Taking action on sustainability
Countries to the east of the European Union’s borders face a range of global, regional and trans-boundary environmental challenges. Key issues include air and water quality, waste management, nature conservation, energy use, land use and dealing with pollution in the Baltic, Barents Caspian and Black seas. Reducing environmental risks and pollution, along with promoting the sustainable use of natural resources, are key goals for the EU’s European Neighbourhood Policy.
Over the past decade, the European Commission has taken steps to ensure that environmental legislation and multilateral environmental agreements have been implemented to support strategic planning and prioritisation in light of scarce resources and competing needs.
The Commission supported the setting up of the ‘Regional Environmental Centres’ (RECs) in order to enhance a regional process of public participation and to strengthen the role of civil society in environmental protection. Moreover, the involvement of local authorities has also been promoted through initiatives, such as the interregional programme CIUDAD which aims to support sustainable development and good governance at the municipal and regional level.
To address climate change, a number of Commission-backed projects are providing technical assistance to EU’s eastern neighbours in order to help them fulfil their global commitments and to help them participate in the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) and the Kyoto Protocol mechanisms.
Protecting water resources
Most projects related to the use and preservation of water resources support the objectives set out in the EU Water Initiative (EUWI). A number of Investment Support Facilities have been set up in order to leverage finance for water supply and sanitation infrastructure projects through the preparation of feasibility studies.
These have been complemented by grant facilities aimed at softening loans for water infrastructure that are provided by international financial institutions. Other projects deal with the improvement of water governance, or the integrated trans-boundary management of river basins.
In forestry, the Commission and its partners are preparing a large programme on Forest Law Enforcement and Governance (FLEG). This project will cover all the eastern neighbours and build on the commitments made at the St Petersburg Ministerial Conference on FLEG.