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The Slovak Republic (Slovakia, SR) lies in the heart of Europe, occupying an area of Central Europe that constituted the eastern part of former Czechoslovakia, and bordering the Czech Republic, Austria, Hungary, Ukraine, and Poland.

The landscape of Slovakia is characterised by the western Carpathian Mountains, which extend over the country’s western, northern, eastern, and central regions with vast forested areas extending across two-fifths of the total state territory. The highest point of this mountain range is Gerlachovsky Peak in the High Tatra (2665 m). The southern part of Slovakia is characterised by subsidiary mountain ranges and distinct lowland areas in the southwest and east with the lowest point on the Bodrog River (94 m). Nearly the whole territory is part of the Danube River and Black Sea basin; only the region below the High Tatras in the north of Slovakia is part of the Wisla River and Baltic Sea basin. A great part of the Slovak territory is covered by protected landscape areas.

The majority of the 5,458,000 inhabitants (in 2020) of Slovakia are of Slovak nationality (80.7%). Of the other ethnic groups represented in Slovakia, Hungarians dominate at 8.5% and the other groups comprise Romani (2%) and others (1.8% – includes Czech, German, Polish, Russian, Rusyn, Ukrainian), while 7% are unspecified.  The official state language is Slovak, which is the mother tongue of more than 78% of population. (SOSR, 2021)

More than 20% of the Slovak population lives in the Bratislava region, where most of the economic activities are concentrated, forming a part of the Central European metropolitan region with the core agglomeration Vienna-Bratislava. The Bratislava self-governing region is among the richest regions in the EU based on GDP per capita, which is an important magnet for the further concentration of people and activities. The GDP in this region is 2.4 times higher than Slovakia’s average and the region generates 53% of the country’s research capacity.  The dynamic growth of the Bratislava region contributes to the deepening of regional disparities in Slovakia.

The main feature of the settlement system of the Slovak Republic is its polycentricity, which is determined by the geographic features of the landscape and by the country’s historical development. Of the total number of 2,890 municipalities more than 65% are municipalities with less than 1,000 inhabitants, representing only around 16% of the total population of Slovakia. Statistically speaking, based on the number of inhabitants in the municipalities with the official status of cities, Slovakia is a rural country, although the majority of inhabitants live in the cities and urban agglomerations and their way of life is urban – working, using services and spending the majority of their lifetime in urban environments.

Slovakia, an EU member state since 2004, a member of the Euro zone since 2009, and a member of the Schengen area since 2007, is a unitary state composed of regions and municipalities. It is a parliamentary republic under the Constitution of 1992 (as amended) and is based on a unicameral parliament called the National Council of the Slovak Republic, composed of 150 directly elected members. The National Council of the Slovak Republic decides upon the Constitution and other laws, as well as controlling compliance with them, discussing the state budget, supervising its implementation and approving the state closing account; it also discusses basic domestic, international, economic, social, and other political issues, etc. In other words, the National Council approves overall legislation and policy in every policy field.

Slovakia has a prime minister who holds the highest executive power and a head of state, the president, who is the formal head of the executive, but with very limited powers.

According to the Constitution, the territorial self-governing system consists of two levels – regional and local. The local level is formed of municipalities (cities and rural municipalities) with mayors and municipal (city) councils, while the regional level comprises superordinate territorial units (eight self-governing regions) with regional presidents and regional councils, both directly elected by their citizens for a term of four years. The National Council of the Slovak Republic determines whether a municipality has the status of a city (of which there are 141 in Slovakia).

According to Act No. 221/1996 Coll. on the territorial and administrative division of the Slovak Republic, at the sub-regional level there are 79 administrative districts with the district offices led by district office heads appointed by the state government.

General information

Name of country Slovak Republic (Slovakia)
Capital, population of the capital (2018) Bratislava, 431,214
Surface area 48,845 km²
Total population (April 2020) 5,460,000
Population density (2020) inhabitants/km²
Population growth rate (2020) 1.1%
Degree of urbanisation (2019) 57%
Human development index (2017) 0.855
GDP (2019) USD 105.42 billion
GDP per capita (2019) USD 19,266.16
GDP growth (2018–2019) 4.1%, 2.3%
Unemployment rate (2019) 5.8%
Land use (2018) 41.3% forest land 1.9% inland waters 48.5% agricultural land 4.9% built-up land 3.4% other land
Sectoral structure (2019) 58.1% services and administration 28.87% industry and construction 2.53% agriculture and forestry

Administrative structure and system of governance

The main executive and the national public policy defining body in Slovakia is the Government of the Slovak Republic. It has the authority to make major policies in all fields following the government’s programme objectives within the scope of the adopted (by the National Council – the Slovak parliament) national budget. The main functions of the government include making proposals for the state budget, preparing the annual closing balance sheet, issuing government regulations and decrees under powers given to it by law, formulating and managing the nation’s foreign policy, submitting draft bills to the National Council, and others. For its policy and administration the members of the Cabinet are responsible to the National Council.

The Government Office of the Slovak Republic is a central body of state administration. It controls the fulfilment of state administration tasks and the use of funds allocated to fulfilling those tasks as well as the administration of petitions, announcements and proposals. The Office also fulfils tasks connected with professional, organisational and technical aspects of the activity of the SR government and its advisory bodies.

The members of the government (deputy prime ministers and ministers) are responsible for the following offices and ministries: Government Office for Legislation; Ministry of Investments, Regional Development and Informatisation; Ministry of Economy; Ministry of Finance; Ministry of the Interior; Ministry of Health, Ministry of Defence; Ministry of Justice; Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs; Ministry of Education, Science, Research and Sport; Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs and Family; Ministry of Transport and Construction; Ministry of Culture; Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development and Ministry of the Environment.

In the field of spatial planning there are three ministries with special responsibilities:

The Ministry of Investment, Regional Development and Informatisation of the Slovak Republic (MIRDI SR), which provides support for regional development in Slovakia in accordance with Act no. 539/2008 Coll. on support for regional development.

The Ministry of Transport and Construction of the Slovak Republic is responsible for land-use planning and land-use management with the exception of environmental issues.

