21st EPA Network plenary, Berlin

The European Network of the Heads of Environment Protection Agencies (EPA Network) held its 21st plenary meeting in Berlin, Germany on 19-20 September 2013.

The meeting was hosted by the German Federal Environment Agency (UBA). 55 participants representing 32 environmental organisations from across Europe took part in the meeting. The Network was also pleased to welcome Robin Miege, Director of strategy at DG Environment in the European Commission, to the meeting. 

The meeting was opened by Jochen Flasbarth, President of UBA. He welcomed participants and gave an overview of the environmental priorities in Germany.  The EPA Network secretary, Will Fawcett, provided an overview of the work of the Network and actions since the last meeting. This included a proposal to consolidate and simplify the online member profiles.  There was also a discussion on recruitment of a new secretary to take over in 2014.  

The plenary was updated on the progress of the EPA Network Interest Groups. A position paper from the Interest Group on Risk Assessment and Monitoring of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) was supported. This group is a joint group with the European Network of Nature Conservation Agencies (ENCA) so the paper will also be submitted to their plenary meeting for approval.  

The Interest Group on Sustainable Use of Natural Resources will hold a meeting in Davos on the 8thOctober, back to back with the World Resources Forum.  There will be further work on the topic of black carbon and also engagement with the European Commission and the Network for Implementation and Enforcement of Environmental Law (IMPEL) at a workshop focussing on the Industrial Emissions Directive. Work on ecosystems services will also be taken forward.

There was an informal exchange with Robin Miege on recent developments and topics of interest to EPAs, for example on the topics of the 7th Environmental Action Programme (EAP), resource efficiency and air quality. The plenary also considered cooperation with the European Parliament. Hans Bruyninckx, Executive Director at the EEA gave an overview of recent EEA activities, focussing on the development of the multi annual work programme.  

The members discussed future priorities for the Network, after feedback was given from the secretary on the results of a recent survey. It was emphasised that the strength of the Network was in its informal nature and the diversity of its members. A number of strategic issues and topics for future consideration were discussed.

There was a session on the topics of citizen science and social media. This was discussed at the 20th plenary in Copenhagen and followed up by a survey on relevant member activities in the summer. The results of the survey were presented and the wide range of member activities highlighted. The Network will work further on this topic, with a workshop planned for spring 2014.

There was a discussion on dealing with facilities with long term environmental liabilities. There are a wide range of experiences on this topic and members are interested to explore this further.

Reinier van den Berg presented a new report from PBL in the Netherlands called “Changing track, changing tack; Dutch ideas for a robust environmental policy for the 21st century”.

The 22nd EPA Network plenary meeting will take place in Vienna on 24/25 April 2014.