Why this story matters:
Have you ever been to Bratislava? It resembles many Eastern European cities. It is not downright ugly, but you can see that developers are very influential actors on the urban scene and sometimes they just do what they want when it comes to new buildings, shopping malls or even entire districts.
Over the past few days, Slovakia has seen a heated discussion about a new district in the center of town. It all began when two developers, HB Reavis and J&T RE, requested special permission, granted only to key investors, which would allow them to bypass local authorities and deal directly with the government in legal matters. They would thus gain the “status of a major investment”.
The idea that a new district would be designed by developers triggered ardent protests of activists and local governments. Experts warned politicians that if they allow developers to ignore the public, it would mark the end of local democracy. Surprisingly, the ministers of culture, agriculture and environment also joined the protests. Facing tremendous opposition, Deputy Prime Minister Pelligrini, who had initially brokered the deal, back off and the request was denied.
In Slovakia, we are not used to seeing politicians getting scared of the public and changing their minds, especially about a potential business opportunity. However, this time, it happened. And, at first, many people were simply too stunned to celebrate.
Details from the story:
- The concept of "major investment status" entered Slovak law more than ten years ago, when substantial foreign investors started to operate in the country and wanted to begin work immediately. Politicians were trying to render their arrival less bureaucratic.
- Deputy Prime Minister, Peter Pellegrini (from the ruling party Smer), was the one who negotiated the whole process with the investors and prepared the documents granting them special status.
- Surprisingly, the ministers of culture, agriculture and environment protested against some parts of the document. The heads of these ministries are from different political background than Pellegrini -- SNS + Most.
- According to commentators, Pellegrini's took a step back from granting the developers special permits because he was afraid of weakening Smer, which has been gradually loosing support.