FORT assists the Cabinet of Ministers to win in legal proceedings concerning layout of the route of “Rail Baltica” in Latvia
On the 7th of June this year, the Administrative Regional Court dismissed the application of association “Latvijas zeme, daba, tauta” for amendments of the decree of the Cabinet of Ministers of Latvia of 24 August 2016, by which the Government approved the construction of public use railway infrastructure of the European standard-gauge line “Rail Baltica” in Latvia establishing a general layout of the contemplated route. Sandis Bertaitis, Partner of FORT, successfully represented the Cabinet of Ministers in these judicial proceedings.
The association did not agree to the layout of the route of “Rail Baltica” in sections C1 and B3-2, which draw “Rail Baltica” closer to Skulte considering other connections to be more suitable arguing that layout of the route in the specific sections “does not have economic substantiation, whereas the arguments in favour of the route recommended by the designer are misleading, ambiguous and questionable”.
The Administrative Regional Court acknowledged issuance of the decree of the Cabinet of Ministers to be substantiated and lawful. Furthermore, the evidence filed in the matter prove that the procedure of environmental impact assessment has been carried out following the requirements of the law and in accordance with the initially established criteria, which ensured equal assessment for all sections of the route.
The court inferred that during the procedure of environmental impact assessment of the Rail Baltica project rights of the general public to participation in discussion of environmentally significant issues have been procured as stipulated by the Environmental Protection Act and the Aarhus Convention of 25 June 1998. Furthermore, the Environmental Monitoring State Bureau as the competent authority has identified and assessed the most crucial factors, which, in general, will cause impact on the environment, and set relevant conditions to mitigate or prevent the adverse impact respecting opinions and recommendations of the environmental experts engaged.
The regional court supported the conclusions drawn by the court of first instance that the Cabinet of Ministers has both complied with the duty of reviewing alternative solutions and substantiated its choice of the specific layout of the route and has exercised discretionary power by issuing the contested decree.
In the judgment also the regional court supported the argument of the representatives of the respondent – Cabinet of Ministers – that the decision on the choice of the route of Rail Baltica is, to some extent, “a political and economical decision”, which cannot be reviewed in the administrative court, because it concerns the area of strategic planning of the state and national budget; namely, the decree is largely adopted based on political and economical considerations of the Cabinet of Ministers.
The judgment is not yet final, and the parties may appeal it before the Department of Administrative Cases of the Supreme Court within one month as of the execution date of the judgment.