The hydro power plant in Decan. | Photo: BIRN.

60 organizations condemn Austrian embassy’s role in ‘illegal’ hydropower operation

The Austrian Embassy’s support of KelKos Energy has been criticised in a letter signed by 60 civil society organisations in Kosovo, who state that the company’s illegal operations have degraded the environment and undermined the rule of law.

A consortium of 60 civil society organisations in Kosovo have sent a letter to the Austrian Embassy in Kosovo and the Austrian Federal Ministry of European and International Affairs, expressing concern over support for KelKos Energy.

KelKos is a hydropower energy management company that the consortium states have built a number of illegal hydropower plants within Kosovo. “KelKos has built and now operates several hydropower plants in the Decan Valley, a national park and a protected zone in the Accursed Mountains of Kosovo, where construction of hydropower plants is strictly prohibited by law,” the letter reads.

The consortium states that unnamed individuals have come forward implicating officials from the Austrian Embassy who have pushed for the continued operation of these hydropower plants despite their illegal construction and operation. The letter goes on to request the opening of an investigation into the embassy’s role in facilitating these plants’ continued energy production.

“Unfortunately, there have been several cases where we have heard from different officials that they are being pressured by Austrian diplomats to accommodate KelKos,” the consortium assert, adding that more information can be provided if the Embassy and Ministry agree to investigate the matter.

We were shocked to find out that Austrian diplomatic missions have strongly lobbied certain Kosovar leaders to remain silent on KelKos’ legal violations and allow them to operate even if that goes against Kosovo’s laws,” the letter continues.

The consortium draws attention to allegations of illegal conduct at various stages of the company’s involvement in the hydropower energy sector, from receiving approval for construction to their operation.

According to the letter, “illegal procedures might have been employed” prior to construction taking place on a number of hydropower plants, noting that legal requirements to ensure public consultation with affected communities before they were built never took place. “Their behaviour is more like a dangerous enterprise and less like an investor who respects our laws and contributes to the community and economic development,” it states.

The letter also asserts that KelKos has failed to renew its permit for the continued operation of the hydropower plants for several years, adding that the organizations intend to file a criminal report to the Kosovo prosecution on this matter. “[KelKos] have failed to obtain the environmental permit to produce electricity legally, and they are making millions of euros,” the letter states. 

The damage caused by the operation of hydropower plants in Decan, which siphon water from the country’s rivers to generate electricity, has been documented by residents in the area. Locals have complained that it has caused severe water shortages in the villages in the region and destroyed the ecological balance of the rivers. 

In the letter, the consortium informs the Austrian Embassy that KelKos had also filed a lawsuit against one of its signatories, an environmental activist, who is not named. It adds that the company has threatened “to take the same action against anybody who circulates this letter.”

The consortium requests that, in addition to an investigation into its relationship with KelKos, the embassy withdraw its support for all Austrian investors that damage Kosovo’s environment. “It is important that you take a clear stand and let everyone know that no one can hide behind Austria’s government while trampling over Kosovo’s laws for personal gain,” the letter concludes.

Read the full letter attached here.

30/06/2020 - 12:09

30 June 2020 - 12:09

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