Koper, Slovenia (PortSEurope) July 5, 2017 – The Slovenian National Assembly has set September 24 as the date for a referendum on the proposed government-sponsored law on the Koper-Divača rail upgrade. The decision was backed in a 50:18 vote on July 4, with Assembly members holding differing views.
Therefore, MPs endorsed the proposal by the parliamentary Infrastructure, Environment and Spatial Planning Committee that referendum proceedings for the 27 km line, designed to speed up freight traffic between the city of Divaca and Slovenia’s state-owned Adriatic seaport at Luka Koper, start on July 6.
Slovenian Prime Minister Miro Cerar insists on the planned upgrade of the Koper-Divaca railway line despite the referendum on the project to be held at the request of local citizens. Cerar said he would not try prevent the referendum, which is a constitutional right.
An organisation of local citizens, the “Taxpayers Standing Our Ground” initiative, has collected enough signatures to call for a referendum on the construction of a second track along the railway line connecting Koper (Slovenia’s only sea port) to the Divaca logistics hub.
The group wanted the vote to take place on the same day as the presidential election, which has not been called yet. Vili Kovačič, the head of the initiative, said that he would seek constitutional review of the decision and will file a request for a temporary suspension of the decision with the Constitutional Court.
The project is among the most important infrastructure upgrades in Slovenia and will ensure the future of Koper port, Cerar said. The construction is supported by the European Commission and the European Investment Bank (EIB).
The position of the government is that the referendum should be carried out as soon as possible so that the government can focus on executing the project. It said that it set up a clear financing plan with the investment valued at less than €1 billion ($1.12 billion).
The opposition Democratic Party (SDS) did not back in Parliament the proposal for the vote to be held on 24 September but proposed 12 November instead. SDS MP Ljubo Žnidar, whose party helped collect the required signatures for the referendum, opposed the idea of setting up 2TDK, the company established to manage the project. If Slovenia established a company for every 27 km of rail tracks, there would be 60 such companies now, he said.
The government has already won €44.3 million ($50.25 million) of EU funds for preparation of the track, while neighbouring landlocked Hungary had said it is ready to invest about €200 million ($226.87 million) as it relies on Koper for much of its sea freight.
A rejection by voters would put the project on hold for at least a year, and most likely longer as a parliamentary election is due in mid-2018.
An opinion poll published by Delo daily newspaper indicated that 56% of those who planned to vote would reject the project, but left unclear whether enough voters would turn out to make the rejection binding.
Source: Slovenia Times