As is known, most of the disagreements between the Minister of Natural Resources and Spatial Planning, Uroš Brežan, and Prime Minister Robert Golob occurred regarding topics (culling of bears and nutrias, poisonous fruit) in which his partner, Tina Gaber, regularly intervened. Officially, Brežan resigned due to the slow reorganisation of work after the August storm. However, there is another topic that potentially led to the departure of one of the best ministers in Golob’s government – Janković’s “sewage pipe”.
Recall that on Monday, October 2nd, Uroš Brežan met with Prime Minister Robert Golob, who “informed” him at the meeting that their paths were parting ways, and the Ministry of Natural Resources and Spatial Planning would be temporarily taken over by Minister Alenka Bratušek.
Officially, Golob is said to have lost confidence in Brežan’s work, as the reorganisation of work at many ministries had to take place following the August storm, and it was believed that the Ministry of Natural Resources and Spatial Planning was not proceeding quickly enough in this regard. However, Brežan denied this in his resignation statement: “Allow me to clearly reject the explanation that accompanied my resignation statement last Wednesday: that through our ministry, municipalities did not receive funds for reconstruction quickly enough. The funds in question were actually credited to our ministry only on Wednesday, October 4th, on the very same day. We cannot be blamed so simply for something we could not have done before. All of you present here know that the obstacles to a faster processing of these funds are, in fact, in regulations and processes beyond our ministry, and they should be addressed there,” he emphasised and indirectly directed pointed words towards Prime Minister Robert Golob.
The minister thus rejected Golob’s accusations, and Golob did not respond to his words further, and no journalist asked him about it anymore. However, another theory emerges as to why Brežan had to leave.
Must the minister leave because of the “sewage pipes”?
As reported, the City Municipality of Ljubljana decided to apply for a building permit for the last few hundred meters of the contentious C0 canal in the Stožice area. However, the decisions made by the “Brežan’s” Ministry of Climate and Energy (MOPe) continue to raise questions, as they have ruled that a comprehensive environmental impact assessment is necessary for the construction of canal C0. The City of Ljubljana, however, interprets this decision differently and has not taken any action on this matter.
Environmentalists, as well as the opposition within the City of Ljubljana, want the Administrative Unit to invalidate the building permit, and the Directorate for Water, which operates under MOPe, to invalidate the water consent. Former Minister of the Environment, Miha Jazbinšek, stated that the annulment was filed a month and a half ago. In case the institutions do not respond within a reasonable time, he plans to file a criminal complaint. For now, there is still a missing segment of the sewage canal at Stožice. In September, the municipality applied for a building permit, even though they included a decision from the Environmental Agency (Arso) from 2015, although it is well-known that Arso changed its decision in the meantime. Despite consistently claiming they already had a building permit; the City of Ljubljana seems to have chosen to ignore this fact. Jazbinšek believes that the permit will not be issued, stating, “It cannot be any other way. This annulment of the 2013 water consent means that the entire project will fail.”
The entire project now hangs in the balance and is entirely dependent on the decision of the Directorate for Water and the decision on the (delayed) comprehensive assessment of the C0 canal’s impact on the environment. It is entirely possible that Minister Brežan did not want to influence the decision of his department’s directorate and had to resign. Recall that Zoran Janković has behaved as if he were a kind of shadow prime minister since the beginning of the government’s mandate, while Robert Golob, who was once his subordinate, behaves as if Janković is still his boss. He attended meetings of the Gibanje Svboda party as a sort of party “father”, just as Kučan used to attend Social Democrats’ meetings and Drnovšek attended LDS meetings in the past. Now, another once-subordinate figure from the same political milieu, “Positive Slovenian” Alenka Bratušek, will take over the ministry.
In the coming weeks, we will see if the “sewage pipes” are also part of the story of Brežan’s resignation. If MOPe suddenly drops the demand for a comprehensive assessment of the environmental impact of the C0 canal, and the Directorate for Water issues a building permit consent, it may be time for the police, prosecutors, and the Commission for the Prevention of Corruption to become involved. This will involve scrutinising all decisions made by officials in the ministries to check for potential corruption. Positive Slovenia still exists; it is just named Gibanje Svoboda now.