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
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
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,
6/Fresh and sea-water pollution,
The next pan-European Ministerial Conference on the Environment will take place in Denmark in 1998.