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Environmentalists could block final stage of D8 construction

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The final section of the D8 motorway between Prague and Dresden, which will cost almost CZK 12 billion in total, may now be financed by the state alone. An injection of EUR 300 million (CZK 7.5 billion) in European funds for the section between Lovosice and Řehlovice has come under threat. The European Commission claims various issues are affecting the project, which has also come under fire from local environmentalists. They plan to file a complaint in Brussels requesting that the EU withhold funds.

The Czech Republic faces international humiliation alongside the loss of funds . “There’s something strange when the members of an EU member state can’t agree on anything and they attack each other in Brussels,” said an unnamed source.

The D8 situation recalls a similar case involving speedway route R52 between Brno and Vienna when environmentalists succeeded in their Brussels filings. It is still unclear whether EU funds will be given for the construction. In February, the European Commission, which is required to approve any project costing more that EUR 50 million, returned the Czech application for co-financing of D8. “We asked the Czech Republic to specify the basis of expected costs and to justify its demand for an EU subsidy for VAT payments, which is not something the EU usually provides. We also asked the ČR to assess the environmental impact of the construction,” said Dennis Abbott, EC spokesman last Thursday.

The Transport Ministry complied with these requirements in May. According to Abbott, EU executive powers then blocked the Czech application again. “This was due to the absence of information about the environmental impact,” Abbott said.

Environmental players have entered the debate too. “We are putting together a complaint regarding the unlawful actions of state bodies when approving the motorway,” Miroslav Patrik, head of Children of the Earth, told E15.

The Children of the Earth allege, in particular, that during discussions of the impact of the future motorway on the environment of České středohoří (studies SEA and EIA), no attention was paid to the different options for the direction of the road. They also claim that the public was excluded from the decision-making process.

Those are the same issues that the Brussels officials were questioning. “They were interested in the whole process of approval in the past and in whether the construction has really been reviewed in terms of EU legislation,” said Tomáš Čoček of the State Fund for Transport Infrastructure. The Transport Ministry will attempt to explain the matter to the EC again in detail. This will include public input. “It’s common practice with this kind of construction,” Čoček said. The Transport Ministry is confident that it will ultimately succeed in Brussels. “We don’t know about any complaint from environmentalists ,” said Tomáš Kaas, the minister’s deputy.

Environmentalists also had an impact on the fate of the R52 speedway between Brno and Vienna, which remains unclear to this day. Environmental activists argued successfully in that case that the discussions to date had considered only one route through Mikulov. The European Commission then made its financial support conditional on the state’s consideration of alternative routes to Vienna. The Ministry also believes it was be successful in this instance.

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