The report, "Developing Local and Regional Environmental Action Plans in Central and Eastern Europe: Case Studies of Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and the Slovak Republic," aims at assessing the progress in adopting comprehensive environmental protection strategies at the local level. The countries included in this report are progressing towards market-based economic systems and modern systems of environmental management at different paces and by different means, but they meet common problems and obstacles as well.

The report provides detailed descriptions of five local and two regional environmental action plans, generally referred to hereafter as local environmental action plans (LEAPs), from five countries. The report analyzes all the cases in terms of the approach used in the Environmental Action Program for Central and Central Europe (EAP). It provides information on the possible application of that EAP methodology and on different approaches undertaken in different LEAP sites. Whereas a previous REC report entitled Status of National Environmental Action Programs in Central and Eastern Europe (May 1995) focused on the advancement at the national level, this report concentrates on local-level achievements.

Developing LEAPs in the region is still in its infancy; the report takes a snapshot of those older and more developed LEAPs. Some reported cases are still underway and may be finished in different ways. The report, however, does not provide an exhaustive list of local environmental initiatives. Conclusions focus on what worked and did not work in only certain cases.

The most visible result of developing LEAPs in several communities is the strengthened identity of the inhabitants with their towns or villages. It is useful to activate local initiative and knowledge and to make environmental protection a common task. The case studies also point out more general problems and needs, such as leadership, capacity, availability of funds and information. Incomplete administrative reform in many countries has resulted in a tendency towards re-centralization of decisions and resources. This latest seems to be a serious problem.

The report consists of case studies based on a format prepared by REC project staff in consultation with leading experts who have served as LEAP projects partners. Comparable formats were discussed and approved at meetings of all project partners and the coordinator of the project in REC. Easy-to-follow formats were used to allow comparisons to be made while going through the text. The following project partners were involved in preparing the case studies: Zoltan Csepiga, Marta Kaczynska, Ctirad Mikes, Peter Nizak, Veleslava Tsakova. The Stara Zagora LEAP report was based on the reports and contributions of Katya Dyankova, Paul Markowitz, Rossitsa Panova and Elena Petkova.

The edited case studies were discussed during a workshop held from June 14-16, 1996, in Szentendre, Hungary. The main goal of the workshop was to share experience related to the process of developing and implementing local and regional environmental action plans in the region. Project partners and experts from different leading institutions working in this field reviewed the LEAP process to date, identified lessons learned and discussed ideas for promoting the development of other LEAPs in the region.

Tomas Hak was responsible for developing the framework and editing the report, for writing the overview chapter and for overall coordination of the project. Additional members of the REC Initiatives Team reviewed the texts, including Lee Davis, Istvan Hegyi, and Laszlo Karas. English language editing was completed by Helen Carr and Lee Davis, and desktop publishing and publication layout performed by Sylvia Magyar. The project which resulted in the publishing of this report was carried out as part of the Assistance to EAP Approaches Program of the REC Initiatives, under the management of Laszlo Karas.

I would like to thank all the contributors to the report for their dedication and commitment.

Stanislaw Sitnicki
Executive Director