Select Committee on European Communities Thirty-Third Report


The Environment of Russia and the New Independent States



  117.    Besides taking formal evidence and receiving informal views during visits, the Sub-Committee found it useful to consult three recent reports which draw together views from different perspectives on the effectiveness of Tacis:

  (i)    The Tacis Interim Evaluation Report, covering the period to mid-1997, prepared by the DG 1A Evaluation Unit with the assistance of consultants and Tacis monitoring staff in the NIS;[43]

  (ii)    The report of a "brainstorming" consultative meeting held in May 1998 between DG 1A and representatives of a range of EU­based organisations involved in Tacis (industry, financial institutions, consultants, NGOs and academics), moderated by Mr Guy de Selliers, Chairman, Flemings Eastern Europe;[44] and

  (iii)    A report by the Conservation Foundation, in association with Eco­Accord (Moscow) and the Central European University (Budapest), on international environmental collaboration in Russia: the report is the result of an extensive opinion survey of Russian and western organisations and individuals, including Russian government departments, international organisations, academics and (in particular) NGOs, and was prepared for the June 1998 "Environment for Europe" Conference in Århus, Denmark (paragraph 84).[45]


The profile of the environment in the NIS

  118.    The nature and scale of environmental problems in the NIS have already been described (paragraphs 8-9, 13). The Environment Agency commented that the Russian Federation, for example, had plenty of environmental legislation but lacked the means of practical regulation (p 85). DFID, echoing others, said that in current conditions (even before the latest crisis) people in the NIS had "more on their minds than the environment"; nevertheless, the EU accession process for CEECs was having a knock-on effect in the NIS, and "in a number of NIS countries (e.g. Ukraine) there is a great deal of interest in adapting their standards to EU standards" (p 39; Q 166). Mendip District Council commented that, in their experience, there was widespread environmental awareness amongst the population but that since the collapse of communism no effective mechanism for involving local people had yet emerged. "The thing that as local authorities we can teach the most to our counterparts in the former Soviet Union is that...everything is linked, that everybody needs to be involved in all aspects of the environment, and they need a local strategy—which comes as news to a centrally planned economy" (p 14; Q 39).

  119.    Economic conditions, however, generally precluded effective action: as DFID commented, "the willingness and ability of polluters to pay for investments to resolve environmental problems is very low and, in some cases, non-existent in the NIS. In many NIS, state and municipal budget allocations for the environment have fallen significantly. The capacity and effectiveness of environmental funds, capitalised by environmental charges and taxes, is weak. Foreign direct investment is low." (p 36) The Chairman of the State Committee for Environmental Protection (SCEP), Professor Viktor Danilov-Danilyan, told members of Sub-Committee C visiting Moscow that the Russian Federation had signed nearly all the international conventions on environmental protection, and had legislation in place covering most aspects; there were, however, economic constraints on enforcement. Over the past seven years agriculture had ceased to be one of the worst sources of pollution, mainly because farmers could no longer afford agro-chemicals; serious pollution continued in the municipal and industrial sectors. Dr James Hindson (Field Studies Council) suggested that the critical challenges for the NIS were to clean up the "mess" of the Soviet period and especially to curb pollution from heavy industry and agriculture; to ensure that the move to the market economy does not replicate the problems of the West (traffic, litter, packaging waste, abuse of recreational areas, etc; and to ensure that the West does not export environmental or public health problems to the NIS (e.g. smoking and battery farming) (p 68).

  120.    At an informal dinner in Moscow hosted by the British Embassy, members of Sub-Committee C met the directors of three leading Russian environmental NGOs: Professor Alexei Yablokov, Chairman, Centre for Russian Environmental Policy and former adviser to President Yeltsin; Ms Olga Ponizova, Executive Director, Eco­Accord (Centre for Environment and Sustainable Development); and Professor Sergei Baronovsky, Executive Director, Green Cross Russia and one time environmental adviser to President Gorbachov. All of them commented on the low priority given to the environment by the various fragmented arms of the Russian Federal Government and the weak status of the State Committee on Environmental Protection; there was also a lack of interest on the part of the media. Professor Yablokov said that unsafe drinking water and radioactive pollution (which affected 9 million people in Russia, Ukraine and Belarus) were two major concerns. 80 per cent of the economy of the USSR had been devoted to military purposes, and help was desperately needed from any source to build civil society and root out corruption. All was not gloom, however: some NGOs had successfully challenged presidential decrees in the Constitutional Court; and according to Professor Baronovsky a recent opinion poll had indicated that over 90 per cent of the public wished to see more public expenditure being devoted to the environment.

