Greater transparency, but also setbacks in granting concessions for goods of common interest
Transparent reporting, but also setbacks of the procedures for granting concessions for goods of common interest. This is provided by the Law on Concessions of Goods of Common Interest, proposed by the Ministry of Economy, after the process of public consultation, involving the Institute of Communication Studies and the civil society organizations Green Institute, Zdrava kotlina (Healthy Valley) and Front 21/42, within the “Clear it Up” campaign.
By accepting the remarks of civil society, transparent reporting on the procedure is imposed from the very beginning, as well as when granting a concession, and this also refers to publicly sharing the complete documentation in the register of concessions that is introduced by the draft-law. The government or the municipality should publish the decision to start a procedure for assigning a concession of goods of common interest in the Official Gazette, although the proposal to also inform the public about the preparatory work for the concession at the state and local level was denied. The register of concessions of goods of common interest, which should be kept by the Ministry of Finance and should be publicly available, should contain the complete documentation for each granted concession. The information for granting a concession of goods of common interest will be publicly available on the website of the authority that conducts the procedure, in accordance with the Law on Free Access to Public Information. This implies progress in relation to the Draft Law on Mineral Resources, where full transparency of the procedures and data on concessions is not provided, although it was advocated by the “Clear it Up” Alliance.
After consulting with civil society, the Ministry of Economy is imposing an obligation for the feasibility study of the concession for goods of common interest to include a mandatory environmental impact assessment because environment is directly concerned by the award of concessions. In the course of supervising the execution of the concession agreement, the protection and sustainable use of the environment shall also be monitored, although the state environmental inspectors are not made directly responsible for that.
The draft-law more precisely determines the conflict of interests for the members of the commission for implementing the procedure for granting a concession and it is added that the procedure must be conducted according to international standards.
However, this draft-law partially sets back the procedures for obtaining concessions for goods of common interest. The obligation of the concessionaires for a deposited financial guarantee in case of harmful effects on the environment, as provided in the Draft Law on Mineral Resources, is abolished, which circumvents the efforts of eco-activists so far. The possibility of trading in concessions for goods of common interest remains, as one of the major problems. The concessionaire who does not have the capacity to operate aptly, shall not lose the concession and the state shall not look for another serious concessionaire. Instead, the draft-law allows them to trade the concession and impose a creditor onto the state that will receive the concession outside the legal criteria. This draft-law spares the concessionaires from an environmental impact assessment study in conducting geological research, which can also seriously damage the environment.
The Ministry of Economy also rejected the proposals of civil society that the amount of the concession fee should depend on the impact that the concession will have on the environment and for the selection of the most favorable bid for the concession not to be made according to the highest price, because when awarding concessions for goods of common interest, environmental aspects should be considered as top priority.