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Danube - Black Sea region
Highlight actions to be taken to improve environmental quality in the Danube - Black Sea region and the outline of a strategy aimed at protecting the environment of the region.
Communication from the Commission: Environmental cooperation in the Danube - Black Sea region [COM (2001) 615 final - Not published in the Official Journal].
The Danube and the Black Sea constitute the largest non-oceanic body of water in Europe. With enlargement, many of the Danube countries became members of the European Union (EU) and the Black Sea became a coastal area of the EU. As the environmental situation in the region is extremely critical, a strategy is required to rectify it. If this strategy is to be effective, there has to be cooperation between all the countries of the region.
Cooperation before the communication
The Convention on cooperation and protection and sustainable use of the Danube River and the Convention on the protection of the Black Sea against pollution are the current instruments for environmental cooperation. The communication considers that they should be reinforced and that they should form the basis for environmental cooperation in the region.
The European Community is a party to the Danube Convention and the Commission has observer status regarding the Convention on the Black Sea. The Community's PHARE and TACIS programmes also support environmental projects in the region. Annex 2.3 to the communication lists EU environmental projects carried out in the region.
Main environmental problems in the region
Eutrophication (over-enrichment of the water with organic matter, especially algae, produced by excessive discharges of nutrients) is one of the main environmental problems in both the Danube and the Black Sea. This phenomenon has adverse effects on the biodiversity of the water, wetlands, the surrounding forests, human health and fisheries. Much of the nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorus) discharged into the water come from agriculture.
Competition for water in the Danube is also a problem, as is over exploitation of surface and groundwater, contamination with hazardous substances and accidental pollution and degradation and loss of wetlands.
Discharge of waste water, oil pollution in the coastal areas and loss of biodiversity including fish stocks are the most serious problems in the Black Sea.
The Commission states that the long-term goal is to reduce the levels of nutrients and other hazardous substances in the water in order to allow the ecosystems to recover. The intermediate goal is to implement measures to avoid discharges of nitrogen and phosphorus to the Black Sea (including via the Danube) exceeding 1997 levels.
Other important objectives are mentioned in the communication: protecting and enhancing the status of ecosystems, promoting sustainable water use, reducing pollution of groundwater and mitigating the effects of floods and droughts. The importance of applying the principles of integrated coastal zone management is also underlined.
Actions to achieve the environmental objectives
There are three type of action envisaged in the communication:
- establishment of an operational framework for the entire region: the Commission stresses the urgent need to assist the two existing Conventions on environmental matters and to promote regional cooperation. The communication provides for the establishment of a Task Force and a joint Danube - Black Sea working group. Following this communication, the DABLAS Task Force was set up in November 2001;
- improved integration of Danube - Black Sea priorities into EU sectoral policies: the Commission will assist in the implementation of the guiding principles of the EC Water Framework Directive and in the conclusion of cooperation agreements for other rivers flowing into the Black Sea. It will promote research in the sector and the ratification of other environmental conventions by the countries of the region and will examine closely the environmental efforts made by Romania;
- more efficient financial assistance: the Commission will take account of environmental matters in all projects financed by the EU in the area and will attempt to encourage the financial institutions to increase investments. It will study the possibility of the countries of the region one day participating in the LIFE programme.
For further information, visit the website of the European Commission Directorate-General for Environment.