Why this story matters:
This is the first Croatian case of “strategic lawsuit against public participation” -- the so-called "SLAPP" strategy -- which aims to censor and intimidate opponents by forcing them to spend money to defend themselves during expensive and time-consuming court trials.
For example, in 2017 Canadian logging company Resolute Forest Products Inc. filed a multi-million dollar lawsuit against Greenpeace in response to the organization’s advocacy work against deforestation. The lawsuit was dismissed in court, but the NGO still incurred significant costs.
Although criticized by civil society worldwide, the trick has proven to be effective for many corporations.
If the Croatian golf course case effectively takes the environmental groups out of the game, we can expect the trend to catch on throughout the Balkans.
Details from the story:
- The Dutch company “Elitech” and the Croatian company “Razvoj Golf” is suing the activists of the environmental association "Zelena akcija" for damages to their golf course project. The latter would transform the plateau of Dubrovnik's Srđ hill into a luxury golf resort complex.
- The investors claim that the complex would enrich the existing tourist attractions of Dubrovnik with a variety of sporting and recreational facilities, hotels and restaurants.
- Civil society groups claim the contrary -- that the project will harm the environment and jeopardize the UNESCO-protected area of Dubrovnik.
- Activists filed several lawsuits against the construction of the resort on Srđ hill over the past decade. As a result, construction permits were denied. However, last year they were re-issued after investors submitted a compensation claim worth 500 million euros against the Republic of Croatia at the International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID).
- Additionally, investors sued Croatian activists, claiming 27,000 euros of compensation. If the court judges in favor of the investors, "Zelena akcija" might be forced to close down.
- According to "Zelena Akcija", in addition to damage fees, the investors are also requesting that representatives of "Zelena Akcija" be barred from approaching their premises.