UN triumph of NGO sector

The Republic of Croatia is a party of the Convention on Information, Public Participation and Access to Justice, known as the Aarhus Convention, and, in that respect, is obliged to submit to the Secretariat of the Council a national report on its implementation every three years.

During the drafting of the II National Report, there were disagreements between the Association Sunce and the Ministry of Environmental Protection, Physical Planning and Construction responsible for its elaboration on the implementation of Article 7 of the Convention, which deals with ways of ensuring public participation during the development of plans and programs related to the environment.

Namely, the Sunce’s remarks referred to the fact that the concerned public was not informed or involved in the processes of waste management plans across a number of cities and municipalities of the Split-Dalmatia County, and therefore neither public insights nor public exhibitions were held, nor did the public hearings, as well as that the adopted plans were not published on the websites of cities and municipalities, while the environmental inspectorate authorized to control the manner of their adoption did not take any action.

However, the comments of the Sunce did not enter into the national report of the Ministry with the explanation that municipal/city waste management plans are not documents of sustainable development and environmental protection, so neither the environmental inspectorate had the authority to supervise their adoption. To such a justification and the non-adherence to our remarks, we have sent a request to the Ministry for which we received a reply signed by the Country Secretary himself, Nikola Ružinski, in which we get a very narrow interpretation of this legal issue without looking at the problems of public participation and waste management in the spirit of the Environmental Protection Act and the spirit of the Aarhus Convention itself.
Thus, despite our objections, an inaccurate report was sent to the Council of the Aarhus Convention.

Motivated, on one hand, to help the Ministry correctly understand the problems of waste management and public participation, and on the other hand, wanting to emphasize the importance of cooperation with the non-governmental sector, there is no doubt left than to address the Secretariat of the Aarhus Convention for initiating a communication process before the Council. The task is not easy since no such initiative has been initiated by the Republic of Croatia so far.

The legal position is well argued in the submission sent to the UN address in Geneva.

The main hearing was scheduled for December 4, 2012, which was attended by an Expert associate lawyer of Patricija Granić with her colleague Ivana Grubišić, then a trainee.

9 Councilors and 4 members of the Secretariat welcomed the lawyers of the Association in the impressive UN building.
The Council was chaired by Mr. Jonas Ebbesson of Sweden, Dean and Professor at the Law Faculty in Stockholm, and the members of the Council are all on the international scene, one of the best in the field of their work. The discussion was conducted in the official English language and, with a lunch break, lasted from 10 am to 5 pm.

During the discussion:
we have demonstrated that the public has the right to participate in the adoption of urban or municipal waste management plans (WMP), regardless of the fact that they are at the bottom of the waste management document hierarchy,
we have proved that the WMP brings a lot of news with which the public must necessarily be acquainted with in order to be accepted and thus viable,
we have proved that, therefore, it was within the competence of the environmental inspector to supervise the adoption of waste management plans, and by doing so did a great omission at the expense of the public interest
We proved that no one has a monopoly on knowledge
we have proven how important the mutual respect and cooperation between the governmental and non-governmental sector is to avoid unnecessary spending on such and similar disputes
Finally, on July 2013, we received a decision of the Council which accepted the Sunce’s argumentation and ordered a recommendation to the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Nature to clarify the application of Article 7. of the Convention on Public Participation in the Conduct of Waste Management Plans.

The Ministry has accepted the recommendations of the UN Aarhus Convention Council and has made it possible for the public to participate in the new Waste Management Act (NN094/13) when making waste management plans at the local level.

We will continue to closely monitor the application of the new Act, both in the area of public participation and in the area of primary waste management (waste prevention, reuse preparation, recycling, other processes such as energy recovery and waste disposal) and in particular providing citizens with opportunities of separate collection of waste in cities and municipalities, especially Splitsko-dalmatinska County and wider …