Amendment to the General Administrative Procedure Act (ZUP) – special provisions for managing proceedings in cases of extraordinary events (UPDATED 29 DECEMBER 2020)
We have written in one of our previous articles* that an order of the President of the Supreme Court and a government decision have recently been passed, limiting the scope of court operations to urgent matters due to the declared COVID-19 epidemic and interrupting some time limits in court proceedings. These measures affect only judicial proceedings, not administrative proceedings as well. By passing the new intervention act (Act Determining Intervention Measures to Alleviate the Consequences of the Second Wave of the COVID-19 Epidemic (ZIUOPDVE), also PKP6), the legislator has also intervened in the area of administrative proceedings.
(NOTE: On 29 December 2020, we published an article on the government Ordinance on Temporary Measures to Reduce the Risk of Infection and Prevent the Spread of COVID-19 in Administrative Matters, which entered into force on 11 December 2020 and is the first ordinance adopted after the entry into force of the presented amendment to the ZUP. The article is available at the following link (in Slovenian only): https://www.jadek-pensa.si/vlada-je-dolocila-zacasne-ukrepe-v-upravnih-zadevah-zaradi-epidemije-covid-19/.)
In contrast to the legislative approach in the first wave of the pandemic, when a special temporary act was passed to regulate judicial and administrative proceedings, this round of measures consists of a (permanent) amendment to the ZUP as the general statute managing administrative proceedings. With the ZIUOPDVE entering into force, a new chapter XXII.a was added to the ZUP entitled Proceeding Management in the Event of an Extraordinary Event. As the name of the chapter implies, its provisions do not relate only to the current COVID-19 epidemic and its duration is not time-limited, but the ZUP will apply in this part for all cases of extraordinary events (e.g. natural and other catastrophic events, epidemics) that meet the legal definition.
The ZUP will now provide the government with the option to act in the event of extraordinary events that will have a major effect on the position of parties pursuant to the ZUP or that will limit or prevent administrative decisions of an individual authority or all authorities, by passing an ordinance determining the temporary measures, the authorities to which the measures pertain, and the duration of the measures. The temporary measures will therefore enter into force only after the entry into force of a government ordinance in each individual case of an extraordinary event.
The temporary measures determined by the government in each individual case will have to be urgent, suitable, and proportional to protect the position of parties and to enable decisions in administrative proceedings. The government will be able to choose from the following measures to determine the appropriate temporary measures:
- Determining a different territorial jurisdiction of the authorities or bearers of public authority,
- Submitting applications outside operating hours and on work-free days,
- Submitting applications electronically without a secure electronic signature with a qualified certificate,
- Limiting submitting applications directly to a certain authority,
- Limiting the public’s participation in procedural activities in order to protect the health of the participants,
- Limiting the exercising of the right to inspect documents in the authority’s premises (in cases in which the clients can be sent a copy of the documents),
- Establishing serving documents into an electronic mailbox that is not a secure electronic mailbox (if the recipient consents to such document serving and is able to become familiarized with the submitted documents),
- Extending time limits for meeting obligations set with an individual administrative act (at the party’s request), and
- Extending the time limit for issuing and serving a decision.
In the event that the extraordinary event prevents the authority’s operations or prevents or significantly impedes the exercising of the rights and meeting obligations, the government will also be able to stop all procedural and material time limits. Stopping the time limits will not be permissible only for urgent matters. The ZIUOPDVE also provides that the parties will need to be explicitly notified about the stopped time limit in a proceeding, as well as to be warned that a time limit has not been stopped in a certain matter due to its urgent nature.
Pursuant to the ZIUOPDVE, the temporary measures can only be imposed for as long as an extraordinary event lasts, but for no longer than three months. If said extraordinary circumstances are present for longer than three months, the government will be able to extend the temporary measures, but for no longer than three months each time (the upper time limit of the temporary measures has not been set). In conjunction with this, the government will have to conduct monthly examinations of the circumstances of the extraordinary event and justify the temporary measures.
In light of this, it should be emphasized that the passed ZIUOPDVE does not mean that any changes to the actual administrative proceedings have actually been implemented (yet). The ZIUOPDVE has only provided a legal basis in the ZUP to determine such changes in each individual occurrence of an extraordinary event with a government ordinance.
As mentioned in the introductory note and further explained in our new article (available in Slovenian only), following the publication of the original version of this article the government has already adopted its first ordinance on temporary measures, which was adopted due to the COVID-19 epidemic.