15 April 1997        Doc. 7797

ADOC7797

REPORT1

on the European Charter of the Danube Basin

(Rapporteur : Mr Benno ZIERER,

Germany, Group of the European People's Party)

_____

Summary

      In Resolution 1021 (1994) adopted on 26 January 1994, the Assembly subscribed to the final declaration of the Second Pan-European Interparliamentary Conference on the Environment (Regensburg, 14-16 October 1993) and agreed with the participants' view that there was a need to set up a body capable of implementing and co-ordinating a truly pan-European policy in the Danube region.

      The Assembly therefore decided to draw up a European Danube basin charter, which would lay down the principles for permanent Danubian co-operation to be developed at intergovernmental level in association with the elected representatives of the riparian states and regions.

      This report is the result of the work done by the Committee on the Environment, Regional Planning and Local Authorities to implement Resolution 1021 (1994).

I. Draft recommendation

1.       The Danube basin has always been a region where many different peoples have been brought together by historical, social, cultural and economic links made possible by the unifying effect of the river.

2.       Growth in co-operation between the countries within the region and between them and other countries in both western and eastern Europe was checked or, at the very least, greatly reduced during the period before 1989.

3.       Developments since 1989 and the return of east European countries to democratic government and the market economy undoubtedly offer new opportunities for co-operation and development in the Danube basin.

4.       In this connection, for instance, the Assembly believes that the Danube can serve as a major inland waterway, which, in particular through the Rhine-Main-Danube link, can significantly reduce the volume of goods transported by land routes and offer a less expensive and, above all, less environmentally harmful means of transport.

5.       Moreover, increased use of the Danube as a transport route is bound to have a beneficial impact on the economic development of the surrounding regions.

6.       However, the Assembly is equally aware of the dangers facing this region, where not only the river, but also other natural resources such as the air and the soil, are under serious threat.

7.       At the same time, it is important to note that the state of the Danube has significant implications for other regions such as the Black Sea basin, the pollution of which is largely attributable to the pollution of the Danube, and this makes properly co-ordinated co-operation between the various regions concerned all the more necessary.

8.       Given the new opportunities which have emerged in the Danube basin region following the opening up of the countries of central and eastern Europe, many initiatives — mostly focusing on specific individual aspects of the problems facing the region — have either come into being or have gained fresh momentum.

9.       At present, the Danube basin is covered by various conventions, agreements and projects, etc., concerning environmental protection, navigation issues, transfrontier water management, tourism, etc.

10.       The Assembly believes that only a comprehensive and integrated approach to the various sectoral policies concerned can ensure harmonious, satisfactory, ecologically acceptable and economically legitimate development of the region.

11.       Consequently, while recognising the validity of these initiatives and the important role they can play with regard to the specific problems addressed, the Assembly believes there is a need to put in place a mechanism which will ensure that all the relevant problems are taken into consideration in a comprehensive and integrated manner, which meets the requirements of sustainable development and which, in turn, fits in with a regional development policy that is consistent both with a pan-European approach and with the specific problems of the region.

12.       If all the problems which the Danube region may have to face are to be dealt with in a comprehensive and integrated manner, co-operation must also extend to all levels, that is, international, national, regional and local, and to all the parties concerned, that is, public authorities, elected representatives and governmental and non-governmental organisations.

13.       It was with this in mind that the Assembly decided in Resolution 1021 (1994) to draw up a European Charter of the Danube basin, which would provide an appropriate framework for permanent co-operation at all levels in the Danube region and for effective co-ordination of the specific examples of co-operation already in existence.

14.       The Assembly thus welcomes the completion of the work on the draft European charter of the Danube basin, which is in keeping with the wishes expressed in Resolution 1021 (1994).

15.       In this connection, the Assembly has noted the offer of the Romanian authorities to host in Bucharest the Secretariat to be established under the Charter.

16.       The Assembly therefore recommends that the Committee of Ministers:

i.       examine the appended draft European charter of the Danube basin with a view to permitting its early adoption;

ii.       in doing so, consider the possibilities to establish in Bucharest the seat of the Standing Committee, to be set up under the Charter, and its Secretariat;

iii.       assign responsibility for finalisation of the text, if it believes this to be necessary, to a committee of experts including representatives of the Parliamentary Assembly and the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of Europe;

iv.       present the draft text thus completed, and before its final adoption, to the Parliamentary Assembly for its opinion.

II. Explanatory memorandum

by Mr Zierer

Contents

Foreword        5

1.       The preparatory work        6

2.       The draft of the European Charter of the Danube Basin       8

3.       The explanatory report        20

Appendices:

      Appendix 1 :       Final Declaration of the Second Pan-European Interparliamentary

      Conference on the Environment: The Danube Basin

      (Regensburg, 14-16 October 1993)        29

      Appendix 2 :       Resolution 1021 (1994) on the preservation and

      development of the Danube Basin        32

      Appendix 3 :       The Danube Basin        35

Foreword

      The Parliamentary Assembly's Committee on the Environment, Regional Planning and Local Authorities has always taken a close interest in the problems facing major rivers in areas such as the environment, transport and regional planning, etc.

      Following the sweeping geopolitical changes seen in Europe since the fall of the Berlin Wall, the protection, management and development opportunities of the Danube basin have been the subject of various bilateral and multilateral agreements and of activities implemented both by European and international intergovernmental organisations and by non-governmental organisations.

      At the Parliamentary Assembly's summer session in Budapest in June 1992, the committee held a hearing on the future of the river. Following that hearing and the interest generated by the management of the Danube basin, it was decided that the Second Pan-European Interparliamentary Conference on the Environment should be devoted to the protection and management of the river basin.

      The conference was duly held in Regensburg from 14 to 16 October 1993 at the invitation of the Bundestag and the city of Regensburg.

