A Round Table Discussion "Environmental Policies of the European Union and Belarus: Sharing Experience" Takes Place in Minsk

A round table discussion, entitled "Environmental policies of the European Union and Belarus: Sharing Experience" took place in Minsk, Belarus, on 4 June 2010. The event was organized by the Office for Democratic Belarus (Brussels, Belgium), in partnership with the Delegation of the European Union in Belarus. It is part of a larger programme, “Facilitating the European way of development for Belarus”, which was launched in 2008 with the support from the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA) and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark. Among participants of the event were representatives of Belarusian state authorities, non-governmental organizations working in the field of environment, and foreign diplomats.
In his opening remarks, EU Charge d'Affaires in Belarus, Jean-Eric Holzapfel, noted that for the first time the European Commission and Belarus held expert-level discussions on environmental matters in February 2008. Since then, cooperation between the parties has been carried out through three main modalities - technical expert talks, a thematic platform within the Eastern Partnership initiative, and flagship initiatives and all other projects on environmental protection, including regional projects and the ongoing TACIS project titled "Support for sustainable development and the environment." Mr. Holzapfel further noted that Belarus is involved in such regional projects as "Waste management and data collection on the state of the environment", "Air quality management in eastern partner countries of the European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument" and "Promoting the implementation of the Kyoto Protocol. At the end of his speech, Mr. Holzapfel said that the European Union would continue striving to ensure high standards of environmental protection and is ready to assist state environmental agencies and civil society in Belarus in their efforts to protect the environment.
Head of the Department for International Cooperation and Information at the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, Alyaksandr Racheuski explained that today the Republic of Belarus is interested in aligning with the European requirements on protected areas and national parks. Belarus also considers the possibility of acceding to the 1979 Bern Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats and the 2000 European Landscape Convention.
Regina Schneider, head of the Department of Communications at the European Environmental Bureau in Brussels, focused her presentation on the processes of interaction between NGOs and EU Institutions. In addition, participants received detailed information about the activities of the European Environmental Bureau.
The final panel discussion of the event was devoted to the issue of the development education and research in the field of environment. At present, the main tool of interaction with the EU in this area is the 7th Framework Programme. However, the results of Belarusian researchers’ participation in competitions for funding from the European Commission leave much to be desired. According to Olga Meerovsky, FP7 National Coordinator, none of the 7 Belarusian projects that sought EC funding in 2009 received approval. For their part, Ukrainian researchers filed 94 project proposals and received funding amounting to slightly less than half a million euros.
Fellows from the Sakharov International Environmental University, the National Academy of Sciences, the EU and UNDP Belarus offices had the opportunity to present their projects and delivered presentations on various topics relating to the field of the environment.
The Office for a Democratic Belarus will continue the implementation of the programme, “Facilitating the European way of development for Belarus”, and support experience- and knowledge-sharing between Belarus and the EU, as well as within Belarus.

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