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Multilateral Environment for Europe process
The Commission reports on the progress made by and the future post-2007 of the multilateral Environment for Europe process which concerns the countries of Central and Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia.
Communication from the Commission of 21 May 2007 - Commission Cooperation with the Environment for Europe Process after the 2007 Ministerial Conference in Belgrade [COM(2007) 262 final - Not published in the Official Journal].
The Environment for Europe process is an informal multilateral framework created in 1991 and overseen by the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) to promote environmental protection in the countries of Central and Eastern Europe.
The European landscape has changed since the creation of this multilateral process, in particular through the enlargement of the EU to the east which integrated most of the countries of Central and Eastern Europe targeted by this process and thereby made them subject to the Community environment acquis. In addition, relations between the EU and UNECE countries have also been taken into account in the European Neighbourhood Policy and the development of bilateral relations (for example with Russia and the Ukraine) or regional relations (Black Sea region).
The main success stories of the Environment for Europe process include holding multilateral forums, its contribution to the drafting of pan-European reports evaluating the state of the environment, as well as the environmental strategy for the countries of Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kirgizstan, Moldova, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Ukraine and Uzbekistan) which aims to find solutions to environmental problems shared by these countries.
However, the Commission notes that the process has encountered some problems, such as difficulties for countries of the former Soviet Union which have not joined the EU to make progress in environmental matters (due mainly to internal political and financial constraints). The Commission also underlines the difficulties linked to the range of subjects dealt with at ministerial conferences and the fact that the role of the Environment for Europe process has progressively decreased as other cooperation frameworks and initiatives have developed.
At the ministerial meeting in Kiev in 2003 the parties decided from then on to focus the process more on countries in Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia. They also rearranged the activities of the various working groups to make better use of available resources. Three trends emerged at this meeting, namely the progressive expansion of the EU towards the east (27 of the 56 members of UNECE are now in the EU and another three are EU candidates); the diversity of the countries in Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia and the difficulty in seeing them as a unified region; and the decrease in donations to countries such as Russia and Kazakhstan following their rapid economic growth since the end of the 1990s.
The Commission is of the opinion that, following the meeting to be held in Belgrade in October 2007, the central role of the UNECE should be to facilitate the implementation of the UN's conventions in the region and to continue in its role of coordinating environmental activities in the countries covered by the Environment for Europe process and helping to evaluate these countries' environmental performance.
In turn the Commission will concentrate in particular on helping to implement the existing UNECE environmental conventions, contributing to UNECE environmental performance reviews, supporting Regional Environmental Centres, participating in selected sub-regional initiatives and improving the water sector in the region.