PROBLEMS OF TRANSFORMING MILITARY TRAINING AREAS IN A POST-COMMUNIST SPACE: LOCAL COMMUNITY PERCEPTIONS AND POLICY IMPLICATIONS.

AuthorFrantal, Bohumil
  1. Introduction

    Military training areas (hereinafter MTA) represent a specific type of peripheries with significant potential, usable for future sustainable development (Kustrova, 2013; Seidl and Chromy, 2010a; Zug, 2015). While the integration of spatially or socio-economically marginalized areas into the regional system in the context of post-communist transformation has been an important subject of social science research in general, the MTA have been so far neglected--partly due to social and political conditions, including the lack of information or a limited ability to obtain information about the areas, and partly due to a general irrelevance of the problem requiring an immediate solution (Seidl and Chromy, 2010b). Only in recent years, the issue of optimizing military capabilities has been raised as a result of gradual reduction of the army units, services and number of soldiers.

    In the Czech Republic, the MTA still occupy a significantly higher share of land (about 1.7%) than in the neighboring countries (approximately 0.5%) (Kazatel, 2012). Given the real needs of the Czech Army training troops, the current number and size of military capabilities have been re-considered, but an equally important reason for the optimization is the restoration of civil rights of inhabitants of military settlements who, in the absence of a municipality status in the territory of a military area, were not able to vote or be elected to municipal councils, nor they were able to own or trade property.

    To perform the optimization process a new Act (no. 15/2015 Coll.) on 'The abolition of the Brdy military training area, the establishment of the boundaries of the military training areas, the change of the borders of the regions and the amendment of the related laws' has been approved. In the designated territories, the creation of new municipalities or the affiliation of the territory to the adjacent municipalities is now possible. The Ministry of Defense of the Czech Republic (MOD, 2015) throughout the process of border optimization of the military settlements sought to involve as much as possible the affected inhabitants and mayors of concerned municipalities in all negotiations on their future and the submitted proposals.

    The aim of the research presented in this paper was to evaluate how actual local development and related problematic aspects of the transformation of municipalities that have had or still have a common border with MTA are perceived by social actors (inhabitants) and what are the local communities' perceptions about the future development scenarios of these areas. The article presents selected results of an extensive questionnaire survey conducted in 2016 with inhabitants of municipalities located in the hinterland of MTA, concerning the perceptions of current problems of the quality of life and positive and negative impacts associated with changes in the public administration and the activities of MTA. The basic research question to answer in this paper is how does the location of municipalities (in the sense of proximity to MTA) affect the local quality of life and the degree of perceived problems in the municipality.

  2. Theoretical departures

    The emergence of the first permanent modern MTA can be dated to the mid-19th century in the UK (Evans, 2006); in the US and other countries MTA appeared just a few decades later (Johnson, 2001). After the WWI, new and renovated military sites that could no longer keep pace with the upcoming era of modern times have been constructed, and there was a tendency to exchange the quantity for the quality (Shoebridge, 2011). An unprecedented military division of the world into the Western and the Eastern bloc began to take place in the late 1940s. This also involved the building of new military settlements and bases, technological upgrading and capacity building of troops, as a part of the strategy of the so-called Cold War (Lachowski, 2007; Kramer, 2010). At present, MTA cover an area of 2 to 2.5 million [km.sup.2], which represents more than 2% of the global surface area (approximately the area of Algeria), and they occur in all major ecosystems in the world (Zentelis et al., 2017a, 2017b).

    Over the last two decades, the academic literature dealing with MTA has focused on two major aspects. Apart from studies on the history and development of MTA, their spatial and political organization (e.g., Evans, 2006; Lachowski, 2007; Kramer, 2010; etc.), the main research directions included (i) ecosystems, natural conditions, biodiversity specificities in the areas (Harabis and Dolny, 2018; Busek and Reif, 2017, Zografou et al., 2017; Lindenmayer et al., 2016), and (ii) environmental management and models of optimization and sustainable development of degraded areas (Fox et al., 2017; Guimaraes et al., 2017; Luft et al., 2014; Wanner and Xylander, 2003). The principles of environmental management in MTA have been confronted by Zentelis et al (2017a, 2017b), the models or scenarios of optimization of degraded areas, the behavioral, emotional and cross-cultural perceptions of members of army training in interaction with the inhabitants of adjacent communities have been studied by Onal et al (2017), Damari, Rubin and Logan-Terry (2015) and Oden et al (2015).

