Audit on the protection of nature in the Region Lake Neusidl Ferto
Report ID: 2

The nature-protection of the area is basically determined by obligations emerging from international agreements signed by both countries. Among them are the RAMSAR-Convention (“Convention on Wetlands of International Importance, especially as Waterfowl Habitat”), the Convention on Biological Diversity, and the EU-Directives on Bird Protection, respectively Habitat. Lake Neusiedl/Fertő is a frontier water; therefore the provisions of the Helsinki Agreement on cross-border waterways and the protection of international lakes are taken into consideration with special importance.

In the region of Lake Neusiedl/Fertő, on the Hungarian side HUF 14,486.4 million domestic and HUF 1,476.5 million international resources were used for environment and nature protection developments.

Of this, HUF 289.3 million was spent on direct nature protection aims, while the rest served the purposes of traffic developments with a special focus on decreasing air pollution, and the construction of bicycle roads. The shortcoming was observed that the so-called other financial expenditures spent on the audited field, and the expenditures of professional tasks discharged by certain professional bodies, agencies, could not be demonstrated separately.

A recommendation was made to the minister that the accounting of the expenditures going to nature protection be established.

In Hungary, the natural, preservation and surrounding zones of Lake Neusiedl/Fertő were designated, but the list of these was not published in legal regulations; therefore it is not official. In case of the Lake Neusiedl/Fertő area, such legal provisions on increasingly protected and protected areas were applied, that are in line with the international requirements and set out in the law on nature protection.

For the protected areas, management plans valid from 2003 were made, in which the management and cultivation prescriptions were defined by parcel, in accordance with the characteristic features of the land and nature. However, the subsidy necessary for execution and the regulations on indemnification resulting from the restrictions of use are still outstanding. Therefore, the Hungarian State Audit Office has recommended that the government issue the decree on this issue as soon as possible. In its reply the government has indicated that the  preparation of the decree is underway.

Some of the different areas in Austria were clearly determined by law or other regulations. Some other nominations or borders, like the Biosphere Reserve of the UNESCO and the European Biogenetic Reserve could not be empathised at the Government of the Federal State of Burgenland. The cartographic definition of the borders of the RAMSAR protected area was adapted and changed during the audit. The Austrian Court of Audit recommended, to gather all relevant data concerning protected areas and international awards in a single central database. For the sake of juridical guarantee the borders of the different areas should be fixed, updated and defined by the exact borders of the pieces of land. The Government of the Federal State of Burgenland responded, that there were no files about the awards of UNESCO and European Council available, because the Federal State was not involved in the process of nomination.

The demanded update of the borders in the region of Lake Neusiedl/Fertő is in preparation.

The preservation of the protected areas is carried out by the two countries with different methods. On the Hungarian side, the areas have come – through buying-up – under state ownership, and were then utilised in frame of own activity, i.e. agricultural production (animal husbandry, grazing), or leasing out. In frame of safeguarding land for protection purposes, endeavours were made to establish larger, adjoining areas by keeping aspects of economy in mind. In addition to bringing the lands under state management, no other alternative solutions – e.g. renting – have come up. As a result of the decrease of state resources, the rate of buying-up has slowed; therefore a recommendation was made to the minister in charge of environment protection that necessary financial resources should be provided, in order to close the program as soon as possible.

In Austria safeguarding land was done by renting land. For the National Park Neuiedler See–Seewinkel. 9.650 ha were rented from the owners (at the end of 2001). In total there were twelve rent agreements, mainly with interest groups. The Austrian Court of Audit recommended for future contracts to aim at long–term rent agreements.

Besides, a comparison of expected expenses and possible kinds of financing should be made. On the Hungarian side, several developments aimed at the protection of the environment and nature were carried out in the audited region. In the area of reptile-migration, tunnels have been constructed under the motorway running in the area.

Within the framework of mine reconstructions, the revitalisation and restoration of the former open-pit mining areas took place.

The Austrian Court of Audit found out that the actual state of the fishstocks was unsatisfactory due to the distortion of species. The Government of the Federal State of Burgenland reported, that the release of eels (Anguilla anguilla) will be stopped. To protect the fishstocks. Hungarian authorities have submitted a joint project concerning the acquisition of the fishery right.

In consequence of the measures and investments, the quality of water is sufficient; this is checked through continuous water-quality tests, and dredging has been carried out when necessary. As a result of the measures and investments, the habitat of water fauna and flora can be considered secured. The economic use of the salty ponds, that are located in Austrian territory, results in disruption of the natural water management and as a consequence in losses of typical plants and in devastation of the ponds, due to the overwhelming penetration of reed and soil. This endangers the typical fauna of the region.