Cultural factors

  121.    A historical perspective on the cultural differences between Western Europe and the Eastern Slav tradition was given by Professor Michael Holman. He contrasted Peter the Great's outward-looking, westernising stance towards Russia's perceived backwardness with the more introspective and self-sufficient tradition of old Russia: "Peter's therapy was shock therapy: it demanded action and change, the sooner the better, the more the better....The Slavophil tradition...looks inwards...and has more to do with attitude than with action, and seeks remedies within indigenous Russian and Slav patterns of life....When seeking support and making our current Tacis-sponsored, know-how based, western incursions into Russia, we need to be aware not only of the two conflicting traditions, but also of the common driving force behind them. Diagnosis and prescription today have to be made in sympathetic partnership if common agendas are to be established and an effective plan of action to be put into practice. Only with a balanced understanding of the context within which Russia functions—and this will inevitably mean becoming a little more like Russians ourselves—can we hope to develop programmes of assistance that stand any chance of succeeding." (pp 97-98)

  122.    The Chief Executive of Mendip District Council said: "Engaging in a Tacis project is not for the faint hearted. It involves a huge commitment if it is to be successful and really make a difference....It is not until you have gained just a little experience of civic society in the former Soviet Union that the enormous cultural differences become apparent" (p 14). "Their intellectual capacity is enormous and they are highly cultured people, but after that everything is so different and that is what stretches you intellectually" (Q 40).

  123.    The transition to a market economy is a traumatic process. For example, the Environment Agency drew attention to the effect of introducing charges for refuse collection in Moscow (as part of a World Bank project). Many people had resorted to setting fire to their rubbish rather than paying the charges. The net result was to increase pollution and risk to public health—"an example of inappropriate advice from the West trying to do something that works in Washington but not in Moscow" (Q 348).

Secrecy and lack of transparency

  124.    The culture of secrecy in public administration is, of course, a Russian tradition which pre­dates the Soviet period; unfortunately it lives on in many areas of the post-communist bureaucracy, making it difficult for the public to gain access to information about environmental problems, as many NGOs and others testified to the enquiry. Even Tacis, as an intergovernmental programme, is not immune to this criticism (see paragraph 166 below). Mr Krzysztof Michalak of OECD said that secrecy was a great obstacle to working in some of the NIS: "There is still the past burden of very strict control over the flow of information. People are still afraid to share or to be exposed to information. They feel it may impose a commitment or obligation on them." (Q 303). Ms Bronwen Golder (World Wide Fund for Nature International) said "the Western concept of the community's right to know about chemicals and what is going into the water supply is unknown in many (NIS)" (Q 230). Members of the Sub-Committee raised the matter with the SCEP Chairman, Professor Danilov-Danilyan. He said that demand in Russia for environmental information was in fact lower than supply; most information was underused, whether by NGOs or by the federal authorities. He agreed there were cases where the SCEP had to refuse requests—sometimes for security reasons, but also because information was not available or too expensive to provide. He cited instances of industrial incidents which SCEP were confident posed no risk to the public; but they were often unable to allay public concerns because producing the data which supported their arguments could cost millions of roubles. Ms Marina Korobeinikova, Director of the Environmental Centre for Administration and Technology (ECAT), St Petersburg—a former LIFE[46] project which now comes under the wing of the Department of Environmental Protection of the City of St Petersburg—said that Russian green NGOs were not strong enough to force the authorities to do things.

Tacis priorities in the environmental field

  125.    The Tacis Interim Evaluation reflected the low priority given to the environment up to the adoption of the 1996 Regulation, finding that the impact of Tacis in promoting environmental awareness among its project partners had been low. DFID's impression was that Tacis's performance on the environment had improved recently, although it was too early to assess the results (p 38). Asked how the Commission ensured that environmental activities got a fair share of the Tacis budget, Mrs Helen Holm of DG 1A said that there was no predetermined portion of the budget earmarked for environment. In Russia and Ukraine particular priorities were the strengthening of environmental management and regulation (QQ 82-3). DFID felt that it was not helpful to stipulate percentage shares for environment, as this would "put the Commission in something of a straitjacket in its negotiations. There has to be a demand-led aspect to this process." As for how a balance was struck between nuclear safety and other environmental needs, there was no clear mechanism for this: "specific decisions were taken on allocations for nuclear safety at a political level in response to specific nuclear-related needs" (QQ 178-9).

