"The industrialized countries of Europe have a major responsibility for helping to solve international environmental problems," said Toepfer. "Their strong commitment to a long-term strategy for making environmental impact assessments combined with their unanimous political agreement on common positions on key issues should strengthen Europe's contributions to environmental action," he said.
At their meeting yesterday, there was unanimous political agreement by the EU environment ministers that any new or modified plans and programmes in Europe would be made conditional upon a ?strategic? environmental impact assessment. This would apply to such sectors as agriculture, forestry, fisheries, transport, energy, waste management, water resource management, industry, telecommunications and tourism.
?This agreement by the European Ministers is a major milestone in the process of integrating environmental considerations into other policies,? said Toepfer. "It is vital for globalization and regionalization in economics to be matched by stronger global and regional cooperation on environmental matters.?
The EU Ministerial Council also continued its preparations for the resumed First Session of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biodiversity, which will take place in Montreal from 24 - 28 January 2000 in order to finalize and adopt a Biosafety Protocol.
"The UNEP-sponsored biosafety talks are the only intergovernmental forum where a legally binding instrument on biotechnology risks is being discussed," said Toepfer. "Constructive interventions by all the negotiating groups and the political will to strike a deal will be essential to success," he said.
Another decision in Brussels dealt with the joint UNEP/UNCHS (Habitat) Balkans Task Force report on the assessment of environmental damage in the Kosovo conflict. The Ministers emphasized the importance of the clean-up and remedial action on the identified environmental hotspots caused by the conflict, now posing a direct risk for human health and, in particular, the danger of severe regional impacts on the environment through the Danube. They also noted the approach of the UN Secretary General to act immediately on the environmental aspects as part of the humanitarian assistance to the region.
Note to journalists:
For more information please contact
Mr. Michael Williams in Geneva
on (+41-22) 917 8242/44, fax: 797 3464,
In Nairobi, contact:
Tore J. Brevik,
on tel: +254- 2-623292,
on tel: +254-2-623084, fax: 623692,
UNEP News Release 1999/145