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BALKANS TASK FORCE (BTF)
COORDINATION MEETING
(Brussels, 23 june 1999)

Opening
BTF report on the visit to Serbia and Montenegro
Discussion on the need of actions
Conclusions
List of participants

Opening

The Chairman of the Balkans Task Force (BTF), Mr Pekka Haavisto welcomed everyone to the meeting, thanked the European Commission and DGXI for hosting the meeting and opened the meeting.

The UNEP/BTF had invited to the meeting all parties concerned with the environmental situation in the Balkans. Participants represented countries, governmental organisations as well as non-governmental organisations. Mr Haavisto stressed the importance of involving also the NGOs in the long-term process, in order to strengthen contacts with the civil society of the region. The Chairman stated that the large number of participants shows that the issue is of interest to numerous organisations and countries.

Mr Timo Mäkelä, on behalf of DGXI and the European Commission welcomed everybody and said that the Commission warmly supported the initiativ of having a coordinating meeting to compare notes between the parties concerned. The Commission is willing to co-operate with UNEP to gather a realistic picture of the environmental consequences of the conflict in Southeast Europe. He thanked UNEP for organising the meeting and for providing good background information on the environmental situation in the Balkans.

BTF Report on the Visit to Serbia and Montenegro

Mr Pekka Haavisto presented the report regarding the visit of BTF members to Serbia and Montenegro on 17-21 June. He underlined that the Yugoslavian authorities had made much effort in organising the program for the UNEP representatives during the visit on 17-21-61999, and that they are commited to cooperate in the future assessment work. This visit enabled the BTF to make good contacts with a number or organizations, including local authorities, NGOs and scientific institutions.

The results of the visit provide a good basis for an independent study of the environmental consequences of the conflict in terms of background and overall information of the situation, contacts to relevant organisations, and understanding of the political framework in Serbia and Montenegro.

The Executive Director of the Regional Environmental Center (REC), Mr Jernej Stritih presented to the meeting a document entitled "Assessment of the Environmental Impact of Military Activities During the Yugoslavia Conflict". According to him, the findings in their report are much the same as indicated to the meeting by Mr Haavisto, as the sources for information are largely the same. The REC report includes a list of 105 targeted industrial sites. He agreed with the remarks of Mr Haavisto, that Pancevo is most likely the worst environmental hot spot. Additionally, Mr Stritih underlined the necessity to look into the institutional environmental knowledge issues in FRY, as the conflict may decrease the resources of Yugoslavian environmental authorities. Their capacity in this situation to process a full scale Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) might be too weak. Moreover, the conflict is certainly affecting the resources of environmental NGOs and scientific institutions. Therefore, one should look for opportunities to support environmental experts and organisations inside the region.

In Kosovo, the local environmental authorities have no capacity whatsoever to run an administration in this important time period reconstructing the society. Capacity building for local and regional environmental authorities could be one of the tasks in the reconstruction and stability pack process.

Additionally, questions on depleted uranium and radioactivity are to be promptly clarified. Otherwise, discussion on these issues will take a lot of resources and will lead to a growing number of rumors and mistrust of all environmental data available.

Discussion on needed actions

The representative of the International Danube River Protection Commission (ICDPR), Mr Ilia Natchkov, talked about the organisation and activities of the existing network of ICDPR and the systematic measurement on-going to follow the pollution in the Danube. Thus far, no specific information about major increases of pollution had come up. Nevertheless, it is evident, that the Iron Gate 1 and 2 dams in the Yugoslavia have collected much of the toxic substances and other pollutants, and these may have gone down to the sediments of water reservoirs. The ICDPR has established a special ad-hoc group for following the situation.

Mr Philip Weller from the WWF informed the meeting that the ICPDR network is not completely capable to make sufficient measurements of all possible pollutants. He also indicated that the Iron Gate had been analysed once in the middle of April. At that time, most of the pollution had not reached that point yet. Mr Weller also informed the meeting that even though there had been a large interest indicated from several countries to assist Bulgaria and Romania in the measurement process, no funding for the equipment nor for the work had yet been given.
 

Mr. Kurt Lietzmann from Germany stressed the importance to coordinate our efforts. He raised the question on the objective of the whole exercise. There is a clear need to divide our efforts into short-, medium- and long-term activities. Providing the countries in question with mobile laboratories might be possible, but a long-term investment in measurement equipment would upgrade the facilities, and such a decision can only be made after a clearer picture of the true environmental needs in the region is established.

Mr. Mäkelä from the EC/DGXI called for the need to decide on the order of actions. He stated firstly that, so-called "hot-spots" could, most probably, be identified through the already prepared and collected reports. This would allow us to set short-term priorities. Secondly, all the activities should be designed in a manner which supports the wider regional perspective. Thirdly, one should not only try to identify problems, but to look for projects to improve the situation.

Mr. Haavisto suggested that one of the longer-term activities could be strengthening the capacity of the environmental administration in Kosovo. The UN Regional Office in Skopje/Pristina was currently making an assessment of the civil administration in Kosovo. Mr Griffith, who is the head of the UN Regional Office, is to give a final report on the assessment to the UN Secretary General on the 3 July. This report will include proposals for structuring and organising the civil administration so that it can meet the actual requirements of civil society. Therefore, Mr Haavisto urged everyone to contribute to the Balkans Task Force with ideas and views how the future needs of environmental authorities could be taken into consideration at that stage.