      The conference took stock of and discussed the river's existing and potential functions and highlighted the need for an integrated approach that would optimise the various activities undertaken and turn the results achieved to good account.

      While it was agreed that the river could now serve as a waterway of crucial importance for linking eastern and western Europe, equal emphasis was placed on the fact that the Danube is facing very major threats which seriously undermine water quality and natural habitats in the region.

      The political changes in the region, linked, in particular, with the transition to the market economy, have, for instance, led to growth in certain activities which involve the discharge of untreated industrial or domestic effluent into the river.

      There is thus a need to develop the river's potential while preserving or, where possible, restoring natural habitats.

      The participants at the Regensburg Conference made it clear that their aim was not to set up a new structure that would replace — either partially or completely — one or other of the existing mechanisms. Instead, they felt that it would be useful to establish a mechanism that could help develop interaction, while co-ordinating existing initiatives and ensuring complementarity between them.

      The Second Pan-European Interparliamentary Conference on the Environment ended with the adoption of a final declaration (see Appendix I), in which the participants called on the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe to draw up a European Danube basin charter.

      The conference participants wanted the charter to offer a coherent and rational framework for all existing co-operation mechanisms by setting out "principles for permanent Danubian co-operation, developed in association with elected representatives (national and regional parliamentarians)". It was also stressed that such co-operation must, of course, be based on the principles of active participation and subsidiarity.

      In addressing this request to the Council of Europe, the participants wished also to demonstrate their belief that the Council is able to provide the right framework for an initiative of this kind, which falls entirely within its competence.

      Romania has offered to host the seat of the "Council of the Danube" which may be set up under the charter.

      I myself had the honour of presenting these proposals to the Parliamentary Assembly along with the report on the preservation and development of the Danube basin,2 which led to the adoption of Resolution 1021 (see Appendix II).

      In this resolution, the Parliamentary Assembly recommends the development of consultation and co-operation between all the riparian countries and regions so that the Danube basin can become "the hub of integrated, balanced development of the entire region (...)".

      The resolution also states that such co-operation should take account, in particular, of the need for a new dimension to the planning of European territory, which should be "the spatial expression of a political programme and which should integrate all ecological, hydrological, economic, energy, communication, agricultural and demographic components".

      The Parliamentary Assembly thus subscribed to the final declaration of the Regensburg Conference and decided to draw up a European Danube basin charter, which would lay down principles for co-operation to be developed in the Danube region at intergovernmental level, in association with national and regional elected representatives.

      The Assembly also decided that the Council of Europe's Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of Europe and the Assembly Committees on Economic Affairs and Development and on Science and Technology should be involved in the preparatory work.

1.       The preparatory work

      With a view to implementing Resolution 1021 (1994), the Committee on the Environment, Regional Planning and Local Authorities set up an ad hoc sub-committee to prepare a preliminary draft European Danube basin charter.

      The ad hoc sub-committee held various consultations during the drafting process in order to hear the views of the various parties concerned.

      It also sought contributions from a number of consultants who are recognised experts on the matter. The charter was thus drafted by Mr Alois Larcher, the text was checked for legal accuracy by Ms Edith Wenger, and Mr Hervé Lethier produced an overview of all the legal instruments, activities and projects concerning the Danube.

      Initial consultation on a preliminary draft charter took place at a "Forum on the Protection and Management of the Danube Basin" on 15 and 16 December 1994. This forum organised in co-operation with the Council of Europe's Directorate of Environment and Local Authorities was attended by parliamentarians and local and regional authority representatives from the countries concerned, as well as experts and representatives of international organisations.

      On the basis of the discussions at the forum, which gave a clearer indication of what the charter should look like, the text was redrafted and copies were sent out with requests for comments or proposed amendments.

      Following this written consultation exercise, which produced comments, proposed amendments and, indeed, questions about the actual scope of the text, it was decided to undertake a substantial revision of the preliminary draft charter and give it the form of a convention.

      In order to establish more direct contact with the Danube regions, the sub-committee also devoted one of its meetings to an exchange of views with representatives of the Working Community of the Danube Regions (ARGE-DonauLänder).

      The last consultations on the draft charter were held in Bucharest in November 1996, after which the text was finalised and approved by the ad hoc sub-committee and then the plenary committee.

      At the Bucharest meeting, in which representatives of various Romanian bodies played an important part, the Romanian authorities reiterated their willingness to host the charter secretariat.

2.       Draft of the European Charter of the Danube Basin

Preamble

      The States of the Danube basin and the other signatories hereto,

(1)       Considering that the Danube basin is a geographical, cultural and environmental entity shared by States, which differ as to their histories, populations and economic development;

(2)       wishing to contribute to achievement of the Council of Europe's objective of closer unity of its members and promotion of co-operation between them;

(3)       aware that the Danube basin constitutes an important link between western Europe and eastern Europe and hence has a major role in establishing such co-operation;

(4)       aware, in addition, that nearly 80 million Europeans live in the Danube basin, which must be protected and enhanced, and that it also represents a European natural and cultural heritage, which must be preserved and turned to advantage in accordance with the principles of regional/spatial planning and sustainable development, while promoting its inhabitants' wellbeing, social identity, traditions and culture;

(5)       mindful that any activity in the Danube Basin may have consequences for adjacent or distant territories and that the regions concerned are therefore dependent on one another;

(6)       reasserting the role of territorial communities or authorities and the importance of their participation in European unification, and bearing in mind in this connection the final declaration of the heads of state and government of the Council of Europe, adopted in Vienna in 1993, according to which "The creation of a tolerant and prosperous Europe does not depend only on co-operation between states. It also requires transfrontier co-operation between local and regional authorities, without prejudice to the constitution and the territorial integrity of each State";

