Examination of witnesses (Questions 71
WEDNESDAY 20 MAY 1998
71. Good morning. Thank you very much for
coming. It is very brave of you to enter the lion's den all by
yourself with no supporting staff. I do not know whether you would
like to start off with some introductory remarks about TACIS generally?
Could you tell us a bit about the structure and the decision making
(Mrs Holm) I am working in TACIS as a task manager
which means that I am responsible for a number of different projects
and programmes for environment. I am working on a technical level,
obviously targeted on environment. That is why I am here. As to
the overall structure for TACIS, the procedures and so forth,
you are probably all aware it is the European Council and the
European Parliament who are responsible for approving and deciding
the overall policy issues and the budgets. The Member States monitor
the programmes and approve the various stages of the planning
process. This is done mainly through the TACIS management committee,
where all the Member States are represented. Each partner country
has a coordinating unit with a mandate to receive and screen project
proposals for that specific country, also assisting the implementation
of the projects. The coordinating units are staffed by local personnel,
the national coordinator and also by expatriate experts. Of course,
the Commission is responsible for the management of the TACIS
programme, for the overall direction, for the programming and
for the implementation. Shall I make the whole presentation?
72. It is a bit exhausting for you to do
it without interruption. One of our concerns about the management
committee, the one on which all the Member States are represented,
is that this seems a very top-heavy way of making decisions. We
understand they have to approve individual projects and not just
the overall strategy and that seems to us very heavy for them.
A. The management
committee is presented with what we call an action programme which
is composed of a number of different projects. If the management
committee so wish, they can comment on the individual projects.
They can also comment on the more overall guideline for that specific
73. If an individual Member country did
not like a particular project, could they veto it? My understanding
is that it is by a unanimous decision.
A. Yes, it is
74. If one particular participating country
did not like a project, could they veto that?
A. It does happen
that project proposals put forward to the management committee
are not approved in the end but it is mostly that some components
of the project or the programme are shifted in some way.
75. Do you think there should be more delegated
authority to the Commission to make decisions about the projects
and programmes or not? Is it not for you to say?
A. It is not
for me to say really.
76. I do not know how long your initial
A. I had a number
of questions sent to me, so I tried to prepare.
77. We will ask them individually to give
you more of a conversational feel, if that is all right. Could
you tell us about your staff resources? Do you have enough? When
we looked at the PHARE programme four years ago, we found that
there were very inadequate numbers of staff in the Commission
to run very complex programmes.
A. If I look
at it at task manager level and I compare it with, for example,
other international financing institutionsthe World Bank,
EBRDand also if I compare it with the bilateral donors
and so forth, the number of projects or programmes per task manager
in TACIS and the budget that we are each responsible for is higher.
78. Could you tell us what the size of your
own particular team is, how many people you have to run things
and what your responsibilities are?
A. This varies
very much. For example, I am responsible for what we call the
TACIS Interstate Multicountry Programmes, which have an average
budget of 10 million ECU per year. Each project under this can
run for two years.
79. What staff do you have supporting you
in the Commission?
80. Just you? You have nobody working for
you or with you at all?
A. I have the
TACIS contractors, the ones who are implementing the projects,
who are supposed to do the major part of the work.
81. Do you have secretarial support?
A. Yes, I have
82. Can I ask about the regulation in 1996
and environment becoming a priority area? How does that work within
the TACIS budget in terms of ensuring that the environmental priority
has a fair share of resources?
A. There is not
an earmarked budget for environment projects for the year. We
divide it a little bit between the more free-standing environment
projects, which you can find under the Interstate Multicountry
Programmes, because environment is one of the three concentration
areas there, and this is where TACIS started to work firstly on
environment issues, under this kind of programme. There, it has
a large share. You can also find free-standing environment projects
under the Russian National Action Programme as well as under the
Ukraine National Action Programme. These are the only two countries
where you have free-standing environment projects.
83. Can I ask what, apart from the obvious
one of nuclear safety, are the other priorities in the Ukraine
and Russia within both their national programmes and also TACIS?
A. Overall, as
is said in the regulation, their priorities are the institutional
strengthening and the environment management structures in both
these two countries are very weak. Several of the projects are
targeted into strengthening their environment management structure
and strengthening environmental authorities. Also, it is quite
targeted towards working on legislation issues and development,
assisting the countries in developing more overall priorities
for how they want to work on environment issues. For example,
the development of what we call the National Environmental Action
84. You play a major role in supporting
the development of those plans?
A. Yes, we do.
85. Identifying their priorities as well?
A. Yes. This
has been one of TACIS's larger projects. Also, the World Bank
is very much involved in this process, taking part under what
we call the Environment for Europe process.
