Major transport projects set for green light as EC agrees exemptions

Photo: CTK

The Czech Republic has negotiated a deal in Brussels that spells a green light for a number of major transport projects, the country’s prime minister announced on Wednesday. The projects will not now require fresh environmental impact assessments, meaning Prague should soon be able to access tens of billions of crowns in EU funding.

Photo: CTK
The Czech Republic’s long-running failure to adopt new rules has resulted in a situation in which scores of planned transport projects in the country possess environmental impact assessments (EIAs) that are many years old.

The European Commission will no longer accept EIAs dating back in some cases to the 1990s, meaning the Czech Republic cannot draw on EU funds for such projects.

On the periphery of post-Brexit talks in Brussels, Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka found time to discuss the impasse on EIAs with the president of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker.

And, on Wednesday morning, Mr. Sobotka announced a breakthrough. The commission is willing to make an exception on 10 transport projects – if Prague adopts EIA legislation soon.

“If we hadn’t reached agreement with the European Commission, it would have meant at least one year spent acquiring completely new environmental impact assessments on those motorway construction projects. And one year is estimated as the minimum time period.”

Bohuslav Sobotka,  photo: CTK
Legislation introducing new rules on environmental impact assessments has already been drafted and the prime minister said he hoped the Chamber of Deputies would rubberstamp it in the first reading.

Mr. Sobotka said he trusted the opposition would act in the national interest and allow the bill to pass through Parliament unopposed.

The Czech Republic stands to receive tens of billions of crowns in EU money for the transport projects granted an exemption, the prime minister said.

The projects in question – which may now get up and running next year – include nine sections of motorway and one railway line.

The Czech government had been pushing for an exception for an 11th project – a ring road around Prague – but the Ministry of the Environment removed it from the list, saying it needed to be fine-tuned.

Photo: CTK
Though the prime minister announced the breakthrough as “good news!” on Twitter, many key projects have not been granted an exception and will have to remain on ice for now.

Indeed, over 100 transport projects expected to cost a total of around CZK 130 billion fall into this category.

Fresh environmental impact assessments will take at least a year and a half.