The new emphasis on partnership

  126.    Local authority witnesses were particularly enthusiastic about the concept of working in partnership. Mr Bob Pinkett, Head of Passenger Transport, Hampshire County Council, spoke warmly of the relationship between the County and the municipal authorities of Chisinau in Moldova: "I think our experience of actually working with NIS that it is all about trust. We have spent twelve months or more, building up trust with the senior managers of the bus company..., the City Council, local politicians. This is the way it works in Eastern Europe—that you have to build up personal relationships and then they will trust the advice you are giving them." (Q 55) Ms Golder (WWF) said that building trust in the NIS was one of the greatest challenges: "There is a huge amount of suspicion about the West and international organisations like ours and institutions like the European Commission. A lot of it is about just engaging in dialogue and understanding issues..." (Q 208).

Meeting demand

  127.    One of the questions which came up regularly was whether Tacis was sufficiently demand-led. Mrs Holm (DG 1A) assured us that it was (Q 97). Mr Coverdale (DFID) said that there was little doubt that Tacis endorsed the principle of "ownership" by the partner countries, but made the point that there had necessarily to be some compromise between the wishes of the NIS partner governments, the Commission, the EU Member States and the eventual beneficiaries. He went on: "Often there is a lack of institutional capacity in these countries on the environmental side, maybe more than in some areas—a lack of capacity to define and prepare projects, and maybe also to define problems and to see problems clearly" (Q 182). Ms Golder said that the Commission was "cutting the cloth and asking people to wear it, as opposed to the people telling the Commission what kind of cloth they would like" (Q 247). She suggested, in conclusion, that it would be worth exploring the scope for a new mechanism, on the lines of the EBRD's Bangkok facility (see paragraph 99), to provide support of a "more creative developmental kind" for NIS organisations, perhaps managed and co­ordinated by a consortium of interests—NGOs, the private sector and government agencies (Q 258). Both the Interim Evaluation and the De Selliers Report (see paragraph 117) put forward the view that Tacis is, if anything, too demand-led, and call for a reorientation of Tacis so that is "dialogue-based" rather than "demand driven". We understand from DFID, however, that the Commission has rejected the Interim Evaluation recommendations that the demand-driven approach weakens the Tacis programme and should be replaced by a dialogue through the Partnership and Co­operation Agreements. The Commission's argument is that the purpose of the PCAs is to govern political relationships between the EU and partner countries; Tacis is just one of the instruments which may be used to facilitate the Agreements (p 39).

"People to People"

  128.    Is Commissioner Van den Broek's phrase[47] more than a slogan? The EBRD felt that, in its activities with the Tacis programme, it was indeed contributing to the "people to people" aims of the Tacis programme, even when large international companies (which may be regarded as somewhat impersonal) were involved. A good example of this aim being put into practice would be the EBRD's Financial Intermediary Training Programme, which trains people in training institutions within the Tacis countries, who in turn train their own local people. This is necessarily a "people to people" process. The EBRD also has public information and consultation policies which help to promote this aim (Q 28).

  129.    Mendip District Council, echoing a widely expressed view, felt that the extensive use of consultants in mainstream Tacis projects did not sit well with the "people to people" concept, and contrasted the contribution which actual practitioners (in their case local government officers and elected members) were able to make: there was "immense added value...when a whole community is involved with another community" (pp 13-4). As DFID put it, in the sense that Tacis involved transfer of know-how from Western European experts to NIS counterparts, "people to people" was an accurate description: the Interim Evaluation found that "tens of thousands of NIS managers, experts, administrators (and some politicians) have met their EU counterparts....This joint work gives a wider view, leading to a better and in-depth understanding of the problems." The Department conceded that the larger Tacis Country Action Programmes were constrained by the need to secure partner government approval, and by complex Commission procedures, institutional barriers and long chains of command; but the smaller programmes—particularly those (e.g. Lien) under which NGOs and private organisations could propose projects—provided scope for a more genuine "people to people" approach (p 38).

