The Group for Legal and Political Studies (GLPS) and GAIA Kosovo, the two non-government organisations responsible for requesting the annulment of the water permits for the plant, welcomed the Supreme Court ruling.
“[The ruling is] a very big win for the citizens of Shterpce,” celebrated Arber Fetahu from GLPS, “because it means that with the suspension of the water permits for the Brezovica hydropower plant, the constructing company cannot apply for environmental permits, the issue of which is a precondition for the operation of the hydropower plant”.
The Supreme Court ruling overturns an earlier decision by the Kosovo Court of Appeal, which previously ruled in favour of the hydropower plant for reasons of “public interest.”
The Supreme Court, however, said it found that the plaintiffs had provided enough evidence that the public would be damaged by the power plant, and that the suspension of permits was both in favour of public interest and would not cause substantial losses to the constructing company.
The GAIA and GLPS say they sued against the water permit for the Brezovica plant on the ground that it was the only one given so far by the Ministry of Environment, even though the organisations have requested water permits for other hydropower plants over the past year.
Moreover, activists argue that the human rights of the Shterpce/Strpce citizens had been violated, citing their exclusion from a “public debate” that was held regarding the hydropower plants.
“The whole procedure since the start has been non-transparent, which was written even in the Ministry’s [of Environment] report itself,” Fetahu argued.
In addition to damage to the local ecosystem that would be caused by the planned hydropower plant, citizens of the area have also voiced concern about water scarcity caused by construction of the project.
Europe’s transition to renewable energy has caused controversy across the Balkans region. In Albania, where hydropower produces almost 100% of the country’s electricity, communities impacted by these dams are taking many of these projects to court. In less than six months, Albanian courts have halted the construction of three hydropower projects across the country.
Several communities across Kosovo have protested planned hydropower projects since authorities began pushing for hydropower development a decade ago.