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IP/01/1782

Brussels, 10 December 2001

Five Candidate Countries receive Euro 3.43 million LIFE funding for innovative environmental projects

The European Commission has granted 3.43 million Euro to support thirteen innovative environmental projects in Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Romania and Slovenia under the LIFE-Environment programme for 2000-2001. Environment Commissioner Margot Wallström commented: "LIFE-Environment promotes innovative projects that aim to improve the environment and are consistent with EU environmental policy. By funding these projects the Commission is reinforcing its commitment to helping business, decision- makers and academia work together to improve the quality of the environment both in the Community and in Candidate countries. In this way, we are also promoting a healthier environment for European citizens" This year, the main beneficiaries of the funding are public authorities, companies and universities. The projects selected cover all five environmental areas targeted by LIFE-Environment: land-use development and planning, water management, the impacts of economic activity, waste management and integrated product policy.

In 2000-2001, the European Commission received 66 project proposals from the Candidate Countries. The Commission, assisted by independent experts, ranked these projects on the basis of merit. Accordingly, thirteen were granted funding.

The total investment cost for the thirteen selected projects is Euro 9.4 million, of which Euro 3.43 million are to be provided by LIFE-Environment. The remaining costs will be met by the beneficiaries, their partners, and co-financiers.

The Commission expects to reap the benefits of these demonstration projects over the next two to five years. One expected outcome in the participating countries is an improvement in the environmental conditions in certain targeted areas. Improvements will also be made in a way that is consistent with EU environmental policy objectives.

Following the adoption by the EU Council of LIFE III (the third phase of LIFE) on July 2000 (EEC Reg. N° 1655/2000), it was confirmed that the Candidate Countries could participate in this programme up until 2004.

Romania was the only central European associate country that was involved in LIFE II in 1999. With regard to LIFE III, four other countries in addition to Romania have decided to participate: Estonia, Hungary, Latvia and Slovenia.

A summary of the projects retained for funding in each Candidate Country is presented below. More detailed information on these new projects will soon be available in the LIFE database  http://ec.europa.eu/life/envir/database.htm

LIFE is the main EU financial instrument that provides aid for environmental projects that are carried out not only across the EU, but also in neighbouring countries. The core objective of this programme is to contribute to the development and implementation of EU environmental policy by financing specific demonstration actions that fall under one of three distinct categories: LIFE-Environment, LIFE-Nature and LIFE-Third Countries. The total budget for LIFE III (2000-2004) is Euro 640 million.

Annex

LIFE-Environment projects selected for 2000 - 2001 in the Candidate countries participating in LIFE

    Estonia

Number of projects submitted  5

Number of projects to be funded  3

Types of beneficiaries    Public authorities (2), university

Thematic area       Water management

Total costs of all projects to be funded Euro 2.698.873

Total LIFE contribution    Euro 954.279

    Water management plan

The Rakwanet Project concerns the drawing up of a comprehensive and integrated plan for the reduction of the water leakages that the city of Rakvere has been experiencing because of its over-complex and deteriorating water distribution network. This project will help preserve the quantity and quality of water supplied to consumers. Water supplies will be free of the contaminants that can damage health and will also be consistent with the needs of both Estonian consumers and EU legislation. As far as water utilities are concerned, improved demand and distribution management - using modern management and technological tools - will ensure the sustainability of the project. The Rakvere Water Company, which can self-finance, will partner the main beneficiary Rakvere's municipal authorities.

    Innovative water purification system

The Estonian University of Agriculture, which is a driving force behind the Estwaste Project, has proposed an innovative method for purifying wastewater that uses vegetation filters instead of conventional chemical products. The aim here is to reduce the content of N and P in purified water. In addition, a sustainable wastewater purification system will be set up, as a means of addressing local environmental and energy supply problems in rural areas of Estonia.

    Implementation of the water framework directive

The Viru Peipsi Camp Project, which has been proposed by the Estonian Ministry of Environment, aims to ensure that the Lake Peipsi Basin Project (in Estonia's Viru province) is implemented in accordance with the implementation of the Water Framework Directive (WFD).

First, a multi-sectoral inventory and assessment of water resources and of the existing management system will be made. This will then be followed by a programme of detailed measures aimed at improving the management of water resources by incorporating economic management tools, at bringing in permitting systems, and at establishing monitoring and control systems. Other objectives include improved overall project implementation and the reinforcement of existing administrative capabilities in Estonia. This will be done by using transfer of know-how and technology. The ultimate goal is the effective implementation of the WFD. The provision of adequate management tools, staff training, information dissemination and awareness-raising activities aimed at stakeholders are just some of the actions envisaged.

    Hungary

Number of projects submitted  9

Number of projects to be funded  2

Types of beneficiaries    SME, local authority

Thematic area       Impact of economic activities, air quality 

Total costs of all projects to be funded Euro 1.953.454

Total LIFE contribution    Euro 677.950

    Recycling of waste rubber tires

The main objective of the UTR Project, which has been proposed by a private company called REGUM, is to build a processing plant for recycling old rubber tires that uses the latest high jet technology (which allows for fine grinding). Each year, 8000 tons of waste rubber is accumulated. This can be recycled economically to produce an end product that can be used as a raw material. In the future, this procedure could be applied not only to old rubber tires, but also to other waste elastic materials such as conveyor belts, underground cables, silicone products, and thermosetting plastics.