  130.    The Environment Agency (England and Wales) cited another practical example of the approach (although not involving Tacis). This is an element of the Environmental Management Project developed between the World Bank and the Russian State Committee for Environmental Protection, in which the Agency has been working with consultants Environmental Resources Management in running workshops in Moscow and Leeds on hazardous waste management and arranging study visits to England for managers from Moscow and the Sverdlovsk Oblast in the Urals (a region the size of England and Wales with long established centres of mining and metal industry). The Agency stressed the value of personal contacts and a shared learning experience with their Russian partners in a demonstration project, the results of which, although modest in scale, they were optimistic would get disseminated across the Russian Federation (pp 86-7; QQ 313, 335).

  131.    The opportunity for NIS partners, in the Environment Agency's project, to spend time in Western Europe on study visits and attachments to firms and other organisations can be valuable. Members of the Sub-Committee met several individuals in Kiev and St Petersburg who had benefited in this way: for instance, Ms Tamara Malkova, Head of Green Dossier Information Centre (a Ukrainian NGO) had had training in the UK through a women's environmental network; Mr Aleksandr Murlin, a senior manager of the St Petersburg Vodokanal, and colleagues had spent time with Severn Trent Water and had visited various water treatment facilities in England. The training and visits had been financed by the Know How Fund.

Making the most of local expertise

  132.    In this context, several witnesses questioned whether Tacis and other Western technical assistance or technology transfer projects recognised sufficiently the level of expertise inherited from the Soviet Union, especially in engineering. The Government of Ukraine made the comment that there was now significant local expertise which could profitably be used in Tacis contracts, thereby increasing relevance, effectiveness and value for money (p 101). On the other hand, whilst NIS managers' technical competence might be high, they lacked the experience of managing resources in a market economy and of taking responsibility for decisions. It was suggested, for instance by OECD and the Government of Ukraine, that Central and Eastern European experts, with their first-hand experience of the transition process and the Phare Programme, could provide better value for money and more relevant experience than consultants from EU countries (pp 79, 102). Ms Golder (WWF) gave examples of Tacis programmes where there had been inadequate consultation with NGOs and experts from NIS universities and institutes: as a result, the opportunity to draw on their knowledge and expertise had been lost (see paragraphs 140-41 below).

  133.    Southampton City Council suggested that in seeking to make better use of NIS expertise, the motives need not be wholly altruistic: "We see economic opportunities coming out of these linkages....Out of our contacts...the university will benefit, local Further and Higher Education institutions will benefit, the Chamber of Commerce and local companies will benefit" (Q 43).

Disparities in fee levels

  134.    A matter of some concern was the question of fee levels between "Western" experts and their in-country counterparts. The EBRD found that the fee levels allowed by Tacis to be paid to local consultants were becoming an increasingly difficult issue because environmental specialists, including local in-country specialists, were upgrading their fee levels all the time. They had the feeling that Tacis was not keeping pace with these changes, and as a result the best in-country experts and resources were no longer affordable at Tacis rates. For example, the current Tacis rate for a local expert was around 150 ecu (£105) per day, whereas environmental specialists from Western organisations would not consider working in Russia for much less than 700 ecu (£500) a day. Nevertheless, an increasing amount of the EBRD's environmental consultancy work in the Tacis area was being done by local experts or by experts from the Phare region working in the NIS (QQ 14, 21).


  135.    The green movement emerged in the Soviet Union in the mid-eighties and were the first NGOs to be tolerated by the authorities, most other so-called NGOs being controlled by the Communist Party. DFID and DETR said it was not easy to assess the influence of NGOs in the NIS. They were weak in the sense that they had not in general been able to mobilise public opinion to force governments to take the environment more seriously, no doubt because the public had more pressing problems to worry about. However, they were intellectually strong, being heavily based on the universities and state institutes, and had added much to the debate on the environment at an expert level. The Chernobyl disaster had given a particular boost to the green movement in Ukraine, and although many activists had moved into the wider political arena after the collapse of the USSR, green NGOs remained the most numerous in that country; the most promising area for policy co­operation was between NGOs and local authorities. In Russia, the position had greatly improved in recent years: there were now many NGOs with whom western governments and organisations could usefully work. (pp 39-40)[48]. Areas of Russian NGO activity can be seen from the wide range of responses to the Conservation Foundation's survey (see paragraph 117); this is borne out by the impressions gained by members of Sub-Committee C on their visits to Kiev, Moscow and St Petersburg. There is widespread agreement that NGO capacity-building should be one of the primary objectives of Tacis (e.g. p 14); Dr Hindson cited examples of how the Field Studies Council was helping through small projects financed by the Environmental Know How Fund and the British Council (QQ 262-3, 285).