The Austrian Court of Audit recommended measures for the restitution of ponds. The Government of the Federal State of Burgenland reported the beginning of the restitution of ponds in the National Park, which led to a retreat of reed. Except of singular events there are no more disturbances of the natural water management of the ponds. In addition Beside the Hanság Channel serving the conduct of water from the lake, the Hungarian experts, to maintain and protect the water fauna and flora, have carried out habitat reconstruction covering 430 hectares.

A factor basically influencing the water quality of the lake is the wastewater management of the communities of the area. On the Hungarian side, the channelling of waste waters from the catchment area of the lake – with the exception of three sewage water treatment plants – has practically been solved, the pollution of problematic plants is expected to cease with the investment project due to finish in 2006. The further filtering of pollution will be ensured in the year 2003 by the putting into operation of the two filter-fields established in the cane-field.

For the communities on the western shore of the Lake a central waste water facility was constructed in the community of Schützen am Gebirge. It shall replace the existing nine local facilities.

The quality of reed stock in the Hungarian part of the lake has decreased even though modern equipment – satellite photographs – have been used for the surveillance of its state and quality and the monitoring of the reed harvest. In the interest of professional reed management and the improvement of the quality of the cane-field the management authorities are making efforts to terminate the monopolistic right of usage of reed production. The Hungarian State Audit Office has recommended that the government should issue a decree uniformly regulating reed management.

In Austria there were conflicts of use with agriculture, hunting, fishery and tourism. Drainage in the interest of agriculture has caused the creeping degradation of soil and the salty ponds, due to the continuous loss of salt. A guidance system for visitors, with the indications of requirements and prohibitions, was established only in the National Park. The intensive agricultural use resulted in endangering the typical habitats. Measures for agricultural downgrading, as they are implemented in the National Park, should be extended. Besides, the hunting of waterfowls in a RAMSAR protection area should be scrutinised. Any economic use of the ponds has to be avoided.

In the interest of the preparation of the nature protection measures and decisions, as well as the monitoring of the condition of the region, regular research and monitoring programs are carried out on the lake and in its environment in both countries.

The preparation of a program aimed at the longterm utilisation of the lake has emerged as a central issue. In 2002, the Hungarian National Park – as a result of examinations and professional work – prepared a long-term professional study. In the interest of securing the long-term, unified utilisation of Lake Neusiedl/Fertő, the State Audit Office recommended that the study should be developed into a comprehensive professional and financial project.

In the framework of the EU–initiative INTERREG II two projects were carried out in the Austrian National Park in co-operation with the administration of the Hungarian National Park.

Besides, many research and scientific projects were financed by the Austrian Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Environment and Water Management and the Government of the Federal State of Burgenland. The Biological Center Illmitz was also permanently involved in projects of research and monitoring.

The Austrian Court of Audit recommended to develop a concept for research, nature protection and measures of development and to make up a ranking of the planned measures. The Government of the Federal State of Burgenland reported that the Scientific Advisory Board of the Austrian National Park was working on an overall research framework.

Besides, a co–financed project concerning the ponds is planned. In Hungary, the tasks related to the nature protection of Lake Neusiedl/Fertő are carried out by The Ministry of Environmental Protection and Water and its subordinate agencies, while in the Republic of Austria by the Office of the Government of the Federal State Burgenland. The Hungarian and Austrian authorities co-operate within the framework of the Austrian–Hungarian Committee for the National Parks, as well as Austrian–Hungarian Committee for cross border waterbodies. The relationship is outstandingly good, especially in the area of water management, in the framework of which – in addition to data exchange – the water quality is tested continuously and regularly.

The two supreme audit institutions have established in harmony with one another that the results, respectively the acceptance and recognition of the results, prove that the co-operation between Hungary and Austria is excellent both in the field of water issues and the national parks.

Coordinated Audits of the Implementation of Tasks Related to Environmental Projects and Measures in the Thaya River Basin
Report ID: 4

On the basis of the intentions of the working plan of the EUROSAI Working Group on Environmental Auditing for 2002 – 2005, the representatives of the two involved Supreme Audit Institutions have signed an agreement on carrying out coordinated audits related to environmental projects and measures in the Thaya River Basin.

Part of the border between the Czech Republic and the Federal Republic of Austria lies in the Thaya River Basin. The Thaya River forms one part of this border, another part lies between the “Národní park Podyjí“ and the “Nationalpark Thayatal“.

In the framework of their competencies, both audit institutions carried out audits concentrating on the activities of the responsible authorities in objective determination of environmental priorities in a defined territory of the Thaya River Basin. The audit topics were the use of finances and other measures related to the improvement of the environment, especially water quality, nature protection and biodiversity. Evaluation of transboundary cooperation in the area of environmental protection is also a joint result of the audits.

The results of the audits were pproved in separate national reports and were subsequently incorporated by the Supreme Audit Office, Czech Republic, as the coordinator of the audits, into the Joint Final Report.

