The agriculture and environment ministry announced on Friday the submission of a bill aiming to push through a ‘fast track’ licensing mechanism for investment.

“The operation of the proposed mechanism is expected to attract and facilitate large and important investments for the country, which will contribute to growth and job creation,” the announcement said.

The ministry was quick to clarify that the proposed legislation concerns only the reduction of timeframes for the issuance of environmental permits and will not affect their licensure content or the quality of environmental impact assessment.

The department of environment contributed to the drafting of the bill, adding provisions for the environmental assessment procedure to be done in accordance with Law 127(I)/2018, as well as for special scrutiny in the case where a development may affect a Natura 2000 site.

For each strategic investment proposal, an environmental impact study will be carried out to be evaluated by the environment department after mandatory consultation with government and local authorities, organised groups, NGOs and specialists.

The proposed change to be made in the interest of expediting the process, involves the removal of the condition that the process must happen through physical meetings and in the physical presence of stakeholders.

The announcement from the ministry states that this procedural change, “aims to accelerate the evaluation process and reduce administrative complexity but does not negate the need for consultation with […] experts.”

In the event that a strategic investment is likely to affect a Natura 2000 site, a special ecological impact assessment will be submitted, and the relevant legislation will be applied, in order to ensure mitigation of potential impacts on species and habitats, or to scrap the project should this be deemed unfeasible.

The ministry added that it will not object to maintaining the current in-person process, however, it will result in review of the study taking longer to complete.