null Joint Statement of the Commissioner for Fundamental Rights and the Ombudsman for Future Generations on the Occasion of World Soil Day

Dr. Ákos Kozma, Commissioner for Fundamental Rights and Dr. Gyula Bándi, Deputy Commissioner for the Interests of Future Generations call for enhanced soil protection on the occasion of World Soil Day.

The aim of World Soil Day (5 December), which was initiated by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in 2013, is to highlight the importance of soil protection and encourage sustainable soil use. Soil is an irreplaceable stationary asset, of which the creation of a 10-cm-thick layer takes a thousand years.

Article P) of the Fundamental Law of Hungary has placed our natural resources under constitutional protection as part of the nation’s common heritage, and soil protection is also a part of this obligation. The Commissioner for Fundamental Rights and the Ombudsman for Future Generations remind us that soil plays a role in ensuring the three elemental conditions of our life: healthy food, clean water and clean air. Its quality and quantity are instrumental to the existence of the flora and the fauna, as well as to human nutrition and the quantity and quality of water retained by the soil. The soil is the biggest water reservoir of Hungary; this is why moisture-retaining tillage is quintessential. It also serves as a food and heat reserve, capable of mitigating the effects of extreme weather conditions.

The Ombudsman and his Deputy pointed out the importance of creating appropriate legal protection for the soil both on a European and a domestic level. As a matter of fact, Hungary does not have a comprehensive soil protection regulation; soil protection is only enforced in connection with special land use categories.

The national strategic documents – such as the 5th National Environmental Protection Programme for 2021–2026, the National Biodiversity Strategy and the Common Agricultural Policy for 2023–2027 – lay down the duty of soil protection and soil maintenance, and they also set goals with a view to the enhanced protection of the quantity and quality of soil reserves, the long-term preservation of soil fertility and the development of regulations guaranteeing protection for the soils.

This November, the European Commission submitted an EU soil protection strategy, which defines specific, voluntary and legally binding measures regarding the protection, restoration and sustainable use of the soil. The aim of this strategy is to increase the coal content of the soil in agricultural lands, fight against desertification, restore degraded lands and soils, and ensure that by 2050, all soil ecosystems are in a healthy condition. The strategy calls for the same level of protection for the soil as that already existing in the EU in connection with water, the marine environment and the air.

The Commissioner for Fundamental Rights and the Ombudsman for Future Generations remind us that since soil is one of the most important conditionally renewable resources of Hungary, it is a key priority to halt the shrinking of green spaces and the rapid spread of soil sealing. During the implementation of development projects, early and accurate planning, the regulatory environment helping the assessment of environmental impacts with safeguards, and compliant practice could guarantee that environmental and nature conservation aspects are taken into consideration, which would then lead to a reduced utilisation of green cover and would thus result in the protection of the soil.

Therefore, the Ombudsman and his Deputy urge all stakeholders to do their best in order to protect the soil as a natural resource forming the nation’s common heritage for the sake of the future generations.