Report on implementation of the NATURA 2000 NETWORK in Europe
Report ID: 50

Characteristics of the Natura 2000 network

Natura 2000 is an EU wide network of nature protection areas established under the 1992 Habitats Directive.
As stated in the European Commission strategy to protect Europe's most important wildlife areas, the aim of the network is to assure the long-term survival of Europe's most valuable and threatened species and habitats. It comprises Special Areas of Conservation (SAC) designated by Member States under the Habitats Directive, and Special Protection Areas (SPA) designated under the 1979 Birds Directive.

The establishment of protected areas also fulfils a Community obligation under the UN Convention on Biological Diversity.

The selection of Natura 2000 sites is based exclusively on scientific criteria, such as the size and density of populations of target species and the ecological quality and area of target habitat types present on the site.

The Directive does not lay down rules regarding the consultation process to be followed in selecting the
sites. This is for Member States to determine.

The directives do not say how much land and marine areas are to be included in Natura 2000 network. This will depend on the biological richness of the different regions. If, for example, a Member State is particularly rich in specific species and habitats, it is expected to designate sites in proportion to this wealth of biodiversity.

Although the establishment of Natura 2000 is not yet complete, an area equivalent to more than 15% of EU territory has now been proposed for conservation under the network.

Natura 2000 is not a system of strict nature reserves where all human activities are excluded. Human activities can continue on Natura 2000 sites, provided the future management is compatible with the objectives of biodiversity protection.

New activities or developments within Natura 2000 sites are not prohibited a priori, but are to be judged on a case by case basis. Procedure is defined in the Habitats Directive for assessment and subsequent decisions relating to development proposals that are likely to have an impact on designated sites.

Member States must ensure full compliance with the legal requirements of Natura 2000, regardless of whether they are in receipt of structural funds. However, it is particularly important to ensure compliance in situations that involve Community funded programmes.

In the light of this concern the Commission has already informed Member States that failure to present lists of Natura 2000 sites could result in the suspension of payments under certain structural funds programmes.

The threat of suspension of payments from such programmes was a precautionary measure to ensure that
Community funded programmes would not contribute to irreparable damage to sites before they have been officially proposed for protection under Natura 2000 policy.

Report on auditing the flood control preparedness in the Upper Tisza region
Report ID: 73

The area of the basin of the Upper Tisza is one of Europe’s wettest regions, at high risk from floods. The fundamental cause of the frequent and sizeable floods characteristic of the region, is the hydrometeorological and sinoptic situation, as well as the special location and structure of the beds of mountain rivers, soils and mountain rocks. Floods cause major damage to Ukraine and Hungary alike, and this determines to a large extent the parties’ cooperation in preventing the damaging effects of water and averting the consequences of floods.

The execution of a parallel audit covering the flood control preparedness in the Upper Tisza Region was preceded by an agreement signed in Budapest, on 4 March 2004, by the Presidents of the State Audit Office of Hungary and the Accounting Chamber of Ukraine aimed to monitor the implementation of the contents of the Transboundary Water Agreement signed between their respective countries in 1999, which serves as international legal basis for the cooperation between Hungary and Ukraine in respect of transboundary waters.

The parallel audit was integrated, in case of the Hungarian State Audit Office, in the performance audit task entitled “Audit of Preparations for the Prevention of Natural Disasters”, while in the case of the Accounting Chamber of Ukraine it was a part of the task entitled “Analysis and Audit of the Execution of the State Programme Covering the Complex Flood Control Preparedness of the Catchment Area of the Tisza River and the Sub-Carpathian Region for the Period 2002 to 2006 and the Forecast until 2015”. The audit offices submitted their respective reports to the legislative bodies of their countries.

The joint report presents the summary of the findings made on the Hungarian and Ukrainian sides, as well as the details of the joint conclusions concerning the fields of cooperation, which cover the transboundary waters.


National parks in Polish-Slovak border area Audit Report
Report ID: 145

In 2005, the Supreme Chamber of Control of the Republic of Poland (NIK) and the Supreme Audit Office of the Slovak Republic (NKU),  performed a parallel audit of the functioning of national parks with regard to preservation, sustainable use and restoration of natural resources.

The audit was carried in accordance with the agreement on cooperation concluded between the NIK and the NKU on 9 February 1998 on the basis of the INTOSAI auditing standards. The total area of the audited national parks located in the borderland between Poland and Slovakia was 46,340 hectares on the Polish side, and 107,355 hectares on the Slovak side.

The objective of the audit was to assess:

• the effectiveness of the tasks performed with a view to conserve natural resources in selected national parks as well as to examine whether the resources and funds of the parks had been used in an economical and efficient manner,

• the impact of the binding legal regulations on ensuring appropriate protection of ecosystems of national parks,

• the effectiveness of the activities taken by wildlife conservation bodies.