Belgrade – An environmental protection group is challenging the way local authorities have granted Linglong permits for the construction of its 13 million tires/year plant in Zrenjanin, Serbia.
Under Serbian law, the €800-million tires factory project must undergo environmental impact assessment (EIA) procedures, and it also falls under IPPC regulation which require integrated environmental permit, according to Renewables and Environmental Regulatory Institute (RERI).
In March 2019, an agreement was signed transferring 96 hectares of land to the Chinese group for the purposes of building a factory, noted the Belgrade-based NGO.
According to a RERI statement, land for the project was fenced off during 2019 without any environmental assessment being conducted.
Earlier this year, it added, City of Zrenjanin authorities issued a building permit for the first phase of construction of auxiliary facilities at the site "contrary to applicable regulations."
The permit was followed by a formal request on 31 March from Linglong International Europe d.o.o. for a decision on the need for an environmental impact assessment (EIA) of the project.
However, said the NGO, amid the Covid-19 state-of-emergency, city authorities suspended the decision-making process, while also rejecting 215 local objections to the project as "unfounded."
“The decision of the city authority is extraordinary by any means […as] it was issued in a form which has not been prescribed by law, i. e. the procedure was suspended,” said RERI legal expert Hristina Vojvodic.
The authority, she said, is legally obliged to issue a decision on whether or not an EIA study is necessary: and even if a study is not required, this decision must still address environmental protection measures.
“By suspending the procedures, the city authority disabled effective public participation and enabled the investor to continue with construction works without being bothered by the additional environmental protection measures,” Vojvodic concluded.