After the environmental associations gathered in the Green Forum appealed to the problematic provisions of the new Law on Maritime Property and Sea Ports, the final text of the Law was adapted in accordance with many requests. However, the disputed provisions concerning the concession of maritime property remain and create great fear about the possible favoring of large corporations.
We highlight some changes that the Green Forum advocated, and which were adopted in the final proposal:
- greater emphasis on the protection of the environment and nature by prescribing ecological damage, stricter construction conditions and other interventions on the maritime property, respect for the degree of protection of the maritime property and the involvement of public institutions for the management of protected parts of nature in the management and supervision of the maritime property;
- explicit bans on restricting access to beaches in all forms of economic use of maritime property where this is not necessarily necessary;
- stricter control over the method of replenishment of beaches, prohibition of replenishment with soil and waste;
- clear and stricter provisions on beach filling, categorization of filling under construction;
- reducing the percentage of beach space on which the concessionaire can perform activities;
- limitation of the term for issuing concessions for natural beaches and concessions on request on maritime property to five years.
There are exceptions that are not clearly defined
In the chapters related to concessions, there are exceptions that are not clearly defined, such as Article 52, paragraph 4, which states that if there are justified economic interests and the concession also includes the construction of new buildings with investments that cannot be amortized, the Government of the Republic of Croatia can grant concession for a period of over 50 years! From the example of Hilton Costabello, which also received a concession for 30 years because the Government declared that project to be of strategic importance, we witness that the concessionaire fenced off the beach and did not provide access to citizens, which clearly shows how such a provision can be misused.
If we add to that the possibility of issuing a concession upon request for public, organized sea beaches and the possibility of establishing a lien on the concession – which allows large corporations and banks to cede a large part of the maritime property without the possibility of a public tender, i.e. a transparent procedure – we wonder with reason whether do such provisions open the door to privatization?
Although it is expressly stated that on-demand concessions related to hotels and campsites will not be able to be fenced off and charged for, recent examples from Savudrija and the Petram complex show that in practice the exact opposite happens. Only thanks to public pressure and citizens’ protests due to numerous irregularities, the state ordered the termination of the concession contract for Alberi beach!
We will carefully monitor and report such cases with the citizens, because in accordance with Article 203 of the new Law, a penalty of 6,000 to 33,000 euros is foreseen for the concessionaire if he fences, otherwise restricts access to a public sea beach or illegally supplements the beach.
The law also failed to provide a clear framework for the management of maritime assets in the area of the ecological network. This will make it significantly more difficult to preserve coastal and marine habitats in accordance with the European Union Habitats Directive, especially protection against anchoring and ensuring a good conservation status of posidonia meadows.
There remains a well-founded fear – will the mechanisms be used in favor of maritime property or private interests?
The new text of the Law seeks to provide mechanisms for the protection of maritime property, but there remains a well-founded fear – will the mechanisms be used in favor of maritime property or private interests? Will all bodies involved in management and supervision really perform their duties in a coordinated manner, or will everyone continue to usurp maritime property at their own discretion, in a collision of responsibilities?
We would like to remind you that even today beach replenishment is generally controlled by local self-government units, and there are countless cases in which replenishment was carried out by local self-government units without real need, unprofessionally and with enormous damage to the marine environment. In the implementation of the Law, it will be extremely important to prioritize sustainable planning and management concepts that have long-term benefits for citizens and the environment in mind.
Of course, implementation does not depend only on public authorities. It was through joint efforts in January and the organization of gatherings throughout Croatia that we expressed our demands with the help of citizens and encouraged greater public discussion and the openness of public bodies to dialogue.
We invite citizens to continue to keep a watchful eye on how our sea and coast are managed! According to the provisions of the new law, they can report their suspicions of illegal activities on maritime assets to inspectors of maritime assets, maritime stewards within local self-government units and nature guards when maritime assets are located in a protected area.
What is the Green Forum?
We remind you that the Green Forum network was founded in 1997, which today brings together 27 civil society organizations from the Republic of Croatia that deal with the protection of the environment and nature. They combine knowledge and resources for more successful awareness, advocacy and influence on public policies in the field of environmental and nature protection. It exerts influence and monitoring of the implementation of public policies through its representatives in numerous committees, working groups and commissions at the national level, as well as in the Council for the Development of Civil Society of the Government of the Republic of Croatia.
The members of the Green Forum are:
Brod Ecological Society – BED; Society for the Design of Sustainable Development (DOOR); Ecological Association “EKO-OMBLIĆI”, Rijeka dubrovačka; Ecological Association “Krka”, Knin; Ecological Association “Zeleni Zagreb pod Slemenom”; Ecological Association “Eko-Eko”, Komin; Croatian Society for the Protection of Birds and Nature (HDZPP); Blue World Institute; Lika Ecological Action (LEA); Marjan Society for the Protection and Improvement of Marjan; Pan, Association for the Protection of the Environment and Nature; Association “UNA”; Biom Association; Association Society of Sea Explorers – 20,000 miles; Association Hyla; Association for Sustainable Development of Croatia (Uzor Hrvatske); Association for Nature, Environment and Sustainable Development Sunce; Association for Promotion of Ecological Food Production, Environmental Protection and Sustainable Development “Eko-Zadar”:đ; Association for Nature and Environment Protection and the Promotion of Sustainable Development “Argonauta”; Association for the Protection of Nature and the Environment “Zeleni Osijek”; Association “Green Istra”, the Association “Žmergo”; Environmental Protection Organization “Nobilis”; Green Action and Green Action Mičevec.