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East/West Environmental Initiative Announced

  • Anthony Georgieff



Copenhagen, June 11 (RFE/RL) -- A new, seven-million dollar initiative to construct an information super-highway to monitor the environment in Central and Eastern Europe has been announced in Copenhagen.

The venture, nominally under the European Union's (EU) PHARE programme, will be operated jointly by the European Environmental Agency (EEA), the European Union (EU) and the governments in Central and Eastern Europe. The initiative, announced yesterday in Copenhagen, will start immediately.

By the year 2000, it is expected to create an information network in Central and Eastern Europe that will be compatible with Western standards, and that will monitor all aspects of the environment on a daily basis. Its data will then be used to make assessment and forecasts about the possible effects of human action on the environment.

According EEA Executive Director Jimenez Bertran, the fast and reliable exchange of data is vital to protecting and preserving the environment. And this, in turn, is a prerequisite for future EU membership for the former Communist states.

The new initiative is a direct result of the pan-European Environment Ministers Conference in Sofia last October.

A representative of the European Commission in Brussels (Mr. Griepink) told RFE/RL that East Europeans will not be treated as "beggars who are taken out to lunch at a MacDonalds." Once they have the means and the infrastructure, he said, they will have to start doing exactly what the West is doing to protect the environment.

According to Hans Alders, Director of the United Nations Regional Programme for Europe, a comprehensive database gives vast possibilities for environmental protection. As an example, he cited the database of his own office which includes multi-faceted information about all the nuclear power plants in the world. This information is being updated on an hourly basis.

Alders also asserted part of the money under the new programme will be used to update the telecommunications networks in select Central and East European countries. That will enable corresponding institutions in the region to gain access to, among other things, the Internet.

The general view held by the EEA and the EU about the state of the environment in Central and Eastern Europe is that the democracies in transition have the will and the energy to pursue environmental aims. But most of them still lack the resources.

All European countries except Croatia and Serbia participate in the new programme. But the EEA pointed out both Balkan states will soon be integrated into the programme.

The announcement of the new PHARE programme coincides with a two-day environment seminar in Copenhagen, bringing together state and non-governmental representatives from both Eastern and Western Europe.

It also coincides with the publication of the 1995 EEA report which identifies the following areas for immediate environmental action: 1/ Climate change, 2/ Stratospheric ozone depletion, 3/Loss of biodiversity, 4/Major accidents, 5/Acidification, 6/Fresh and sea-water pollution, 7/Forest degradation,

The next pan-European Ministerial Conference on the Environment will take place in Denmark in 1998.
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