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Accession strategies for the environment

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1) OBJECTIVE

Commission strategy on the incorporation of the environmental Community acquis into the legislation of the candidate countries in Central and Eastern Europe.

2) COMMUNITY MEASURE

Communication from the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament, the Economic and social Committee, the Committee of the Regions and the candidate countries in Central and Eastern Europe of 20 May 1998 on accession strategies for the environment: meeting the challenge of enlargement with the candidate countries in Central and Eastern Europe.

3) CONTENTS

The Commission communication sets out the Union's pre-accession strategy for the Central and Eastern European countries (CEEC). Its aim is to supplement the Partnerships for accession and to help the candidate countries improve their national programmes for the adoption of the Community acquis.

The Commission focuses on the environmental issues which affect the ten Central and Eastern European candidates, but not Cyprus, which will be dealt with in a separate document in view of the island's special situation.

Enlargement of the Union to include the CEEC is an environmental challenge on a scale which cannot be compared to previous accessions. There is a large gap between levels of protection in the EU Member States and the CEEC. Full compliance with the Community's environmental acquis will probably be achievable only in the long term. However, integration of these countries will provide a considerable increase in biodiversity within Europe in view of their vast areas of unspoilt nature.

The Commission has drawn up a special strategy within the framework of Agenda 2000. In its view, the candidate countries should define and start implementing realistic national strategies before accession to bring about gradual alignment in the long term. This strategy must include priority areas of action, key objectives to be attained by the date of accession, and timetables for the subsequent achievement of compliance. The communication therefore sets out details to be taken into account by the candidate countries when drafting their national policies.

The challenges to be met by the Central and Eastern European countries are of several kinds:

  • the legislative challenge: transposition of the environmental acquis requires a preliminary comprehensive analysis of the laws of the CEEC in order that priorities may be established;
  • the institutional challenge: the candidate countries need to strengthen their administrative structures, become more efficient and coordinate the departments responsible for managing environment policy;
  • the financial challenge: the formulation of financing strategies is essential and should be given immediate priority (region-wide estimates put the total investment costs of meeting the environmental acquis at EUR 100-120 billion).

The main sector-specific challenges:

  • air pollution: this is largely due to emissions from stationary sources (power plants and district heating installations). The first step must be to identify zones and agglomerations where EU limits are being exceeded; it is equally important to modernise refineries so that they comply with European standards;
  • waste management: steps for the approximation of legislation have accelerated in some countries since 1997 (national investment programmes, modernisation of incinerators);
  • water pollution: major investment programmes to improve drinking water quality and waste water management are under way in most of the countries; however, little progress has been made in transposing and applying the "nitrates" Directive;
  • industrial pollution control and risk management: this area needs special attention on the part of the candidate countries since they have numerous heavily-polluting industrial and energy production facilities (transposition and implementation of the "Seveso" Directive would considerably reduce the risk of serious accidents);
  • nuclear safety and radiation protection: all of the countries have recently adopted a basic law, which needs to be supplemented by additional legislation in order to ensure full transposition (this legislation is also required in countries which do not produce nuclear power).

The Commission has come up with a set of priority objectives which will help the candidate countries draw up their National Programmes for the Adoption of the Acquis (NPAA). These priorities must be determined on the basis of a detailed analysis of the environmental situation in each country. The Commission believes that all these countries have serious problems relating to:

  • air pollution;
  • water pollution;
  • waste management.

The candidate countries must fill in the gaps in their legislation and administrative rules to improve the environment while at the same time improving the economy and competitiveness. On this subject, the Commission's 1997 Staff Working Paper "Guide to the approximation of the European Union environmental legislation" identifies the main problems faced by the candidate countries and describes the steps to be taken.

When developing their National Programmes, the candidate countries therefore need to consider:

  • how programmes to promote energy efficiency, cleaner technologies and waste minimisation and recycling can be integrated into their national economic and sectoral policies;
  • how industrial and agricultural production can be guided towards sustainable development;
  • how the environmental gains can be maintained during the transition period.

Application of the environmental acquis will require the creation of costly infrastructure for:

  • the supply of drinking water;
  • waste water management;
  • large combustion plants;
  • waste management.

Since it is generally less costly to introduce pollution reduction measures as an integral part of a new physical investment than to retrofit existing installations, Agenda 2000 states that "all new investments should comply with the acquis". Community funding will be conditional on compliance with this requirement. The international financing institutions should be encouraged to apply this condition as well.

The candidate countries must themselves mobilise the resources they need to implement the environmental acquis. However, the Community and the Member States (bilateral programmes) have an important role to play.

The Commission has in particular intensified its efforts in the environmental sector through the Phare programme and by encouraging the candidate countries which so wish to participate in the Community financial instrument for the environment (LIFE).

Community pre-accession assistance for the environment has increased considerably since the year 2000, in particular through the instrument for structural policies for pre-accession (ISPA), which is concerned with the environment and transport.

To enable resources to be used efficiently, it is important to coordinate, focus and target outside aid. The Commission has therefore decided to broaden the dialogue and cooperation with the Member States and the international financial institutions. It will also provide both legal and administrative technical assistance and advice to the candidate countries regarding implementation of the environmental acquis.

Enlargement offers challenges and opportunities for the environment not only in the candidate countries, but for Europe as a whole. It should therefore be seen as part of the process of sustainable development by integration of environmental issues into all policy areas.

4) DEADLINE FOR IMPLEMENTATION OF THE LEGISLATION IN THE MEMBER STATES

Not applicable

5) DATE OF ENTRY INTO FORCE (if different from the above)

Not applicable

6) REFERENCES

COM(98) 294 final
Not published in the Official Journal

7) FOLLOW-UP WORK

Communication -COM (2001) 304
Communication from the Commission of 8 June 2001 on the challenge of environmental financing in the candidate countries.
The purpose of this communication is to help the candidate countries draw up credible financing plans and identify sources of financing for the necessary environmental investments. It starts by citing the key environmental directives requiring heavy investment (see Annex 1). It recommends that candidate countries start by deciding on their investment priorities, both between and within environment-related sectors. Criteria are set out for consideration during prioritisation. The communication tells candidate countries how to produce investment programmes. It also indicates the various sources of investment and how accessible they are.

8) COMMISSION IMPLEMENTING MEASURES

Last updated: 19.06.2001
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