The draft of the decentralization law, now under debate on the Ministry of Development website, paves the way for the most destructive conflict of interest that the field of environmental protection has yet to experience. At present, the Environmental Protection Agencies are supervising the activity of local public authorities. Given that the controversial law passes, the former will be subordinated to the latter. This was the main point raised by the Coalition for Environment and the Coalition for Nature 2000 Federation in the documents send to the Ministry of Regional Development and Local Administration on Friday, November 8th. Both agencies asked that the law draft in its current formed be abandoned.
The conflict of interest: The Agencies for Environmental Protection are responsible for monitoring the indicators for quality of life and for proposing the necessary measures to improve them. At the same time, one the main responsibility of the Agencies is approving projects taking into consideration the environmental impact these may have. By subordinating these structures to the local public authorities they were initially expected to monitor, a full-fledged attack on the environment is being set in place, with consequences that are not easily quantifiable.
Examples that include the maximum potential for widespread negative effects are connected to monitoring the environmental factors that fall under the jurisdiction of the Environmental Protection Agencies and are to be respected by local public authorities. Thus, for instance, air quality is currently monitored by Environmental Protection Agencies which then report to the National Environmental Protection Agency. The latter then reports to the European Commission. The purpose of this process is improving the air quality where needed and keeping a healthy balance check. Noncompliance with the standards of the Environmental Protection Agencies may lead to sanctioning of the local public authorities and further on, even to infringement. It is therefore safe to assume that an Environmental Protection Agency that answers to a Local Council will report fake measurements in order to avoid the sanctioning of the respective Council. It is as if a local institution would sanction itself.
Another example is the Environmental Impact Assessment. This study is necessary for any infrastructure or construction project and is also released by the Environmental Protection Agency. The agency in this case acted as the break to the “modernizing” impetus of some mayors or president of Local Councils who would see double glazing windows installed in caves, ski tracks at only 600m altitude, or, hand in hand with companies belonging to their close relatives, would install micro-hydro-plants on mountain rivers. Adopting the draft law and therefore subordinating the Environmental Protection Agencies to Cityhalls or Local Councils means giving a green light to all projects any local leaders propose.
Dilluted responsibility and potential conflict in applying the European directives and agreements:
Given that the Local Councils receive the right to issue Impact Assessment studies and notifications regarding tourist destinations, as well as technical documentation regarding the location, conformity and feasibility of new constructions with tourist destination, the already high pressure on protected areas becomes even more unbearable. In the case of protected areas it was observed that the local public authorities have been the greatest enemy of the European directives being implemented, as well as supporters of minimizing or fully eradicating the surface of the protected areas.
It is useful to recall that on the 9th of October the European Parliament voted upon one amendment to Directive 2011/92 (on the assessment of the effects of certain public and private projects on the environment).
„4a. Member States shall designate the competent authority or authorities in such a way as to ensure their full independence in the performance of the duties assigned to them under this Directive. In particular, the competent authority or authorities shall be designated in such a way as to avoid any relationship of dependence, any links or subordination between them or their members and the developer. A competent authority may not perform its duties under this Directive in relation to a project which it has commissioned itself.”