86. We understand that there is a project
for a Regional Environmental Centre in the New Independent States
similar to the Budapest centre. Can you give us some more information
A. Yes. It was
decided at the Environment Ministers' conference in Sofia, which
is under the framework of the Environment for Europe process,
that we should assist the NIS countries in developing or establishing
Regional Environmental Centres. It was decided that TACIS, in
1996, should support this process with roughly two million ECU.
We started the actual work in 1997. We decided that we should
firstly support and assist Moldova, Russia and Georgia. We cooperated
quite closely with the USAID on these issues because they are
one of the main funders for the new RECs and they have taken the
main responsibility for the Ukraine. We have been in the lead
for the three other countries. It has been a very complicated
process in getting these centres established, the legal establishment
of them, how to legally establish them so that they are non-governmental
and non-profit making organisations. It has been quite a complicated
87. Where are they going to be located?
A. They will
be located in the capitals.
88. In the individual ones? The one we saw
in Budapest, which we were very impressed by when we looked at
the PHARE programme, covered a number of countries and we thought
they were extremely active and useful in supporting NGOs and providing
A. Of course
in Russia it will be located in Moscow. It is a region in itself.
The Ukraine is also a very large country. Moldova is a bit of
a special case. We could not attach it to the Ukraine or Romania
so it will be a very small centre. The centre to be established
in Tbilisi in Georgia is with the objective that it will be truly
a regional centre for the whole Caucasususus. Having these three
countries cooperating in those issues is very difficult, obviously.
However, we are quite convinced that at least we will succeed
eventually even if Armenia and Azerbaijan will not participate
from the very beginning in the new work in Tbilisi. We are quite
convinced that they will do so in the future.
89. You have to be optimistic?
A. Yes. We have
had extensive discussions with all three countries. We have had
requests from central Asia, especially from Kazakhstan, to set
up such a centre for central Asia. This will most likely be approved
at TACIS. There will only be one centre for the whole of central
Asia to cover the huge region.
90. I was going to ask you about St Petersburg.
I thought TACIS was doing something on water in St Petersburg.
Is there not some sort of project about improving water, sewerage
and so on?
A. There is a
Cross-Border Cooperation Programme which has many environment
projects. There is one project for St Petersburg involving solid
91. But it is the fact that the sewage gets
into the canals and the River Neva and so on, is it not, and TACIS
is doing something about that?
A. We are doing
a Cross-Border Cooperation Project on hazardous waste management
because outside St Petersburg there are huge dumps of hazardous
waste which are leaking into the town water. We are trying to
improve the situation.
92. Cross-border with which countries?
93. Because they are being affected by the
Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede: Under
the general heading of priorities, what happens if there is an
emergency? For example, an oil pipeline breaks and there are immediate
funds needed very quickly. How do you deal with that sort of situation?
94. Not under TACIS, I suspect.
A. I could not
really answer because for environment at least TACIS does not
have that kind of emergency aid programme. Possibly it could come
under the European Union's ECHO programme, which is more for catastrophe
95. I do not know about the ECHO programme.
Could you tell us?
A. This is not
a programme under DG1A. It is under DG1B. It is mostly human health
relief in difficult circumstances.
96. They have emergency funds, do they,
that they can use?
97. Can I ask whether you think TACIS is
sufficiently demand-led? How do you ensure that the advice and
assistance offered is what the recipient country actually wants?
A. It is demand-led.
First of all, we have, as a kind of guidance for the programming
issues, the indicative programmes, which are on a three or four
year basis. These serve as the overall framework. These are also
approved by the countries. Then we have also the PCAs, Partnership
and Cooperation Programmes, which also set an overall framework.
Then, the action programmes which are individual for each country
and where you specify the different projects to be undertaken.
This is approved by the Member States in the management committee
as well as by the recipient countries. There is quite an extensive
dialogue in elaborating the new projects. Also, the objective
of the coordinating unit is to screen new project proposals from
that country to see which fits under the TACIS criteria and which
does not. They then forward this to Brussels.
98. Is there a coherent relationship between
TACIS and other forms of development from other Member States,
especially the UK Knowhow Fund and that sort of thing? Is there
A. Yes, I would
say that for environment we have quite a lot of cooperation and
coordination. As I mentioned before, we cooperate with the USAID
on the new REC process and we cooperate with the UNEP, for example,
on the Caspian Environment Programme and with the Global Ecological
Fund as well; in my opinion, quite substantially also with the
World Bank as well as with the EBRD. For example, TACIS is providing
feasibility studies for future World Bank investment and lending
for environment projects.
99. How do you actually establish links
with these other agencies? Do you have regular meetings?
A. Yes. There
is something called the Project Preparation Committee which is
also set up under the framework of the Environment for Europe
process. This is an informal network for donors. All the major
donors are there, with the UK Knowhow Fund as well, and the major
bilateral donors like Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Germany and so