Europe-Asia cooperation strategy
The Commission intends to enhance the efficiency of cooperation between Europe and Asia regarding environmental matters by promoting a proactive regional strategy.
Communication of 13 October 1997 from the Commission to the Council, the European Parliament and the Economic and Social Committee on a Europe-Asia Cooperation Strategy in the Field of Environment [COM(97) 490 - Not published in the Official Journal].
Environmental problems are a major issue in Asia. The repercussions of pollution affect both Asia and Europe. No respecter of frontiers, pollution threatens the region's economic stability and business development.
Asia's rapid urbanisation and industrialisation, compounded by the poverty of its population, have been accompanied by environmental damage.
The Asian countries are increasingly aware of the need to improve the environment and of the cost of environmental damage, including lost productivity and increased medical spending. Once neglected, environmental issues have in recent years become a priority in Asia.
Europe's position at the forefront of environmental technologies and services (it holds almost 60% of the world's patents for environmental technologies) makes it a key partner for the Asian countries in this sphere.
At the Essen European Council of 8-14 December 1994, the Member States declared their wish for greater cooperation and dialogue between Europe and Asia, especially in the environmental field.
The main environmental problems facing Asia are:
- water pollution (industrialisation, domestic sewage, exhaustion of the groundwater);
- air pollution (transport, energy and industry);
- waste management (the increasing volume of household and industrial waste);
- land degradation (soil erosion, waterlogging and salinity);
- loss of biodiversity (loss of species and habitat).
The Member States are already involved in Europe-Asia environmental cooperation (providing official development assistance, loan guarantees, etc.). The Community has acted under bilateral agreements with the Asian countries (e.g. funding for tropical forests), fostering dialogue in ASEM and ASEAN and granting loans financed by the European Investment Bank (EIB), in the transport and energy sectors.
Asia's needs in the environmental field are considerable. The Asian countries will have to find almost ECU 34 billion a year in public and private funding for national environmental investment. A multipronged strategy is needed, involving:
- building Asia's environmental management capacities: more efficient and rational use of natural resources, the introduction of a sustainable wealth-creation model and environmental institutions;
- adopting market-based environmental measures: mobilising the private sector (providing the necessary incentives for foreign direct investment that is more effective than state aid);
- focusing cooperation on priority sectors: urban and industrial pollution, protecting natural resources etc.;
- fostering environmental research and development networks between Europe and Asia.
The effectiveness of Europe-Asia cooperation depends on the application of the following criteria:
- the common interest of the two regions;
- complementarity with measures taken by the Member States (avoiding needless duplication);
- synergies with international donors (World Bank, EIB, UNDP);
- the viability of operations when European involvement ends.