(7)       considering, therefore, that interregional and inter-territorial co-operation makes for integration, political stability harmonious development and improvement in the quality of life;

(8)       considering the European Outline Convention on Transfrontier Co-operation between Territorial Communities or Authorities, signed in Madrid on 21 May 1980, and the Additional Protocol thereto, signed in Strasbourg in 1995, which acknowledge the fundamental role of the regions and of territorial authorities and expressly confer on such bodies the right to co-operate with one another within the limits of their powers;

(9)       considering the fact that many initiatives taken in the Danube basin seem to bear witness to a community of interests and a shared vision of a future to be built in common, and recalling in particular, in this respect, the co-operation entered into since 1990 by the Working Community of the Danube Regions;

(10)       considering that, in order to be fully effective, co-operation must be put into practice through systematic collaboration both between the States concerned and between their territorial communities and their citizens, and that, to this end, an appropriate legal framework is indispensable;

(11)       taking account of the specific international legal instruments already applicable to the Danube region, in particular:

a.       the Convention regarding the Regime of Navigation on the Danube (Danube Convention), signed in Belgrade in 1948;

b.       the Convention on the Protection of the Black Sea against Pollution, signed in Bucharest in 1992;

c.       the Convention on the co-operation for the Protection and Sustainable Use of the Danube River, signed in Sofia in 1994;

(12)       also taking account of the relevant legal instruments of worldwide or European scope, in particular the Conventions and Charters listed in the Appendix to this Charter;

(13)       also bearing in mind the European recommendations, resolutions and other texts of importance to the Danube Basin, in particular those listed in the Appendix to this Charter.

(14)       referring to Resolution 1021 (1994) of the Parliamentary Assembly on the preservation and development of the Danube basin, deciding to draw up a European Danube Basin Charter;

      Have agreed as follows:

PART I - PURPOSE AND DEFINITIONS

Article 1 - Purpose

      The purpose of this Charter is to bring into effect ongoing co-operation between the governments, national parliaments, territorial communities or authorities and their elected assemblies, European institutions and international organisations, with a view to the harmonious, sustainable development of the regions of the Danube basin, for the wellbeing of its inhabitants and the preservation of its natural and cultural heritage. Suitable national or European non-governmental organisations and associations shall be involved in this operation in an appropriate manner.

Article 2 - Definitions

For the purpose of this Charter

a.       "Danube basin" means the area formed by the catchment area of the Danube and its tributaries, from the eastern slopes of the Black Forest to the Danube Delta..

b.       "Sustainable development" means development aimed at improving living conditions for human communities while remaining within the limits of the support capacity of ecosystems.

c.       "Regional/spatial planning" means planning which gives geographical expression to the economic, social, cultural and ecological policies of society. On a European scale, it contributes to a better spatial organisation in Europe and to the finding of solutions for problems which go beyond the national framework. (European Regional/Spatial Planning Charter). It is an instrument designed to ensure balanced regional socio-economic development, an improvement in the quality of life, rational use of space, responsible management of natural resources and protection of the environment.

d.       "Environmental impact assessment" means a procedure for evaluating the likely impact of a proposed activity on the environment.

e.       "The Madrid Convention" refers to the European Outline Convention on Transfrontier Co-operation between Territorial Communities or Authorities, signed in Madrid in 1980.

f.       "Transfrontier co-operation" means any concerted action designed to reinforce and foster relations between territorial communities or authorities within the jurisdiction of two or more states and the conclusion of any agreement and arrangement necessary for this purpose.

g.       "Region" means a territorial unit within a state, which through its administrative organisation is self-governing to a greater or lesser extent.

h.       "Territorial community" means a community, authority or body exercising local or regional functions and regarded as such under the domestic law of the State concerned.

i.       "International Non-Governmental Organisations" means associations, foundations and other private institutions (hereinafter referred to as NGOs) which satisfy the following conditions:

i.       have a non-profit-making aim of international utility;

ii.       have been established by an instrument governed by the internal law of a Party;

iii.       carry on their activities with effect in at least two states; and

iv.       have their statutory office in the territory of a Party and central management and control in the territory of that Party or of another Party.

j.       "Principle of subsidiarity" means the principle whereby public responsibilities shall be exercised, in preference, by those authorities which are closest to the citizen, in accordance with the European Charter of Local Self-Government (Article 4-3).

k.       "Principle of shared responsibility" means the principle whereby any decision affecting sustainable development shall be an open one based on fully informed participation of all parties concerned or interested.

PART II - THE CHARTER'S PRINCIPLES AND AIMS

Article 3 - Compatibility with other instruments

      Nothing in this Charter shall be construed as allowing derogations from any other convention in force which has a direct or indirect bearing on the sustainable development of the Danube basin.

Article 4 - Guiding principles

      The Parties to the Charter shall comply with the following principles of international law in implementing its provisions:

a.       state sovereignty and a state's unfettered right to its natural resources shall be exercised without causing damage to other states;

b.       a state which has suffered damage caused by another state shall be entitled to reparation;

      The Parties shall in addition strive to apply the relevant principles of sustainable development:

c.       decisions concerning regional/spatial planning and activities affecting the population and the environment shall be taken with regard to the Danube basin as a whole;

d.       environmental protection shall be an essential component of the development process and cannot be considered apart;

e.       development shall be based on caution, damage prevention at source, as far as possible, and sustainable use of resources;

f.       co-operation in favour of sustainable development shall be fostered through the information and participation of all concerned, in accordance with the principles of subsidiarity and shared responsibility;

g.       an effort shall be made to achieve ongoing co-operation and dialogue on a flexible institutional basis.

