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JOINT STATEMENT Sixth Meeting of Ministers of Environment of the Visegrad Group countries on co-operation in the field of environmental protection and nature conservation, Olomouc, Czech Republic (August 30-31, 2001)



The Ministers of the Environment of the Czech Republic, the Republic of Hungary, the Republic of Poland and the Slovak Republic, the countries of the Visegrad Group,
- in accordance with the outcome and the follow-up of the United Nations Conference on the Environment and Development in 1992 in Rio de Janeiro, as well as the importance of the effective preparation for forthcoming World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) in Johannesburg in 2002,
- recognising the importance of the conclusions of the 21st session of the Governing Council of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Second Global Forum of the Ministers of the Environment and preceding meeting of those bodies, mainly the recommendations of the Malmö Ministerial Declaration,
- noting the recommendations for the most effective inter-linkage and synergy between multilateral global, regional and bilateral environmental treaties in the interest of promoting sustainable development and of integrating environmental concerns into sectoral policies,
- welcoming the main priorities and targets of the EU Sixth Environment Action Programme 2001-2010 and Sustainable Development Strategy approved by the Gothenburg Council,
- reaffirming their common interest in the EU accession as a vital condition for the future sustainable , economic, social and environmental development,
- noting the latest development in the accession negotiation in chapter: Environment,
- bearing in mind all outcomes of the preceding Visegrad Group meetings, as well as existing bilateral and multilateral agreements to which the Visegrad Group countries are parties,

