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ENVIRONMENT: PROGRESS VARYING ACCORDING TO SECTORS AND REGIONS.

The report, the third of its kind, has been drafted by the EEA in anticipation of the Environment for Europe pan-European Ministerial Conference to be staged in Kiev from May 21 to 23 under the aegis of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UN-ECE). In drafting the report, Agency experts worked closely with the UN-ECE working group on environmental monitoring.

The assessment of the situation and of pressures on the environment focuses on three groups of countries:

- Western Europe (WE): the fifteen EU Member States and the EU as an entity, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Switzerland, EFTA as a body, Andorra, Monaco and San Marino;

- Central and Eastern Europe (CEE): Bulgaria, Cyprus, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Romania, Slovenia and Turkey plus the group of candidate countries as such, Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Serbia and Montenegro;

- twelve countries in Eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia (EECCA): Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Uzbekistan, the Russian Federation, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and the Ukraine.

Evolution remains uneven.

The EEA points out that its previous report published in 1998 for the Aarhus Ministerial Conference, concluded that policy measures introduced up to the mid-1990s had still to yield any significant improvement in the overall state of the environment. Whilst clear progress has been made in certain areas (reducing emissions into the atmosphere, improving air quality, cutting discharges into watercourses, etc.), the environmental situation remains by contrast very mediocre in other areas such as waste management, fisheries and soil degradation. Developments over the past four years have, according to the Agency, confirmed these conclusions and the new assessment indicates that the overall state of the environment in Europe remains very contrasted, even though, when implemented, environmental policies have resulted in a clear improvement. This is notably the case of efforts to reduce emissions of ozone-depleting substances and a general improvement in air and water quality thanks to cuts in polluting emissions. The benefits have carried over to biodiversity which, according to the EEA, has also benefited from habitat protection measures.

After making its assessment on a sector-by-sector basis, the Agency concludes that progress is mainly due to the introduction of traditional product management measures (lead in petrol, sulphur content of liquid fuels, catalytic converters fitted to cars), the production process (power station emissions and emissions from industry and waste incineration) and conservation of natural sites. These sectors are covered by European Regulation and in many cases by international conventions. Implementation of environmental policies and their adaptation to technical progress are essential for the entire region and their scope must imperatively be extended to all the countries of Europe.

The Agency nevertheless notes that in other sectors such as waste management and the sustainable use of resources, results are far from satisfactory. Further analysis indicates that the evolution of these sectors is intimately linked to economic and social development. This observation explains the different pace and levels observed in this area in countries undergoing economic transition, which are much further advanced if they are on the path to EU accession than EECCA countries. The Agency insists there is an urgent need across the board to accelerate the introduction of more integrated policies and to combine traditional and regulatory measures with economic instruments and voluntary agreements, which can prove more effective in certain sectors. Finally, the Agency calls for the development of common assessment tools (environmental indicators) and calls for further investment to rationalise the collection and dissemination of information and data throughout Europe. To this end, it suggests working on the basis of the EU's future Framework Directive on data release obligations.

The complete report is available from the EU Publications Office ("Europe's Environment - Third Assessment" - ISBN 92-9167-574-1 price Euro 30 - catalogue N? TH-51-03-681-EN-C). A detailed summary is available on our EISnet site at: www.eis.be => Search => Reference = EURE;2776;516
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Publication:European Report
Geographic Code:4E
Date:May 14, 2003
Words:647
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