EU and Ukraine develop partnership on environmental protection

The European Council of Ministers has submitted a report to the European Council outlining progress in the common EU strategy for the Ukraine, which provides the framework for a partnership and co-operation agreement between Europe and one of the key environmental stakeholders in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).

Successes so far include the strengthening of regional and cross-border co-operation programmes, particularly for science, technology, the environment and infrastructure networks.

Also noted in the report is that projects on renewable energy sources and energy efficiency are now under way. A project has also been set up under the TACIS (Technical Assistance to CIS Countries) aid programme to assist in setting environmental standards to improve energy efficiency and the use of natural resources, and to limit the adverse impact of industrial activity on the environment. Projects are also under way in the area of waste and waste water treatment.

Prominent among the initiatives promoted by the accord, set up in December 1999, is a move to encourage the Ukraine to “take resolute measures in the field of environmental protection”. Priorities include the protection of public health from drinking water, air and soil pollution, and the ‘sustainable and responsible’ use of natural resources as well as limiting trans-boundary air and water pollution.

The strategic partnership between the EU and Ukraine has been continuously reinforced since the independence of Ukraine, with the new partnership and co-operation agreement marking a significant milestone in the relationship.

With the proposed enlargement of the EU to the east, several states will share borders with the Ukraine, making it a crucial ally and increasing the potential for co-operation.

The agreement will forge a common strategic approach by the EU member states to their dealings with the Ukraine. One of the critical areas where co-operation is to be intensified is in helping the Ukraine to achieve economic stability.

Within this context, the EU is strongly encouraging the Ukraine to intensify its efforts to build a working market economy through a comprehensive reform programme. This will involve further privatisation and price liberalisation, and will increase communal tariffs for energy, water and rents to achieve full cost recovery.

The EU will work with the Ukraine on energy and nuclear safety, supporting comprehensive energy sector reform by, among other strategies, co-operating on the implementation of the country’s financial recovery plan for the energy sector. Initiatives will include price liberalisation, improved cash collection and privatisation of distribution companies. To help achieve this, the EU will promote the efficient and environmentally responsible use of energy in the Ukraine and the strengthening of new energy institutions and authorities.

Nuclear safety and decommissioning the Chernobyl nuclear reactor also rate as a priority among the EU’s targets for co-operation. The EU is to finance the establishment of alternative generating capacity, and in return the Ukraine will set up an independent nuclear regulatory authority. The EU is also interested in increasing co-operation on issues such as radiation protection, waste management, decontamination and dismantling nuclear installations.

The EU will also encourage Ukrainian authorities on a local, regional and national level to use a new law on public concessions to attract foreign investment in public infrastructure and services. Regional initiatives to develop telecommunications and energy infrastructures are to be further encouraged, and the EU is to explore linking the Ukraine’s transport network with its own systems.

Among its direct actions to achieve these ends, the EU has confirmed it will support Ukraine in its efforts to reduce the public health impact of the country’s environmental situation. This applies particularly to drinking water quality, wastewater treatment, waste collection and disposal as well as air pollution.

The EU is to support institutional reform among the public utilities responsible for environmental services, and provide further technical assistance for projects and environmental investments.

The next ‘Environment for Europe’ conference, to be held in September 2002 in Kyiv, is seen as a platform to provide the opportunity to increase awareness in the Ukraine of environmental issues. The EC and member states are to consider offering technical assistance and support to Ukraine’s Ministry of Environmental Protection and Nuclear Safety in preparing and planning the conference.

The new strategy applies from publication of the report last December for four years. It is proposed that this period can be extended as necessary on the Council’s recommendation, and will be reviewed annually.

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