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Transboundary effects of industrial accidents

By acceding to this Convention, the Community and the Member States wish to protect human health and the environment against industrial accidents capable of causing transboundary effects, and to promote active international cooperation between the contracting parties before, during and after such accidents.

ACT

Council Decision 98/685/EC of 23 March 1998 concerning the conclusion of the Convention on the Transboundary Effects of Industrial Accidents.

SUMMARY

In Helsinki on 18 March 1992, 26 countries, including 14 Member States of the Community, and the Community itself signed the Convention on the Transboundary Effects of Industrial Accidents, within the framework of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe. With this Council Decision, the Convention is approved on behalf of the Community.

The Convention lays down a set of measures to protect human beings and the environment against the effects of industrial accidents, and to promote active international cooperation between the contracting parties before, during and after such accidents.

It applies to industrial accidents capable of causing transboundary effects, including accidents caused by natural disasters, with the exception of:

  • nuclear accidents or radiological emergencies;
  • accidents at military installations;
  • dam failures;
  • land-based transport accidents;
  • the accidental release of genetically modified organisms;
  • accidents caused by activities in the marine environment and the spillage of harmful substances at sea.

The contracting parties must identify hazardous activities within their jurisdiction and must inform the affected parties of any such proposed or existing activity. At the initiative of any one of them, the other parties must enter into discussions on the identification of activities capable of causing transboundary effects.

The signatory states must take appropriate measures to prevent industrial accidents. In particular they must:

  • induce action by operators to reduce the risk of industrial accidents;
  • establish policies on the siting of new hazardous activities and on significant modifications to existing hazardous activities, with the objective of minimising the risk to the population and the environment;
  • prepare for emergencies caused by industrial accidents, introducing the necessary measures, including contingency plans, to prevent and minimise transboundary effects. The signatories must endeavour to make their plans compatible.

Under the Convention, the contracting states must ensure that adequate information is given to the public in the areas capable of being affected by an industrial accident arising out of a hazardous activity. The contracting states must also, in appropriate cases, give the public an opportunity to participate in the decision-making process concerning prevention and preparedness measures.

Natural or legal persons who are, or may be, affected by the transboundary effects of an industrial accident in the territory of a signatory state must be given the same access to the relevant administrative and judicial proceedings as a national of the state concerned.

Each party to the Convention must introduce a system of notification.

In the event or imminent threat of an industrial accident causing or capable of causing transboundary effects, the state of origin must:

  • notify the affected states without delay;
  • ensure that the contingency plans are activated;
  • ensure that the response measures are taken as swiftly as possible so as to contain and minimise the effects of the accident. The contracting states must endeavour to coordinate their response measures.

The state of origin may ask for assistance from the other signatories.

Each contracting party must designate one point of contact for the purpose of industrial accident notifications and one point of contact for the purpose of mutual assistance. It must notify these to the other signatories within three months of the date of entry into force of the Convention.

The contracting parties must actively encourage scientific and technical cooperation and facilitate the exchange of technology for limiting the risks and consequences of industrial accidents. They must also support appropriate international efforts to draw up rules on responsibility and liability.

The parties to the Convention must meet at least once a year.

The Convention provides for three mechanisms for settling disputes between the signatories:

  • seeking a solution by negotiation;
  • submission of the dispute to the International Court of Justice;
  • arbitration.

The last two methods can be used only in cases where the parties have been unable to settle their dispute by negotiation.
The use of these methods is optional and reciprocal; in a written declaration, a party can accept the compulsory use of one or both of these methods in their relations with any other party which accepts the same obligation.
If the parties to the dispute have accepted both means of dispute settlement, the dispute may be submitted only to the International Court of Justice, unless the states concerned agree otherwise.

The signatory states must keep the other parties regularly informed of the implementation of the Convention.

The Convention entered into force for the European Community on 19 April 2000.

REFERENCES

Act Entry into force - Date of expiry Deadline for transposition in the Member States Official Journal
Decision 98/685/EC 23.03.1998 - OJ L 326 of 03.12.1998

RELATED ACTS

Proposal of 13 September 2006 for a Council Decision relating to a proposal for an amendment to Annex I to the UNECE Convention on the Transboundary Effects of Industrial Accidents [COM(2006) 493 final - Not published in the Official Journal].
The proposed amendment would diminish the differences between the Convention and the Community legislation on industrial accidents, in particular the differences between Annex I to each of these texts, in respect of categories and named hazardous substances for the purpose of defining hazardous activities. These differences result primarily from Directive 2003/105/EC, which amends the 1996 "Seveso II" Directive.

Council Decision 2007/779/EC, Euratom of 8 November 2007 establishing a Community mechanism for civil protection (recasting) [Official Journal L314 of 1.12.2007].
The Community Civil Protection Mechanism supports and facilitates the mobilisation of the emergency services to meet the immediate needs of countries hit by disaster. It improves the coordination of assistance interventions by defining the obligations of Member States and the Commission and by establishing certain bodies and procedures, such as the Monitoring and Information Centre.

Council Directive 96/82/EC of 9 December 1996 on the control of major-accident hazards involving dangerous substances (Seveso II Directive) [Official Journal L10 of 14.01.1997].
This Directive was adopted in anticipation of the Community's approval of the Convention on the Transboundary Effects of Industrial Accidents. It constitutes the instrument for transposing the Community's obligations under the Convention. Since the subject of the Convention falls within the Community's sphere of competence as well as that of the Member States (it is a "mixed" agreement), the Convention must be transposed into Community and national law before it can be implemented in the Member States.
In order to comply with Directive 96/82/EC, the Community, when approving the Convention (Decision 98/685/EC), reserved the right to apply different threshold quantities from those laid down in the Convention for certain substances referred to in Annex I to the Convention.

Last updated: 04.01.2008
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