13 September 1994

Doc. 7146


Reply to Recommendation 1242 (1994)

on a common European policy for the polar regions

(adopted by the Committee of Ministers on 5 September 1994

at the 516th meeting of the Ministers' Deputies)

1.       The Committee of Ministers shares the Parliamentary Assembly's concerns about the threats to the extremely fragile natural environment of the polar regions and is aware of the importance of these regions for the planet's ecological balance. It has decided to bring the Recommendation to the attention of member States' governments and of the Nordic Council.

2.       The Committee of Ministers is convinced that international co-operation, through the medium of international agreements, is the most appropriate means of protecting the natural heritage of the polar regions.

3.       The Committee of Ministers has taken note of the Assembly's proposals for new Council of Europe activities relating to the ecological situation in the Arctic (paragraph 9.ii of the Recommendation). It wishes to point out in this connection that most of the Council of Europe's intergovernmental activities in the environmental field focus on the problems of "nature conservation", in which it plays a leading role, particularly in the follow-up to the Pan-European Conference on the Environment (Lucerne, April 1993). Having regard to budgetary constraints and to the need to avoid duplication, the Committee of Ministers does not consider it appropriate at the present time to initiate new activities specifically devoted to the polar regions, since environmental issues relating to these regions are already dealt with by other international organisations, particularly in the framework of the United Nations.

4.       The Committee of Ministers has transmitted paragraph 9.ii.b, of the Recommendation, for information, to the Standing Committee of the Bern Convention (T-PVS), so that the Committee can take it into account in its activities.

5.       The Committee of Ministers has also decided to communicate Recommendation 1242, for information, to the governments of the Arctic States which are not Council of Europe members (in particular paragraph 9.iii) and to the governments of the twenty Contracting States to the Antarctic Treaty which are not Council of Europe members (in particular paragraph 9.iv of the Recommendation).