Article 5 - Aims

      The purpose of the co-operation which this Charter seeks to establish shall be:

a.       to manage the Danube basin as a single entity and a shared asset with a view to guaranteeing the preservation of cultural values, ecological balances and biodiversity;

b.       to provide the socio-economic means of ensuring the basin's harmonious, sustainable development;

c.       to present an overall picture making it possible to co-ordinate the various instruments and programmes that apply directly or indirectly to the regions of the Danube basin.

d.       to strengthen the relations between the States in the Danube Basin and the Black Sea        riparian States.

PART III - COMMITMENTS OF PARTIES

Article 6 - Co-operation

      Each Party undertakes to co-operate with the other Parties to the Charter, in particular by drawing inspiration from the provisions of the Madrid Convention and the Additional Protocol thereto, in order to manage the Danube basin in accordance with Articles 4 and 5. To that end, each Party shall implement measures to foster the activities or the establishment of transfrontier co-operation bodies, either individually or together with others. Each Party shall take the legislative and administrative measures needed in this respect.

Article 7 - Sustainable development

      Each Party shall, in consultation with the other Parties, take the legislative and administrative measures needed to guarantee the harmonious, sustainable development of the Danube basin. It shall in particular ensure that no existing legal provision is at variance with the Charter's aims and shall undertake to align its environmental legislation on the European rules in force.

Article 8 - Spatial planning

      In its regional/spatial planning processes each Party shall take into consideration the Danube basin as a whole, ensure that in frontier regions any national, regional or local plans are harmonised through cross-border consultation.

Article 9 - Environmental impact assessment

      Before authorising or undertaking an activity likely to have a significant transboundary impact, each Party shall carry out an environmental impact assessment in accordance with relevant international agreements and inform the Parties concerned of the results. Each Party shall strive to apply the principles of impact assessment to its policies, plans and programmes.

Article 10 - Participation

      Each Party undertakes to implement the legislative and administrative measures needed to enable each category of partner referred to in Article 1 of this Charter to take part in the co-operation and dialogue envisaged in Part IV of the Charter, informing them and consulting them to the full.

Article 11 - Information

      Each Party shall make, in accordance with domestic law, arrangements for the public to be amply informed of progress in meeting the Charter's aims and for public access to information on the environment and sustainable development.

Article 12 - Transfrontier co-operation

      Each Party shall, by means of transfrontier co-operation, foster the free movement of people and cultural exchanges whether for the protection of local cultures and traditions, for educational activities or for the promotion of the built and cultural heritage.

Article 13 - Appeal

      Each Party shall strive to take legislative and administrative measures such as to guarantee all persons and territorial communities that have suffered damage as a result of environmental effects, or qualified non-governmental organisations, a right of administrative and judicial action.

PART IV - STRUCTURES AND METHODS

Article 14 - Standing Committee

      A Standing Committee shall be set up for the purposes of this Charter.

Article 15 - Membership of the Standing Committee

1.       The Committee shall be made up of representatives of the Parties. Each national delegation shall, as far as possible, include representatives of the partners referred to in Article 1 of this Charter.

2.       States outside the Danube basin which are members of the Council of Europe, the Parliamentary Assembly, the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of Europe and intergovernmental organisations whose field of action encompasses the aims of this Charter may be represented with observer status.

      The Committee of Ministers may invite non-member States on the shores of the Black Sea to attend the Standing Committee's proceedings as observers.

3.       After informing the Committee of Ministers, the Committee may grant observer status to associations of territorial communities, transfrontier co-operation bodies and suitable non-governmental organisations which have requested such status.

Article 16 -Functions of the Standing Committee

      The Standing Committee shall in particular be responsible for:

a.       facilitating ratification of this Charter and monitoring its implementation;

b.       considering all problems of intergovernmental and inter-regional, bilateral or multilateral co-operation relating to the Danube basin, submitted to it by the Parties or by the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe;

c.       considering activities already under way at international level in relation to co-operation in the Danube Basin, assessing their interdependence and considering the need for supplementary activities;

d.       assessing the place and functions of the Danube basin within the major pan-European projects and plans devised or proposed by European or international organisations and institutions;

e.       maintaining relations with international bodies and agencies which deal with questions relating to the Danube basin;

f.       discussing and liaising with all the co-operation bodies working in the various fields within their competence, including the discussion groups referred to in Article 22 hereafter, to promote, develop and protect the Danube Basin;

g.       defining the general framework of, and action appropriate to, concerted planning and sustainable development of the Danube basin, in the light and on the basis of the relevant proposals and recommendations put forward by the various bodies mentioned above;

h.       submitting conclusions accompanied by appropriate recommendations to the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe (possibly meeting within the framework of a partial agreement) to the Parliamentary Assembly and to the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of Europe, and, if appropriate, to the national or international authorities with power to take action on these;

i.       facilitating the activities of the bodies already engaged in Danubian co-operation, particularly territorial communities, and endeavouring to eliminate legal or administrative obstacles which might hinder their co-operation;

j.       facilitating the friendly settlement of disputes between two or more Parties concerning the implementation of this Charter.

Article 17 - Meetings of the Standing Committee

1.       The Secretary General of the Council of Europe shall convene the first meeting of the Parties at the latest one year after this Charter has come into force.

2.       Subsequently, the Standing Committee shall meet at least once a year, or more often at the request of the majority of the Parties.

3.       The quorum required to take a decision by the Standing Committee shall be the majority of the Parties.

Article 18 - Rules of procedure

      The Standing Committee shall draw up its rules of procedure.

Article 19 - Voting rights

      Each Party to this Charter shall have one vote. Within the area of its competence, the European Community shall exercise its right to vote with a number of votes equal to the number of its member States which are Party to this Charter; the European Community shall not exercise its right to vote in cases where the member States concerned exercise theirs, and conversely.

Article 20 - Executive Secretariat

1.       The Charter's Executive Secretariat shall be provided by the Council of Europe.

2.       The Executive Secretariat shall fulfil the following functions:

a.       convene and prepare meetings of the Standing Committee;

b.       transmit to the Parties reports and other information received pursuant to this Charter;

c.       perform other functions that the Standing Committee may assign to it.