    Air pollution monitoring network

The East Hungarian Bio-monitoring Network (EHBN) Project aims to establish a network for air pollution monitoring in the five biggest towns in Hungary's Eastern frontier zone, thereby promoting a new approach to how air pollution is assessed. The Environmental Protection Inspectorate in the Transtiszanian Region, will manage the project. Based on data received from the networks, they will disseminate information to national authorities and local government decision- makers, emphasising the need for rapidly improving air quality. Air pollution maps will be made available and green areas will be created in towns in the participating region.

    Latvia

Number of projects submitted  7

Number of projects to be funded  3

Types of beneficiaries    Local authorities, NGOs

    Thematic area       integrated coastal zone management, sustainable tourism and integrated product policy, water management  

Total costs of all projects to be funded Euro 1.524.003

Total LIFE contribution    Euro 568.205

    Coastal zone management

The LR 21 Project, which was proposed by the municipality of Dundaga, envisages the establishment of a sustainable coastal zone management system in the North West of Latvia, in co-operation with several institutions in the Baltic Sea region. Initially, a centre will be developed for the planning, implementation and monitoring of Agenda 21 activities in the NW coastal zone of Latvia.

These activities will include a series of innovative demonstration actions. The Regional Agenda 21 Centre that will be set up as part of the project will subsequently carry out wide-ranging information dissemination activities.

    Promotion of environmentally- friendly tourism

The Latvian Country Tourism Association, that is working on the "Green Certificate Project," has proposed the development of criteria for the awarding of the "green certificates" to companies that promote environmentally friendly tourism in rural areas and small towns. The project will design and develop a national eco-labelling system for rural tourism, in accordance with EU recommendations. It will also protect ecosystems, maintain biological diversity, preserve natural landscapes and cultural and historical heritage, and encourage the efficient use of natural resources. Finally, it will also control and prevent pollution and improve quality of life for local communities.

    River basin management

The Open Society Environment Management Centre in Barta, which is working on the Barta Club Project, plans to establish a new public institution for overseeing river basin management. This institution involves participants from the Ministry of Environmental Protection and Regional Development, the Regional Environmental Management Agency, 8 local governments, the "Micro-Euro" region of Bartuva, and the Association of Environmental Projects.

According to this innovative method of river basin management, wastewater and drinking water from 8 different regions will be treated. Research on the current situation in the Barta river basin will also be carried out. The next step will be the selection of three pilot projects that will focus on alternative eco-engineering methods of wastewater treatment and on the reconstruction of drinking water supply systems in small communities.

    Romania

Number of projects submitted  37

Number of projects to be funded  4

Types of beneficiaries    Public institutions and local authorities

    Thematic areas: water management, quality of air, noise, waste management

Total costs of all projects funded  Euro 2.607.555

Total LIFE contribution    Euro 988.015

    Improved flood management

The aim of the Riverlife Project, which has been put forward by the Romanian Ministry of Waters and Environmental Protection, is to develop a flood management action plan that puts the emphasis on flood management rather than flood control. The plan, which focuses on the Timis-Bega basin, is based on the use of advanced engineering technology and on a holistic approach to sustainable management and forecasting.

It is believed by using innovative, "non-structural" methods, flooding can actually help create better conditions for preserving wildlife and ecosystems. The project will provide information in real time, both at national level and with in the framework of international and bilateral conventions.

    Air quality forecasting

The Romanian National Institute of Meteorology and Hydrology, which is managing the Airforall Project, intends to develop and implement a pilot system for forecasting air quality on a 24h and 48h basis in air pollution black spots.

The system will provide early warnings to both local authorities and polluters as to the likely impact of pollution. An action programme will also be implemented to improve air quality in highly polluted areas by discouraging polluters from maintaining current emissions levels - regardless of atmospheric conditions - and by raising public awareness on the impacts of pollution.

    Recycling of used oils

The Used Oils Highway Project, which has been proposed by the Environment Protection Inspectorate in Resita, seeks to promote an alternative solution to the problem of the illegal disposal of used oils. It aims to achieve this by establishing a national used oils collecting network. The aim is to transport used oil by railway to the nearest treatment plant, or to encourage industrial plants that burn used oil efficiently, safely and reliably to actually use it as a fuel for running their plants. An important element of the project will be the launching of a public information and awareness raising campaign aimed at encouraging the recycling of used oils. In addition, an effective storage system for all collected, recycled, or refined liquids will be set up in order to meet local and European regulations.

    Promotion of alternative transport systems

The aim of the project "Vote for the bicycle, vote for a cleaner city" project, which is proposed by the municipal authorities of Oradea, is to improve the quality of the ambient air and mitigating noise levels in the city. This will be achieved by reducing car traffic levels. Its main objective is to influence citizens' mobility patterns and choices by promoting more environmentally sustainable modes of transport, such as cycling and walking. It also seeks to convince citizens to make the right choices by launching a communication campaign that is run by the main beneficiary - Oradea's municipal authorities.

    Slovenia

Number of projects submitted  8

Number of projects to be funded  1

Types of beneficiaries    Local authority

Thematic area       Impact of economic activities

Total costs of all projects to be funded Euro 599.996

Total LIFE contribution    Euro 244.558

    Making small boilers more efficient

The municipality of Ljubljana, which is managing the VGE Project, wants to show how the consumption of extra light oil can be reduced and how emissions of CO2, SO2, NOx and particles that are produced by small individual heating boilers can be minimised.

A Central Control Unit will monitor the operating conditions of these boilers. Data will be collected y using innovative sensors and state-of-the-art communications technology. Ecological and economic benefits will compensate for the initial investment required.


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