STA, 11 February 2019 - Magna Steyr, the Austrian car industry supplier, might delay the launch of its new paint shop in Slovenia due to uncertainty over an environmental permit that has been bogged down due to appeals by a green NGO.
The EUR 160m plant in Hoče, south of Maribor, is ready for launch. A test run was scheduled to begin this month and the plant was expected to fulfil orders that Magna Styer's main production facility in Graz can no longer handle.
But the company told the STA Monday it had started organisational preparations to carry out the contracts in Graz, although it was also hopeful a solution could be found to launch the Hoče plant quickly.
The news comes just days after the Environment and Spatial Planning Ministry rejected an appeal against the environmental permit for the paint shop filed by the Regional Environmental Association of Environmentalists (ROVO), a local NGO.
The organisation has said it will press ahead and challenge the rejection in court, which means it could theoretically take months or even years before the courts have had their say.
ROVO objects to the plant having been built in a water protection area and has said the government could deal with the matter simply by changing the special law it adopted for the investment to specify that it is permitted to build such facilities in water protection areas.
The government has not responded to the idea yet beyond the Economy Ministry saying that a meeting with ROVO was planned in the coming days, after Environment Minister Jure Leben returns from a visit to Finland.
University, unions and others support the plant
The environmental NGO has come under heavy fire from multiple stakeholders in the region, including the local authorities, regional chamber of commerce, the University of Maribor and the 200 workers already hired to operate the plant.
The latest appeal came Monday, when SKEI, a large trade union, said it was concerned about a situation that poses a grave risk to the project and employees.
SKEI's regional head for Podravje Martin Dular said the NGO may be "overdoing it with its demand."
Gorazd Marinček of ROVO meanwhile noted for the STA that Magna representatives had delayed the equipping of the plant in Hoče, as a test run had been originally planned to be launched already in October 2018.
Magna submitted the documentation for environmental permit four months after the deadline, he said, adding that "after all that, attributing a 14-day or one-month delay to environmentalists is mere cynicism or excuse."
Marinček also pointed to the indications from "the sources from Magna itself" that the paint shop has only 200 orders so far for this year. "It is therefore logical that they will abolish outsourcing and concentrate the things in the core plant."