The Ministry of Environment of the Slovak Republic is the central state administration body for the environment, including the environmental aspects of territorial planning.

There is a dual system of state administration and autonomous regional and local territorial self-government introduced by the Act 221/1996 Coll. Since the change in 1989 the state administration in Slovakia has been deconcentrated step by step, and specialised state administration was created. The adoption of the new concept of decentralisation and modernisation of public administration, the establishment of the second level of government and the shift of more than 300 competences from the state administration to the municipalities and regions strengthen not only the position of elected representatives in the state to the detriment of the representatives of the executive but also creates new and better conditions for the participation of the public and private (entrepreneurial, civic) sector in the development of the municipalities and regions.  Both parts of this dual system are inseparable and interlinked by a division between the original and transferred competences, meaning the competences originally belonging to the territorial self-governments and those competences executed by them on behalf of the state. In this context municipalities act as both state administration with regard to the transferred competences (e.g. first level offices in accordance with the Building Code) and as local self-government (e.g. commissioning of land-use plans at local and zonal level)

79 state district offices bundle the competences of the specialised state administration in areas such as entrepreneurship, education, transport, the environment, the cadaster, and defence. Other policy areas such as the environment, trade, schools, construction inspections, and veterinary and public healthcare offices remained in the competence of specialised state administration. The state district offices in the eight centres of the self-governing regions play a specific role in the specialised state administration offices for all regions.

The framework of self-government is organised on two dominant levels:

  1. the regional level represented by eight self-governing regions (superordinate territorial units) and
  2. the local level represented by 2,890 municipalities (the cities Bratislava and Košice are further divided into self-governing city units).

The self-governing regions hold original competences in several areas as well as competences delegated by the central government covering various areas relevant for spatial development, e.g.: 

  • The social, economic, and cultural development of the self-governing regions;
  • Management of the self-governing regions’ own budget, investment and public contracts;
  • International and transregional cooperation;
  • Regional planning;
  • Social welfare and the provision of social services, including homes for children, social policy and the coordination of all related issues;
  • Healthcare, including the establishment of hospitals of the second type, the management of non-state healthcare such as psychiatric hospitals and dental services;
  • Education, including secondary, professional, art and vocational schools; the construction and maintenance of educational buildings; remuneration of teachers on behalf of the state;
  • Transport, including the construction and maintenance of regional roads, and the coordination of the railway system within its territory;
  • Culture, including regional theatres, libraries, museums, galleries, and cultural centres;
  • Tourism, including the planning of regional tourism and regional tourism development;
  • Sport;
  • Youth;
  • Human pharmaceuticals, including issuing licences for public pharmacies, exerting control over public pharmacies, managing stand-by pharmaceutical services, and decision-making regarding pharmaceutical reserves;
  • Civil defence (in cooperation with state bodies).

Municipalities (of which there are 2890) may issue generally binding regulations (Article 68 of the Constitution) applicable to all natural and legal persons within their jurisdiction. Similarly to the regional level of self-government the municipalities have original and transferred competences as follows:

Original competences cover local roads, public transport, public areas, green areas, cleanliness, nature and environmental protection, water management, the sewage system, municipal waste, territorial planning, local development, housing, pre-school and school establishments, social establishments, polyclinics, certain hospitals, culture, the certification of documents, certain offences, municipal police, collection of local taxes and fees, participation in regional planning.

Transferred competences concern registry offices, the building code and selected duties in the education sector.

In accordance with the Constitution of the Slovak Republic the governance system in Slovakia has three levels:

1. National level

2. Regional level

3. Municipal level

The autonomy of a two-tier system of subnational government was recognised in the 1992 Constitution and then by the 1990 Municipal Autonomy Act and the 2001 Act on Local Governments of Higher Territorial Units (self-governing regions). (The district level is only an administrative level.)

The National Council of the Slovak Republic is the sole constitutional and legislative body of the Slovak Republic. It is the body of state authority and the status of other state bodies in Slovakia is derived from its primary status. As an elected body it represents the sovereignty of the state and of the citizens, playing an important role in the formation of the Slovak Republic as a modern and democratic state, as well as in the implementation of a social and ecologically oriented market economy. Members of Parliament are elected by universal, equal and direct suffrage by secret ballot. There are 150 Members of Parliament, who are elected for a four-year term.

The Powers of the National Council of the SR are determined by its constitutional status within the system of powers divided into:

  • Legislative power:

The National Council shall consider and approve the Constitution, constitutional statutes and other laws and control their upholding. Its legal acts regulate relationships that arise in all spheres of the social, political and economic life of the Slovak Republic.

  • Power of scrutiny:

The National Council endorses the Government Manifesto of the Slovak Government, which is a prerequisite for its continuing operation, and supervises its implementation, approves the state budget and final state budgetary account, including control reports, and discusses the expression of confidence in the government or its members. Parliamentary control in relation to the government lies in the right of the MPs to raise interpellations, suggestions, comments and questions.

  • Power to create state bodies: includes the power to establish both its own bodies and state bodies as well as to participate in the establishment of other state bodies;
  • Domestic and foreign policy powers.

The government of the Slovak Republic is the executive authority in Slovakia led by the Prime Minister, who is nominated by the President of Slovakia based on the result of parliamentary elections. The government, which is appointed by the President based on a nomination by the Prime Minister, must gain a vote of confidence in the National Council. The responsibilities of the government are described above.

The President of the Slovak Republic is largely a ceremonial office, but exercises certain limited powers with absolute discretion. The president is directly elected by the people for five years, subject to a maximum of two consecutive terms.

The bodies of the self-governing regions are

  1. The chair of the self-governing region
  2. The council of the self-governing region (hereinafter referred to as the ‘regional council’).

The regional council is a body composed of deputies of the self-governing region who are elected in direct elections. The regional council decides on the basic issues of the self-governing region; in relation to spatial development these are namely:

  • regulations for issuing permits;
  • the principles of management and disposal of the property of the self-governing region and the property reserved for use by the self-governing region;
  • approval of the programme of social, economic and cultural development of the self-governing region; regional development plans and programmes, as well as the spatial planning documents of the self-governing region and the territorial plans of the regions;
  •  approval of the budget of the self-governing region and its changes;
  • calling a referendum;
  • establishing, dissolving and controlling the legal entities of a self-governing region;
  • approval of the association of funds and activities of the self-governing region, as well as the membership of the self-governing region in associations.