  136.    As far as it is possible to judge, the majority of NGOs, at least in Russia and Ukraine, pursue independent agendas and are largely free of political interference—although, as Dr Hindson observed, this did not in itself make them democratic or representative of the public at large. There are, however, some NGOs (referred to by a witness in Kiev as "pocket NGOs") which have been created by politicians to serve particular sectoral interests and whose independence is therefore suspect. NGOs face acute problems in raising independent finance for their activities, and are handicapped by problems of under-developed charity law and lack of tax-exempt status, which restrict their ability to raise money from trading activities. Apart from those which are more like quangos, by virtue of being funded by government agencies or local authorities, most NGOs in the NIS have a very small membership base and receive negligible amounts of income from members' subscriptions: even the larger ones are insignificant when compared with the size of UK or international NGOs such as the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, WWF or Friends of the Earth. Dr Hindson commented that the more active, innovative and lobbying-type NGOs relied heavily on financial support from Western organisations and official agencies (Q 266); Professor Alexei Yablokov, Chairman of the Centre for Russian Environmental Policy, is quoted as saying that "virtually all Russian NGOs only exist thanks to foreign aid. If it weren't for Western aid there wouldn't be any Russian green movement."[49]

  137.    Mr Coverdale (DFID) commented that there was an imbalance between the size and scale of the Tacis programme and the needs of individual NGOs, which was difficult to bridge. Nevertheless there was scope for NGOs to be involved in consortia bidding for Tacis funding, and indeed the presence of an NGO might improve a consortium's chances of success (Q 193). On the other hand, Ms Golder (WWF) reported serious difficulties in involving smaller NGOs and local community-based organisations in Tacis-funded projects, and called for more flexible funding mechanisms. She mentioned the difficulties which NGOs had in achieving effective dialogue with the Commission, and commented that WWF found it difficult to understand how terms of reference for some Tacis programmes had been developed: "tenders for contracts and terms of reference suddenly emerge with no consultation and sharing of information..." (pp 57-8; QQ 209, 258). NGOs in St Petersburg said that although access to the internet was increasingly available, especially in the universities, long-distance communications were difficult for smaller organisations. It was even mentioned in Moscow that the State Committee for Environmental Protection had a web site (said to be a well-kept secret) and the suggestion had been made that the draft National Environmental Action Plan for the Russian Federation (see paragraphs 42-44) should be put out to public consultation on the internet. Mrs Holm (DG 1A) pointed out that the Lien Programme was the only Tacis programme specifically targeted at NGOs; she thought the new Regional Environmental Centres would help raise the profile of NGOs (QQ 123-5). Ms Sue Mullan (Southampton City Council) suggested that local authorities could be a catalyst to involvement of NGOs in Tacis (Q 52).


Inter-State, Cross-Border and National Tacis programmes[50]

  138.    Environmental Resources Management (ERM) offered a critique of the Inter-State Developing Common Environmental Policies programme, for which they were the lead consultants. The strengths of the programme were that it supported activities of which NIS beneficiaries already had ownership, was adaptable to local circumstances and timescales, was well co­ordinated with OECD EAP Task Force and World Bank programmes, and assisted the preparation of sound projects for funding by IFIs and donors. On the other hand, resources were spread thinly, which meant that continuity of support was not assured: the Tacis administration lacked the resources to develop partnerships with beneficiaries and to participate in guiding the projects. "(It) was unable to devote any inputs to the project start-up and therefore could not convey a sense of commitment to the beneficiaries of the project—many countries were simply unaware that the project was happening." ERM also commented that the inflexibility and slowness of Tacis's contractual procedures were an obstacle to delivery of a demand-led programme, causing considerable irritation among some beneficiaries, and that the decision to launch a parallel and overlapping Inter-State programme (Widening of the EAP to the NIS and Mongolia) was a potential waste of money and cause of confusion (p 96).

  139.    The Government of Ukraine felt that Inter-State programmes compared unfavourably with National and Cross-Border programmes, in which there was more transparency and a greater sense of ownership and commitment on the Ukrainian side. By contrast, "Inter-State developments appear to be driven by Brussels, generally have no NIS counterparts (the CIS institutions being irrelevant), and are often presented or discussed at a very late stage" (p 101).

