As the REC's "think tank," the Programs Department is staffed by experts in diverse areas of environmental expertise, from public participation to environmental financing to biodiversity. With the help of REC staff in other departments and REC Local Offices, the Programs Department was again capable of assembling together quality project teams in order to take steps in assessing and solving some of the region's key environmental problems.
The program of informal cooperation among the accession countries, which started in 1997, established itself as the backbone for the REC's EU accession initiatives. Through facilitated meetings of accession country representatives, the REC provided a neutral forum where countries could develop proposals for solving common problems; strengthen their negotiating position in up- coming accession talks; secure adequate funding for environmental improvements; and adequately prepare for international meetings. Additionally, the Programs Department developed a set of approximation indicators for the European Commission's DG XI to assess the approximation process in the applicant countries, particularly in the area of implementation and enforcement. The results of this project will be used as input for developing a methodology on monitoring the progress of approximation, a project which will be carried out for the European Commission in 1998.
In the framework of the Environment for Europe process, the REC continued to provide Secretariat services for the four Sofia Initiatives, introduced at the third Inter-Ministerial Conference in Sofia, Bulgaria in 1995. A regional workshop on phasing out lead in gasoline was organised in Bulgaria as part of the Local Air Pollution Initiative. A regional workshop concerning the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Initiative was held at REC head office for CEE and NIS representatives and international funding agencies. For the Economic Instruments Initiative, an informal network of CEE experts was established, a Source Book on Economic Instruments for Environmental Policy was launched, covering instruments such as environmental taxes and fines and water pricing, as was a comprehensive survey on energy pricing and taxation, and the first issue of the Green Budget Reform Newsletter was published. As for the Biodiversity Initiative, a conference was held in Albania and preparations began for a workshop in April 1998 concerning the effects of EU accession on biodiversity in CEE.
In 1997, the REC provided direct input into the drafting of the UNECE Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decisionmaking and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters, to be adopted in June 1998 in Aarhus. To promote dialogue between NGOs and ministry officials, the REC organised roundtable meetings about the content of the Convention in 21 CEE and NIS countries which led to positive changes in the position of several delegations. The REC also continued to monitor and evaluate the progress of public participation in environmental decisionmaking in CEE countries. Preparations began on a series of country, regional and Pan-European reports, which will provide a comparative assessment on existing legal frameworks and practices. The reports will also focus on the development of more efficient instruments and a set of "public participation indicators and standards," to be presented in Aarhus.
A public participation training module was also developed for Hungary and tested at a workshop in Szentendre to better enable different stakeholders to participate in community environmental decisionmaking. Similar projects are in progress in Bulgaria, Latvia, Poland and Romania.
LOCAL ENVIRONMENTAL ACTION PROGRAMS (LEAP)
Recognising the growing role of local governments in the region, the Programs Department organised Municipal Environmental Action Program Forums in Bulgaria, Hungary and Latvia. The main goals were to share best practices in the preparation of comprehensive local action programs, identify the most urgent environmental needs of municipalities and propose future project ideas. A Manual for Municipalities in Environmental Action Planning is under development in Latvia, and the project "Development of Local Sustainable Development Programmes in Accordance with Agenda 21 Recommendations" was launched in Poland.
With industrial production on the rise, cleaner and more sustainable practices must be implemented to avoid the negative experiences of the West. Thus, the private sector is increasingly becoming one of the key stakeholders in the region.
The second volume of the Environmental Business Directory was published in June, covering Bulgaria, Croatia, Romania, and Slovenia, and over 400 companies providing environmental technologies and services, along with the Emerging Environmental Market survey, with an overview of the activities and needs of environmental businesses in those countries. Also, the Environmental Technology Market survey in CEE was published, covering the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia, identifying the demand for environmental technology, gauging the perceptions of CEE firms toward foreign technologies and examining business opportunities.
The new Cleaner Production (CP) Networking and Experience Transfer Project began in September, geared to facilitating the exchange of information and experience among CP professionals from CP-advanced CEE countries (Czech Republic, Hungary, Lithuania, Poland and Slovakia) with those from less advanced countries (Bulgaria, FYR Macedonia and Romania), enabling the latter to apply lessons learned in developing their own CP programs.
REC PROGRAMS STRIVE
PREVIOUS PAGE * NEXT PAGE