Select Committee on European Communities Written Evidence

Memorandum by the European Environment Agency

Past and current activities:

  Already at the start of the functioning of the European Environment Agency (EEA) a number of contacts in the New Independent States were inherited from the compilation process of Europe's Environment: The Dobris Assessment (1995), the first pan-European State of the Environment report. This report was prepared by the EEA Task Force at DG XI of the European Commission, charged with preparing the launch of the Agency.

  In March 1996, before the start of the compilation of the second pan-European State of the Environment report (Europe's Environment: The Second Assessment), requested by the 1995 Sofia Ministerial conference and eventually presented at the Aarhus conference of Environment Ministers, held in June 1998, the PHARE and TACIS programmes were approached for financial support. After some negotiations and exchange of letters, Draft Terms of Reference were submitted to TACIS in October 1996. In the meantime data collection for the report began, using the previous Dobris contact points in the NIS, updated with the contact points of the UNEP-ENRIN network.

  However, lack of means to work effectively together with the contacts in the NIS hampered the data collection in that area. Only at the end of the writing phase of the report, in July 1997, did TACIS react positively to our request. In discussion with the new task manager at TACIS, it was decided to design two new projects: one short-term activity for immediate support to the Second Assessment compilation process, and another for longer-term support for the EEA's activities. For each project, a sum amounting to slightly less than 200,000 ecu was allocated, and terms of reference were submitted to TACIS at the end of August 1997.

  The short-term project, on which consultants started to work in November 1997, was intended as a "crash" exercise to fill gaps and collect as much missing data on the NIS as possible in the last few months while completing the Second Assessment. In the end, due to time and logistical reasons, much of the information collected could not be integrated in the main report, and therefore most of the resources allocated to this project were used to produce a number of country summary reports on the State of the Environment in English, in co-operation with each of the countries. This allowed us to balance the western bias in The Second Assessment report, which, by that time was in the final stages of preparation. In addition to this, it was also possible to arrange to finance the translation of the executive summary of the Second Assessment report into Russian out of TACIS money.

  Currently, the second project is executed aiming at the organisation of two training courses to spread the knowledge of methodologies applied in the EEA/Phare monitoring projects, like for instance the Corinair methodology or the methodology setting up of inland water monitoring networks. This knowledge should help the countries in taking decisions on restructuring/re-organising parts of their monitoring systems. The courses will be designed as stand-alone courses without the need for immediate follow up in terms of networking/harmonisation, etc. However, they can be handled as the start of such an activity.

Future activities

  Recently the European Environment Agency informed DG XI of the European Commission of its ideas on a strategy for further co-operation in the NIS, which has to be financed by TACIS. The EEA aim for the co-operation with the NIS would be to keep the network that has been established in the past years alive to enable future reporting on pan-European level, to strengthen the networks in the countries, which is needed to overcome practical problems like payment for data, and to gradually reach a stage in which mechanisms for comparable data collection are in place in the whole of Europe for a number of main topics. This should pave the way for an indicator based on progress in the state of the environment for the fifth pan-European Ministerial Conference in 2002.

  To reach this goal, the following strategy is proposed:

    —  appoint a co-ordinator for NIS affairs to work at the EEA, financed by TACIS this Autumn;

    —  prepare for a co-ordination meeting in Moscow (mid-1999) to be organised by the Russian Federation as announced during the Aarhus Ministerial conference;

    —  further develop the basic network of National Focal Points in the NIS countries and, depending on the outcomes of the Moscow meeting, develop other parts of the EIONET in the NIS countries.

  From the beginning on, it should be realised that the co-operation with NIS needs to be financed from external sources for an extended period, which is longer than in the case of the countries under the PHARE programme.

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