Article 21 - National co-ordination

      Each Party shall prepare an annual report on the coordination of the activities undertaken at national level to implement the Charter.

Article 22 - Discussion groups

1.       In order to achieve the Charter's aims, the Parties shall take steps to establish discussion groups at national, regional or transfrontier levels. These groups shall be open to all the partners referred to in Article 1 of this Charter.

2.       Discussion groups shall examine proposed plans, schemes and activities likely to improve the quality of life and environmental protection and contribute to sustainable development of the Danube Basin. They shall draw up an annual report on their conclusions.

Article 23 - Financing

      The implementation of this Charter shall be financed by the Council of Europe for a period of two years after its entry into force, in the third year jointly by the Council of Europe and the Parties to the Charter and in the fourth and following years by the Parties.

PART V - FINAL PROVISIONS

Article 24 - Signature and ratification

      This Charter shall be open for signature by States in the Danube Basin and by the European Community. It shall be subject to ratification, acceptance or approval. Instruments of ratification, acceptance or approval shall be deposited with the Secretary General of the Council of Europe.

Article 25 - Reservations

1.       Any State may, at the time of signature or when depositing its instrument of ratification, acceptance, approval or accession, make one or more reservations to Articles 6-13 of this Charter. No other reservation may be made.

2.       Any Contracting State which has made a reservation under the preceding paragraph may wholly or partly withdraw it by means of a notification addressed to the Secretary General of the Council of Europe. The withdrawal shall take effect on the date of receipt of such notification by the Secretary General.

Article 26 - Entry into force

      The Charter shall enter into force on the first day of the first month following the expiration of a period of six months after the date on which four states have approved it in accordance with the provisions of the preceding Article.

Article 27 - Amendments

1.       Any Party may propose amendments to this Charter.

2.       Any proposal for amendment shall be notified to the Secretary General of the Council of Europe who shall communicate it to the member States of the Council of Europe, to the other States party to this Charter and to the European Community.

3.       The Standing Committee shall examine any amendment proposed and shall submit the text adopted by a majority of three-quarters of the members of the Standing Committee to the Committee of Ministers for approval. After its approval, the text shall be forwarded to the Parties for acceptance.

4.       Any amendment shall enter into force ont the thirtieth day after all the Parties have informed the Secretary General of their acceptance thereof.

Article 28 - Withdrawal

      Any Party may at any time denounce this Charter by notifying the Secretary General of the Council of Europe. Such denunciation shall become effective on the first day of the first month following the expiration of a period of six months after the date of receipt of notification by the Secretary General.

Article 29 - Notification

      The Secretary General of the Council of Europe shall notify the Parties of:

a.       any signature;

b.       the deposit of any instrument of ratification, acceptance or approval;

c.       any date of entry into force of this Charter in accordance with Article 26;

d.       any information communicated under the provisions of Article 16, paragraph b;

e.       any report drawn up pursuant to Article 21;

f.       any notification under the provisions of Article 27 and the date on which the withdrawal becomes effective.

      In witness whereof, the undersigned have signed this Charter.

      Done at ...., this .. day of ......., in English and French, both texts being equally authentic, in a single copy, which shall be deposited in the archives of the Council of Europe. The Secretary General of the Council of Europe shall transmit certified copies to each signatory State, to each member State of the Council of Europe and to the European Community.

Appendix

List of Conventions, Charter, Recommendations,

Resolutions and other texts

A.       Conventions and Charters

1.       The Convention on Wetlands of International Importance, Especially as Waterfowl Habitat, signed in Ramsar in 1971;

2.       the Convention concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage, signed in Paris in 1972;

3.       the Convention on Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution, signed in Geneva in        1979, and related Protocols;

4.       the Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats, signed        in Bern in 1979;

5.       the Convention for the Protection of the Architectural Heritage of Europe, signed in Strasbourg in 1985;

6.       the European Charter of Local Self-Government, signed in Strasbourg in 1985;

7.       the European Convention on the Recognition of the Legal Personality of International Non-Governmental Organisations, signed in Strasbourg in 1986;

8.       the Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Dangerous Wastes and their Disposal, signed in Basel in 1989;

9.       the Convention on Civil Liability for Damage caused during Carriage of Dangerous Goods by Road, Rail and Inland Navigation Vessels (CRTD), signed in Geneva in 1989;

10.       the Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment in a Transboundary Context, signed in Espoo in 1991;

11.       the Convention on the Transboundary Effects of Industrial Accidents, signed in Helsinki in 1991;

12.       the Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and        International Lakes, signed in Helsinki in 1992;

13.       the Convention on Biological Diversity, signed in Rio in 1992.

14.       the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages, signed in Strasbourg in 1992;

15.       the Convention on Civil Liability for Damage resulting from Activities Dangerous to the Environment, signed in Lugano in 1993;

16.       the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities, signed in Strasbourg in 1995.

B.       Recommendations, Resolutions and other texts

1.       the European Regional/Spatial Planning Charter of 1983/84;

2.       the Bucharest Declaration of 1985 on the Management of Danube River Water;

3.       the Code of Conduct on Accidental Pollution of Transboundary Inland Waters (UNECE/1225) of 1990;

4.       "Gemeinsame Erklärung der Arbeitsgemeinschaft Donauländer" of 1990 (Joint        Declaration of the Working Community of Danubian Regions);

5.       the Pan-European Biological and Landscape Diversity Strategy of 1995;

6.       "Leitbild für eine nachhaltige Entwicklung im Donauraum" of 1996 (Guideline for a Sustainable Development of the Danube Basin).

