A postponement of the deadline for submitting the new Nature Protection Act to December 2009 is proving a major problem for the European Commission. The Commission has criticised Slovakia for the incompatibility of the current act with EU directives.
The new legislation has been in preparation for over six months now. It should replace the existing, imperfect act which, according to the Commission, has been amended to make it even worse by the governing coalition. It points to the cancellation of the proposed landscape protection measure NATURA 2000 and the public’s exclusion from proceedings concerning environmental issues. On Wednesday (Jan. 23), the government decided to postpone the submission of the new act till December 2009.
“The Commission expects the Slovak Republic to amend the act in compliance with the directives in the shortest period possible. If this takes another year or longer, it is a problem”, the director of the Nature Protection Department of the European Commission, Ladislav Miko, told the Aktuálne.sk news website.
Promise of an earlier deadline
According to Miko, the Slovak Environment Minister had assured Brussels that the new legislation would be prepared during February and March. Contrary to his words, the ministry then approved the postponement of the act till December.
The ministry told Aktuálne.sk it still planned to meet the deadline it gave to Brussels.
“The fact that the document declares a December deadline does not mean we don’t want to do it as promised in the first quarter of 2009. And nothing has changed in our plans,” Environment Ministry spokesman Peter Višváder said.
A threat of legal action
If changes to the legislation are not carried out as soon as possible legal steps may be taken. An infringement action is being brought against the Slovak Republic by the Commission, which sent the ministry three letters in autumn 2007 pointing out the discrepancies in the act.
If the Ministry fails to fix the errors in the act, the Commission will react with a so called legitimate stand. According to Miko, this is the last step before filing an action against the Slovak Republic
The department was required to reply to the letter by the end of December. Miko says that his office has not yet received any response.
The new act
In the past, the department has announced it would use the new act to fix the errors exacerbated by the amendment. The act was submitted for comments in April 2007.
The department says there have been 600 significant comments on the act and that it has also had to deal with comments from the Public Prosecution Office and the Commission. To incorporate all of the suggestions meant creating new legislation.