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Pan-European cooperation after enlargement

In this communication, the Commission works out the basis for environmental cooperation between the enlarged European Union and its new neighbours, and contributes to the debate on the future of the "Environment for Europe" process.

ACT

Communication from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament of 6 February 2003, "Pan-European Environmental Cooperation after the 2003 Kiev Conference" [COM(2003) 62 final - Not published in the Official Journal].

SUMMARY

In 1991, the Dobris Conference of European Environment Ministers marked the start of the Environment for Europe process. The conference aimed to establish a political framework for common action on the environment, and to promote sustainable development at pan-European level.

Further conferences held in Lucerne (1993), Sofia (1995) and Aarhus (1998) continued this process. The Kiev Conference (May 2003) was the most recent meeting of European Environment Ministers. The objective of the meeting was to define the future of the "Environment for Europe" process in an enlarged Europe including the new Member States in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE). This communication is the European Commission's contribution to the conference.

The "Environment for Europe" process has two main roles:

  • it provides the political pan-European environmental framework for co-operation through the ministerial conferences co-ordinated by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe;
  • it promotes environmental improvement in the CEEC/NIS, based on an Environmental Action Programme (EAP) agreed in 1993.

The main actors in the process are:

  • the Task Force of the Environmental Action Programme which aims to integrate environmental considerations into the processes of economic and political reform;
  • the Project Preparation Committee, set up to mobilise environmental investments in the CEEC/NIS;
  • the Regional Environment Centre (REC) for Central and Eastern Europe, based in Budapest, which assists in solving environmental problems in the region. Similar centres have also been established in Moldova, Ukraine, Caucasus, Central Asia and Russia.

Environmental cooperation between the EU and its European neighbours

At the Johannesburg World Summit for Sustainable Development (2002), the Union and other European countries committed themselves to meeting targets of great importance for Europe as a whole, including:

  • improving the region's environmental legislation with a view to harmonising EU standards;
  • partnerships to improve the environment in the countries bordering the new enlarged EU, such as the Regional Environmental Reconstruction Programme for South Eastern Europe, the Northern Dimension Environmental Partnership, the Danube-Black Sea Task Force and the Euro-Mediterranean partnership;
  • taking account of the Doha Development Agenda.

Notwithstanding the global objectives, any strategy for EU environmental co-operation with its European neighbours will have to take a regionally differentiated approach. With regard to the candidate countries, the Commission will continue supporting the transposition and implementation of Union environmental legislation. The legal bases for this approach are the Association Agreements concluded with these countries and the Accession Partnership concluded with Turkey. Support will be available to the countries due to become Members in 2004 in the form of pre-accession assistance prior to enlargement, and after accession in the framework of the EU institutions

With regard to countries in South Eastern Europe, the Commission's objective is to support their efforts to move closer to the EU. This approach is based on the Stabilisation and Association Process. Environmental assistance is provided through the CARDS programme.

In the case of the Western NIS and the Caucasus(Russia, Ukraine, Moldova, Belarus, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia), the objective is to move towards convergence of environmental policies and laws with EU environmental standards. With regard to cooperation with Russia, the main priorities are: combating climate change, efficient use of energy, improving public health, and improving resource efficiency. The cooperation is based on the Partnership and Cooperation Agreements in force for all the countries except Belarus. Two partnerships with these countries were launched on the occasion of the Johannesburg Conference: the Pan-European East-West Partnership for Sustainable Development and the Strategic Partnership on Water for Sustainable Development.

As regards the NIS countries of Central Asia (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan), the objective is to promote security, democracy and prevent conflict through environmental cooperation, and also to encourage the sustainable use of natural resources and the implementation of international environmental agreements. Cooperation will be based on the Partnership and Cooperation Agreements or Trade and Cooperation Agreements concluded with certain countries in the region.

The future of the "Environment for Europe" process

Certain aspects of the "Environment for Europe" process have been taken over by the process of EU enlargement. Accordingly, the activities of the Environmental Action Programme Task Force and Project Preparation Committee have focused more on the non-candidate CEEC and the NIS. The NIS remain a major focus for the Commission with regard to pan-European environmental cooperation.

As a consequence of EU enlargement, EU environmental legislation will become the legal reference and the principal means of international law making for most countries of the region. The legislative role of "Environment for Europe" is therefore likely to diminish.

Enlargement will also change the role of the Regional Environmental Centres. Those in the new Member States will have to compete with other service providers. However, the RECs can still play an essential role in the cooperation with Bulgaria, Romania, Turkey, South Eastern Europe and the NIS. Support will be increased for the five RECs in the NIS.

In conclusion, this communication sets out the fields on which the Commission intends to focus in future:

  • cooperating with EU neighbours on sustainable development;
  • pursuing environmental objectives through partnerships and political dialogue with neighbouring countries;
  • improving environmental understanding at pan-European level;
  • promoting the role of civil society in the environmental sector through the RECs.
Last updated: 25.07.2007
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