26th EPA Network plenary meeting, Vilnius

The European Network of the Heads of Environment Protection Agencies (EPA Network) held its 26th plenary meeting in Vilnius, Lithuania on 12-13 May 2016. The meeting was hosted by the Lithuanian Environmental Protection Agency.

Forty-four participants representing 26 environmental organisations from across Europe took part in the meeting. The Network was also pleased to welcome for the first time Daniel Calleja-Crespo, Director General of DG Environment in the European Commission, to the meeting.

The meeting was opened by Aldona Margeriene, Vice Director of the Lithuania Environmental Protection Agency, who welcomed participants and gave an overview of the work of the Lithuania Environmental Protection Agency and the state of environment in Lithuania. Thereafter, the new EPA Network secretary, Katrin Seuss, provided an overview of the activities of the Network since the last meeting.

The main topic of the plenary meeting was the EU Circular Economy Package. Daniel Calleja Crespo gave a key note on the package and on how the EPAs can get involved. After a lively discussion on the package, Lea Kauppi from the Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE) reported back to the plenary on the EPA Network’s Circular Economy Workshop that had taken place from 7-8 April 2016 in Helsinki. The plenary decided to continue to work on the circular economy in a newly established Interest Group that merges the Interest Group Green Economy and the Interest Group Natural Resources.

In the session on EU environmental policy, Daniel Calleja Crespo and Hans Bruyninckx updated the plenary on the current environmental policy priorities and activities of the European Commission and the European Environment Agency. The priorities of DG Environment include the Circular Economy Package, the Review of the Birds and Habitats Directive, the sustainable development goals and the fitness check on monitoring and reporting. Mr. Calleja Crespo invited the EPA heads to provide contributions to the Fitness check on monitoring and reporting.

The plenary was updated on various activities in the EPA Network Interest Groups. The plenary endorsed the strategic work programme of the Better Regulation Interest Group (BRIG). Furthermore, the plenary discussed the review of the Interest Groups and agreed that the Interest Group on Black Carbon and on Ecosystem Services have completed their work.

In a session on managerial challenges, EPA heads exchanged experiences on how EPAs can provide value for money, on how to generate external revenues for EPAs and on informal networking as a head of an EPA.

In the final session on emerging topics, Hans Bruyninckx gave a keynote speech on the consequences of environmental degradation and natural resource scarcity on conflict and migration. Representatives from the Swedish, English and Scottish EPA presented their experience with providing open data. Last but not least, Sabine Mc Callum from the Environment Agency Austria presented the results of a survey on food waste that had been conducted within the Network.

The 27th EPA Network plenary meeting will take place in Porto on 27-28 October 2016.