Northern European Foreign Ministers establish partnership for trouble spots

Responding to concerns about pollution hot spots in Northeast Europe, Foreign Ministers from the EU and seven partner countries agreed to establish an environmental partnership in order to meet environmental and energy efficiency challenges.

Meeting in Luxembourg on 9 April, the Foreign Ministers from the EU and Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Norway, Iceland and Russia gave strong support for new cooperation within the EU’s Northern Dimension to finance large-scale environmental projects in the region. Areas of northeastern Europe, especially parts of Northwest Russia, are in urgent need of remediation. Recently, the EC’s Commissioner for External Relations Chris Patten spoke out on the Commission’s worries over the safety of 300 nuclear reactors in the seas and on the shores surrounding the Kola peninsula (see related story).

International financial institutions have estimated the value of existing and planned projects in the Northern European region to be approximately €7 billion (£4.35 billion). The new partnership is seen as “a good way to mobilise and combine financial resources and realise synergies when conditions are appropriate for investment”. According to the EC, whilst the ‘polluter pays’ principle must remain a cornerstone of any approach, it has also to be recognised that the legacy of environmental problems in North-west Russia means that extra measures will often be needed to tackle immediate environmental threats. In addition to this, it is beyond the capacity of any country or organisation to tackle these problems single-handedly.

While progress is being made in EU applicant nations in the area, such as through decreased pollution emissions into the Baltic Sea by countries such as Estonia (see related story), many challenges remain. Poland, despite being a forerunner to join the EU, is having difficulty meeting the transition periods in adjusting its environment to European Union standards, while other Northeastern nations are much further behind.

Apart from the Kola Peninsula, particular concerns remain about pollution from the Russian enclave of Kalingrad, the environmental impacts of a new Russian oil port at Primorsk and the state of wastewater treatment in the 5-million strong metropolis of St Petersburg, by far the region’s biggest city.

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