A decision made by the Minister of Regional Development and EU Funds has allegedly brought into question environmental protection projects.
Due to a decision made by the Ministry of Regional Development and EU Funds to shorten the deadline for nature parks to register for EU projects through a public competition announced in April, 20 projects worth more than 620 million kuna are in danger of not being implemented, reports poslovni.hr on July 31, 2016.
The Ministry of Regional Development and EU Funds, in agreement with the Ministry of Environment Protection and Nature, issued a public call in April for the submission of projects for EU funds. At the time, it was agreed that the deadline for submission of projects would run until the end of 2017. However, the Ministry of Regional Development and EU Funds changed the deadline, and shortened in for as much as 14 months, to 31 October 2016. The decision was made on 18 July unilaterally, without consultations with the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Nature.
The Ministry of Environment Protection and Nature was unpleasantly surprised by such a move because it believes that it represents “obstruction of projects that are important for the sustainable development of parks and areas around them”. “We cannot find a rational explanation for this sudden shortening of deadlines”, states a letter which has been sent by directors of nature parks to the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Nature. “We hope that the EU Funds Minister Tomislav Tolušić is aware of harmful effects of the decision taken by his Ministry, which jeopardizes the implementation of projects”, said a source from the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Nature.
The Ministry claims that Tolušić intervened and tried to change projects in order to include elements which could not be co-financed from EU funds since they do not meet the criteria. For example, he asked the directors to seek construction of convention centres and ports which would be located outside the boundaries of nature parks. “For this reason, the European Commission could have declined to approve the projects”, said the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Nature.
The director of the Brijuni National Park Sandro Dujmović said that directors of all national parks had agreed that the new deadline was illogical and too short. Therefore, they appealed to the Ministry of Regional Development and EU Funds to return the original deadline.
Given the parliamentary elections coming in September, it is important to note that the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Nature is controlled by MOST, while the Ministry of Regional Development and EU Funds is part of the HDZ quota.