Croatian approach

Though Croatia is not the member of the European Union its Nature protection act has already implemented many mechanisms that transpose Habitats Directive provisions. The main such mechanisms are National ecological network (Ordinance on establishment of national ecological network, NN 109/07) and Nature impact assessment (NIA) procedure (Ordinance on nature impact assessment, NN118/09). The new Croatian legislation in the field of environmental protection integrates EIA or SEA and NIA (Croatian synonym for AA) procedure for plans and projects that require EIA (Regulation on environmental impact assessment EIA (NN 64/08) or SEA (Regulation on strategic environmental assessment of plans and programmes (NN 64/08) in accordance with common European practice.

Croatian NIA ordinance (NN 89/07)) reflects the proposed model of four stages:
1.) Pre-assessment (screening),
2.) Main assessment,
3.) Assessment of other favorable solutions and
4.) Establishment of overriding public interest and compensatory measures.

The procedure involves four main subjects: the proponent of the project, the expert or organization preparing the assessment study, the competent authority (Ministry of Culture and county administrative offices) and in the function of national expert institution State Institute for Nature Protection.

Who is the component authority?
Ministry of Culture, Directorate for Nature Protection is a competent authority for the NIA and administrates it in most cases. However, in regards to the pre-assessment stage of NIA for sites of ecological network that are not protected in the category of strict reserve, national park and nature park the appropriate assessment is administrated by the county administrative offices.

Who requests for an Appropriate Assessment?
The proponent of the NIA request can be any individual or the physical person. The proponent submits the request to competent authority and covers all the expenses of the assessment procedure.

  1. Who performs NIA?
    Based on present environmental legislation all companies that are authorized to perform EIA are also authorized to perform NIA. However, due to focused nature of NIA procedure and varying size of the projects NIA assessment can sometimes be successfully prepared by a single expert and be very short or by a whole team and make a comprehensive study. For this reason even now there is no reason why a single expert would not be able to perform the NIA though specific required professional profile for such individuals and organizations has yet to be defined in the nature protection legislation.
  2. What is the role of the State Institute for Nature Protection?
    The State Institute for Nature Protection has expert duties and communicates mainly with authorities administrating NIA which request opinions from it and not proponents directly. It also provides, either directly or through web services, information about the boundaries of ecological network and sites' target features. After the completion of each stage of the assessment SINP creates a report which is then published on the web page of the Ministry of Culture.
  3. What is pre-assessment?
    At the beginning of the procedure proponent submits request for NIA to appropriate authority containing basic information about the project for pre-assessment (as proscribed by the NIA ordinance).The competent authority then consults SINP abut the likelihood of project impacts on ecological network. If significant negative effects can be excluded at this stage based on provided data the project is acceptable to nature and approved. If that’s not the case it is passed to the second stage of NIA - main assessment.
  4. When is Main assessment performed independently and when within the EIA?
    The main assessment is performed independently for projects that do not require EIA and is integrated in the EIA procedure when EIA is mandatory. In the first case, when EIA is not required , the proponent submits a document with content prescribed in the ordinance to the Ministry of Culture. In the second case, if EIA is mandatory for the project,t proponent submits the results of the pre-assessment to the competent authority of environmental protection thus initiating process of EIA .
  5. What happens in the main assessment?
    In the phase of main assessment proponent submits the assessment document/study to the competent authority which is then forwarded to SINP for review. When NIA is performed within the EIA the NIA part is included in the EIA study. The SINP checkes if the document/study is appropriate and in accordance with professional standard. If it is satisfactory and proposed mitigation measures successfully remove negative impacts, the Ministry based on the assessment conclusions issues decision which approves the project, states mitigation measures and defines security payment for their implementation.
  6. What are the specifics when main assessment is performed within the EIA?
    If NIA is performed within the EIA member of the evaluation committee who is also the representative of the competent authority for nature protection consults the SINP and communicates with the proponent on the committee sessions. The results of the NIA are included in the EIA conclusions which are subsequently approved by the Ministry of Culture. If the project is rejected based on the negative results of NIA, the EIA approval process is stopped. Similar process goes for SEA
  7. What is the purpose of the stage 3. Assessment of other favorable solutions?
    If the proposed mitigation measures do not sufficiently remove significant negative impacts the proponent is instructed to proceed to the next stage of assessment and propose alternative solutions for implementation of the project. Alternative solutions are then again returned to stage 2 and assessed for possible impacts.
  8. How is mechanism of overriding public interest applied?
    If no acceptable alternative is found proponent may request establishment of overriding public interest and submit request through the Ministry of Culture, to the Croatian government. Croatian government may approve the project for these reasons after public consultation. In that case Ministry of Culture forms a committee for compensation measures. The committee defines compensation measures and the security payment for their implementation. In a difference to compensation measures for future NATURA 2000 besides compensation by the restoration or addition of the similar area to the network, national ecological network can be compensated with other area important for national ecological network or by financial compensation.