The bodies of the municipality are, in accordance with Act no. 369/1990 Coll:

a) The mayor of the municipality

b) The municipal council

The municipal council is defined by law as a municipal assembly composed of deputies elected in direct elections by the inhabitants of the municipality for four years. The most important role of the municipal council is to decide on the basic issues of life within the municipality, as the competences of the municipal council particularly include, in relation to spatial development:

  • determining the principles for the management and disposal of the property of the municipality and the property of the state it uses;
  • approving the municipality’s budget and its changes;
  • approving the territorial (land-use) plan of the municipality or part of it and the development strategy for individual areas of life in the municipality;
  • deciding on the introduction and abolition of local taxes and imposing a local fee;
  • announcing a local referendum on the most important issues of life in and development of the village and convening an assembly of the inhabitants of the village;
  • voting, the members of municipal council vote;
  • approving the agreement on international cooperation and membership of the municipality in an international association;
  • establishing and dissolving companies and other legal entities, as well as approving the ownership of the municipality in a legal person;
  • approving the pooling of general funds and activities and participating in associations, as well as establishing a joint regional or interest fund;
  • establishing and abolishing bodies necessary for the self-government of the municipality and determining the scope of their work;
  •  issuing consent to the affiliation of the municipality.

The executive part of the governance system represented by the government, ministries and central administration bodies, state administration district offices and the system of transferred competences is described under ‘Administrative structure’.

The responsibilities of particular bodies in regard to spatial development management are described under ‘Description of the spatial planning authorities’.

Spatial planning system

Brief outline of the historical development of the planning system (since the Second World War)

The planning system in Slovakia follows historical traditions of the planning in Slovak cities during the Habsburg monarchy, hence it can be situated with the Central European planning culture. The foundation of spatial planning in modern terms can be dated to the period of Czechoslovakia between 1918 and 1938. During this period, the first regulatory (adjustment) plans for cities based on functionalistic concepts as well as the first regional development plans were prepared. In 1957, the first comprehensive development document for the whole territory of Slovakia (Perspective Development Plan of Slovakia) was elaborated, followed by territorial studies of particular districts and by the territorial plans for economically and culturally important Rayons (administrative regions) in the 1950s and 1960s. In the second half of the 1960s the work on the Urbanisation Project for Slovakia started, inspired by the German Zentrale-Orte-Konzept and Walter Christaller’s theory. The first all-Slovak comprehensive report on settlement and urbanisation was approved by the Slovak government in 1976, creating a starting point for the subsequent spatial planning documents and purposeful creation of a spatial strategy for investment in construction.  The year 1976 brought Act no. 50/1976 Coll. on Territorial Planning and the Building Code, which represented a very progressive legal framework for spatial planning, although, as a component of the so-called planned governance of a socialist society, it was clearly subordinated to centralist economic planning. Despite the deviating societal context, this territorial planning, especially on the theoretical and methodological level, created a basis on which it has been possible to build, even under today’s changed social and economic conditions. According to Supuk (1996), the spatial (land-use) planning system, which was created in Czechoslovakia in the 1970s, was one of the most progressive in Europe. After the societal change in 1989, the work on the national spatial development strategy continued. The theoretical and methodological concept, which underpinned the strategy for settlement development under the changed conditions and subsequently the Strategy for Settlement Development of the Slovak Republic, was elaborated. In 1997, the government of the Slovak Republic approved the Territorial Development Perspective for Slovakia.

Territorial planning is regulated by Act no. 50/1976 Coll. on territorial planning and building regulations, as amended up to the present day. The amendment reflected substantial changes in the understanding of the societal role of planning after societal changes in 1989, the development of the market economy, the decentralisation of the state administration and the development of a new governance system. Thanks to the progressiveness of existing territorial planning, this part of the complex spatial planning system was the only system to survive the turbulence of the societal changes after 1989 and for years territorial planning covered other spatial planning issues.

Legal basis/constitutional framework (what planning rights exist, which entities hold such rights and how are they regulated and overseen)

The legal framework for the spatial planning system is represented by a set of legal documents starting with the constitution, via legal acts, decrees, and the decisions of the relevant governance bodies. The complex spatial development management system is comprised of three main pillars:

  • Spatially relevant planning activities – spatial planning
    • Integrative planning activities comprising:
      1. socioeconomic strategic development planning
      2. landscape planning
      3. land-use (territorial) planning
    • Spatially relevant sectoral planning activities like transport planning, infrastructure planning, nature protection planning
  • Spatial monitoring and information management system
  • Spatial management – implementation control system
Figure 1: The spatial planning and management system in Slovakia

Legend: Logical relationships between the different parts of the spatial planning system

Figure 1: The spatial planning and management system in Slovakia. Proposal of regulation in Baloga M. (2019) Land-use plan of the City Svit

Strategic socio-economic development planning
Strategic socio-economic development planning (also called ‘regional planning’) was re-established by law in 2001. It has recently been regulated by Act 539/2008 Coll. on Regional Development Support, a framework law dealing with spatial development focused on the social and economic development of territorial units and its planning. The Act defines the system of planning documentation across all hierarchical levels and the responsibilities for strategic and executive activities supporting the social and economic development of the regions and municipalities. In addition to this framework, Act no. 369/90 Coll. on Municipalities, Act no.  21/96 Coll. on the Territorial and Administrative Division of the Slovak Republic, Act no. 302/2001 Coll. on the Self-government of Superordinate Territorial Units (law on self-governing regions) and Act no. 222/1996 Coll. on the Organisation of the State Government at Local Level (defining responsibilities of municipalities) should be mentioned. As the dominate part of the public investment has been implemented with the EU financial support during last years, the transposition of European legislation - related to the EU-programming periods - into the national legal system plays an important role in the field of strategic socio-economic planning . For the spatial planning processes is the Act no. 24/2006 Coll., on environmental impact assessment (on environmental impact assessment - EIA   and strategic environmental assessment - SEA ) in wording of later regulations of special importance.

