Slovenia to Vote Against List of EU Priority Projects

23. 07. 2013

Slovenia to Vote Against List of EU Priority Projects

Slovenia will vote against a list of priority EU projects of common interest because of the inclusion of a disputed Italian gas terminal near the border with Slovenia, Infrastructure Minister Samo Omerzel announced on Monday. Later in the day, Foreign Minister Karl Erjavec said that the gas terminal will not be on the list.




Omerzel's announcement, which came after an unscheduled meeting of the government, represents a change on a previous position under which Slovenia was set to abstain from the vote.


Slovenia opposes the regasification plant that Italy wants to build in Aquilinia (Žavlje), a few kilometres from the Slovenian border, because of environmental concerns.


Despite the list including at least seven projects beneficial to Slovenia, the inclusion of the Aquilinia terminal has swayed the country to vote against the list, Omerzel said.


But given that it is expected to be the only country to vote against, its vote will be more symbolic than anything else and the list is expected to be confirmed.


Slovenia had previously planned to abstain and file a special statement opposing the gas terminal.


Omerzel said that the government had consulted with legal experts on the matter before coming to today's decision. "The vote against will be a clear indication of how problematic the Aquilinia project is for Slovenia."

He said his ministry has been striving for some time to have the plans halted and would continue to "fight to ensure that the project does not succeed".


While it remains unclear what course of action Slovenia would resort to in the future, Omerzel said that the country was ready to use all available means to prevent the project from going ahead.


Responding to the case, Prime Minister Alenka Bratušek said today that abstaining from the vote would limit Slovenia's legal avenues in challenging the plans for the terminal in court.


However, she said that she was sad that Slovenia would have to vote against seven of its own projects. "I hope we will not be sorry."


This is the only reason that Slovenia had planned to abstain from the vote, she told the press during a visit to the Ljubljana-based Chemical Institute. "We had assessed that voting against ourselves would not be the best choice," said Bratušek.


But later in the day, the foreign minister said the gas terminal would not be on the list. "I can assure that the Aquilinia terminal will not be onthe list. According to my information, the European Commission does not support this project."


There is no way the Commission will put the project on the list on 2 October, when the final vote will be taken, according to Erjavec, who spoke to the press on the sidelines of a foreign affairs ministerial.


Nothing dramatic will happen on Wednesday, he added, saying that the vote is nothing but a step in the process and that the important decision regarding the list will be made by the Commission in autumn. Moreover, "no decision of the European Commission will be made without Slovenia's consent," said Erjavec.

Today's decision to vote against the list due to the gas terminal was welcomed by Agriculture and Environment Minister Dejan Židan, who said that "we are against Aquilinia and want to show this in every possible way".


He said the vote against the list of projects would improve Slovenia's chances of winning a legal dispute in court if the matter goes that far. But like Omerzel he admitted that Slovenia's vote would be more symbolic than anything else.


Nevertheless, such a strong position by Slovenia on this issue is likely to prompt the European Commission to take another look at the issue and possibly set a date for additional coordination. This is something that Slovenia is hoping for, said Židan.


The government's decision comes a day after the opposition People's Party (SLS) called on the government to ensure that Slovenia votes against the list of priority projects since abstaining would represent silent consent.


A similar call was issued at the weekend by former Transport Minister Marko Pavliha and the Alpe Adria Green environmental organisation.


Alpe Adria Green said Slovenia's abstention in the vote would amount to a vote against the will of the local community in the Slovenian-Italian border region and against an unspoilt Slovenian coastline.


Source: The Slovenia Times


Slovenia to Vote Against List of EU Priority Projects