CSOs in Slovenia face criticism and derogatory statements for environmental protection work

Association

Cooperation between institutions and civil society remains generally positive. However, some criticism was sparked against environmental civil society organisations in connection with the environmental protection work of the CSO Društvo za preučevanje rib Slovenije (DPRS – Society for the Study of Fish of Slovenia, also referred to as the Fish Observation Society). In February 2019, the DPRS managed to stop a project for a big hydroelectric power plant by appealing to the Administrative Court.

As reported by the previous CIVICUS Monitor update of 29 May 2019, the court ruling sparked criticism in the media against DPRS and environmental CSOs in general. In June 2019, the criticism against environmental CSOs was also taken up in parliament as during a Q&A session in the parliament the member of parliament (MP) for the Slovenian nationalist party Dušan Šiško questioned the Prime Minister about the role of environmental CSOs, arguing that “the state made the mistake of allowing any group with public interest status to participate in the proceedings so that it was in fact acting against the general interest.”

The Prime Minister Marjan Sarc’s response supported the point raised by the MP, that is undermining the work of environmental NGOs in Slovenia, including their right to participate in administrative and court procedures.

In connection with the MP’s call to regulate the engagement of environmental CSOs, the Prime Minister Marjan Sarc suggested that the Ministry of the Environment and Spatial Planning should start drafting legislation to review which organisations are in the public interest as he claimed that “Not every NGO is an organisation of public interest.” (translated from Slovenian)

Such derogatory statements are undermining of the legitimate work of CSOs and the proposed legislation will restrict the work of critical CSOs deemed not to be acting “in the public interest”.The Minister of Environment and Spatial Planning, Simon Zajc, appointed in March 2019, has so far been open and cooperative with environmental NGOs.

Separately, in May 2019, the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs submitted a bill to the government for amendments to the Social Security Benefits Act. Amendments to the law include the abolition of the allowance put in place during the economic crisis to encourage marginalised or unemployed citizens to do volunteering work. NGOs warned that this will particularly affect volunteers, who are crucial to their work and they are negotiating with MPs. The draft is currently under discussion.