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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
05BRATISLAVA550 2005-07-12 14:25:00 UNCLASSIFIED Embassy Bratislava
Cable title:  

TATRAS RENEWAL DEBATE

Tags:   SENV EAID KPAO AMGT KSCA LO 
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					  UNCLAS BRATISLAVA 000550 

SIPDIS


DEPARTMENT FOR OES AND IIP/G/EUR: SIEMONH
DEPT PASS TO NPS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: SENV EAID KPAO AMGT KSCA LO
SUBJECT: TATRAS RENEWAL DEBATE

REF: (A) BRATISLAVA 25, (B) 04 BRATISLAVA 1147



1. Summary. On June 16, 2005, post hosted a digital video
conference (DVC) to introduce two American forestry experts
to Slovaks working on restoration efforts in the Tatras
Mountains (ref A). The conversation allowed the Americans
to begin assessing the specific damage, better understand
the local debate over environmental protection versus
development, and start to plan an agenda for a potential
visit to Slovakia in October 2005. The Slovaks gained not
only access to American expertise and experience, but also
an opportunity to further the dialogue within country. End
Summary.



2. Slovak attendees of the DVC included representatives
from environmental NGOs, the Tatras National Park (TANAP),
and the GOS Commission created to coordinate restoration
efforts in the wake of last year's windstorm (ref B). U.S.
participants were Len Materman from the NGO River
Communities and Paul Labovitz from the National Park
Service in Ohio. The majority of the discussion centered
around how much economic development to allow on
environmentally sensitive lands, and all agreed that the
windstorm destruction of 2004 acted as a catalyst to make
the debate public and more urgent. The environmentalists
such as Mikulas Huba from the group "Our Tatras" generally
expressed concern that the GOS favored developers and did
not pay sufficient attention to all voices. Ivan Stefanec,
head of GOS Commission countered that the government was,
in fact, moving very deliberately and had not yet made any
significant decisions or actions in the Tatras. Meanwhile,
Juraj Voloscuk from TANAP explained the technical
complications involved in drafting a plan for forest
management.



3. Both Materman and Labovitz adeptly infused their
expertise and ensured that the conversation remained civil
and productive. Ultimately, the debate identified three
areas where American expertise could be useful. First, it
was agreed that specific detailed zoning rules needed to be
more transparent and that outside, non-emotional,
perspective would be helpful. Second, the Slovaks
discovered that the U.S. experts could provide insight into
creating profitable National Parks and finding innovative
methods to compensate private landowners in sensitive
lands. Lastly, outside, non-emotional approach of the U.S.
could help to navigate through political problems and
foster better communication between the disparate
interests.



4. Comment: Members of the environmental NGOs in
attendance seemed genuinely surprised to see Stefanec
involved in the DVC. The groups have persistently
criticized the GOS Commission in the media for ignoring
environmentalists in the Tatras debate. The astonishment
seemed to continue throughout the discussion as Stefanec
proved to be willing to listen and open-minded. Even after
the DVC ended, Stefanec continued the conversation with the
NGOs and expressed that he would be available for any
future discussions. As a result, the USG has an
opportunity not only to aid in the recovery efforts of the
Tatras, but also to win further public diplomacy points
with the environmental community by opening doors and
facilitating quality communication. End Comment.



5. Two notable parties interested in the area that could
not attend the DVC were local government officials and
business representatives working to develop the region.
Local officials, in the past, have complained that groups
such as "Our Tatras" as well as the national government pay
too little attention to those that live in the region (ref
B). J and T Capital, one of the key economic developers in
the Tatras, was also not present but will have a strong
voice in any future development or protection policy.



6. Materman and Labovitz hope to travel to Slovakia in
early October, pending funding availability. During that
week, they plan to meet with all interested parties, travel
throughout the Tatras, and help to design a specific action
plan that helps Slovakia strike the appropriate balance
between environmental protection and sustainable
development. Leading up to that week, post plans to host
an additional preparatory DVC with a more detailed agenda
and wider participation.

THAYER


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