Landscape planning
There is no institutionally unified system for landscape planning in Slovakia.  It is understood within the system of integrative planning as well as specific planning activities integrated into the different parts of the spatial development planning and management system. The strongest comprehensive element of landscape planning – the landscape plan (landscape ecology plan) – was introduced by the amendment of Act no. 50/1996 Coll. on Territorial Planning and the Building Code in 2000. Yet there is no institutional background for landscape planning defined as a comprehensive process, with public participation and clear responsibilities for its updating. The integration of ecological requirements safeguards the landscape ecology plan only as part of surveys and analyses in the land-use planning process. Particular instruments of landscape planning can be found in Act no. 543/2002 Coll. on Nature and Landscape Protection. The objective of this act is to ‘support the preservation of diverse living conditions and life forms on Earth, to create the conditions for sustainability, restoration and rational use of natural resources, the preservation of natural heritage and characteristic landscape features and to achieve and maintain ecological stability’.

Territorial (land-use) planning

Territorial (land-use) planning is regulated by Act no. 50/1976 Coll. on Territorial Planning and Building Regulations, as amended by several legal acts and a decision of the Constitutional Court of the Slovak Republic.  It defines principles, procedures, documentation and others issues relating to land-use. This is the basic law for land-use matters.

Spatial planning authorities, their competences and responsibilities

Similarly to other developed countries, in the Slovak Republic spatial planning is implemented in accordance with the principles of subsidiarity and planning sovereignty of the basic spatial planning units – municipalities and self-governing regions.

The organs responsible for spatial planning are the bodies responsible for

  • territorial (land-use) planning,
  • strategic socio-economic planning of territorial units (regional development),
  • landscape planning and
  • spatially relevant sectoral planning.

Territorial planning authorities

The territorial planning authorities  are the:

  • municipalities;
  • self-governing regions;
  • regional (state) building authorities;
  • special building authorities;
  •  military and other building authorities and ministries.

The central body for territorial planning with the exception of environmental issues is the Ministry of Transport and Construction. The Ministry of Defence of the Slovak Republic is the territorial planning authority that commissions the land-use plans for military districts. Territorial planning authorities are obliged to commission the planning documentation in accordance with the needs of territorial development and care for the environment to an adequate and economical extent.

The Ministry of Transport and Construction is the central body of the state administration of the Slovak Republic for public works, public procurement, state housing policy and housing management, construction production and production of building materials, investment construction and export of construction works, territorial planning (with the exception of environmental issues in territorial planning, which is the responsibility of the Ministry of the Environment), building regulations, coordination of activities of central state administration bodies, of the district offices in the self-governing region, of self-governing regions and municipalities in the field of land-use planning. This Ministry focuses on:

  • representing the state central administration body in discussions on the strategies, policies and programmes of ministries and self-governing regions;
  • the procedures underpinning the activities of the state administration in ​land-use planning;
  • the procedures for commissioning regional territorial/land-use planning documents;
  • training employees of the self-governing regions and municipalities that commission land-use planning documents;
  • verifying the competence to commission the land-use planning documentation and registering professionally qualified persons for these activities,
  • international cooperation in the area of territorial development;
  • commissioning and updating the Strategy for the Territorial Development of Slovakia;
  • commissioning, updating and publishing the Perspective for the Territorial Development of Slovakia and submitting it to the government for approval;
  • commissioning the supporting and technical documents and entrusting the other land-use planning bodies by commissioning them;
  • assessing, allocating and making proposals for the regional territorial plans;
  • operating the information system on land-use planning;
  • reporting on the current state of territorial development in the Slovak Republic;
  • providing subsidies for processing the land-use planning documentation of the municipalities.

The Ministry of the Environment of the Slovak Republic is the central state administration body for the environment, including the environmental aspects of territorial planning. The competence of the Ministry of the Environment of the Slovak Republic in relation to territorial planning includes nature and landscape protection, protection of water quality and quantity and its rational use, protection of the air and ozone layer, waste management, environmental impact assessments, providing a unified information system on the environment and territorial monitoring, geological research and exploration.

The Regional Building Authority is a state administration body for territorial planning and building regulations in the region. In relation to territorial planning, the regional building authority assesses the allocation within the land-use plan of the municipality and the structural plan for the zone, issues an opinion in discussions on the concept underpinning the land-use plan and structural plan of the zone of the municipality, reviews the draft land-use plan of the municipality and the draft structural plan of the zone, resolves discrepancies in the discussion of territorial planning documentation, acts as a methodological body for the municipality’s territorial planning activities, participates in creating territorial planning strategies, commissions and discusses territorial planning documents, participates in the information activities for the territorial planning information system.

Special building authorities perform the activities of the building office with the exception of powers in matters of territorial decision-making and expropriation in the construction of airports and aircraft facilities, railways, roads, water management works and telecommunication facilities at various levels from local up to national.

Military and other building authorities exercise the powers of building authorities on the territory of the Ministry of Defence’s military districts, with the exception of matters of expropriation. The Ministry of the Interior, the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of the Economy also act in a similar capacity regarding constructions with a special purpose, with the exception of powers in relation to territorial decisions and expropriation.

Self-governing regions are not defined by law as state administration bodies in the area of territorial planning and building regulations, but they perform some functions in this area. In relation to territorial planning, regions primarily commission territorial (development) plans for the region.

Municipalities commission, discuss and approve territorial planning documentation for settlements and zones, create development concepts for individual aspects of life within the municipality, approve changes or additions to the binding part of the territorial planning documentation and take the decision to modify the indicative part of the territorial planning documentation, and perform the task of the first-level building authority on their territory.

