The Minister of Environment of the Czech Republic, Minister of Environment and Water of the Republic of Hungary, Minister of the Environment of the Slovak Republic and Minister of Environment of the Republic of Poland, the countries of the Visegrad Group,
Recognizing the historical moment of the enlargement of the European Union and trusting that it will contribute to the improvement of quality of life and the environment in the new Member States, particularly, in our countries and that all EU-citizens will benefit from it,
Welcoming the continuation of the process of EU enlargement,
Appreciating the participation at the Meeting of the Minister of Environment and Water Management of Romania, Mrs. Speranta Maria Ianculescu, the Director and Regional Representative of UNEP Mr. Frits Schlingemann and Ms. Marta Szigeti Bonifert, Executive Director of the Regional Environmental Centre as observers,
Recalling the Guidelines of the "New Visegrad Declaration" adopted by the Prime Ministers of the Visegrad Group Countries on 12 May, 2004 in Kromeriz, Czech Republic,
Reaffirming the interest to proceed in continuing co-operation within the Visegrad Group, as well as in regional project-based collaboration involving other interested countries in V4+ format,
have expressed the following:
Visegrad Group Countries, as member states of the European Union
- The Ministers expressed satisfaction with the successful accession and pledged themselves to the constructive participation in formulation and implementation of the internal and external dimensions of the Community's environmental policies.
- The Ministers emphasised their commitment to implement and enforce all pieces of environmental legislation in the most efficient way, parallel with active participation in the EU legislative work, contributing to the further development of the community law with special emphasis on the environment.
- The Ministers attached great importance to the active participation in EU bodies and joint lobbying in the EU decision making mechanisms, in order to pursue national as well as common interests of the Visegrad Group Countries.
- The Ministers expressed their willingness to maintain multi-level co-operation in identifying common Visegrad Group priorities and actions at various stages of the EU decision making process, with the active involvement of national environmental attachés, respective EU Departments and at ministerial level where appropriate
- The Ministers expressed their willingness to convene their regular meetings annually and if it is necessary also in relation to the Environmental Council's meetings.
- Furthermore they confirmed the interest in further participation in the regional consultative forum initiated by Austria in 2003 (Visegrad Group Countries, Austria, Germany and Slovenia), the next meeting to be held on 21–22 September, 2004 in Cejkovice, Czech Republic.
- The Ministers confirmed the interest of their countries in the implementation of the "European Neighbourhood Policy" and development of a "New Neighbourhood Instrument" in order to promote the effective co-operation with neighbouring countries, in particular Ukraine, Western NIS and Western Balkan countries in the field of environment.
- Given the significance of transboundary co-operation in the development and improvement of relations with the neighbouring countries and based on their own experiences of Phare CBC programmes, the Ministers welcomed the recently launched INTERREG III/A programmes, e.g. Hungarian-Slovakian-Ukraine programme, Hungarian-Romanian-Serbian programme.
- The Ministers agreed to support the proposal of the Czech Republic regarding a jointly managed project on technical assistance in the field of environmental protection in the countries of the Western Balkans, in particular Serbia-Montenegro. They requested the Czech Republic to communicate this intention for consideration to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan following its proposal to the V4 co-ordinators.
Use of EU co-financing in the implementation of national environmental programmes and national development plans
- Noting that the environmental advantages of Visegrad Group Countries as new member states—e.g. high level of biodiversity, bigger share of use of public transport, less intensive agricultural practices - should be emphasised in the enlarged EU, the Ministers welcomed the objectives and priorities of the 3rd Report on Economic and Social Cohesion and the Financial Perspective, and agreed that the contribution of the EU funds for the environmental pillar of sustainable development are proposed to be increased.
- The Ministers emphasised the common interest of their countries in reinforcing and increasing the level of EU financial sources, available for the implementation of the EU environmental policy and integration of the environmental considerations into other policies as described in the 6th Environmental Action Programme for 2001–2010.
- The Ministers agreed to share experience on the effective utilisation of EU funds so as to improve the absorption capacity of their countries and support each other in getting more assistance for environmental projects in the frame of the new cohesion policy for the period of 2007–2013.