3.       The explanatory report

Introduction

The Danube : a unifying river

1.       The River Danube, with certain tributaries, has, over the years, unquestionably created some unity in the Danube basin, fostered inter alia by the ease with which exchanges may be made along the watercourse, while great diversity is maintained in other respects.

2.       The undeniable interdependence which exists between the various parts of this large area are the main reasons for advocating joint and concerted action to ensure that this region develops in a balanced and harmonious way.

3.       The River Danube, as a major channel for exchanges and communications, is not only important within the region, but is also proving to be a favoured route for the expanding exchanges between eastern and western Europe; hence the Danube is acquiring particular importance in the effort to unify the whole of Europe.

4.       The development and modernisation of channels of communication is a joint task for all the riparian states, as well as for Europe as a whole and the European institutions.

5.       This development and modernisation must comply with common criteria and objectives, and specialised bodies have already been set up with this in mind.

6.       It is nevertheless essential for the development of this major channel of communications to be a part of the overall schemes for spatial planning and economic activities throughout the region and also to take account of European regional/spatial planning and sustainable development projects.

An ecological unity needing protection

7.       The river, its tributaries and banks form an ecosystem with a natural wealth of flora and fauna and with outstanding geological features, some parts of which are at serious risk, and the effective protection of which can only be ensured jointly and in accordance with common criteria, which in any case have already been published by the European agencies.

8.       Water protection, the gradual elimination of all forms of pollution and the careful management of this resource are ecologically essential, not only for flora and fauna, but first and foremost for the residents of the region; if this protection is to be genuinely effective, it must extend to the whole catchment area and it requires co-operation among all parts of the region.

An environment in need of development

9.       Prerequisites for improved economic and social conditions for Danube basin residents are close collaboration between public and private authorities and the application of the principles of sustainable development for all, and this means, inter alia:

-       ensuring that relations between city and country are balanced, avoiding both uncontrolled urban sprawl and a drift away from the countryside;

-       avoiding huge industrial developments and giving preference instead to small and medium-sized firms and crafts businesses;

-       setting up an infrastructure network, particularly for communications and public facilities, to be used for sustainable development;

-       modernising agriculture, taking special account of recent trends in European agriculture;

-       paying particular attention to the development of forestry, not only for its economic promise, but also for its ecological significance;

-       turning natural resources, particularly water resources, to advantage, while fully meeting ecological requirements, honouring neighbour rights and meeting the needs of future generations;

-       enhancing natural landscape resources for the purposes of leisure activities and tourism, enabling the rural population to stay where it is.

An experiment in coexistence for peoples and cultures

of the new Europe

10.       The Danube basin provides an ideal opportunity, which must be taken, for putting into practice the principles and conditions set out by the summit of heads of state and government for the building of the new Europe.

11.       Here, more than elsewhere, "the creation of a climate of tolerance and dialogue is necessary for the participation of all in political life", implying respect and protection for a large number of minority groups and "bilateral co-operation and agreements among the states" of the region.

12.       In this field, too, the Vienna Summit emphasised the important role of local and regional authorities and of transfrontier co-operation agreements in the protection of national minorities, their cultures and traditions, so that these minorities may make a valuable contribution to the life of our states' societies and to the building of this new Europe, which must respect both human rights and, at the same time, the integrity and sovereignty of states.

13.       Such dialogue and co-operation across national borders must foster human and cultural exchanges, thereby creating a spirit of tolerance and understanding of the diversity of traditions, beliefs and lifestyles, values essential to the shaping of a genuinely European attitude.

14.       Co-operation in this field will be intended to enhance individual cultural assets and to make possible a better appreciation of the respective contributions of different cultures to the region as a whole and to Europe as a whole. As well as making possible mutual enrichment, this co-operation will enable the region to make better use of its potential for tourism, which will develop along two parallel lines, that of the natural heritage and that of the built and cultural heritage.

Transfrontier and inter-territorial co-operation between local and

regional authorities as an essential element of Danubian co-operation

15.       Taking into consideration the dynamism and positive effects of inter-regional and transfrontier co-operation which already exists, it is important, in the spirit of the Vienna Declaration of the heads of state and government, to encourage and promote this form of co-operation, intended to improve neighbourly relations and mutual understanding and thereby to contribute to the building of a Europe of peace and fellowship.

16.       On the other hand, one should also foster the significant, and even decisive, contribution which territorial communities may make to improving people's living conditions and to good spatial management, as well as to the protection of the natural and cultural heritage of the Danube area.

17.       However, the considerable differences which exist between the Parties in terms of political and administrative organisation of territorial communities, necessitate a specific legal framework to enable them to engage in transfrontier or inter-territorial co-operation.

18.       An initial legal basis has already been created by the European Outline Convention on Transfrontier Co-operation between Territorial Communities or Authorities (known as the Madrid Convention), adopted in 1980.

19.       On the other hand, it has proved necessary for specific agreements on application to be concluded between the states wishing to make possible effective transfrontier co-operation, and such agreements have effectively been concluded between virtually all the states of both western and central Europe.

20.       Moreover, an Additional Protocol to the Outline Convention was adopted in November 1995 by the Committee of Ministers and a draft Convention on Inter-territorial Co-operation between communities and authorities is being drawn up by the appropriate committee of experts.

21.       The Charter hereafter aims at facilitating, at this stage, co-operation among territorial communities of the Danube basin, and consequently at completing the legal framework provided by the Madrid Convention, so that its principles can be applied in a manner which accords with domestic law and international commitments.

Comments on the provisions of the draft Charter

Preamble

22.       The Preamble sets out, in 14 recitals, the motivations of the signatory States to draw up the Charter.

23.       Emphasis is put on the need for transfrontier co-operation at all levels, including in particular local and regional levels, as advocated by the Heads of State and Government at their Summit in Vienna in 1993 and which is facilitated by the European Outline Convention on Transfrontier Co-operation between Territorial Communities or Authorities (Madrid, 1980).

