Eastern Partnership Civil Society Forum

The international Report on Public Assessment of Environmental Governance in Eastern Partnership countries was presented

On March, 15 2012 in the information agency “Ukrinform” the expert report The Assesment of environmental policy in the countries of the Eastern Partnership”, dedicated to discussion of process of implementation of reforms of environmental policy in the framework of the Eastern Partnership (EaP) Flagship Initiative on good environmental governance in six countries of EaP and analysis of the main achievements and failures in reforming environmental policy in the context of European integration.

The event was organized by the UNENGO “MAMA-86” and the Civic Expert Council within the Ukrainian part of the EU-Ukraine cooperation committee (CEC UPC ). Among the participants in the event were the representatives of the Ministry of ecology and natural resources of Ukraine, independent national and international experts from the partner countries of the Eastern Partnership, in part from Armenia, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine, embassies of Poland and Slovak Republic, Delegation of the EU to Ukraine, international organizations and mass media.

The meeting was opened by Anna Golubovska-Onisimova, the Chair of the Coordination Board of the UNENGOMAMA-86” and Oleh Rybachuk, Head of the Civic Expert Council (CEC UPC), NGO “Centre UA”. In her greeting speech Anna Golubovska-Onisimova emphasized that this event is special because the UNENGO «МАМА-86» in its efforts of ecologization of development policy of Ukraine  has been consistently cooperating  with many Ukrainian and international institutions and the various circles of experts, that previously had not not included environmental issues in their own position. Nowadays integration of environmental policy is a well-known mechanism of European reforms not only for environmental organizations, but also for economists, analysts and experts, working in different areas. Oleh Rybachuk also noted that there are many stereotypes around the environmental theme. In particular, it is considered that only rich countries “can afford to deal with the issues of the compliance of environmental standards”. He called it "a big lie and manipulation," because there are examples of successful environmental policy, implemented by countries, significantly poorer than Ukraine.

Hans Rhein, the Head of Operations Section 3 “Development related to infrastructure (energy, transport) and environment”, Delegation of the EU to Ukraine, noted the key role of the Forum of civil society in promoting the values and core ideas of the Eastern Partnership. He also stressed that the environment is a "public good" that must be protected by law. If this does not happen, according to the representative of the EU, it is becoming a "public threat" dangerous for human health. Speaking about the Eastern Partnership initiatives in the field of environmental protection, Hans Rhein, in particular, highlighted the Flagship initiative on good environmental governance, and one of its key focuses, which is the development of the shared environmental information system (SEIS) coordinated by the European Environment Agency. According to him, this initiative and other initiatives are aimed at helping the EaP countries and representatives  of civic societies to strengthen their participation in making environmentally sound decisions and improve access to information.

The participants were also welcomed by Boguslaw Gertruda, the 1st Secretary of the Embassy of Poland to Ukraine and Miria Peterson, Counselor of the Cooperation Development Department at the Embassy of Sweden to Ukraine.

Zoriana Mishchuk, the executive director of the UNENGO “МАМА-86” presented the Report on Assesment of environmental governance in 6 countries of EaP, made in the framework of the project, initiated and performed by the UNENGO “MAMA-86” together with NGOs – members of WG 3 “Environment, climate change and energy security”  of the Civil Society Forum of EaP.

The priority issues that were studied by the experts from 6 countries EaP, were: strengthening cooperation with the EU, strengthening administrative structures and procedures, development of plans, strategies and programs in the field of environmental protection; integration of environmental issues into other policy areas, etc. An assessment has resulted into a rating of success in the implementation of environmental policy reform, which is headed by Armenia, then Moldova goes and the third is Ukraine. Azerbaijan, Belarus and Georgia complete the list.

The the following conclusions have been reached in this study:

  1. In most countries, NGOs are not involved in discussion on Association Agreement with EU and Agenda of Association with EU (AA/EUAA environmental priorities;
  2. The latest public administration reform weakens administrative structures and procedures;
  3. Strategic planning was considerably improved in the countries that have advanced in the AA negotiations most of all;
  4. Environmental policy integration is generally not backed up with legislation;
  5. Attempts to deregulate business operations result in elimination of Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) procedures;
  6. The Aarhus Convention is not supported by adopted mechanisms and procedures for public participation;
  7. SEIS can play a decisive role in increasing the quality of information for making environmentally sound decisions.

