NGOs express dissatisfaction with strategic investments bill

Zagreb, 10.05.2013 - Završni radovi na asfaltiranju Èirilometodske ulice na Gornjem gradu u Zagrebu. foto FaH/ Damir SENÈAR /ds

Several non-governmental organisations on Thursday gathered outside the government building to express their dissatisfaction with a bill on strategic investment projects, claiming that the bill was not transparent and facilitated shortcuts for “privileged investors”.

The risks to terrain, public good and transparent management still exist in the bill, the NGOs said after the government sent the bill to parliament.

The president of the Association of Croatian Architects, Hrvoje Hrabak, described the bill as “dangerous, harmful and irresponsible” as it proposes to abolish the obligation to prepare a physical plan for the area where the strategic project is planned.

Another NGO representative, Marina Skrabalo, said that the bill does not require possible investors to present evidence of their financial abilities, which could leave room for bad companies to be included.

The government should concentrate on reforms and how to remove obstacles as well as speeding up procedures for all those who wish to invest in the country and not just for the privileged, she said.

The bill leaves room for the risk of corruption. The law does not define criteria and leaves room for particular interests instead of taking account of real strategies and public interest. The second possible risk of corruption is that contracts need not be made public, said Zorislav Petrovic of Transparency International.

Another fault of the bill is that the local government has been excluded from decision-making processes for projects that do not exceed EUR 3 million, said Bernard Ivcic of the Green Action.

The term ‘strategic’ is questionable, particularly if local government does not have an impact on the process, he added.

The bill will lead to capital going wild, said Teodor Celakoski of the Right to the City.

The NGOs demand that a public debate be repeated and that lawmakers actively debate the bill and move amendments. They also demand that the government informs the Sabor of remarks made by the interested public and the European Commission.