What follows is the text of a special video message from European Commissioner for the Environment Janez Potocnik, on the occasion of the 20th Anniversary celebration of the REC:
"Ladies and gentlemen, I'm sorry I can't be with you today to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of the REC. I can at least send you this message with my congratulations.
"Fundamentally, we are not so different. We share the same objective of improving the environment. Of course, in a union of 27 countries coordinating this objective is easier said than done. And working in an even wider group of 29 countries means that, for you, working together is even more important. We also share the broad aims represented through our cohesion policies - the policies we use to smooth out differences between member states.
"Cohesion and environment policies complement each other. Cohesion fills the investment gaps of the implementation of environmental legislation by co-financing air, water and waste infrastructure projects. It helps with integration investments, and with climate change mitigation and adaptation. Our cohesion work also has to comply with and support environmental legislation. Cohesion is also built-in at the highest level.
"Our 'Europe 2020' strategy advocates a new development model for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth. And this cohesion policy is uniquely placed to contribute to the delivery of the European Union's sustainable growth objectives. And the Lisbon Treaty has added achieving territorial cohesion as a new objective along with economic and social cohesion. This will help us place environmental policies into a broader context. It will mean greater coherence between sectional policies and coordination between different levels of governance.
"You all know about this at the REC, and we need to make the link between our cohesion and environmental actions even stronger. This will be done through close cooperation within the European Commission and their institutions, and across the member states and their regions - the kind of work that the REC does every day.
"We also want to use cohesion policy to make a more resource-efficient, greener and competitive economy. Moving towards more efficient product services and processes will give will give industry a competitive advantage irrespective of sector or region.
"We are working hard to halt biodiversity loss after missing the 2010 target. And in dealing with this we will focus on ecosystem services which supply goods and services beneficial to the economy. Building this up will bring jobs and help to those less-favored regions. New green infrastructures could lead to new partnerships of biodiversity and cohesion policy funding, particularly if banks and private investors can be brought in. And we should also not forget about new types of cooperation made possible through public and private partnerships which we could use more in the future. I think you would agree that all of this would not work without cooperation.
"So, ladies and gentlemen, the work that the REC has been doing for the last twenty years is of real value. You are a key player at every level, taking environmental and sustainability solutions to those parts of our union and beyond where they can be used, examined and fed back. The REC is an innovator and essential satellite for our environmental policies in a world where our problems overlap more and more. I wish you all the best on this day of celebration, and here's to another twenty years."
Please also visit the gallery of photographs taken during the three days of the event.