the Ministers have agreed upon the following:
the European Union enlargement process
1. The Ministers reiterate their commitment to create the most favourable conditions in the field of the environment for the fulfilment of the common goal of their respective countries to become member states of the European Union and to participate in the activities of the European Union with an emphasis on the implementation of the Sixth Environment Action Programme 2001-2010 and Sustainable Development Strategy.
2. The Visegrad Group countries will speed up the ratification process of the Agreement on their participation in the European Environment Agency (EEA) and the European Environment Information and Observation Network (EIONET) they could start implement their new obligations and share the result of the related activities starting January 2002.
3. The Ministers express satisfaction with the current exchange of the experience of their countries in the process of negotiation with respect to Chapter: Environment in particular, emphasising the utmost importance of transitional periods in relation to the investment heavy directives.
4. The Ministers support exchange of information among the Visegrad Group respective bodies and institutions regarding the status of implementation of the EU pre-accession support, financial contribution from national and international resources, with emphasis on the ISPA and Phare Programmes. For this purpose they agree to organise before their 7th meeting the workshop of the representatives of the respective departments of their Ministries and other national institutions. The ministers agree to submit a joint request to the EU asking a better consideration of V4 countries needs, expressed in the National Development Plans, National Sectoral Strategies reflecting the governments' national priorities, when setting the criteria of the EU support.
5. The Ministers would like to ask the EU to take into consideration the fact that there is a strong demand in V4 regions for getting investment financing for group of smaller settlements under the 2000 inhabitants, also involving transboundary regions, from ISPA fund to improve the environmental infrastructure according to the EU requirements. The simplification of the administration could also speed up the effective utilisation of the ISPA funds.
6. The Ministers highly appreciate the assistance provided through the Phare twinning projects to their respective countries in the field of environment. In the interest of co-ordination of their national policy and mainly the implementation and enforcement capacities and procedures they agree to have consultation of the relevant representatives of recipient national institutions.
7. The Ministers consider as of crucial importance the intensification and achievement of more effectiveness in raising public awareness on the benefits and predictable difficulties of the future EU membership in the area of the environment in the framework of national communication strategies, mainly on regional and local levels and between the different segments of the society (young generation, senior, women, urban and countryside population etc.).
Environment for Europe
1. The Ministers stress their support for the process "Environment for Europe" started in 1991 in the Czech Town of Dobříš that will continue in May 2003 in the 5th Ministerial Conference in Kiev.
2. The Ministers recognise the important role of the European regional bodies co-operating in the preparation efforts for the Kiev conference, in particular the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UN ECE), the Regional Office for Europe of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) as well as that of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
3. The Ministers express their satisfaction with the accession of the Visegrad Group countries to the majority of multilateral environmental treaties negotiated under the auspices of the UN ECE mainly the Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment in a Transboundary Context, Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes.
4. The Ministers confirm their commitment to ratify as soon as possible other conventions and protocols under the UN ECE in particular Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Environmental Decision - Making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters, Protocol on Water and Health and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes, protocols to the Convention on Long-Range Transboundary Air Pollution, i.e. on Heavy Metals, on Persistent Organic Pollutants and to Abate Acidification, Eutrophication and Ground - Level Ozone.
5. The Ministers will instruct their relevant national institutions actively participate in the Second Biodiversity in Europe Conference and Annual Meeting of the Council of the Pan - European Biological and Landscape Diversity Strategy to be held in Budapest in February 2002.
6. The Ministers consider as very important part of environmental European co-operation the protection of principal river basins, in particular those effecting the territory of the Visegrad Group countries and support the activities of the e.g. International Commission for the Protection of the Danube River, the International Commission for the Protection of the Oder River against Pollution and the International Commission for the Protection of the Elbe River. The Ministers agree to consult in the process of preparation for and actively participate at the Danube/Black Sea Region Informal Ministerial Meeting convened by the Commissioner of the EU for the Environment, Nuclear Safety and Civil Protection, Ms. Margot Wallström on 26 November 2001 in Brussels.
Global issues
1. The preparation for the WSSD in 2002 in Johannesburg as one of the priorities of the Visegrad Group countries that have already adopted or they are just finalising their national strategies for sustainable development. Due to geographic closeness and to environmental, social and economic similarity of these four Central European countries, the inter-linkage and harmonisation between their national strategies for sustainable development is desirable as a one of contribution to the WSSD. Further assistance from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) that significantly contributed to successful elaboration of national strategies could be an important impetus for such contribution.
2. The Ministers agree that at their 7th meeting in spring 2002 they will consider the possibility to present a joint statement of the Visegrad Group Countries for the World Summit on Sustainable Development reflecting the outcomes and contributions of the UN ECE and the European Union. In this respect the Visegrad Group countries will actively participate in the UN ECE Special Session on 24 - 25 September 2001.
3. The Ministers recommend that the delegations of the Visegrad Group countries to the WSSD will be headed by Presidents or by Prime Ministers to demonstrate that sustainable development is on the top of political agenda of the Visegrad Group respective countries.
4. The Ministers agreed to recommend the issue of preparation for the WSSD for the agenda of the next V4 Prime Ministers' Meeting .
5. The Ministers reiterate their support for the UNEP, as the leading global environmental institution, in improving and strengthening the international environmental governance as was stated in the Nairobi and Malmö Declaration. The Ministers highly appreciate the work done in the international environmental governance by the UNEP and reaffirm their commitment to actively participate in finding consensual solution before the WSSD to strengthen the UNEP. The Czech Republic offers the co-ordination of preparation of the Visegrad Group countries for the Third Global Ministerial Environment Forum and the Seventh Special Session of the Governing Council of the UNEP in Cartagena de Indias, Colombia, in February 2002.
6. The Ministers support the active role of their representatives in further discussion with the aim to adopt by the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) - COP 6 (The Hague, the Netherlands, April 2002) and the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS) - COP 7 a decision as suggested by CBD recommendation of the subsidiary body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice (Montreal, March 2001) and a decision on Joint CMS-CBD Work Programme addressing all international and national levels.
7. The Ministers stress the importance of accession of the Visegrad Group countries to the new global environmental treaties, e.g. Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides, Cartagena protocol on Biosafety, Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants. The Ministers underline the necessity of assuring predictable, reliable and stable financial resources for effective functioning of multilateral environmental treaties and for promoting the principle of joint and shared responsibility.
8. The Ministers are aware of transition of their respective countries from the recipient to donor countries. The Ministers support the use not only of traditional channels of voluntary contributions to the funds of different environmental institutions and multilateral treaties but also through investment and non-investment bilateral and multilateral projects under ODA in developing countries and in countries with economy in transition.
9. In this respect the Ministers were honoured to participate at the awarding diploma ceremony of the 4th Annual Summer School of the Development Assistance and Co-operation, organised by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic, University of Olomouc and the UNDP. The Ministers agree with the proposal of the Ministry of the Environment of the Czech Republic to organise in 2002 "Visegrad Group countries´ Summer School of Development Aid and Co-operation".
10. The Ministers recognise the role and integrated character of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification on Those Countries Experiencing Serious Drought an/or Desertification, Particularly in Africa (UNCCD). The Ministers express a hope that by the end of 2001 all Visegrad Group countries will be Parties to the UNCCD. The Executive Secretary of the UNCCD Mr. Hama Arba Diallo presented the proposal of "Transboundary Pilot Project in Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger (Liptako-Gourma)" for possible involvement of the Visegrad Group countries that will be further considered in the framework of their national ODA.
11. The Visegrad Group countries welcome the results the 6th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in July 2001. Ministers agree that the ratification process of the Kyoto Protocol to the UNFCCC should be possibly completed before the WSSD. Ministers agree that the Slovak Republic will be responsible for the co-ordination of preparation of the common statement of the Visegrad Group countries for the 7th Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC in Marrakesh, Morocco, in November 2001.
12. The Ministers support the future activities of the Regional Training Centre for the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal.
Joint Environmental Program for Visegrad Group countries
The Ministers discussed the proposal for "Joint Environmental Programme for Visegrad Group countries" made by Hungary and agree to organise an expert consultation in Budapest in February 2002 to define areas of the environmental policy co-operation for coming years.
Nature conservation
The Ministers emphasises the future development in nature conservation with special attention to nature protection within Natura 2000 and the elaboration of the joint ecological map. Hungary offers to organise a workshop on the subject in 2001.
Animal protection
The Ministers agree to develop closer co-operation under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).
The Ministers support the use of environmentally friendly electrical pylons and power lines in the Visegrad Group countries and shall promote their further installation during privatisation of the energy sector.
Visegrad Environmental Newsletter
The Ministers welcome the first issue of the Newsletter edited by the Czech Republic and agreed on its distribution as well as on the main topics of the next issue.
The Ministers of the Environment of the Republic of Hungary, the Republic of Poland and the Slovak Republic, highly appreciate the organisation of the Sixth Meeting of the Ministers of the Environment of the Visegrad Group Countries and the hospitality extended to them by Mr. Miloš Kužvart, Minister of the Environment of the Czech Republic.
The Ministers of the Environment thank Mr. Hama Arba Diallo, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, Ms. Françoise Belmont, Deputy Director of the UNEP Regional Office for Europe, and Mr. Brendan Gillespie, Director of the Department of Non-Member Countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, for their participation in and contribution to the meeting.
The Ministers of the Environment welcome the invitation by the Hungarian Minister Mr. Béla Turi-Kovács to the Seventh Meeting of the Ministers of the Environment of the Visegrad Group Countries to be held in spring 2002 in Hungary.
In Olomouc, August 31, 2001
Miloš Kužvart, Minister of the Environment of the Czech Republic
Béla Turi-Kovács, Minister of the Environment of the Republic of Hungary
László Miklós, Minister of the Environment of the Slovak Republic
On behalf of Antoni Tokarczuk, Minister of the Environment of the Republic of Poland

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