  140.    There were divided views on the relevance and effectiveness of the Raising Environmental Awareness programme. OECD commented favourably: "(the programme) is judged to have been rather successful....The target group has been clearly identified (media, parliaments), some innovative methods introduced (radio soap opera, provision of equipment for journalists); though a final judgment would require an assessment of the cost-effectiveness of the project." (p 80). In-country Tacis staff involved in running the programme (Ms Marie Mojaisky in Kiev and Mr Valentin Yemelin in St Petersburg) felt they could point to some successes, although NGOs had a less favourable impression. WWF, although a member of the Commission's Project Advisory Committee, felt frustrated over the project managers' failure to take their suggestions into account and by DG 1A's decision to proceed to the second phase of the project, using the same contractors, without a proper evaluation of the first phase (p 58). Part of this problem is lack of a sense of ownership: the project is perceived as an "old style" programme, wished on the NIS by Brussels. Moreover, the NIS governments are not directly involved as partners: the official "partner" is the CIS Interparliamentary Assembly in St Petersburg, an organisation which is widely regarded as an irrelevance.

  141.    The programme for providing Regional Environment Centres (RECs) for Russia, Ukraine and other NIS countries is intended to encourage the growth of environmental NGOs (see box after paragraph 93). It has, however, been criticised for being devised without proper research into the supposed beneficiaries' needs. Mrs Holm said it had been "a very complicated process in getting these centres to legally establish them so that they are non-governmental and non-profit making organisations" (Q 86). Ms Golder (WWF) said the programme underestimated the capacities of Russian NGOs. The original REC in Hungary, which served the CEECs, had certainly been a success, but Tacis was trying to replicate it in a vastly different environment. The work WWF was doing in the Eastern Baltic was an example of successful investment in existing institutions and NGOs; she saw no need to create new institutions for this purpose. NGOs were aggrieved that there had been no proper consultation with them and felt that the Commission had unilaterally decided that this was what they (the NGOs) needed (p 58; QQ 218, 241-4).

  142.    Mr Michalak (OECD) agreed that progress in setting up the RECs had been frustratingly slow. He said that the activities of the original REC had moved away from working purely with NGOs to working more at the intergovernmental level. People in the NIS had noticed this shift and were now going off in different directions, away from the original concept of supporting NGOs. He had the impression that the REC proposed for Moscow would be more like a think tank to support dialogue between the SCEP and the Ministry of Finance and Economy, whereas in Ukraine and Moldova the RECs would be much closer to the original concept (p 80; Q 302). Professor Yablokov and Professor Baronovsky were both highly critical of the way the programme was being handled in Russia and in particular of the part played by the SCEP and the former Ministry of Environment. They considered that the principal partners ought to have been NGOs. To make matters worse, the Minister had declined to invite Green Cross and other independent representatives of the green movement to join a committee to steer the Moscow REC project, preferring instead to appoint "pocket NGOs" and government nominees.

Tacis Tempus

  143.    Institutions of higher education in the UK are substantially involved, with other EU partners, in Tacis Tempus programmes in the Russian Federation, the Ukraine and other partner states. One such example is the project to develop an MSc in environmental management at Tomsk University, in which the Environment Agency is working in partnership with Sheffield University and others (see paragraph 114).

  144.    Sub-Committee C held an informal seminar in June 1998 with academic staff from the University of Leeds, including Professor Michael Holman (Professor of Russian and Slavonic Studies) and Dr Sally Macgill (Leeds Environment Centre). Some written evidence was also provided by Professor Juliet Lodge (Professor of European Studies, University of Leeds). In the course of the seminar discussion, the following points relevant to the implementation of the Tacis Tempus programme, and indeed the Tacis programme as a whole, were raised:

  (i)    Professor Holman emphasised how important it was for all "Western" experts taking part in Tacis programmes in the Russian Federation and elsewhere to realise that only when they were ready to "understand more about the mainsprings of Russia, of how Russians perceive themselves and how they perceive us, will (they) be able to identify where western know-how can best be made relevant to Russia's needs....Only with a balanced understanding of the context in which Russia functions—and this will inevitably mean becoming a little more like the Russians ourselves—can we hope to develop programmes of assistance that stand any chance of succeeding". (p 98).

