19th EPA Network plenary meeting, Sofia

The European Network of Heads of Environment Protection Agencies (EPA Network) held its 19th plenary meeting in Sofia, Bulgaria from 27-29 September.

Over 40 participants representing 29 environmental organisations from across Europe took part in the meeting. The Network was also pleased to welcome Mrs Marianne Wenning from DG Environment.

The meeting was opened by Vanya Grigorova, the Director of the Executive Environment Agency of Bulgaria. The Minister for Environment and Water, Nona Karadjova welcomed participants and emphasised the opportunity to share information and experiences on important challenges in the implementation of environmental policies and legislation in Bulgaria. A short video highlighting the role of the Executive Environment Agency was shown.

The EPA Network secretary, Will Fawcett provided an overview of the work of the Network and actions since the last meeting. This included working with the Interest Groups (IGs) and a proposal for an EPA Network brochure.

The plenary was updated on the progress of the EPA Network Interest Groups. The plenary approved a letter from the IG on climate change adaptation regarding the proposed EU Climate Change Adaptation Strategy that has been sent to the European Commission.

The plenary also agreed a proposal to develop a brochure for the Network. This will be produced to coincide with the 10th anniversary of the Network in 2013. The brochure should emphasise the informal nature of the Network and focus on personal experiences.

The IG on Sustainable Resources will meet in November, back to back with the European Resources Forum in Berlin. The remaining interest group progress reports were noted.

Members were updated on a number of topics from the European Environment Agency (EEA) including the waste implementation pilot project, feedback from the discussions at Rio+20 and UNEP activities.

In the afternoon session, the plenary split into three working groups to discuss different aspects of sustainable consumption and production and waste. These included sustainable lifestyles and waste as a resource. Rapporteurs provided feedback to the plenary on the lively group discussions. There was a suggestion not just to focus on waste but consider consumption more widely and also consider links to the topic of green economy.

On the second day the main topic of discussion was implementation of environmental legislation. There was an overview of the European Commission Communication on implementation, current activities and cooperation between networks. Marianne Wenning highlighted the two main themes of knowledge and work on the ground and encouraged the Network to build on cooperation with other European environmental networks. Implementation will be a topic for further discussion at the next meeting, especially as the 7EAP will also focus on this.

There was an informal exchange between the European Commission and the plenary on topics of interest to EPAs including the 7EAP, water blueprint, structural funds, EIA Directive review, invasive species and other topics. 

The Network also agreed to cooperate with the Network of European Nature Conservation Agencies (ENCA) on the topic of ecosystems services. A joint IG has been established on this topic.

The 20th EPA Network plenary meeting will take place in Copenhagen, Denmark in May 2013.