A bill drafted by the interior ministry seeking to simplify bureaucratic procedures for large-scale investments is in the hands of the legal service and is expected to be tabled before parliament within the coming weeks.
Hefty bureaucratic procedures for large-scale developments is nothing new, neither are efforts to simplify the procedure currently driving investors away.
The bill narrows the list of planning authorities, creates a Directorate for Strategic Investment Management, defines the term ‘large investment’ and changes the environmental assessment process.
Under the bill, authorisation is granted after the completion of 13 steps, and within 12 months at the latest after the commencement of proceedings.
The bill also creates a key position, that of project manager, who will mediate between the investor and state authority.
The proposed investment law will be implemented in cases of strategic investment. For an investment to be characterised as strategic, it must fulfill one of five criteria. First, it must be a capital investment of €15m or over, of which 0.75 per cent should comprise primary capital.
Second, the investment must create at least 100 new permanent positions, or 70 new positions with annual wages of over €1m.
Third, the company behind the investment must comprise a ‘milestone’, meaning that it must enjoy an international reputation, and be listed on relevant international rankings such as Forbes 2000.
The fourth is that the investment is of at least €1m, of which at least 10 per cent of all operational expenditure goes to research, development and innovation.
Lastly, an investment can be characterised as strategic if it is an investment in the health, education, or environmental sectors.
Once the Directorate for Strategic Investment Management receives an application for the classification of an investment as a large investment, 13 steps must then be followed for the issuing of a planning permit.
The project manager will evaluate the application and prepare a relevant report, as well as the list of permits in consultation with the head of the directorate, before tabling his decision before the cabinet. The project manager will then submit his report to the investment directorate of the interior ministry, which will once again table their decision before the cabinet. The project manager will be responsible for informing the investor on the cabinet’s decision.
From then on, the procedure for the issuing of permits and consultations with the relevant authorities are set motion, as is the environmental impact assessment.
Once a planning permit is issued, the procedure for the issuing of a building permit begins, once again through consultations with the relevant authorities.
The entire process must not take over one year, and if the maximum time frame is exceeded, the matter is once again referred to the cabinet.
As provided in the text of the investment law bill, the department of planning is excluded from the review process for environmental issues related to developments. The environmental department is now solely responsible for consulting and decision-making on all environmental issues, with the aim of reducing the departments and services consulted to the absolute minimum.
In this context, the environmental department assumes the sole responsibility of consulting other departments and services dealing with specific environmental parameters, as well as with non-governmental organisations and local authorities, and preparing its opinion based on the views of the stakeholders. The environmental assessment will take place up to three months after consulting all involved, and four months if the development is set to take place within protected areas of the Natura 2000 network.