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Green groups refuse to be muzzled

Environmental groups insist on their right of appeal against controversial building projects

(Keystone Archive)

Environmental groups have rejected moves by the political Right and the business community to strip them of their right to block controversial building projects.

They have called on the federal authorities to set clear deadlines for courts to rule on appeals.

Their comments come amid controversy over the construction of a new football stadium in Zurich.

Eleven groups, including WWF Switzerland, Pro Natura – Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace and the Environmental Transport Association, said any attempt to restrict their right of appeal was in breach of the Constitution.

At a press conference in Bern on Tuesday, they urged the federal authorities to improve coordination with the country’s 26 regions and the local authorities.

“Criticism of the right of appeal is a smokescreen for the shortcomings of local authorities, cantons and at the federal level,” said Beat Jans of Pro Natura.

He denied that appeals cost the state too much and that they were damaging for the economy.

Deadlines

The non-governmental organisations also called for strict deadlines for courts and other appeals bodies to deal with complaints.

They said that while they had just 30 days in which to lodge an appeal, it often took more than six months for a case to be heard.

Next week a parliamentary committee is scheduled to discuss a proposal by a senator from the rightwing Swiss People’s Party.

The proposal aims to speed up private and public building projects by limiting the right of appeal by environmental organisations.

More than 20 similar proposals have been filed in parliament over the past 12 years to amend the right of appeal introduced almost 40 years ago.

Last year 172 appeals launched by environmental groups went before appeals panels or courts, and more than 60 per cent of the appeals were upheld.

The latest high-profile case, which is still pending, is a complaint against the construction of a new football stadium in the city of Zurich.

It is one of four stadiums earmarked for the 2008 European Championship, which is being hosted jointly by Switzerland and neighbouring Austria.

swissinfo with agencies

In brief

Environmental groups have dismissed moves to strip them of their right to block building projects.

Instead they have called on the federal authorities to take a lead to avoid long delays in the judicial process.

The business community and the political Right have accused environmental groups of obstructing building projects.

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Key facts

The right of appeal was introduced in 1966.
In 2003, 172 appeals launched by environmental organisations went before the courts.
More than 60% of the appeals were upheld by the courts.

end of infobox


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