Golf lawsuit threatens to ruin Friends of the Earth Croatia

21. 2. 2018 - DUBROVNIK
From the Srđ Hill the view over Dubrovnik is marvelous
Photo: S. J. Pinkney (Wikimedia Commons)

Opposing a controversial golf resort above Dubrovnik might bankcrupt the environmental initiative.The company ‘Razvoj golf’ owned by Dutch financial holding Elitech demands around €30,000 in damages. Environmentalists allegedly harmed the company's reputation as well as the public interest by pointing out several legal breaches and discrepancies in permit providing process. Those allegations, however, have been confirmed by Croatian courts.

 

 

The golf resort twenty times larger than the city itself will cause several problems and health risk to the citizens of Dubrovnik, the environmentalists say.

The argument goes on for more than a decade now. The hugely unpopular and currently illegal golf resort planned on closeby Srđ Hill was even an issue local referendum in 2013 with 84% disapproval of the project. Due to the court decisions in following years it had lost its permits by 2017.

The very same year in September, the investor filed a €500 million claim against the Republic of Croatia at an arbitration tribunal because the "state [had taken] away their development licences". However, the licences were not taken away in fact, as they were annulled in a judicial procedure, in which the company took part.

Effort on bankruptcy?

Just recently, the activists also are about to face trial. The investor has filed two complaints against Zelena akcija/Friends of the Earth Croatia seeking 200,000 HRK (around €30,000) - an amount that could force the organisation to shut down.

The plaintiff is also looking for ways how to ban activists from speaking publicly about the project.

Despite the verdict

The state issued a new environmental permit, followed soon after by a new location permit, just six weeks after the arbitration claim. Therefore, the state ignored the ruling of the its own court.

First, in 2014 a verdict sweeped of a proposal to triple the size of the project - from 100 to 310 hectares. However, this the decision was since then ignored by the official responsible, the Dubrovnik-Neretva county chief.

Later, in September 2016, environmental permit granted to the project in 2013 was overturned and this was followed in February 2017, by annulment of a location permit.

In a nutshell, the latest state’s decision was based entirely on the same documents as the previous one, meaning the 'new' environmental permit was simply a copy of the original which had been overturned by the court.

In people’s infavor

The enormous golf resort has raised serious concern from the very beginning. In 2006 local activist have started opposing the project and forming an initiative named “Srđ je naš” (Srđ is ours) backed in 2010 by Zelena akcija/Friends of the Earth Croatia and Right to the City.

The original plan was for the golf resort to be secured through construction of a hydro-power plant on the river Ombla, the source of drinking water for the whole Dubrovnik area, an idea eventually abandoned after strong pressure from Zelena akcija / Friends of the Earth Croatia and other local initiatives from Dubrovnik led to European banks withdrawing finance.

However, the resort would still require huge amounts of water to maintain, and dramatically increase pesticide use.

In a 2013 referendum organised by Srđ is ours, 84% of local residents who voted came out against it. While the turnout was lower than would have been needed for the referendum to be binding, it was a clear demonstration of public discontent.

In the past the “Srđ is ours” initiative have been supported also by the UNESCO. That's because the city of Dubrovnik was enlisted to the list of World Heritage Sites already in 1979.


Further reading:
Golf lawsuit threatens to shut down Friends of the Earth Croatia (Bilaterals.org)
Golf lawsuit threatens to shut down Friends of the Earth Croatia (Foeeurope.org)
The company „Razvoj golf“ gets a permit for condo-isation, Green Action gets a lawsuit! (Zelena-akcija.hr)
Razvoj Golf and Elitech Initiate Arbitration Against State over Golf in Dubrovnik (Total-croatia-news.com)
Community resists landgrab in Dubrovnik (Natures-keepers.org)