Mag. Peter Bassin,  grad. eng. arch.

Urban planner


The Slovene Ministry for Agriculture and Environment has recently presented the proposal for 2% enlargement of the NATURE 2000 protected territory. The mayors of the 210 local communities have once again been present to the almost ”illegal act” of spatial planning of the State on territories of local communities. They are by themselves according to the Slovene Constitution the only responsible for spatial development planning of their local territory. Local spatial development planning is even more important because in Slovenia no official regional planning is practiced. In Slovenia exists only two levels: the national and the local (communities’) level. When such important constraint in the spatial development as enlargement of NATURE 2000 is introduced, it would be definitely easier to coordinate spatial development demands and NATURE 2000 constraints on regional level.

But let us return to NATURE 2000 and its dissemination in the EU Member States. Slovenia is owing to the percentage of protected territory by NATURE 2000 the absolute “winner” with its 35,5 % of protected territory (before new 2% enlargement). Follows Bulgaria with 33.39%, Slovakia with 28,95%, Cyprus with 28,37%, Estonia with 27,20%, Greece with 27,14%, Hungary with 21,43% in Portugal with 20,87%. Many of these states (i.e. Slovenia, Cyprus, Greece, Portugal) have in present recession times huge economy and consequently also social problems, marked with zero or even lower – negative economy growth.

The next group of EU Member states has less than 20% and more than 14% of NATURE 2000 protected territory: Poland with 19,44%, Italy with 19,16%, Luxembourg with 18,15%, Romania with 17,89%, Spain with 17,77%, Germany with 15,42%, Austria with 14,70%, Finland with 14,42% and  Czech Republic with 14,04%.

At the end are the states with less 14% or even less than 10% of their territory protected by NATURE 2000: Netherland  with 13,79 %, Sweden with 13,77 %, Ireland with 12,95 %, Malta with12,95 %, Belgium with 12,68 %, France with 12,53 %, Lithuania with 12,07 %, Latvia with 11,31% and Denmark with only 8,93%. Absolutely the smallest percentage of protected state's territory has United Kingdom with 7,22 %. At the same time the U.K. economy is among the most developed in Europe and World.


On which basis were chosen the experts for the Slovene part of the commission which defined the future protected territories for habitat and birds’ directive? Now it is evident that they had not enough common sense knowledge of spatial planning and too much “narrow minded” knowledge of bio diversity and birds' protection.

Because all this was happening before formal entering of Slovenia into EU one may assume that the Slovene members of the Commission wanted to positively impress other members of European Union Commission. But at the same time they were not visionary enough to foresee the catastrophic consequences the NATURE 2000 protected areas will have on any spatially larger national development project.

The participants of the presentation of further enlargement of NATURE 2000 in Slovenia stressed two important issues that should be since now obligatory taken into account in each case of collision between protection and planned spatial development.

Among the present participants a the formal enlargement presentation were also members of the Biotechnical Department of Ljubljana University. They stressed the necessity of a permanent monitoring of NATURE 2000 protected territories. It may be a natural change of living conditions that will cause the vanishing of some protected habitat group from the protected territory. Such a change may create the abolishment of protection thus making the NATURE 2000 less rigid.

It would certainly be necessary to apply this aspect upon some Adriatic coastal communities that were last August once again devastated by typical Mediterranean summer pines’ forest fires. This is the case of 460 hectares large almost entirely pine trees forest and karstic barren land on Petrinje karst in Hrpelje- Kozina Community.

It is a fact that EU member states with most developed economies and with much smaller NATURE 2000 protected territories have probably entirely neglected nature protection during their fast developing economies in 19th and 20 th centuries. But now in the beginning of 21st century the “strong Brussels hand “ is enforcing the NATURE 2000 upon new, smaller and much less developed EU members states in the South, South- East and East of EU.

If it would not have been with the help of “national ecologists” (definitely the case in Slovenia) one could think about the “hidden case of neo colonialism”: new and smaller EU member states may remain less developed and should excel in ecology. In this case the HIGHTECH products would still be produced and sold by high developed EU member states (with little territory protected by NATURE 2000!).

What were the persuasive arguments that have made the Slovene members of the commission for defining the NATURE 2000 protected territory in Slovenia so indulgent that up to 37% of small Slovene territory is protected?

It has become a serious question now: Will Slovenia remain the Botanic and Zoo Garden for the entire EU? And what benefit will the Slovenes receive for excellence in ecology? The highest found out economy benefit in literature is “eco tourism” (Republic Slovenia, Ministry for Space and Ecology: The Plan for defining the consequences of NATURE 2000 protected territories and definition of development measures; 2003 /2004).

 Shall Slovenia become a leading Economy with “eco – tourism” that will pull us out from a total economy stagnation?

It will not be possible to use the millions of EURs from EU Cohesion Funds for maintaining the NATURE 2000 territories. The local communities can use the funds for only very limited activities strictly connected with protection of territories i.e. : repurchase of land, infrastructure construction  i.e. pedestrian paths, visitors’ guidance, preparation of maintenance plans, performance of maintenance – renewal of habitats, compensation for land owners,  securing of territories and control of visitors, monitoring and ecosystem exploration for supporting of maintenance, promotion and information about protected territories.

Let us make plans sustainable but at the same time the needs of present generation of people should not be neglected. The modest demands for new people’s (human) programs are still remaining within the 5% of built up territories (on Slovene national level!) and no fear of losing the “precious untouched NATURE land” in Slovenia is necessary.

Mag. Peter Bassin,  grad. eng. arch.

Urban planner
April 2013