Progress assessment on selected topics
Direct payments to farmers (Pillar I of the CAP) have had a negative effect on biodiversity and Natura2000 qualifying species and habitat types in Slovakia. The effects of these subsidies (intensification of agriculture) have contributed to the disappearance of the European Roller from Slovakia and to the significant decrease of the Red-footed Falcon. Agri-environmental measures are voluntary on Natura2000 sites but they were well promoted in some areas and the applied schemes have prevented negative impacts on bird populations. The EU Structural funds also have a high potential to cause negative impacts on Natura2000 sites. For instance, the planned construction of forest roads in the SPA Nizke Tatry and some projects for construction of infrastructure (cross border projects Slovakia-Austria) had to be adapted, due to their negative impact on Natura 2000 sites.
On the other hand, LIFE funds and cross border operational programmes play a very positive role in nature conservation (see under “Major recent achievements”).
In the last years a lot of work has been done to prevent mortality of birds on powerlines. The most dangerous sections were protected against collision. Currently the largest problem for some species is the lack of site management plans which would identify conservation goals for habitats and species. Another important problem lies in changes to hunting legislation, which now allows much more intensive hunting on selected bird species (extended hunting period and possible hunting during whole week instead of three days at end of week). This is causing a serious decrease of numbers of wintering waterbirds (geese, Tufted duck and others). Therefore the European Commission has started an infringement procedure against Slovakia and the legislation was partly changed over the last months, but not all harmful provisions of legislation have been cancelled yet.
In Slovakia almost no appropriate assessment according to Habitats directive was prepared until now. Slovak legislation requires inclusion of this assessment into EIA procedure if necessary, but in reality almost none of this assessment until now fulfilled the provisions of Habitats directive. That is a possible source of large problems in realisation of projects approved in last years due to wrong way of assessment and often lack of compensation measures. This insufficient assessment led to halting a major project of construction of motorway between east and west Slovakia in 2009. It is the largest expected infrastructural project in history of Slovakia, but it cuts several SCIs and no appropriate assessment was done for this project. This threatens the most important habitats of Brown bear and Lynx in central Europe and the oldest peatbog in Europe.
Environmental impact assessments (EIA) are financed by investors. Firms that conduct EIAs are interested in further business and often write positive reports to please the investors. Only in very rare cases, and after large negative publicity, do EIA procedures lead to refusal of proposed projects (e.g. a few large residential complexes and wind parks near Danube river and in Danube floodplain). In 2007 the EIA Act was amended so that participation of the public in decision making procedure was excluded. The European Commission started an infringement against Slovakia, but only in 2009 was the EIA Act approved so that it is not in contradiction with EIA directive. During these two years, several damaging projects were approved.
Appropriate assessment started to be realised more seriously only in 2012 due to results of procedure in construction of the D1 motorway Turany-Hubova. Thanks to that, the project for construction of a motorway cutting a Danube floodplain forest (SPA and SCI) has included some compensation measures.
The majority of threats to Slovak Natura 2000 sites come from forestry and from development of large residential and recreational complexes. Forestry in Slovakia intensified after 2004 after the major wind damage in the High Tatra mountains. The main reason for intensification of forestry was action against European Spruce Bark Beetle outbreaks. The measure adopted to the spread of Spruce Bark Beetle was usually large clear cuts (around 50 km2 of forest was clear cut in SPA Nizke Tatry in the last few years) or chemical spraying. That caused disappearance of Capercailie from some areas and from SPA Levočské vrchy and serious decrease of numbers of other species. In some areas the fight against Spruce Bark Beetle went so far, that even foresters say, that they will have no forest left for industry in the coming years.
Development of large residential complexes is a major problem in surroundings of Slovak capital, Bratislava. Due to the existence of Czechslovakia until 1992 all the most important federal authorities were placed in Prague in the Czech Republic and therefore also largest development took place there. Large development of Bratislava started after declaration of independence of Slovakia in 1993. This development in on-going and many new residential complexes are constructed around Bratislava without evaluating of cumulative impacts in EIA procedure. Development is so large, that in 2011 Bratislava region was the fifth richest in European Union, according to Eurostat. During the last twenty years one IBA (Miloslavov) was completely destroyed. The SPA Úľanská mokraď near Bratislava is currently threatened due to development of many industrial parks, residential and recreational complexes and the Red-footed Falcon has already disappeared from this SPA. The same problem is affects the river Danube in SPA Dunajské luhy near Bratislava, where development of recreational complexes threatens the largest wintering site of Tufted Duck in Central Europe and larges wintering site of Goldeneyes in Europe.
With the funds of LIFE project and national funds breeding habitats and migration habitats in SPA Senianske rybníky in East Slovakia were restored. That caused breeding of Ferruginous duck in the area, breeding of Common crane (first in Slovak history), return of breeding of Black-tailed Godwit in Slovakia after its extinction several years earlier, restoration of breeding colony of Black-necked grebe at fishponds in this area.
Another Life project led to creation of new breeding possibilities and strengthening of population of Saker falcon in southwest Slovakia and prevented its serious decrease due to increasing numbers of Peregrine Falcon, which is occupying breeding sites of Saker falcon.
With LIFE funds breeding habitats were created for Great bustard in SPA Sysľovské polia and SPA Lehnice. Creation of these habitats led in 2010 to return of Great Bustard to SPA Lehnice, where this species disappeared long ago. In 2010 a hen with chick was observed. In SPA Syslovske polia agri-environmental schemes led to the creation of large wintering site for Great bustard, where all Bustards from Slovakia, eastern Austria and western Hungary gather during each winter.