The commissioner’s investigation stated that the strictness of domestic regulation is not justified by international obligations, while the parameters determined in these provisions serve as reference for the very expensive, brutal interventions planned in the riverbed of the Danube, which cause ecological damages. For this reason, we prepared two statements. We issued the first one related to the transport development plans directed at improving the navigability of the Danube, pointing out that Hungary has undertaken legal obligations for stricter conditions in regard to the river-channel development than international expectations justify. We can therefore comply with the international requirements if we modify the Hungarian provision, adjusting it to the characteristics of the Hungarian section, so the riverbed-transforming interventions that cause serious ecological damages are not justified. Based on the researches ordered by FGO, the ombudsman has also stated that the necessary navigability parameters can be attained through well-planned and organized navigation, channel-setting.
The FGO organized a conference on the ecological services of the Danube to promote the UN initiative of the International Year of Biodiversity and simultaneously an exhibition with the title “This Gives You Life – Let’s Think about the Danube”. At the conference the representatives of different professional sectors systematically reviewed the ecosystem-services provided by the river, the goods of wildlife and habitats (clean water, building material, navigation route, place of excursion, flood plain vegetation, food etc.), which are used by humans directly or indirectly in their lifetime and therefore the condition of these goods does determine people’s quality of life. Building on these conference presentations, our office prepared another draft statement on the conservation of ecological services and usufructuary possibilities. In this, the FGO stated that Hungary is interested in establishing a Danube Euroregion and in developing the international cooperation along the river. Our country, based on the best traditions of the EU, has to help actively the development of cooperation among the peoples by the Danube, the cultural relations, the historical reconciliation and the realization of common economic aims.
We have to follow the quantity, quality and changing tendencies of the services provided along the Danube. As the Danube operates as a self-supporting system, it is necessary to minimise these interventions and it is especially important to prevent the amortization of natural capital. The ecological services have to be taken into account altogether, as maintaining the unity and dynamic balance of the system requires that we should not develop competing usufructuary ways at the expense of one another.
Based on the lectures of the meeting and on the investigations, the draft statement emphasised that the protection of the Danube demands urgent measures mainly on the following issues: the modification of navigation parameters, the realization of stream deposit management with a hydro-ecological approach, the prohibition of building in the flood-plain, and the extension of irrigation possibilities. To address these tasks it is also likely that the appropriate laws would need to be modified. In the case of a complex system, like a river and its environment, decisions can only be made exclusively based on multilateral conciliation and agreement, involving all the stakeholders and evaluating their opinions, about the possible transformation of the riverbed, its environment or utilization, as non-harmonized developments may cause further damage that cannot be easily treated.
In the international context, the draft statement noted the serious ecological damage caused by the Slovakian Gabcikovo hydroelectric power plant which for 18 years has allowed only 15% of the Danube’s water output to reach the Hungarian Szigetköz section of the river. The draft statement suggested that the Hungarian government should turn to the International Court of Justice in Hague, so that the country could get at least 40% of the water output in the old riverbed of the Danube, as proposed by the European Commission on the 22nd of December, 1993.
In the respect of trans-boundary pollutions, the statement suggests that the environmental strategy of the Danube Euroregion should cover the strict regulation concerning hazardous facilities. The European Commission should revise the possibility of prohibiting ore-preparation with cyanide. According to the Helsinki protocol of 2003, the polluting country should reimburse the damages caused by trans-boundary pollutions for the neighbouring country as well. In 2010, the FGO sent the draft for conciliation to the participants of the conference as well as to the state institutions affected. After collecting and processing the feedbacks the statement will be finalized.