Affected state administration bodies are among the important stakeholders from the point of view of a comprehensive approach to strategic socio-economic as well as territorial planning. They come into the process of commissioning territorial planning documentation and approval procedures in order to protect the interests of society across various areas of the economy, environmental protection, cultural heritage protection, public infrastructure and transport development and other areas. The body to which this power is granted by law is the public (or state administration) body concerned. The decisions of the territorial planning authority must be in accordance with the opinion of the authority concerned. The procedure for the involvement of these public bodies is regulated by special regulations. In commissioning the regional territorial plan, special attention must be paid to the involvement of all affected municipalities representing the interests of their communities and local stakeholders and which are granted the right to implement their objections, which must be decided by the approving territorial planning authority commissioning the territorial planning document.

Strategic socio-economic planning authorities

The bodies responsible for strategic socio-economic planning are the municipalities, the self-governing regions, the Ministry of Investment, Regional Development and Informatisation and other ministries and central state administration bodies.

The Ministry of Investment, Regional Development and Informatisation of the Slovak Republic is the central body of the state administration responsible for regional development planning, meaning the strategic socio-economic planning of the various territorial units (municipalities, self-governing regions, state) in accordance with Act no. 539/2008 Coll. on the support for regional development, with a special focus on:

  • Monitoring and analysing the economic and social situation in individual regions;
  • Defining priorities and objectives in support of regional development, and proposing systemic measures for their achievement;
  • Launching the call for the co-financing of programmes to support the achievement of priorities and objectives;
  • Ensuring the creation of legislative, conceptual, strategic and programme documents in cooperation with other central and local bodies of the state administration and territorial self-governments;
  • Coordinating the preparation of regional development policies and ensuring the preparation, update, implementation and evaluation of the National Strategy for the Regional Development of the Slovak Republic;
  • Providing the cooperation within the European Union in the area of spatial development;
  • Cooperating in data collection, creating analyses in collaboration with central state administration bodies, the regional development departments of the self-governing regions, territorial cooperation entities, the scientific and academic communities, as well as with socio-economic partners;
  • In cooperation with district authorities, ensuring the creation of action plans for the development of the least developed districts, and controlling, coordinating and evaluating their implementation;
  • Providing subsidies to the territorial cooperation entities for projects in accordance with the Act on the support for the regional development;
  • Monitoring regional development abroad and cooperating with the Organisation for Regional Cooperation and Development (OECD) and with other international organisations in the area of regional development policy.

Ministries and other central state administration bodies within the scope of their competence cooperate in fulfilling the main objectives of regional development support; cooperate with the Ministry of Investment in the elaboration, implementation and evaluation of the national strategy; send the Ministry of Investment information on the fulfilment of its priorities and objectives; cooperate according to the national strategy in the elaboration of the development programmes of the self-governing regions and the development programmes for public works in their respective territories, taking into account the specificities of the regions and self-governing regions when drawing up their own strategy papers.

The self-governing region ensures its sustainable economic development, social development and territorial development by:

  • preparing and evaluating analyses of the development of the region and its parts;
  •  commissioning and coordinating the elaboration and implementation of the region’s development programme, monitoring and annually evaluating its implementation, ensuring compliance of the region’s development programme with the priorities and objectives set in the national strategy and spatial planning documentation,
  • participating in the preparation of the national strategy and in the evaluation of its implementation, reporting to the ministry on the fulfilment of the priorities and objectives of the national strategy,
  • cooperating with the relevant state administration bodies on different tasks in regional development management, harmonising the region’s development programme and the development programmes of public works affecting the territory of a region,
  • developing proposals for the regional innovation strategy, the regional innovation policy and other sectoral strategies and policies;
  • creating conditions for the establishment and development of territorial cooperation and partnerships,
  • keeping electronic records of municipal development programmes and joint municipal development programmes on its territory,
  • establishing regional development agencies to support the regional development of the territory of a region as needed,
  • supporting the development of business activities necessary for the development of the region.

The municipality ensures its sustainable economic, social and territorial development by:

  • analysing and evaluating the current state of the development of the municipal territory and its parts;
  • commissioning and coordinating the elaboration and implementation of the municipal development programme or joint municipal development programme, regularly monitoring and reporting on its implementation to the relevant self-governing region and ensuring its compliance with territorial planning documentation;
  • cooperating with the self-governing region on the preparation and implementation of the region’s development programme;
  • providing the self-governing region with the municipality’s development programme for the purposes of registration;
  • creating the conditions for the establishment and development of territorial cooperation and partnerships between socio-economic partners at the municipal level;
  • cooperating with other municipalities, self-governing regions, ministries, and other state authorities performing the functions of territorial governance;
  • supporting the development of the business activities necessary for the development of the municipality.

The main instruments of the various types of spatial planning

The main instruments of strategic socio-economic planning of the territorial units (regional planning).

The documents of strategic socio-economic planning of territorial units frame, in accordance with Act 539/2008 Coll. on Regional Development Support, all interventions towards the sustainable social and economic development of the regions and municipalities. They represent cross-sectoral strategic documents integrating different stakeholders with their interests and activities. They are elaborated as mid-term planning documents. Each activity supported from public resources should be in harmony with these documents. In the 2021–27 programming period the social and economic development programmes define integrated territorial strategies and integrated territorial investments.

The main instruments of strategic socio-economic planning of the territorial units (regional planning) are as follows:

  • The National Regional Development Strategy is a comprehensive document for social, economic and environmental development at the national level. As the primary task of regional policy in the Slovak Republic it defines the gradual equalisation between the regions, socio-economic cohesion and improvements in the standard of living of the population.

 In harmony with the law it includes the analysis of the economic and social situation in the regions and the main factors of regional development; the definition of the development strategy, priority areas and global and specific objectives; the institutional, financial and organisational instruments supporting its implementation; the definition of a system of monitoring and evaluation with measurable indicators and a time schedule for its implementation.

The government approves the National Regional Development Strategy and updates to it based on the proposal of the Minister of Investment, Regional Development and Informatisation.

  • The Programme of Social and Economic Development as a short-term to mid-term planning and programming document for the comprehensive social, economic and environmental development on three different levels (self-governing region, group of municipalities on the basis of agreements, individual municipalities).

Programmes for social and economic development contain, based on the law, five main parts – an analytical, strategic, programming, implementation and financial part with the logic following the content of the National Regional Development Strategy.