The authors of The Report presented their recommendations for improving environmental governance in the countries of EaP, including:

  • For environmental governance to improve significantly in EaP countries, environmental issues should be elevated from their current status of a technical cooperation matter to the high-level dialogue at the highest level in relations between the EU and Eastern Partners. The public has to be engaged in debate over environmental component of the Association Agreement and a tripartite dialogue on the environment and sustainable development established between EU Delegations, Governments and civil society organizations in all these countries.
  • Integration of environmental policy into sectoral, regional and local development policies is a cornerstone of good environmental governance. That is why it should be included in the list of reforms that are required by Association Agreements.
  • The procedures providing for access to information, public involvement and access to justice on environmental issues should be enshrined at the Governmental level, not by the Environmental Ministry alone. The EU should encourage this by maintaining dialogue at the highest levels with its Eastern Partners.
  • It is critical to ensure that deregulation stemming from administrative reforms in individual EaP countries does not increase risks for a given country’s environment, especially by abolishing mandatory environmental impact assessments whenever construction of ecologically hazardous facilities is being considered.  

Volodymyr Bilokon, Deputy Head of the Department of Environmental Policy and International Cooperation emphasized the relevance of this study and in general agreed with the estimates for Ukraine. He also stressed the importance of the fact that the Strategy of State Environmental Policy has been developed and approved. Today, according to him, it is important to "properly and fairly report on the implementation of this document". Speaking about the reform of public administration, Volodymyr Bilokon said  that the implementation of the administrative reform is "quite painful process" and expressed hope that the Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources "will not lose connection with the regions." He also noted that the law "On Regulation of Urban Development" significantly influenced the downgrade of Ukraine in the study. In addition, Volodymyr Bilokon said that he would add to the next research the issue of the feasibility of monitoring and control, because "this is a big problem today." The technical modernization of the environmental inspection is also important, in his opinion, which "would give the work greater efficiency and conclusiveness." Another important problem is the fragmentation of environmental funds, which does not allow the Ministry to effectively control the use of funds.

Reinhard Danneleit, Project Team Leader of the EU projectComplementary Support to the Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources of Ukraine for the Sector Budget Support Implementationexpressed his gratitude to the experts for the assessment of environmental reforming and called it an extremely valuable preparatory work towards the implementation of reforms in the sphere of environmental protection. In particular, the assessment of Ukraine will be used by the project for preparation of the action plans.

Yaroslav Bekish, NGOGreen Alliance” (Minsk, Belarus), co-Chair of WG 3 CSF EaP told the audience about the problems facing Belarus in reforming environmental policy. However, according to him, for civil society in Belarus they are "not only an occasion for sadness, but also a challenge." Thus, among the key problems is that the Ministry of Natural Resources in Belarus has little influence, and its initiatives are often blocked by the other ministries. In addition, the Ministry of Natural Resources of Belarus is reluctant to cooperate with civil society. Among the acute problems Yaroslav Bekish also named the incorrectly formed environmental taxes and the too low fines for violation of environmental laws. The main reason for poor results of Belarus in reforming environmental governance system, according to Yaroslav Bekish, is unwillingness of the authorities to cooperate with the European Union.

In the format of Skype-conference the representatives of Armenia – Karine Danielyan, Association for Sustainable Human Development, - and Georgia – Manana  Kochladze, NGOGreen Alternative, told the audience why their countries took the first and the last places in the rating of the Eastern Partnership in implementation of the reforms of environmental policies. They also shared an interesting experience of transformation of governance in the environmental field. The representative of Moldova, Dumitru Drumea, Center for Strategic Environmental Studies “ECOS”, shared his thoughts on why Moldova, according to the expert estimates, is ahead of the other countries in strengthening cooperation with the EU, access to information and public participation and emphasized the role of close cooperation with Romania.

Summing up the discussion, the participants expressed confidence that the assessment of environmental policy reforms in the countries of the Eastern Partnership should be conducted on a regular annual basis, which will help to see the progress or regress in the implementation of reforms in the field of environmental protection.

Hans Rhein, the Head of Operations Section 3 “Development related to infrastructure (energy, transport) and environment”, Delegation of the EU to Ukraine, in his concluding remark expressed the wish for further inclusion in the methodology of environmental assessment the part about the public organizations and their activities.

Download paper:

The Report «Assessment of Environmental Performance According to the Priorities of the Eastern Partnership Flagship Initiative on Environmental Governance Towards Good Environmental Governnace in the Eastern Partnership Countries: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine 

Project funded by the European UnionEU