15. 12. 2010.

Law, Strategy, Regulation – is there any public participation in decisions related to the Protection of Nature?

During the last three months members of the “Natura 2000 Resource Center of Serbia” have experienced what it means to lobby for changes in laws. They found out how interesting it is to strategically plan biodiversity conservation and how they need to participate in the various processes that are taking place in Serbia, and are associated with the nature protection.

Intensive work began in September, after understanding that draft version of the Law Amending the Law on Nature Protection is at least inadequate! The common position of members of the Network was that such way to prepare any amendment to the law, as well as disregarding the opinion of professional institutions and organizations, can’t be good. The fundamental problem with a possible revision of the law represented Article13, which is related to protected natural resources. By these changes it becomes "an act directed towards satisfying enormous needs of business-sector on (usually unacceptably small) part of Serbian territory that includes the best preserved natural values and which is protected by the law " and Article 4 and Article 55 relating to the transposition of the Habitats Directive and Birds Directive in the Act. Articles 4 and 55 were also a problem – they refer to the transposition of the Habitats Directive and Birds Directive in the Law.

As the Government of the Republic of Serbia, at the time of our reactions, has already adopted a draft law (which then becomes a proposal), the only institution we were able to turn to was the Assembly of the Republic of Serbia - the Committee for Environmental Protection. We sent a letter to the Committee with our proposals for changes and additions. A lot of phone calls and meetings followed, including the one in the National Assembly.

The result: Minister Dulic explained in the Parliament the needs and the reasons for the adoption of the proposed set of laws, among others, the draft Law Amending the Law on Nature Protection. The Minister said, "that the Law should be returned to the Committee on Environment of the Assembly of Serbia in order to find a compromise between Article 13 of the Proposal, and Article 35 of the valid Law."

And then everything was settled in the traditional way: people sat down together and reached an agreement! On the website of the Ministry of Environment a new version of the Draft Law on Amendments to Law on Protection of Nature has appeared, which is different to the one that the Serbian parliament adopted on 23 November 23 2010.

A compromise was reached to some extent. However, the general dissatisfaction with the process, as well as non-involvement of the public, remains.

In the meantime, NGOs were invited to submit their comments on a draft Strategy for biodiversity in Serbia. Comments of the network members were unified and sent to the Ministry. Unfortunately, most of the suggestions of NGOs were not taken into account. Regardless, we hope that we had a great influence on decision makers.

Then we made suggestions for the improvement of the Regulation on ecological networks. We received hearty appreciation for this participation in commenting and submitting suggestions to this document by the Ministry. We are still waiting for the final version of the Regulation.

It is not easy to participate in the decision making process. Not at all! Though young, the network “Natura 2000 Resource Center of Serbia” has shown that it has sufficient knowledge, will and motivation to be a participant in those important processes. As stated at the beginning of the text, we have learned that we “must''. For how it should be, what is the best for all and how it works in other social environments, unfortunately can’t be applied in Serbia.

Milka Gvozdenovic,
Young Researchers of Serbia

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