 The main instruments of landscape planning

Landscape planning in Slovakia is based on a long tradition of landscape ecology and human ecology assessments of the landscape and is oriented towards the ecological optimisation of landscape use based on the coordination of present and proposed activities with landscape relevance following the goals of sustainable development and safeguarding the landscape’s ecological stability, the efficient use of natural resources, the preservation of cultural and natural heritage including the character of the landscape. Landscape planning is currently embedded in land-use planning.  Territorial (land-use) planning in this context could be seen as the tool for spatial and spatial-temporal integration at the highest level as it has to integrate all the different interests represented by different stakeholders, different sectors of activities, different priorities, spatial impacts, etc. Territorial planning creates the platform for the efficient inclusion of professional interests regarding the landscape’s sustainable development in society’s development management, from professional planning documents to the political decision making and from political decisions towards comprehensive territorial governance. Hence, territorial planning as part of the spatial planning system can be understood as the crucial instrument for the implementation of the European Landscape Convention. 

Two basic documents of landscape planning are defined within the system of land-use planning:

  • The landscape ecology plan at the regional and municipal level is the document elaborated as a part of the commissioning of land-use plans at the regional and municipal level with the focus on landscape ecology analyses, the assessment and optimisation of functional use in harmony with landscape ecological potentials and limits for the development
  • The Territorial System of Ecological Stability in the Slovak Republic represents a type of ecological network and one of the planning instruments for building green infrastructure at the local, regional and national level. It is defined by Act no. 543/2002 on Nature and Landscape Protection as a tool for the regulation of landscape development and the starting point for other sectors, especially nature conservation, spatial development, agriculture, and forestry.

The main components of this system are ‘bio-centres’, ‘bio-corridors’ and ‘interaction elements’.

The main instruments of territorial (land-use) planning

Territorial (land-use) planning systematically and comprehensively addresses the spatial arrangement (organisation and parameters of physical structures) and functional use of land (functions of the land and their spatial organisation), lays down its principles, proposes the substantive and chronological coordination of activities which influence the environment, ecological stability, the cultural and historical value of land, and land development in accordance with the principles of permanent sustainable development.

The basic tools of territorial planning are a) territorial planning materials, b) territorial planning documentation and c) territorial decisions as described below.

a) The territorial planning materials mainly comprise:

  • an urban study covering problems in the area in question. It is either produced in preparation for the land-use plan, as a conceptual proposal for spatial arrangements and the functional use of land, or as the detailing or verification of the territorial (land-use) plan.
  • a general territorial plan addresses the possibilities for the long-term spatial arrangement and functional use of land.
  • territorial technical documents, based on specifically focused and systematically compiled and updated sets of data characterising the state and conditions prevailing in an area, which are produced for the whole territory of the Slovak Republic and for selected territorial units;
  • other materials (sectoral documents, studies, etc.) used for the commissioning of the territorial planning documentation, mainly produced for the creation and protection of the living environment, the protection of nature and the shaping of the landscape, the protection of cultural and historical heritage and technical and transport infrastructure.

b) The territorial planning documentation represents the basic tool of land development and environmental care of the Slovak Republic, regions, and municipalities. All sectoral plans and programmes for economic, social or cultural development must be in accordance with the binding parts of the territorial planning documentation represented by:

  • The Spatial Development Perspective of Slovakia, elaborated for the whole territory of the Slovak Republic. It defines the spatial arrangement and functional use of land and establishes the framework of social, economic, environmental and cultural requirements of the state for land development, environmental care and the shaping of the landscape. The technical territorial document creating the basis for its commissioning and elaboration is The Strategy for Land Development of Slovakia.
  • The territorial (spatial development) plan of a region, which is elaborated for territorial units of the country pooling several municipalities (mainly self-governing regions) in which specific development projects or activities markedly affecting the spatial arrangement and functional use of land have to be territorially coordinated. The territorial (spatial development) plan of the region must be in accordance with the binding part of the Spatial Development Perspective for Slovakia.
  • The territorial (land-use) plan of a municipality, elaborated for the cadastre area of one, two or several areas. It establishes in particular:
  • the principles and limits of the spatial arrangement and functional use of the territory of the area in connection with the surrounding territory,
  • the delineation of permissible, limited and prohibited functional use of areas,
  • principles and directions of environmental care and the land system for ecological stability including green areas,
  • principles and directions of the protection and use of natural resources, the cultural and historical value and important landscape elements,
  • boundaries between continuously built-up areas or the area earmarked for building-up (hereinafter ‘built-up area’) and other areas of the community,
  • principles and directions of public transport, technical facilities and civil facilities,
  • areas for public buildings, sanitation facilities and for protected areas of the land.
  • The territorial (structural) plan of a zone produced for self-contained parts of a cadastre area, especially for its industrial, residential, central and historical parts and parts of a recreational or landscape unit, or for the whole area of a small settlement formation, with the aim of providing detailed directions and limits for the functional and spatial arrangement of the location of buildings. The territorial plan of a zone establishes in particular:
  • principles and directions of the spatial arrangement and functional use of plots of land, buildings, public and technical facilities of the territory;
  • principles and directions for the location of buildings on particular plots and conditions for constructing particular buildings;
  • plots that are in the built-up area of the community
  • unbuilt-up and protected areas; 
  • principles and directions for building facilities which will inevitably be needed and their connection to public transport and technical facilities of the area,
  • principles and directions for harmonising buildings with the surrounding development areas and with areas and zones reserved for monuments/historical heritage;
  • location of green spaces, important landscape elements and other elements of ecological stability on particular plots;
  • coordination of new development and the sanitation of existing buildings;
  • sites for public buildings, building enclosures and sanitation.

The territorial planning documentation consists of a binding part and a guidance part, both of which are determined by the approving authority. Public buildings and protected parts of the landscape are determined in the binding part.

The territorial planning authorities are required to commission territorial planning documentation in conformity with the development needs in the area and with environmental care within an appropriate and economically feasible scope.

c) Territorial decisions represent an executive instrument of territorial planning. These may be:

a)      a decision on the siting of a building,

b)      a decision on the use of land,

c)       a decision on a protected area or a protected zone,

d)      a decision on a building enclosure.

