Government representatives forgot the promises given to the residents of Kolašin villages who are fighting to preserve the local rivers

Centre for Civic Education (CCE) again urges the Government of Montenegro to finally, after a year of protests by the population of Kolašin villages, make a decision to terminate harmful concession agreements for the construction of small hydropower plants “Crnja”, “Crni potok” and “Ljubaštica” in Kraljske Bare, as well as small hydropower plant “Skrbuša” in Rečine, and to provide basic human rights to these citizens guaranteed by Montenegrin legislation and international conventions.

CCE notes that the pre-election promises of the Deputy Prime Minister and other representatives ruling majority to the citizens of this area remain empty as are empty riverbeds on the ground.

The Government should publicly and honestly determine whether its priority is the public interest, which is also defended by the locals, or the interest of unscrupulous concessionaires. In addition, how these concessions are obtained should be professionally addressed by the Special State Prosecutor’s Office to determine whether there are elements of a criminal offence in these actions.

The new Government had enough time to determine the irregularities of the previous Government in this case, through the Commission formed by the Ministry of Capital Investments, as a concessionaire, and the Ministry of Ecology, Spatial Planning and Urbanism, as a body that issues construction permits and conducts inspection supervision of the construction.

CCE, as well as the residents of Kraljske Bare, sent extensive documentation and through accompanying requests pointed out how the irregularities were committed, and at organized meetings with locals in both ministries explained in detail where the omissions and illegal actions were made. Unfortunately, the voice of the locals was heard only by concessionaires who used warnings about individual irregularities to “cover” themselves with retroactive actions and backdating of documents (which is a separate crime) and which they did not have at the time of obtaining building permits, i.e. when the works began. We have repeatedly pointed out that the Annex to the Concession Agreement, from December 2019, in the case of rivers in Kraljske Bare is null and void because it was adopted based on the Government Conclusion, which is contrary to positive regulations and ethical principles.

For more than a year, the local population has been organizing day and night guards on the rivers and fighting for basic human rights against an arrogant concessionaire and “dormant” judicial bodies in Kolašin. Unfortunately, a solution to these problems is not yet in sight, and the locals have missed another season and harvest, bringing themselves on the verge of starvation and despair. And in that state, they are fighting a dignified battle, taking care to respect law and order, and protecting themselves from the arrogant concessionaire, but also his equipment and materials from any malicious attempts to damage someone else’s property.

CCE expresses concern that the Prosecutor’s Office in Kolašin, for almost a year, has not acted on the criminal charges of that population on the basis of substantiated evidence. This approach is followed by the Basic Court in Kolašin. On the other hand, the same Prosecutor’s Office and the Court have a strange understanding of everything that is important to concessionaires in this municipality and promptly act in the direction of satisfying their interests by adopting temporary measures and preventing the local population from defending fundamental rights.

In this regard, CCE condemns yesterday’s arrest of property owners in the village of Rečine, who tried to prevent the continuation of work on the small hydropower plant Skrbuša, which is being built by d.o.o. Hydro Logistics. A measure of a temporary ban on works by this concessionaire on that facility is underway, which was passed by the Directorate for Inspection Affairs in May. It is very unusual that the Basic Court in Kolašin issues a Decision according to which the locals and property owners cannot prevent the continuation of works on that facility, even though the inspection banned those same works.

CCE assesses that it is high time for the Special State Prosecutor’s Office to focus on this and to consider each criminal report individually, and determine whether there are elements of the criminal offence of criminal association against persons who concluded harmful concession agreements and extended it with annexes for construction of small hydropower plant “Crnja”, small hydropower plant “Crni potok” and small hydropower plant “Ljubaštica”, which are being built in Kraljske Bare in the Municipality of Kolašin. It seems clear that the investor “Dekar“ d.o.o. and the contractor d.o.o. “Dekar Energy“, as well as the construction inspectors of the former Ministry of Sustainable Development and Tourism, and the current Ministry of Ecology, Spatial Planning and Urbanism, participated in the illegal construction of these three small hydropower plants in Kraljske Bare by providing the findings of false findings and various statements in relation to the terrain. The competent managers and officials of the former Ministry of Sustainable Development and Tourism as well as the Ministry of Economy, who in an unscrupulous and inconsistent manner concluded harmful concession agreements, made numerous and illegal concessions to the privileged concessionaire.

CCE for more than a year, with initiatives and letters to the competent ministries in the previous and this Government, points out that the concession agreement concluded in 2008 with d.o.o. “Dekar” for the construction of small hydropower plants on the Crnja watercourse produced harmful consequences. This contract illegally included the construction of three small hydropower plants on watercourses of other rivers for which no concession agreements were concluded, so consequently, construction permits for small hydropower plants “Crni potok” and “Ljubaštica” could not be obtained in 2011.

To make it worse, the water of the river Čestogaz was stolen, since it does not belong to the watercourse for which the Decision on the concession on this terrain was issued in 2008, and for which no building permit was obtained, and the concessionaire contractor D.O.O. “Dekar” has been conducting the construction dynamics of works on this water since July 2020. Hence, the criminal offence of theft of a protected natural asset in the Komovi Regional Nature Park was committed, as there is no document based on which the investor was allowed to start works in that water.

CCE emphasizes the fact that judicial and prosecutorial bodies are agile when it comes to sanctioning the local population that is against the construction of these small hydropower plants, while according to the criminal complaint filed by the residents of Kraljske Bare, from 30 September 2020, in sight of significant material evidence, the Basic Prosecutor’s Office in Kolašin did not implement adequate measures and actions after more than 10 months. Therefore, due to the negligent work of the competent prosecutor and the delay in the proceedings, the CCE will send a request to the Prosecutorial Council to initiate its disciplinary responsibility, as well as those prosecutors from whom it may have inherited this case.

Snežana Kaluđerović, Senior Legal Advisor