24.       In order to avoid overlapping other existing legal instruments which apply, directly or indirectly, to the Danube basin, reference is made to these texts. Those which are of a more general nature, as well as the non-binding texts relating to the Danube basin are grouped together in an Appendix to the Charter.

Part I - Purpose and definitions

25.       Article 1 lays down the objective of the Charter: to ensure co-operation between public authorities at all levels, nationally, regionally and locally elected assemblies and international organisations and institutions. National voluntary organisations and associations, when they are found to be suitable for contributing to the implementation of the Charter, and European NGO's as defined in Article 2 must be involved in this co-operation in an appropriate manner.

26.       Article 2 defines a number of expressions used in the following provisions. Since some of these definitions have not yet been universally recognised, Article 2 specifies that they can only be used for the purpose of the Charter.

27.       By virtue of the definition of Danube Basin, and in the light of scientific information presently available, areas in the following States can be considered to be part of the catchment area: Albania, Austria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Moldova, Poland, Romania, Serbian Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, Switzerland and Ukraine.

28.       The definition of sustainable development has been taken from "Save the planet - Strategy for the future of life" drawn up in 1991 by the UNEP, IUCN and WWF.

29.       The definition of regional/spatial planning stems from the European Regional/Spatial Planning Charter.

30.       Environmental impact assessment is defined in the Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment in a Transboundary Context, signed in Espoo in 1991.

31.       Transfrontier co-operation is defined in accordance with the European Outline Convention on Transfrontier Co-operation between Territorial Communities or Authorities, signed in Madrid in 1980.

32.       In the absence of a universally recognised definition, region has been defined for the purpose of this Charter only.

33.       The definition of territorial community has been taken from the European Outline Convention on Transfrontier Co-operation between Territorial Communities or Authorities.

34.       International Non-Governmental Organisations are defined in the European Convention on the Recognition of the Legal Personality of International Non-Governmental Organisations, signed in Strasbourg in 1986.

35.       The principle of subsidiarity has been defined in accordance with the European Charter of Local Self-Government, signed in Strasbourg in 1986. Reference is made also to Recommendation No. R (95) 19 on the implementation of the principle of subsidiarity adopted by the Committee of Ministers on 12 October 1995.

36.       The principle of shared responsibility is a concept which appears in the Fifth European Community Programme of Policy and Action in relation to the Environment and Sustainable Development, presented in March 1992 by the Commission of the European Communities. This concept involves not so much a choice of action at one level to the exclusion of others but, rather, a mixing of factors and instruments at the appropriate levels, without any calling into question of the division of competences between the Community, the member States, regional and local authorities.

PART II - PRINCIPLES AND AIMS

37.       Article 3 contains the usual clause to prevent conflicts with existing international legal instruments.

38.       The guiding principles in Article 4 consist of two universally accepted principles in international public law which must be applied and five developing principles related to sustainable development which Parties undertake to respect to the extent possible.

39.       Article 5 sets out the aims of the co-operation between the authorities, elected representatives, international organisations and voluntary associations which, by virtue of Article 1, is the purpose of the Charter. In formulating these aims, the drafters of the Charter were careful not to overlap international instruments already in existence.

PART III - COMMITMENTS OF PARTIES

40.       By signing and ratifying the Charter, States accept eight explicit commitments which are set out in Articles 6 to 13.

41.       Under Article 6, Parties undertake to co-operate, not only with each other, but also and in particular by fostering transfrontier co-operation advocated in the European Outline Convention on Transfrontier Co-operation between Territorial Communities or Authorities.

42.       By virtue of Article 7 each Party must take measures, legislative or administrative, to guarantee that any further development of the Danube basin will be harmonious and sustainable. It must also ensure that domestic law is not contrary to the aims of the Charter listed in Article 5 and, thirdly, it must align its environmental legislation on the European rules in force, including the environmental norms and standards established by the European Union.

43.       Article 8 requires Parties when they make any spatial planning, to take account of the possible consequences for the Danube basin as a whole, and to ensure that in frontier regions any such planning, whether at national, regional or local levels, is harmonised through consultation of the competent authorities across the border. In doing so, they should take into account the relevant recommendations made by the European Conference of Ministers responsible for Regional Planning.

44.       Under Article 9 each Party undertakes to carry out an Environmental Impact Assessment, in accordance with international standards as laid down in the Espoo Convention or the EC Directive on the Environment Impact Assessment of 1985, for intended activities which may have significant consequences across the frontier. Moreover, Parties must also endeavour to apply the EIA principles to its national policies, plans and programmes.

45.       Article 10 requires Parties to take all measures, legislative and administrative, enabling the authorities at all levels, elected representatives, international organisations and NGO's to take part, on the conditions set out there, in the co-operation structures foreseen in Part IV of the Charter, such as the Standing Committee and the Discussion Groups.

46.       If this is in accordance with its domestic law, each Party must, under Article 11, arrange for the public to be informed about implementation of the Charter as well as to have in general access to information on the environment and any development project (which under the Charter must be sustainable).

47.       Article 12 requires Parties to promote cultural exchanges and the free movement of people.

48.       Under Article 13 each Party must endeavour to take the measures, legislative and administrative, necessary to entitle any person, territorial community and NGO, if qualified, to take administrative or judicial action when they have suffered damage from adverse effects of activities on the environment.

PART IV - STRUCTURES AND METHODS

49.       Articles 14 and 15 provide for the establishment of a Standing Committee, which will consist of representatives of Parties to the Charter and therefore constitute an intergovernmental body. However, to ensure that all partners in the co-operation advocated by the Charter will be associated with its implementation, Article 14 requires that every national delegation comprise where possible representatives of authorities and elected bodies at all levels, of international organisations and NGO's.

