REPLY/LETTER OF ENCOURAGEMENT TO SLOVAK ENVIRONMENT MINISTER

[The translation of the Minister's reply is given in full at the bottom of the page. My 'informants' tell me that his reply went out a week earlier and should have been translated into English. The comments in this direction are not therefore meant to be rude - but rather to 'enlighten' the minister!]

Prof. Dr. Lázlo Miklós is regarded by conservationists as an committed environmental minister - with the usual restrictions laid on him by his post and role in the government.

He is a member of the Hungarian minority; the first ever to have served at a senior level in the Slovakian Republic.

A letter of encouragement from abroad should encourage him to continue - and perhaps improve on - the course he has taken so far.

The line I have taken has been discussed and approved - in full - by the conservationists in Eastern Slovakia.

David Conlin

Mail me here

To:

The Minister for the Environment Prof. Dr. Lászlo Miklós

Dear Minister,

Thank you for your comprehensive reply in the matter of the protection of the Hrhov fishponds and the Slovakian Karst.

Your great personal interest in nature and the environment has become known outside Slovakia and we are sure that such matters are in the best of hands. Your decision to include the Hrhov ponds in Level 2 of the buffer zone of the proposed National Park is very good news and we look forward to hearing the news that the relevant law has been ratified by your parliament. If this is achieved, and the planned cooperation with your Hungarian neighbours bears fruit, an important milestone will have been reached, and an excellent example set, for the whole of Eastern Europe.

It is with some concern that we note that your answer on the appeals to stop or severely restrict mining or other exploitation of natural resources in protected areas is not so explicit. The two identified companies involved, Carmeuse and MCM/Betox, have received letters from the undersigned requesting them to withdraw or defer applications for any new operations in protected areas.

A quotation from our letter to Carmeuse:

“More and more people are concerned to learn of your applications to extend present quarrying operations or exploit more such sites in the protected areas of the World Heritage Site, the Slovak Karst. It demonstrates little sensibility that, in contradiction to your publicly declared concern for the environment, you and other companies are putting on the pressure for new operations to be approved at the same time that local people and conservationists, now with international support, are calling for the protected landscape area Slovak Karst to be declared a National Park. Some would regard this as a cynical attempt to create an irrevocable situation before the necessary legislation can be passed.

We urge you to demonstrate your declared concerns for the environment by deferring your applications for new or extended quarrying and mining activities in the protected areas of the Slovak Karst. We have also expressed our concern to those accountable in the region and at governmental level and pledged our support to the local people.”

It is disquieting, but hardly surprising, that both of the main actors have their main company base in Western Europe. We are sure you have, or will find, political allies in Brussels who can exercise pressure in this case.

We hope that you will exercise your full competence in this matter, not only in the National Park itself; but also in any other environmentally valuable natural habitats. You will not need reminding that the capital gain pressures on such companies encourages them to use ‘salami tactics’ to expand their current operations if they are not regularly inspected and controlled.

You would have received a reply from us sooner had you included an English translation with your letter. The Slovak language is not widespread in the rest of Europe. Incidentally your letter dated 19. February reached us individually – by E-mail – 8 days later on 27. February 2001.

We will follow events in the Slovakian Karst and its periphery with great interest over the next few months and many of us are now considering a joint visit to gain first hand information on your country and its nature and people. We congratulate you on your personal commitment and the direction you are taking, and hope that the environment in this unique European region will be given the – top – priority it deserves.

Yours sincerely,

David Conlin

and concerned Eurobirders, ornithologists and others, representing the following countries:

Austria, Australia, Belgium, Cyprus, Denmark, Ecuador, England, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Latvia, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Russia, Scotland, Slovakia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United States of America, Wales

Names will follow


SLOVAKIAN TEXT
[some accents may not be accepted by your browser]

Minister životného prostredia Prof. Dr. Lászlo Miklós

Vážený pán minister,

Vďaka za Vašu rozsiahlu odpoveď ohľadom ochrany Hrhovských rybníkov a Slovenského krasu.

Vaše významné osobné angažovanie sa v otázkach ochrany prírody a životného prostredia sa stalo známym aj za hranicami Slovenska a sme si istí, že tieto záležitosti sú v dobrých rukách. Vaše rozhodnutie zahrnúť Hrhovské rybníky do druhého stupňa ochranného pásma plánovaného národného parku je naozaj dobrou správou a už sa tešíme nato, keď budeme môcť počuť, že Váš parlament prijal príslušný zákon. Ak sa to dosiahne a plánovaná spolupráca s Vašimi maďarskými susedmi prinesie ovocie, dosiahne sa významný míľnik a výborný príklad pre celú východnú Európu.

Trochu nás znepokojuje skutočnosť, že Vaša odpoveď na našu výzvu zastaviť alebo výrazne obmedziť ťažbu alebo iné využívanie prírodných zdrojov v chránených územiach nie je celkom jednoznačná. Dve spoločnosti, o ktorých vieme, že sú do týchto aktivít zapojené – Carmeuse a MCM/Betox – dostali listy od dolupodpísaných, ktorí ich žiadajú stiahnúť alebo odložiť všetky nové žiadosti o ťažbu v chránených územiach.

Citát z nášho listu firme Carmeuse :

‘Viac a viac ľudí je znepokojených správou o Vašej žiadosti rozšíriť súčasné ťažobné aktivity alebo otvoriť ďalšie ťažobné priestory v chránených územiach Slovenského krasu, územia patriacom k Svetovému dedičstvu. Dokazuje to malú citlivosť, keď v protiklade k Vášmu verejne deklarovanému záväzku k ochrane životného prostredia Vy a iné spoločnosti vytvárate tlak na schválenie nových aktivít v čase, keď miestni občania a ochrancovia životného prostredia, teraz už s medzinárodnou podporou, požadujú, aby bola chránená krajinná oblasť Slovenský kras vyhlásená za národný park. Mohlo by sa to považovať aj za cynický pokus vytvoriť nezvratný stav ešte predtým, ako bude môcť byť schválená príslušná legislatíva.