The representative of IUCN Ms. Liz Hopkins reminded the meeting of the fact that biodiversity is not confined only to nature conservation parks.

Mr. Brenden Bjorwshow from the Danish Ministry of the Environment and Energy stressed the question of the final report. There are many things which can not wait until September. Therefore, Mr Haavisto suggested an on-line reporting system to be done by UNEP, including the most important findings to everyone interested in these issues.

Mr. Lietzmann, Germany, made it clear that wherever human health is endangered, immediate actions should be taken. He also suggested to collaborate on relevant activities with KFOR troops in Kosovo. According to him, military forces have some equipment for environmental measurements in the region.

Mr. Alexander Likhotal from the Green Cross International pointed out the fact that sustainable peace also includes requirements to provide for environmental security. He made it clear that it will be difficult to justify different approaches to environmental actions in Kosovo and in Serbia.

Mr. Stritih, REC, stressed the need to look for opportunities to channel funding to environmental NGOs in the region. GRID-Arendal promised to assist the EIA management and when bringing information to the public.

>Mr. Weller, WWF, thanked UNEP for the openess of the process, but urged the involvement of organisations and other representatives from the region in the group.

Mr. Gorden Mcinnes, EEA, promised baseline data for the reporting. They have a lot of information from other European countries which could be used for the format of the report. Anssi Vaittinen, OSCE, was ready to assist in providing forums for environmental discussions between the authorities and NGOs in their seminars.

As the importance of consolidation of environmental and humanitarian assistance was stressed, the integration of UNEP and OCHA should be fully utilized.

Conclusions

The meeting agreed that the crisis in the Balkans has damaged the environment and that it seriously poses future threats to human health and environment, and therefore the meeting came to the following conclusions regarding the future activities of UNEP/BTF and organisations at the coordination meeting:

1. Immediate environmental assistance in the area of the crisis to avoid hazardous effects on human health or on the environment, should be seen as part of humanitarian assistance.

2. UNEP was asked to act as the clearing house to coordinate efforts of various organisations active in the area of the crisis. The concept of clearing house is to gather information of requests, assistance, plans and projects, and keep the information up-to-date. Concerning the Danube River, the ICPDR was asked to coordinate all efforts.

3. UNEP, together with other interested organisations, will identify the environmental "hot-spots" in the area of the crisis.

4. UNEP will prepare the technical mission to the region. The mission will be led by UNEP, but in close cooperation with the EU Commission, other organisations and donor countries. In particular, EEA was invited to provide the mission with a methodology which would guarantee achieving the European standards.

5. The meeting recognised the need to strengthen the capacity of the environmental administration in Kosovo. As UN is currently designing an overall plan on the civil administration, UNEP/UNCHS BTF will contribute to this with a specific plan in order to support the environmental authorities in Kosovo. The meeting asked European Union to take into consideration the need of the environmental administration in Kosovo when planning the EU reconstruction activities in Kosovo.

6. The group will meet again at the end of July. Representatives from the region will be invited.

7. UNEP will provide the parties with an outline of the final report.

List of Participants

Jeannette Adriaenssens, Red Cross/EU Liaison Bureau.
Leo Bjorwshov, Ministry of Envrionment and Energy, Denmark.
Simon Carroll, Greenpeace International.
Claudia Canevari, European CommissionXI.
Par Fenton, Irish Permanent Rep.
Hennitta Forgamann, Cabinet of Commission, Bjerregard.
Brenden Gillespie, OECD.

Pekka Haavisto, Chairman UNEP/Balkans Task Force.

Jill Hanna, Commission XIA 4.
Patrick Hemerycrx, European Environment Ministry of the Flemish Community.
Harald Holt, UNEP/GRID Arendal.
Liz Hopkins, IUCN, European Regional Office.
Rui Kersanze, WHO/Euro.
Kurt Lietzmann, Federal Environment Ministry, Germany.
Alexandre Likhotal, Green Cross International.
Annika Lindblom, Permanent Rep. of Finland for EU.
Brusasco-Macicenzie Manganet DG XI A.
Gorden Mcinnes, European Environment Agency.
Ilia Natchkov, ICPDR.
Fotios Papovlias, DG XI. D. 2.
Patrick Rabe, Commission XIA 3.
Pasi Rinne, Senior Advisor UNEP/Balkans Task Force.
Vladimir Sakharov, Head UNEP/OCHA.
Lyne Schcuten, Permanent Representative of Holland.
Terry Shears, IMPEL, Belgium.
Jernej Stritih, Executive Director REC.
Anssi Vaittinen, OSCE.
Rolaf Van Leennen, WHO ECEM.
Ursula Vavrik, Permanet Rep. of Austria for EU.
Gilles Vincent, European Commission, DG XI /C/3.
Philip Weller, WWF International.
Ron Witt, Information Unit Coordinator UNEP/Balkans Task Force.

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