Experiences in the establishment of Natura 2000 network
- The Ministers agreed that tighter collaboration could promote the conservation of natural habitats and the wild fauna and flora of European Union interest, especially through the maintenance and restoration of the favourable conservation status of sites where animal and plant species and habitats of community importance occur.
- The Ministers called the European Commission to provide for a more articulate support to the nature conservation authorities in fully implementing Natura 2000 network, including to help to develop mechanisms of sharing the responsibilities for European nature for all sectors, in particular agriculture, forestry, tourism, transport etc.
- Noting that the LIFE-Nature program is a very important financial instrument for nature conservation and it is desirable to utilize it in a greater extent in the future, the Ministers agreed to prepare and submit joint projects of the Visegrad Group Countries.
- The Ministers stress the importance of the continuation of the activities in relation to transboundary Natura 2000 sites and agree to keep each other informed on future management plans, habitat restoration programmes and species protection plans to be aimed at those Natura 2000 sites bordering a similar site of a neighbouring Visegrad Group Country.
Implementation of waste management policies and use of economic instruments
- Taking part in the initiatives launched by the EU in the field of waste prevention and reduction policy (Environmental Technologies Action Plan, Ecodesign, Integrated Product Policy, Eco-labelling) and being aware of the complexity of the tasks related to their implementation, the Ministers agreed to explore possibilities of profiting from one an other's experiences and to enhance co-operation between their countries, especially in the field of recovery of special waste streams generated from product charge based products.
- The Ministers note that in order to comply with EU regulations on recovery, the future extent of product charges will have to be continually established so that the system should encourage to obtain an exemption through recovery.
- The Ministers emphasise the role of deposit charge as a regulation instrument encouraging to reduce the volume of waste and note that the rate of product subjects to deposit charge needs to be stable and in medium-term to extend slowly, and the necessity of joint efforts for harmonising waste prevention policies, in particular deposit refund systems of beverage packaging.
Contribution to the implementation of the Carpathian Framework Convention
- The Ministers agreed upon to make efforts for the ratification of the Framework Convention on the Protection and Sustainable Development of the Carpathians, signed in Kiev, 2003 by their countries by the end of this year, and encourage other Signatories to do the same, so as to promote its early entry into force. The Ministers invited the EU to consider joining this legal instrument, similarly to the Alpine Convention, and support its implementation.
- The Ministers emphasised the importance to ensure stable and predictable financing to the Carpathian Framework Convention and its Interim Secretariat's activities, pledged to provide further voluntary contributions by their countries and acknowledged with high appreciation the financial support of donor countries, in particular Austria, Italy and Switzerland.
- The Ministers appreciated the strengthening partnership between the Alpine Convention and the Carpathian Framework Convention facilitated by UNEP, encouraging the Alpine countries, international organisations and other donors to further support the ongoing activities under the Carpathian Convention, e.g. the Carpathian Network of Protected Areas, Carpathian Environmental Outlook.
- The Ministers appreciated the efforts and scientific work carried out so far to define the geographical scope of the Convention and according to the mandate given by the Conference of Plenipotentiaries for Adoption and Signature of the Carpathian Framework Convention (Kiev, 22 May 2003) requested the Interim Secretariat to present the draft comprehensive report and proposal at the 1st Meeting of the Intergovernmental Committee of Signatories (October 2004, Brasov, Romania).
The Ministers of the Environment welcome the invitation by the Minister of the Environment of the Republic of Poland, Mr. Jerzy Swatoń to attend the 12th Meeting of the Ministers of the Environment of the Visegrad Group countries to be in April 2005 in Poland.
Done in Siófok, on 21 May 2004
H.E. Mr. Libor Ambrozek
Minister of the Environment
H.E. Mr. Jerzy Swatoń
Minister of the Environment
Republic of Poland
H.E. Mr. Miklós Persányi
Minister of the Environment and Water
Republic of Hungary
H.E. Mr. László Miklós
Minister of the Environment