One of the fundamental functions of a socialist state is to secure proper living conditions for its citizens. Consequently, in countries with centrally planned economies, there is a legal framework which ensures a particular place for environmental protection in the economic activity of the state. To achieve this objective requires a range of provisions which include, besides the strictly social ones, a great number of conditions generally described as ‘ecological’ or ‘environmental requirements’.
In order to determine how environmental impact assessment (EIA) could fit within the overall planning process in socialist countries, it is important to consider three aspects. These are the constitutional and legal framework within which EIA would have to operate; current practice in development planning; and the scope for using EIA in centrally planned economies. In this chapter, each of these facets is given separate consideration, along with a detailed review of recent experience of EIA in Poland.
The constitutions of socialist countries determine that environmental protection and regulation of the use of natural resources for present and future generations are basic functions of the state. The complexity of environmental-social interrelationships requires a particular form of constitutional device. Thus, certain constitutions contain articles dealing directly with environmental protection, for example, by identifying responsibilities with respect to the environment, while others specify the socioeconomic objectives of environmental policy. The most important principles of environmental protection incorporated within the constitutions of individual socialist countries, and some examples of relevant articles, are listed in Table 12.1
To understand how constitutional principles relating to the environment operate in some socialist countries it is advisable to examine some examples. For instance, the Czechoslovak constitution regulates environmental protection above all by Article 15 which states that: