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The LIFE-TCY programme has made important contributions to improving environmental protection and the management of environmental threats in countries in Europe (outside the EU), the Middle East and North Africa. The programme has had a particularly positive impact in developing capacity in these countries to manage environmental policies effectively.
Serious environmental problems rarely respect national boundaries and it is now widely recognised that many environmental problems - including air and river quality - must be tackled in a coordinated and transnational way. There is a common interest, therefore, for the European Union and its neighbours to work jointly to foster environmental protection.
The EU decision to include third countries in the LIFE programme, shows its willingness to tackle common wide reaching environmental problems. The LIFE-Third Countries Programme (LIFE-TCY) proved to be an important tool in supporting the EU’s neighbours in their efforts to improve environmental policy and their capacity for environmental management.
The work of the strand was recently set out in a LIFE Focus publication entitled “LIFE - Third Countries 1992-2006: Supporting Europe’s neighbours in building capacity for environmental policy and action”. This brochure explains the history and contribution of LIFE-TCY and presents a sample of over 25 of the 225 projects funded.
From 1992 to 2006, more than 1,250 project proposals were submitted, of which just 18% were selected for funding. The projects usually lasted between two and three years; the average size of the LIFE-TCY contribution under LIFE-III was €360,000. The rigorous selection process was based on the individual merit of each project.
Any public institution, NGO or private sector organisation could apply for funding, provided that the project to be financed was contributing to the implementation of EU, regional and international guidelines and agreements and the development of environmental policy and action programmes.
Most of the projects selected for LIFE-TCY funding primarily aimed to support the development of environmental management capacity, environmental policy, or the transfer of appropriate environmental technologies towards the ultimate aim of sustainable development in third countries, from the Baltic Sea to the Mediterranean.
The Commission selected mainly projects providing solutions to major environmental problems. Initiatives were launched in areas such as solid waste management, biodiversity, climate change and water resources.
Other factors taken into consideration were the projects’ demonstration potential or the potential to be reproduced in other contexts, the cost effectiveness, socio-economic impacts and the possible added value in establishing a new international partnership.
Building environmental management capacity
The main focus of LIFE-TCY projects was to strengthen environmental management capacities. This effort to reinforce environmental institutions is reflected in the fact that 65% of all LIFE-TCY projects were led by public authorities. In 14 of the 22 participating countries, national authorities were the beneficiaries with the highest number of projects.
Through the establishment of new administrative bodies and structures or through the reinforcement of existing ones, LIFE-TCY projects have helped to strengthen co-operation, promoted the exchange of experience and encourage the transfer of expertise and knowledge to enable countries to establish effective environmental policies and confront environmental challenges and emergencies.
Many of the capacity building measures built on the introduction of management tools such as EMAS or ISO certification in industry or local government. This shows the interest in implementing the EU’s environmental standards, even in countries not discussing accession to the Union.
Many LIFE-TCY projects combined capacity building with awareness raising and information management. Measures included the creation or reinforcement of procedures for data collection and dissemination to facilitate access to and use of environmental information, the development of technical tools and guidelines, and the transfer of best practice.
Developing environment policy
Many projects focused on technical assistance to support the efforts of national administrations in developing, updating and implementing environmental policies and action programmes in the eligible countries.
Most of the assistance for the preparation of National Environmental Action Plans (NEAPs) came during the first phase of LIFE. Since then, authorities in the TCY countries have focused increasingly on their implementation. Nearly 50 LIFE-TCY projects were developed to tackle priority environmental issues laid out in the different NEAPs.
Some 26 LIFE-TCY projects were conceived explicitly with the aim of contributing to the implementation of and compliance with international conventions and protocols such as UN environmental conventions. Many TCY projects helped in the preparation of National Biodiversity Strategies and action plans in compliance with the convention on biodiversity. Another two projects (Croatian and Turkish) were addressing the climate change issue.
The programme was also used - particularly by Cyprus, Malta, Turkey and Croatia - to help efforts at approximation with EU environmental policy. In the early LIFE phases, projects generally aimed to familiarise authorities with the EU environmental acquis and create capacities for policy approximation. With the progress of the countries’ candidature, projects increasingly targeted the development of instruments for the transposition and implementation of the acquis through legislation.
A regional dimension
The LIFE-TCY programme demonstrated a capacity to act at the regional level. Several Mediterranean countries prepared action plans for the protection of the Mediterranean Sea as a major environmental priority, whilst other projects looked to develop cross-border management of the Sava River between Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina.
In the Maghreb countries, the fight against desertification is a specific regional environmental problem. A LIFE-TCY project in 2000 supported systems to monitor desertification in both Tunisia and Morocco with some Algerian participation (LIFE00 TCY/TN/018). A subsequent project in 2005 built on this work to build capacity for a drought early-warning-system covering Tunisia, Morocco and Algeria (LIFE05 TCY/TN/000150). Such co-operation shows that the programme was even able to play a role in tackling environmental challenges in the context of developing regional activities.
Sustainability of results
The programme aimed to ensure the sustainability of project results through the promotion of training, job creation, new organisational structures and partnerships and the follow-up on the implementation of action programmes and management plans. It also insisted on a strong ownership by local beneficiaries to encourage their continued engagement beyond the scope of the project funding.
LIFE-TCY hoped to contribute to laying the foundations for more even ambitious projects under other funding streams in the future. According to the mid-term review of the LIFE programme, "LIFE filled an important niche in that it [was] able to respond relatively quickly and flexibly to meet environmental needs and priorities of third countries."
Dr Aydin Yildirim, from the Turkish Ministry of Environment and Forests, says that the replicating effects of the projects were “like the waves produced when throwing a stone into a lake.” He gave the example of the different Turkish waste projects developed in the context of a national waste policy and the predecessors of large infrastructure projects later implemented by the EU cohesion funds.
Programmes financed through LIFE+, the new EU programme for the period 2007-2013, shall be open to the participation of the following countries, provided that supplementary appropriations are received: (a) EFTA States which have become members of the European Environment Agency; (b) candidate countries for accession to the European Union; (c) Western Balkan countries included in the Stabilisation and Association Process.
Capacity building is the principal objective of more than one third of all LIFE-TCY projects. Since 1993, the programme has funded ten projects directly focused on raising environmental awareness and capacity in the Lebanon.
Rather than concentrating on any specific environmental issue, these projects aimed to contribute to the development of the knowledge and resources of the public, private and not-for-profit sectors. These efforts had the long-term objective of enabling a better development and implementation of environmental policies in the country.
The situation in countries like the Lebanon can make this capacity development an even more crucial first step towards the longer-term goals of environmental protection. Before environmentally beneficial policies can be introduced and implemented, it is essential to ensure that the structures and capacity are in place to facilitate their success.
The Lebanon had suffered from years of civil conflict and government instability. To achieve environmental improvement, substantial changes were necessary to the ways of working in environment policy. Projects have therefore attempted to facilitate the development of the Ministry of the Environment (MoE), which was established in 1994 and has fewer than 50 employees.
With the support of LIFE-TCY, the MoE has acquired the structures, management capabilities and specific knowledge necessary to fulfil its remit. It has now even developed an internal quality management system and is ready to be certified according to the ISO 9001 standard.
One LIFE-TCY project in particular (LIFE02 TCY/INT/0341), contributed to this achievement. It developed the Lebanese Environment and Development Observatory (LEDO), which has improved understanding of environmental development and the economic cost of environmental degradation, and enabled the MoE to identify areas for further research.
The project helped to develop several environment-development indicators, an information system for managing data and a monitoring network of organisations to gather information. This provides the necessary environmental data for analysis and decision-making on environmental projects and policies.
Another successful LIFE-TCY project in the Lebanon focussed on establishing the Lebanon Cleaner Production Centre (LCPC), which offers comprehensive services and advice on cleaner production.
The project laid the foundations for the LCPC to:
LEDO and LCPC can be seen as aspects of a broad initiative to bolster the infrastructure of the country. Other projects worked to: help prepare an environmental strategy (1993); strengthen the system for auditing industries (1998); develop strategic environmental assessment and land use planning (2000); enhance the permanent environmental awareness unit of the MoE (2000); strengthen the development and application of legislation (2002); and strengthen the management of protected areas (2003).
For more information on these and other capacity building projects under the TCY strand, see pages 44-53 of the LIFE-TCY brochure.
Some LIFE-TCY projects helped third countries tackle specific environmental challenges. One project in Russia specifically helped put in place policies and practices to reduce solid waste pollution from the city of St. Petersburg.
According to the Helsinki Commission, St. Petersburg is responsible for 20% of the pollution in the Baltic Sea. One of the main sources of this pollution is municipal solid waste (MSW) contaminated with heavy metals and soluble hazardous substances. St. Petersburg produces approximately five million cubic metres of MSW per year.
A LIFE-TCY project (LIFE02 TCY/ROS/039) tackled this problem by focusing on the city’s lack of a selective waste collection system or appropriate policies for waste minimisation, reuse and recycling. A central objective was to draw up and implement an environmental action plan for municipal solid waste management.
The first step was to make an assessment of the amount and composition of MSW in St. Petersburg. This data formed the basis for developing an MSW management system, including modern technologies for waste treatment, the recycling of secondary materials and environmentally safe disposal.
As a second step, the project implemented a demonstration initiative to test some of the action plan’s conclusions, including a trial run of a policy to separately collect waste ‘at source’. This part of the pilot entailed the development of prototypes, the purchase of equipment and the production of communications material to stimulate public participation in waste separation.
The project resulted in a 30% reduction in mixed waste collected at the new collection points, allowing transportation volumes to be halved. The collection of bulky waste into special containers was also successful, reducing illegal dumping and incineration in the project area.
Recyclable waste constituted 20% of the total amount of waste collected. Of this amount, the project achieved 70% re-use, for example as compost.
On the basis of these results and following the environmental action plan, the city authorities decided to install further separate waste collection facilities in the city. More than 4,000 containers were purchased in 2006 and plans exist to double this number by 2009. Private operators established 20 separate stations for the collection of recyclable waste in 2006.
A further 2,000 sites for separate waste collection - supported by six sorting and reloading stations, and by two new landfills - are also planned, to further build on the successes of the TCY project.
Leaflets, posters, banners and booklets, presentations and training sessions, the publication of the project results and the creation of a website were all central to engaging the public with the waste management system and ensuring its success.
The inclusion of most of the project measures in the city's long-term planning and the successful engagement of the public demonstrate how this project will have a sustainable, long-term impact on waste management in the city.
For more information on these and other TCY projects to tackle particular environmental themes, see pages 24-43 of the LIFE-TCY brochure.
LIFE-TCY projects covered European countries outside of the EU as well as countries in the Middle East and North Africa. One such project aimed to promote and improve the use of wastewater treatment technologies in the tannery industry in Tunisia.
The leather sector is one of the most important economic sectors in Tunisia and exports to the EU have increased ten-fold since 1997. However, the industrial processes involved in leather production have a negative impact on the environment due to the high quantities of water and chemicals used.
The environmental threats from Tunisian tanneries were particularly high since they rarely applied wastewater treatment technologies. The development and introduction of such systems was necessary to comply with environmental legislation and to improve the competitiveness of the leather sector.
To foster the use of wastewater treatment technologies in Tunisian tanneries, the LIFE-TCY project ‘Eaucuir’ (LIFE04 TCY/TN/0000634) has firstly created an environmental laboratory to test and analyse the most significant wastewater treatment parameters. It also created a pool of local technicians trained in specific tannery-related wastewater problems.
The project carried out a comparative study of the current wastewater treatment situation in Tunisia to gain detailed knowledge of the problems in the tannery sector and to verify the particular situation of each participating enterprise in comparison with the sector’s average. Participation was open to all tanning enterprises, and the study was based on a questionnaire and the analysis of wastewater samples taken over five consecutive days from ten selected companies.
Two mobile pilot prototypes for wastewater treatment - one physico-chemical and one biological - were developed for testing, and the relevant technicians were provided with appropriate training. The demonstration of these prototypes, with testing of their cleaning capacities over a four-month period, is taking place in 2007.
The project expects to strengthen the national capacity to reduce the pollution produced by tanneries. This will have direct environmental benefits and will also both improve the image of tanneries and help meet European import requirements for leather.
It is expected that the project outcomes will be transferable to other industrial sectors in the country. To encourage this, the project foresees the dissemination of the results through publications and presentations. A video, workshops and several info-days are planned.
For more information on these and other TCY projects to tackle particular environmental themes, see pages 24-43 of the LIFE-TCY brochure.