Court asked to test motorway referendum question constitutionality

The Croatian Parliament’s Constitution Committee on Wednesday decided to ask the Constitutional Court to test the constitutionality of the question in the planned referendum against leasing motorways, with Committee Chairman Pedja Grbin of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) explaining that the referendum question would imply an absolute ban on concessions in the motorway sector.

In November 2014 a civil society group which objects to leasing the existing motorways, presented parliament with more than 530,000 signatures for a petition calling for a referendum on the matter.

Grbin said that a proposed ban would cover all services along motorways and public roads, including a ban on concessions for construction of new roads and also for providing other services such as hospitality services, petrol stations and advertisements.

Such a proposal may be dubious and not economically justified, Grbin said after the committee unanimously decided to ask the Court to assess the constitutionality of the referendum question.

Dragan Zelic, a civil activist of the GONG association, expostulated with Grbin that in the event that the ban was voted in the requested referendum, it would refer to all services. Zelic said that the referendum would concern only the ban on construction and management of motorways.

He criticised the government for a lack of transparency when it embarked on plans to monetise the public debt of state-run motorway operators by offering the existing motorways for lease.

The committee’s external member Nenad Zakosek agreed with Zelic on the government’s failure to present its plan clearly to the public.

The leader of the anti-monetisation initiative, unionist Mijat Stanic, said that the request was about restriction of concessions on the existing public roads, and dismissed the committee’s interpretation as malicious.

Opposition members of the committee did not attend the meeting.