In the territorial decision the building office shall delineate the area for the proposed purpose and shall prescribe the conditions which are to ensure the interests of the public in the affected area, especially conformity with the aims and objectives of territorial planning, the spatio-structural and temporal coordination of individual buildings and other measures, and, above all, care for the environment including valuable architectural and urban assets and shall rule on the objections brought by the participants in the process.

  1. In the decision on the siting of a building the building office in justified cases may reserve the right to request submission of more detailed materials or project documentation; in accordance with these it may then prescribe further conditions, which must be included in the planning permission.
  2. Decisions on the use of land may include a change of use and the associated conditions and the duration of its validity.
  3. Decisions on protected areas prohibit or limit certain activities in a defined area to safeguard the public interest; this includes determining the conditions of its protection, especially the activities that cannot be carried out in the area and those that may be carried out only under certain conditions.
  4. Decisions on building enclosures determine the area in which any building activity is temporarily prohibited or restricted, especially if it could cause difficulties or make the future use of the area or its organisation according to the land-use plan impossible.

Participatory processes as an inherent part of spatial planning in Slovakia

Public participation and the decision-making powers of the self-governing bodies are the pillars of direct and representative democracy in spatial planning. The planning sovereignty of municipalities along with the principle of subsidiarity is of special significance. The spatial planning authority that commissions the spatial planning documentation ensures the processes of broad public participation. In territorial planning the public participation processes are regulated by law and are included in all phases of the preparation of the territorial planning documentation. The process starts with the public review of the process of commissioning the planning documentation.

The commission itself, including the main aims and requirements for the territorial planning documentation to be produced, is determined by the respective territorial planning authority in consultation with the relevant self-governing bodies and with the relevant legal persons, and shall be agreed with the relevant state authorities.  

The draft must be displayed for public inspection. The public is entitled to submit comments on the draft within 30 days from the date of notification. The commissioner shall determine an appropriate deadline for the review of the draft, which must not be less than 30 days from the date of the notice on the commencement of the consultation process. The same procedure is required in the elaboration phase of the draft of the territorial planning documentation as well as before its final approval by the responsible public body.

Territorial planning is a tool of planning policy. Societal values are reflected in the legally defined planning priorities and objectives, which are controlled at all levels by the state. The self-governing body must approve the territorial plan, which is considered the key instrument of territorial planning. The approval of the binding part of the territorial planning documentation constitutes a legal act with binding effect on all subjects in the respective territory.  The state as guarantor of the public interest plays an important role notwithstanding the planning sovereignty of the municipalities. The territorial planning documentation must be validated by the state body, which verifies that it accords with the objectives and rights guaranteed by the state.

Public participation lies at the heart of strategic socio-economic planning. The elaboration of the social and economic development programmes of the municipalities and self-governing regions as well as the National Regional Development Strategy is based on a bottom-up approach led by the cooperation boards established by the territorial self-governing bodies, including the whole spectrum of regional development partners. These cooperation boards are an important tool not only in the participatory planning and decision making process but also in the implementation and monitoring phase.

Public participation in spatial planning is underpinned by the regulations in Law 24/2006 Coll. on the environmental impact assessment including specific strategic environmental assessment procedures for territorial planning documents and the strategic socio-economic planning of territorial units. These procedures include additional elements of public participation complementing the participatory nature of spatial planning.

As best practice we have selected the territorial (land-use plans) of the cities Poprad and Svit (author:  Baloga, M. et al.) showing the effort to meet current needs despite the lack of an appropriate legal framework for innovative approaches. Innovations were included in several phases of the planning as follows: 

The analysis phase

In the analysis phase, the authors sought to increase the efficiency, transparency and target orientation of the analysis as the basis for proposing proper measures. The innovation   focuses on increase of transparency in assessing consistency between  current status of each spatial unit (UC) and strategic goals (SP) defined for the elaboration of new land-use plan, e.g. in assessing to which extend the current status corresponds to the target status. The positive values (0–1) indicate (see Figure 2) the extent of harmony, while negative values (-1–0) indicate the extent of disparity between the existing and required spatial quality of particular spatial unit (UCx). The total value for particular spatial unit (e.g. spatial unit UC1) shows the harmony/disparity between spatial quality of this unit with the set of strategic goals (SP1, SP2…SPX) and, at the same time, the need to intervene with appropriate planning measures in order to meet all the strategic goals. The total value for particular strategic goal (e.g. for strategic goal SP1) shows the need to intervene with appropriate planning measures in order to achieve the respective goal across the whole territory and can provide a realistic picture of the feasibility of achieving particular goals (see Fig. 2.)

Figure 2: Quantification of the difference between the current and desired spatial quality.

Figure 2: Quantification of the difference between the current and desired spatial quality.

UCx = spatial unit X

SPy = the desired spatial quality in relation to the strategic goal Y

-1 = indicates a clear disparity between the current and desired spatial quality

0 = indicates an indirfferent or neutral relationship between the current and desired spatial quality (neutral means that the features of particular spatil unit are relevant for, but their parmaters do not contribute to and in the same time are not in contradiction with required spatial quality defined by particular strategic goal)

1 = indicates a good correspondence between the current and desired spatial quality

The regulatory plan phase

The innovation in the elaboration of the regulatory plan (a drawing of the territorial plan for a municipality) was motivated by the ambition to objectivise the decision-making process of the building office.  For each plot the regulatory plan defines three types of regulation, which reflect the desired change in the spatial quality of the plot and the activities located on it. This means that a set of limiting parameters was established for each potential building so that the subsequent permission processes should be easier, faster and more transparent for the owners and potential investors.

Figure 3: Proposal of regulation in Baloga M. (2019) Land-use plan of the City Svit

Figure 3: Proposal of regulation in Baloga M. (2019) Land-use plan of the City Svit

Figure 3: Proposal of regulation in Baloga M. (2019) Land-use plan of the City Svit

Figure 3: Proposal of regulation in Baloga M. (2019) Land-use plan of the City Svit


  • Land use defines the permitted functional type of buildings / activities on the land according to the Building Act (where the functions of building/land are already defined);
  • Spatial regulation defines the set of limiting parameters for the potential building;
  • Specific regulation defines the specific functional and structural quality of the building in accordance with specific requirements, e.g. cultural heritage protection, nature protection.


