facilitate investments in environmentally damaging projects

Author: EKO KROG – društvo za naravovarstvo in okoljevarstvo & other organizations

"Statement by non-governmental organizations about the article 42 of the new anti-COVID 19 law", 23 Apr 2020

This is an unofficial translation from Slovenian by the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre.

The government has opened the door widely to investors whose construction projects are endangering the environment and nature by amending the anti-COVID law... The government has approached the exclusion of NGOs imaginatively: it did not take away the right to participate in proceedings altogether, but it set such a high threshold of conditions for participation that almost no organization will be able to reach them - especially since they would have to have been met for the past two years! The government, of course, knows that almost none of the organizations can fulfil the new conditions retroactively...  What does this mean for the environment and nature? Over the next two years, all construction projects will be able to be implemented without proper public scrutiny of the legality and environmental suitability of the projects! Such an arrangement is contrary to the Aarhus Convention, to the Constitution of the Republic of Slovenia, which provides for the direct application of ratified conventions, and to the EU directives on the assessment of the effects of certain public and private projects on the environment... Why is the government afraid of environmental considerations? Disabling the work of environmental organizations means disabling environmental protection. We are not against development, but we are against development that is damaging to the environment... 

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