    MTA are typical by their location, which--in the vast majority of cases--can be described as peripheral, which in general entails a number of economic, social or administrative problems, as well as interesting research aspects in the given areas. Different peripheral areas are located all over the world, yet the definition of the term itself may differ depending on the region or country where the periphery is located. There are several approaches to defining peripheries. Leimgruber (1994) poses four types of peripheries, including (i) geometric (the area is geometrically distant from the center), (ii) ecological (areas face excessive resource exploitation), (iii) economic (areas face low economic activity), and (iii) social (inhabitants of areas are socially excluded, often members of a language, racial, or religious minority).

    The economic approach is one of the most frequently used (in this case unemployment and low number of job opportunities), nevertheless, the remaining three will also be considered for the purposes of this paper. These are the geometric approach--distinguishing inland and border peripheries, the social approach--social exclusion, ethnic minorities, internal migration, population aging etc., and the ecological approach--possible environmental pollution by military technology.

    Ruane and Todd (2001) outline core-periphery relations in Britain, France and Spain. They presume that globalization, cultural differences and also badly adjusted political systems of the individual countries are the causes of peripheral area creation. Davies and Michie (2011) discuss if (and to what extent) peripheral areas are a problem for the countries of Western and Northern Europe. In their study, they propose alternative approaches to resolving problematic areas, such as providing public services in the excluded areas, training for the socially excluded, etc. Burcher, Habersetzer and Mayer (2015) indicate the entrepreneurial potential of peripheral areas and advise that if local entrepreneurs are able to negotiate and establish partnerships, the areas might serve as a suitable place for selected business ventures. Baudelle and Guy (2004) discuss the impact of the regional policies of the EU on peripheral areas in selected countries.

    Notable differences caused by the Cold War and the division of Europe into 'East' and 'West' can be observed in the literature. Only in the 1990s, with the fall of the Iron Curtain and subsequent transformations of economic management structures, did authors from the former Eastern Bloc manage to develop their theoretical consensus into practical applications. The Russian Federation has the most significant issues with peripheral areas. Massive internal migration of inhabitants younger than 30 years has been recorded. Kashnitsky and Mkrtchyan (2008) state that the depopulation of peripheries causes a dramatic aging of the population and consequently economic stagnation of entire regions. Similar problems have been recorded in Poland (Markuszewska, 2015) and Slovakia (Mikus, Malikova and Lauko, 2016; Novotny and Pregi, 2016).

    As Seidl and Chromy (2010b) state, areas which are typically peripheral were chosen to become military training areas in the Czech Republic, respectively in all post-communist countries. Maceskova, Ourednicek and Temelova (2009) state that municipalities in their hinterland often face regional development stagnation. Sustainable regeneration of former military sites (or military brownfields) have recently become one of the greatest challenges for municipal planners and developers. The transition from military to civilian life for these complex, contaminated, isolated, heritage laden and often contested sites in locations ranging from urban to remote is not an easy process, and there is little systematic analysis of what follows base closures, leaving communities, governments, developers, and planners to experiment with untested land use configurations, partnership structures, and financing strategies (cf. Bagaeen and Clark, 2016).

    Ashley and Touchton (2016) analyzed case studies of military base redevelopments in the US and they conclude that the redevelopment of military sites is specific, particularly by the presence of federal funding, contamination of redevelopment parcels, and economic output in the surrounding counties. Based on the experiences from the US, Bailey et al (2006) summarized the key tasks of public administration and local leaders for successful post-military redevelopment projects: (i) local leaders should begin planning for redevelopment early, and plan with respect to long-term benefits instead of short-term gains, (ii) they should listen to...

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