The methodology represents a flexible framework, which can be modified according to the needs of a changed strategy without losing the simplicity and the specificity of the regulation.


Planning and managerial tools

The authors of the plans developed a tool integrating the information flows from different sources and linking them to the GIS base. All plans were elaborated in the GIS environment, interconnecting a set of national sectoral databases (including those updated in real time) with specific data from the land-use plan itself, and interlinking the visual and non-visual data. This allows for easy extraction of the desired data related to particular plots, buildings and other objects in the city by simply clicking on the object in an interactive plan. This tool allows for easy monitoring of spatial development and of its correspondence with the given goals and principles of the land-use plan.

Figure 4

Figure 4

Interactive WEB-GIS, application in Baloga M. (2019) Land-use plan of the City Svit

Interactive WEB-GIS, application in Baloga M. (2019) Land-use plan of the City Svit

Important stakeholders

Fact sheets


List of references

National Council of the Slovak Republic: Act No. 221/1996 on the Territorial and Administrative Organisation of the Slovak Republic, last amendment 453/2001.

National Council of the Slovak Republic: Act No. 222/1996 on the Organisation of Local State Administration, last amendment 180/2014.

National Council of the Slovak Republic: Act No. 302/2001 on the Government of Superordinate Territorial Units (Law on the region), last amendment 177/2018.

National Council of the Slovak Republic; Act No. 416/2001 on the transfer of some competences from state administration to municipalities and superordinate territorial units, last amendment 440/2015.

National Council of the Slovak Republic: Act No. 369/1990 on Municipalities, last amendment 5/2019.

Baloga M. (2019) Land-use plan of the City Svit, Available at: https://www.svit.sk/mesto/dokumenty-mesta/uzemne-plany-mesta/uzemny-plan-mesta-svit/?ftresult_menu=uzemny+plan  (Accessed 7 May 2021)



Dexia, Ed. (2008) A collective work of Dexia Crédit Local Research Department, Sub-national governments in the European Union – Organisation, responsibilities and finance, Dexia Ed., La Défense.

CEC (2011) Report on ‘Subsidiarity in the Multilevel Framework of the Lisbon Treaty’, Committee of the Regions, drafted by EIPA.

Buček, J. (2011)  Building of regional self-government in Slovakia: the first decade, Geographical journal 63 pp. 3-27.

Finka, M., Přikryl, Z., Scholich, D., Turowsky G. (2007) German-Slovak-Czech Manual on Planning Terminology, Verlag der ARL Hannover, ISBN 3-88838-521-0

Finka, M., Supuka, A., Veruzab, I. (2007): Integration ökologischer Belange in Raumplanerische Konzeptionen in der Slowakischen Republik, In: Finka, M. et al. (2007) Implementierung ökologischer Belange in die Raumplanerische Konzeptionen, Road/ARL/FA STU/SAZP, pp. 26-32

Finka, M., Semsroth, K, Přikryl, Z. (2000) Austrian-Slovak-Czech Manual on Planning Terminology, Verlag der ARL Hannover, ISBN 3-88838-528-8

Finka, M., Petríková, D. (Eds.) (2000) Spatial Development and Planning in European Integration (Priestorový rozovoj a plánovanie v kontexte európskej integrácie), ARL/ROAD/IUG  Hanover/Bratislava/Grenoble, ISBN 80-88999-02-2

Kozová, M., Hrnčiarová, T: et al. (2011) History and Current State of Landscape Ecology in Slovakia, Authors: Kozová, M., Hrnčiarová, T., Finka, M., Hreško, J., Huba, M., Izakovičová, Z., Jamečný, L., Kanka, R., Midriak, R., Mišíková, P., Petluš, P., Oszlányi, J., Oťaheľ, J., Pichlerová, M., Ružička, M., Supuka, J., Špulerová, J., Štěpánková, R., Zaušková, L., Slovak Association for Landscape Ecology (IALE-SK) Bratislava, ISBN 978-80-969801-1-6.

Schoeffel,J., Finka, M., Ondrejicka, V., Petrikova, D., Jamecny, Ľ., Ondrejickova, S., Kemper, R., Nigg, P. (2014) Participative planning in planning culture of Slovak republic and Switzerland. 1st edition, Rapperswil: IRAP University of Applied Science, ISBN 978-3-9524450-0-6.

Statista (2020) Slovakia: Distribution of gross domestic product (GDP) across economic sectors from 2009 to 2019. Available at https://www.statista.com/statistics/375606/slovakia-gdp-distribution-across-economic-sectors/ (Accessed 31 January 2021)

Správa o stave  životného prostredia Slovenskej republiky v roku 2018 (2019), MŽP SR/SAŽP, ISBN 978-80-8213-007-5

SOSR (2021) Statistic Data on Slovak Republic 2020, Statistical Office of Slovak Republic, https://slovak.statistics.sk/ (Accessed 7 May 2021)

Further literature

Finka, M., Semsroth, K, Přikryl, Z. (2000) Austrian-Slovak-Czech Manual on Planning Terminology, Verlag der ARL Hannover, ISBN 3-88838-528-8

Finka, M., Petríková, D. (Eds.) (2000) Spatial Development and Planning in European Integration (Priestorový rozovoj a plánovanie v kontexte európskej integrácie), ARL/ROAD/IUG  Hanover/Bratislava/Grenoble, ISBN 80-88999-02-2

Finka, M., Přikryl, Z., Scholich, D., Turowsky G. (2007) German-Slovak-Czech Manual on Planning Terminology, Verlag der ARL Hannover, ISBN 3-88838-521-0

Schoeffel,J., Finka, M., Ondrejicka, V., Petrikova, D., Jamecny, Ľ., Ondrejickova, S., Kemper, R., Nigg, P. (2014) Participative planning in planning culture of Slovak republic and Switzerland. 1st edition, Rapperswil: IRAP University of Applied Science, ISBN 978-3-9524450-0-6.