  (ii)    Many of the frustrations expressed by some EU-based academics working on Tacis programmes in the Russian Federation and elsewhere could therefore be diminished if more advance preparation was undertaken and understanding enhanced. This might well mean that Tacis should provide funding and facilities within its programmes for such forms of training and preparation.

  (iii)    Dr Macgill described the project (of which she was director) to set up a Distance Learning programme in Environmental Sciences with Russian institutions. In this case, Leeds University had developed its own distance-learning courses in Environmental Sciences for undergraduate students, largely because within the University students were coming together from a range of different departments for the Environmental Sciences degree course. These courses had then been further developed for use in Russian universities, in conjunction with the then Ministry of the Environment of the Russian Federation. Though this current programme was funded by the Environmental Know How Fund, it also provided evidence of the difficulties likely to be encountered by persons working on Tacis programmes. A fundamental point was that, even with a large amount of willingness on all sides, considerable delays in preparation can take place, especially where permissions have to be obtained from ministries, for example. It is usually difficult for such log-jams to be freed at a distance, though rapid progress can sometimes be made on the spot.

  (iv)    Perhaps small contingency funds provided by Tacis, and designed to be used to resolve such problems within Tacis Tempus and other Tacis programmes, might improve the efficiency of launching and delivering programmes where difficulties occur.

  (v)    Professor Lodge's comments were made in the context of EU projects in the CEECs, but would be equally applicable to the NIS. She made the point that joint programmes or ventures with CEECs were administratively onerous for the EU partners and time-consuming for what often seemed to be relatively small sums of money: "they are also problematic in terms of the different cultural expectations and systems (or lack of them) between the EU and would­be EU members" (p 99).

Other Tacis programmes

  145.    The Tacis City Twinning programme has been described in paragraphs 62-64. Of the various elements of the Tacis Small Project programmes, the "Bistro" facility (paragraphs 65-66) was singled out for particular praise by NIS interlocutors, especially in Russia, for its speed and flexibility. Mr Yemelin in St Petersburg said that there would be no shortage of suitable projects if Bistro funding were increased. Western NGOs, however, were more critical: Ms Golder was concerned about chronic underspending on Bistro, which for her raised the question whether the programme could not be more effectively managed; much depended on the enthusiasm and commitment of the EU delegation staff (Q 234). According to Dr Hindson, the delegation staff managing Bistro showed a lack of awareness of local conditions. He agreed it was quick, but the application process was "complex and nerve-wracking" for small NGOs (p 69; Q 274). On smaller programmes generally, the Government of Ukraine commented that the annual cycle of programme approval and the frustratingly lengthy tendering procedures meant that "mainstream" Tacis programmes did not meet some of Ukraine's more immediate needs: only small scale project facilities, capable of rapid response, could do so. On the other hand, such facilities were "often inadequate in terms of finance and time available" (p 101).

  146.    No direct evidence of Tacis Lien programmes was taken, although during the Sub-Committee's fact-finding visit to the Russian Federation and the Ukraine information was received on a number of programmes which were close to the Lien programme in their design and implementation. Dr Hindson mentioned that the Field Studies Council intended to apply for future funding under the Lien programme (Q 261).

43   Tacis Interim Evaluation, Synthesis Report, European Commission, July 1997. Back

44   The European Union's Tacis Programme: Reflecting on the Future, European Commission, DG 1A Information Unit (Tacis), September 1998. Back

45   The Conservation Foundation (1998), London Initiative on the Russian Environment, International Environmental Collaboration: Russia: A Case Study, The Conservation Foundation, 1 Kensington Gore, London SW7 2AR, ISBN 0 9533562 0 5. Back

46   Regulation 1404/96 (amending 1973/92) establishing a financial instrument for the environment (LIFE), OJ L181, 20 July 1996. This is a financial instrument for assisting the development and implementation of EU environmental policy. LIFE may also provide technical environmental assistance for non­EU countries bordering the Mediterranean and the Baltic, and for implementing international agreements relating to regional and global environmental problems. Back

47   The phrase appeared in the Introduction to the 1996 Tacis Annual Report. Back

48   The Departments' evidence contains a detailed note on environmental NGOs in Russia and Ukraine at p 45. Back

49   Conservation Foundation, op citBack

50   For an explanation of the different categories of Tacis programme see paragraphs 30-34 in Part 1. Back

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