10th EPA Network plenary meeting

The Network of Heads of Environment Protection Agencies held its 9 th meeting in Zagreb, Croatia, on 24 - 25 September 2007. There were representatives from 21 agencies from 19 countries, as well as from the European Commission and the European Environment Agency. Mr Jonathan Allotey from the Environmental Protection Agency of Ghana was also invited to take part in the meeting.

The meeting was hosted by the Environment Protection Agency of Croatia, who provided an overview of both the work of the Agency and the state of the environment of Croatia. Mr Allotey, Ghana informed the meeting about activities in Ghana and efforts to create an African network of EPAs.At present there are 53 African countries whereof 20 countries having EPAs. Mr. Allotey concluded that in general countries are facing similar environmental problems. Their intention is to use a similar approach to their networking as the EPA network.

The secretariat introduced the website and work plan for the secretariat. The website consists of an open part intended to inform the wider public of the Network and its activities, as well as a closed part for internal communications. The website will be formally launched on 1. December 2007. In response to the work plan it was underlined that it was a network of heads of agencies and the informal nature of it should be preserved. At the same time, it was useful to have a structured work plan for the secretariat and its tasks. The idea of a two step approach, as suggested by the secretariat, creating a short term work plan for 2008 and long term work plan 2008 – 2011, was endorsed.

On emerging issues relating to the EPA Network the following points were raised.

  • BfN Germany informed the Network of the establishment of the ENCA network (Heads of European Nature Conservation Agencies). The initial meeting was held in 6 – 7 September 2007 and 13 Nature Conservations Agencies attended the meeting. During discussions it was stressed that the EPA and ENCA networks should work closely together on issues of common interest.
  • The secretariat presented documents on the ongoing updates on environmental policy processes in EU. The intention is to update this information for the EPA Network periodically.
  • UBA Germany presented a paper containing recommendations on the revision of the construction products directive. There was widespread support for the paper, and it was agreed that the paper would be sent to the Commission as soon as possible in the name of the members able to support the paper actively.
  • EEA introduced the main findings of the Belgrade report and a summary of how it was produced in consultation with countries, international organisations and civil society.

Interest groups (IGs) reported on their activities to the plenary:

  • Natural Resources led by UBA Germany will in the short term be focusing inter alia on compiling national indicators and targets and mapping activities in the field of sustainable resource use. In the longer term, work will continue on indicators and targets, and focus on resource management aspects of sustainable production and consumption patterns (SCP) and resource policy approaches of an ecological ( sustainable) industrial policy.
  • Environment and health, led by SEPA and EEA, will hold a workshop back to back to the Oslo meeting focusing on awareness raising within the EPA Network.
  • Bfn Germany informed the meeting that because of their shift to the ENCA Network they were not in position to continue to lead the IG on biodiversity. EA England and Wales offered to take over temporarily and will discuss possible future activities on the basis of information from members of their involvement in biodiversity issues.
  • Contaminated sites, led by APAT Italy, will be focusing on an analysis of the consequences of soil framework directive in MS. Particularly the following soil threats will be investigated: contamination, erosion, compaction, loss of organic matter. The output of the activities will be a common paper.
  • Better regulation, led by EA England and Wales, will inter alia be focusing on developing a vision paper on improving the effectiveness of environmental regulation. The group will also seek to influence DG environment better regulation plan and exchange experience on their national programmes.
  • Climate change and adaptation, led by MNP Netherlands, will focus in the short term on developing a response to the Commission Green Paper on adaptation.

The Norwegian agencies (SFT and DN) introduced the idea of mapping EPA activities in the environment and development field, with the possible aim of creating an IG to share experience in the area. Several members showed interest in taking part in a preliminary phase including a meeting. The outcome and proposals for future work in this area will be presented in Oslo.

The Slovenian EPA presented ideas for a benchmarking project on the implementation of quality management systems (ISO 9001). A working group will be established and the members will be invited when dates have been settled.

EA England and Wales and the Slovenian EPA informed the meeting about recent severe flooding events.

During the discussion of possible additional items to be covered at the Oslo meeting, issues of regional indicators in relation to sustainable use of natural resources and GMOs were mentioned