Recommendation 1637 (2003)1
Pan-European environmental co-operation: the Council of
Europes role after the Kyiv Ministerial Conference and the Johannesburg
1. The United Nations Conference on
Environment and Development held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 recognised the need
for a regional approach in implementing the provisions of the Rio Declaration
and Agenda 21. This need was more recently endorsed at the World Summit on
Sustainable Development held in Johannesburg in 2002.
2. Guided by the political changes in the countries of
central and eastern Europe and the subsequent opening up of new opportunities
for joint action, Europe has been the first to respond to this global call for
regional commitments, in particular through the Environment for Europe (EfE)
process, which was set up to enable countries in transition to achieve a
degree of environmental protection equivalent to that of developed countries
in the pan-European zone.
3. The fifth pan-European ministerial conference,
Environment for Europe, held in Kyiv from 21 to 23 May 2003, was the first
high-level meeting to address environment and sustainable development issues
since the Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development, and had
particular responsibility for integrating and adapting the objectives and
means established at the global level to the circumstances of the European
landscape. The Parliamentary Assembly welcomes the fact that the political
will for implementing the decisions of the Johannesburg Summit to strengthen
the environmental pillar of sustainable development at the global, regional,
sub-regional and national level was strongly felt at that important
4. The Parliamentary Assembly has taken a close interest in
the pan-European ministerial conferences since the inception of the EfE
initiative in Dobris in 1991. Furthermore, it has continuously expressed its
full political support and endorsed the relevance of pan-European co-operation
in securing peace, stability and sustainable development in Europe and beyond.
To this end, Recommendation
1284 (1996) and Resolution 1076 (1996)
were adopted by the Assembly after the third ministerial conference, held in
Sofia in October 1995, which stressed the need for specific actions by
governments and underlined in particular the role of national parliaments and
parliamentary assemblies and the useful contribution they could make towards
more effective environmental protection and management.
5. The Assembly notes with satisfaction
that, twelve years after the first pan-European ministerial conference,
Environment for Europe, in Dobris Castle (in the former Czechoslovakia), the
state of the environment across Europe has improved in several respects and
that European co-operation to protect the environment and promote sustainable
development has expanded significantly.
6. It is also pleased that the EfE process offers ministers
of the environment the opportunity to tackle the serious environmental
problems facing the countries of central and eastern Europe in particular and
to link the many different actors and initiatives.
7. Thus, the Assembly welcomes the development of the EfE
framework into an important platform for dialogue and co-operation, not only
among governments but also for international organisations, non-governmental
organisations and the private sector. In this respect, it appreciates the
efforts made in Kyiv to renew the structures for co-operation taking account
of these new opportunities.
8. The Assembly also welcomes the publication of the Kyiv
Assessment Report by the European Environment Agency (EEA) and the Ten Years
of UNECE Environmental Performance reviews, as well as the signing of three
legally-binding multilateral protocols on pollutant release and transfer
registers (Aarhus Convention); strategic environment assessment (Espoo
Convention); and civil liability and compensation for damages caused by
transboundary effects of industrial accidents on transboundary waters; and of
the Framework Convention on the Protection and Sustainable Development of the
9. However, the Assembly believes that while progress has
been made in many countries to strengthen national capacities for the
development and implementation of effective environmental policies and the
integration of environmental considerations into other policies, numerous
concerns and problems remain. These have arisen in the decade between the Rio
World Summit in 1992 and the Johannesburg Summit in 2002 and require firmer
political action by countries, particularly European countries, in order to
tackle environmental issues and create more sustainable societies, following
the guidelines and commitments undertaken at the recent Johannesburg Summit.
10. In this context, the Assembly reiterates its concern
Recommendation 1594 (2003)
that the Johannesburg Declaration and its accompanying Plan of Implementation
pay very little attention to the problems of environmental protection and set
no real specific targets other than in relation to water.
11. The Assembly believes that political statements and
declarations alone are today no longer enough to guarantee an approach to
sustainable development based on balanced and mutually reinforcing
environmental, social and economic policies. What is needed are specific
targets and concrete action by states, regions, local authorities and civil
societies to implement the provisions of the recent Johannesburg Declaration
and its Plan of Implementation, and the setting up of a proper monitoring
mechanism to induce the contracting parties to honour their commitment to the
EfE and Johannesburg processes.
12. The Assembly is therefore convinced that Europe must
keep up the momentum and step up its role as an initiator and leader. The
political will that was lacking in Johannesburg must be displayed in Europe.
Europe needs a truly pan-European policy aimed at harmonising environment
quality and environmental policies and securing peace, stability and
sustainable development throughout the continent.
13. Likewise, the current inadequate legislative base, poor
implementation and a weak institutional framework urgently require the
streamlining of European environmental processes and the improvement of
pan-European environmental policy.
14. The Assembly recognises the enormous, important work
that the Council of Europe has done over the last thirty-five years for the
environment to be included on the political agenda of its member states,
wholeheartedly supporting the involvement of the intergovernmental sector in
the process of initiating, within the EfE framework, the Pan-European
Biological and Landscape Diversity Strategy (PEBLDS)
a strategy offering a comprehensive European approach to the protection of
biological and landscape diversity and its integration in the global context
of sustainable development.
15. The Assembly also believes in the importance of
pursuing the objectives of the Kyiv Biodiversity Resolution by adopting the
ambitious objective of reducing the volume of biological and landscape
diversity losses by 2011.
Assembly is committed to the implementation and further development of the
Council of Europe instruments for improving the natural heritage and quality
of life, such as the Bern Convention and other regional instruments of
co-operation for the conservation of biological diversity.
17. The Assembly also affirms its commitment to the
Environment for Europe (EfE) process and underlines the role national
parliaments and parliamentary assemblies can and do play in providing better
environmental protection and management, especially by promoting the necessary
mechanisms and co-operation with civil society organisations.
18. Against this background, the Assembly recommends that
the Committee of Ministers:
i. call upon the governments of member states to follow
up and implement the decisions taken at the Johannesburg Summit on
Sustainable Development and the fifth pan-European ministerial conference,
Environment for Europe, to strengthen the environmental pillar of
sustainable development at the global, regional and sub-regional levels and
to promote partnerships in support of the goals of the Johannesburg
Declaration and Plan of Implementation and the Kyiv Declaration;
ii. promote activities in all sectors of the Organisation
related to the objectives of the Johannesburg Plan of Implementation to
establish appropriate monitoring and implementation mechanisms;
iii. organise the Council of Europe intergovernmental
sector on the environment in such a way as to enable the Organisation to
continue to play its full part in implementing the Pan-European Biological
and Landscape Diversity Strategy and to contribute to the follow-up to the
iv. call upon the governments of member states to
encourage the signature and ratification of relevant international and
regional legal instruments for the conservation and sustainable use of
natural and cultural heritage, and in particular the Council of Europe
conventions on protection of the environment;
encourage member and Observer states to favour environmental ethics through
the drawing up of a European charter of general principles for environment
protection and sustainable development.
Text adopted by the Standing Committee, acting on behalf of the
Assembly, on 25 November 2003 (see
report of the Committee on the Environment, Agriculture and Local and Regional
Affairs, rapporteur: Mr Meale).