COMMENTARY: New Property Expropriation Act
Last week, Justice Minister Orsat Miljenic proudly announced changes to the national property Expropriation Act to be sent to the government cabinet in the coming weeks for approval and then sent to the Sabor for ratification.
The changes in the legislation are meant to expedite the process for the government to expropriate property (i.e. nationalise) for the projects that are declared to be Strategic Projects of State Interest. This power to take private property for public use by a state or national government is commonly known as Eminent Domain or Compulsory Purchase, and is a common practice in democracies worldwide.
However, most country’s models of eminent domain includes either the legislative and/or the judiciary in the decision-making process. Unfortunately, Miljenic’s proposed legislation is quite efficient, but completely excludes the Sabor or the local authority assembly in the decision-making process for the particular property to be expropriated and gives the Executive Branch (i.e. Ministry of Justice) the “court of first instance” authority to decide upon eminent domain, which raises questions of constitutionality, especially in regards to the right to property ownership.
There is no question that the present process of property expropriation is cumbersome and inefficient, which has resulted in the very slow progress in the realisation of nationally strategic projects, such as the Port of Rijeka development, railway reconstruction/modernisation, Kupari resort, the LNG Terminal, etc…