50.       The Charter provides for three categories of observers with the Standing Committee:

      a. those who have observer status by virtue of the Charter itself: member-States of the Council of Europe, the Parliamentary Assembly, the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of Europe and relevant intergovernmental organisations;

      b. those who need an invitation by the Committee of Ministers: non-member States bordering the Black Sea;

      c. those who can be invited by the Standing Committee itself, after information of the Committee of Ministers: international agencies and bodies, eg the European Parliament, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Black Sea Economic Co-operation, the Working Community of the Danube Regions, associations of territorial communities, transfrontier co-operation bodies and suitable NGO's.

51.       The most important functions of the Standing Committee are listed in Article 16; this list is not exhaustive. These functions can be grouped in four categories: ensure and monitor the sustainable development of the Danube basin (paragraphs a, g), promote co-operation (paragraphs b, c, f, i, j), ensure co-ordination with other international fora (paragraphs d, e) and give adequate follow-up to conclusions of the Parties (paragraph h).

52.       Regarding paragraph d, on assessing the place and functions of the Danube Basin within the major pan-European projects and plans devised or proposed by European or international organisations and institutions, the drafters referred in particular to the United Nations Commission for Europe (UN-ECE), the Council of Europe (especially the European Conference of Ministers responsible for Regional Planning (CEMAT), the European Conference of Ministers of Transport (ECMT), the Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC) and the European Union.

53.       On the subject of paragraph j of Article 16, it should be noted that it is usual that any dispute between Parties to a Convention should, first of all, be submitted to a gathering of all Parties to that Convention, in this case the Standing Committee of Parties to the Charter, with a view to friendly settlement. The problem arises when such a friendly settlement cannot be found - which is rare in the Council of Europe history as a producer of conventions.

      Rather than running the risk that a complicated and potentially expensive provision on the mandatory settlement of disputes would prevent States from signing the Charter, it is proposed that in case of failure to reach a friendly settlement within the Standing Committee, the appropriate rules in international public law will be applied (ie appeal to the International Court of Justice, if the parties to the dispute have recognised its jurisdiction, or arbitration).

54.       Article 17 contains the usual clauses about the frequency of meetings of the Standing Committee, its convocation and the quorum. In this context, the Committee on the Environment, Regional Planning and Local Authorities and has asked that the first meeting be held in Bucharest.

55.       Articles 18 and 19 contain the usual clauses on rules of procedure and voting rights.

56.       Article 20 is related to Article 23 - Financing; the drafters of the Charter propose that the Committee of ministers of the Council of Europe finance the functioning of the Standing Committee and provide the means necessary for the Secretary General to assume the Secretariat. In return, the Committee of Ministers would be entitled to monitor to a certain extent the implementation of the Charter by receiving the Standing Committee's conclusions (Article 16, paragraph h), by deciding on the admission of observers from non-member States (Article 15, paragraph 2) and by receiving information on admission as observers of international agencies, bodies, associations and NGO's (Article 15, paragraph 3).

      During the third year, the costs of the functioning of the Standing Committee would be borne jointly by the Council of Europe and the Parties to the Charter. As of the fourth year after the entry into force, these costs would be taken over by the Parties alone.

57.       In order to allow the Standing Committee to monitor the implementation of the Charter (Article 16, paragraph a), each Party must under Article 21 submit to it an annual report on the co-ordination of the activities undertaken at national level, including on the results of the meetings of the Discussion Groups provided for in Article 22.

58.       Article 22 has been designed to ensure full co-operation, at national, regional and local levels, of all partners mentioned in Article 1. Each Party should present the results of these Discussion Groups to the Standing Committee (Article 21), which should then ensure coordination of these activities at international level (Article 16, paragraph f).

PART V - FINAL PROVISIONS

59.       Articles 24 - 29 contain the usual clauses on signature and ratification, reservations, entry into force, amendments, withdrawal and notification.

Reporting committee: Committee on the Environment, Regional Planning and Local Authorities.

Budgetary implications for the Assembly: none

Reference to committee : Resolution 1021 (1994)

Draft recommendation adopted by the committee on 17 March 1997

Members of the committee: MM. Briane (Chairman), Ruffy (Vice-Chairman), Ms Aytaman, Ms Severinsen (Vice-Chairpersons), MM. Abdulatipov, Akçali, Andreoli, Assis Miranda, Besostri, Blaauw, Ms Blunck, MM Bonrepaux (alternate: Le Grand), Büchel, Chircop, Christodoulides, Ms Ciemniak, MM. Čiupaila, Cox, Ms Dromberg, MM. Erroi, Feldmann, Frunda, Gregory, Haraldsson O., Hardy, Hoeffel, Ms Jaruga-Nowacka, M. Johansson, Ms Johansson, MM. Kopliku, Korakas, Kovačeviĉ, Kukk, Lie, Lukas, MM. Martinez Casan, Mocanu, Molnar, Mota Amaral, Mozetic, Ms Naoumova, Lord Newall, MM. Penz, Plattner, Priedkalns, Prokeš, Prusi, Rakhansky, Recoder (alternate: Bolinaga), Ms Riess-Passer, MM. Rizzi, Rott, Samofalov, Shishlov, Skoularikis, Sobyanin, Staes, Steolea, Svoboda, Theis, Toshev, Valkeniers, Woltjer, Zierer.

N.B.       The names of those who took part in the meeting are printed in italics.

Secretaries to the committee: Ms Cagnolati-Staveris, Mr Chevtchenko

Appendix 1

Appendix 2

Appendix 3


1 1 By the Committee on the Environment, Regional Planning and Local Authorities.

2 2For the background to co-operation in the Danube basin, the various aspects of management of the basin and the outlook for the future, see the report in Doc. 6992 of 18 January 1994.