Vyzývame Vás potvrdiť Váš deklarovaný záväzok k ochrane životného prostredia odložením Vašej žiadosti o povolenie nových alebo rozšírenie súčasných ťažobných a banských aktivít v chránených územiach Slovenského krasu. Vyjadrili sme naše znepokojenie zodpovedným v regióne a na vládnej úrovni a vyslovili podporu miestnym občanom.“

Je znepokojujúce, ale sotva prekvapujúce, že obaja hlavní aktéri majú hlavné koncernové sídla v západnej Európe. Sme si istí, že máte alebo nájdete politických spojencov v Bruseli, ktorí budú môcť vyvinúť tlak v tomto prípade.

Dúfame, že uplatníte Vaše plné kompetencie v týchto záležitostiach, nielen v samotnom národnom parku, ale aj v iných environmentálne hodnotných prírodných územiach. Nemusíme Vám pripomínať, že tlak na tvorbu zisku u týchto spoločností ich vedie k využívaniu „taktiky malých krokov“ na rozšírenie súčasných aktivít, ak nebudú pravidelne preverované a kontrolované.

Boli by ste dostali odpoveď od nás skôr, ak by ste boli priložili anglický preklad Vášho listu. Slovenský jazyk nie je natoľko rozšírený vo zvyšku Európy. Zhodou okolností Váš list datovaný 19. februára nám prišiel individuálne – prostredníctvom emailu – 8 dní neskôr 27. februára 2001.

Budeme sledovať s veľkým záujmom počas nasledujúcich niekoľkých mesiacov udalosti ohľadom Slovenského krasu a priľahlých oblastí a mnohí z nás uvažujú nad spoločnou návštevou Vašej krajiny, aby sme získali informácie z prvej ruky o Vašej krajine, jej prírode a ľuďoch. Blahoželáme Vám k Vašej osobnej angažovanosti a k smerovaniu, ktorým sa uberáte a dúfame, že životné prostredie v tomto unikátnom európskom regióne dosiahne najvyššiu prioritu, ktorú si aj zaslúži.

David Conlin

a ďalší z Eurobirder, ornitológovia a iní, pochádzajúci z nasledujúcich krajín:

Rakúsko, Austrália, Belgicko, Cyprus, Dánsko, Ekvádor, Anglicko, Fínsko, Francúzsko, Nemecko, Grécko, Taliansko, Lotyšsko, Holandsko, Nórsko, Portugalsko, Rusko, Škótsko, Slovensko, Juhoafrická republika, Špánelsko, Švédsko, Švajčiarsko, USA, Wales.


TH E MINISTER'S REPLY

MINISTRY OF THE ENVIRONMENT OF THE SLOVAK REPUBLIC

László Miklós, Minister

Bratislava, 19.2.2001

Dear Mr./Ms,

I am grateful for your interest in the protection of the Hrhov fishpond and assure you that I too regard the protected status of this site as being of great importance. For this reason the site is to be included in the buffer-zone of the proposed Slovakian Karst National Park. It is my personal conviction that the Hrhov fishpond is an internationally important wetland and the home of several threatened animal species; and is also an important site for migrating birds. All these facts were taken into consideration in the suggested designation of the buffer-zone of the proposed national park Slovakian Karst.

I am fully aware of the fact, that the area of the proposed Slovakian Karst National Park is the largest karst region in Slovakia with typical karst relief, and incorporates almost all karst phenomena typical for the northern temperate climatic zone to which this area belongs.

The unique value of the area is also underlined by the fact that all the caves in the proposed National Park Slovakian Karst, together with caves in the immediately adjacent Aggtelek National Park in Hungary, were included in the inventory of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage in 1995. The unique value of the area is emphasised also by designation of specially protected areas, in the categories National Nature Reserve (10), Nature Reserve (6), National Nature Monument (16) and Nature Monument - caves (400).

By increasing the level of protection, in case of the national park from level 2 to 3; and in the case of its buffer zone from level 1 to 2, conditions for a comprehensive and more efficient protection of the natural assets of this valuable area, as well as for its sustainable use, will be created. In addition, increasing of the level of protection of the Slovakian Karst will create the basis for a common and special concept of nature protection of the cross-border protected sites. This was set out in the Agreement on co-operation in the fields of environmental protection and nature protection, between the governments of the Slovak Republic and the Hungarian Republic, of 12. February 1999.

With reference to plans to permit the extraction of limestone excavation and other raw materials used in concrete production in this unique karst area, I would like to inform you that no new applications by geological research companies for registry of mineral deposits on the territory of the Slovakian Karst have been approved. The operation of the limited deposit near Hrhov was approved in the past together with the other limited deposits near Včeláre and Hosťovce. Under Paragraph 14a of the Mining Law it is possible to dismiss applications for exploitation of mineral deposits if their excavation could jeopardize important state interests, in particular environmental protection; and if such protection is of higher or overriding priority than the exploitation of these deposits.

Finally I would like to assure you that the natural world of the Slovakian Karst (as nature elsewhere) is a subject close to my heart. I am one of the region’s passionate admirers and my priority, which goes for the whole of my Ministry as well, is the same as yours – to bequeath it to our children in a state no worse than we inherited it from our forbears.

Yours sincerely,

László Miklós