ENVSEC holds SEE regional meeting in Tirana

August 10, 2016 | By Maria Sabina Lazar

Partner institutions, stakeholders, donors and high-level representatives gathered at the Tirana International Hotel in Tirana, Albania, on June 28-30 to participate in this year’s ENVSEC Regional Meeting for South Eastern Europe. The main objective of the meeting was to present the initiative’s main achievements in the region since 2003, while strengthening cooperation and identifying future objectives. The meeting also served as an important launching pad in the SEE region for the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The primary outcome of the regional meeting was a Joint Statement for future actions in the SEE region from ENVSEC NFPs and resource partners, Aarhus Centres and other participating stakeholders.

The morning session of June 29 was chaired by Marta Szigeti Bonifert, Executive Director of the Regional Environmental Center for Central and Eastern Europe (REC), and opened by Ms. Olijana Ifti, deputy minister at the Ministry of Environment of Albania, who was followed in turn by welcoming remarks from H.E. Mr. Johann Sattler, ambassador of Austria to Albania; Mr. Jan Rudolph, Chargé d'Affaires a.i. of the European Union Delegation to Albania; Mr. Robert Wilton, acting head of the OSCE Presence in Albania; Ms. Yesim Oruc, country director of UNDP Albania; Ms. Maria Teresa Pisani, economic affairs officer of the Environment Division of UNECE; and Mr. Pier Carlo Sandei, programme officer for UNEP–Vienna Office. Profound appreciation and gratitude was expressed to ENVSEC’s key resource partners, including the Austrian Development Cooperation through the Austrian Development Agency (ADA), the main donor for ENVSEC activities in the SEE region and a long-term provider of support. Special thanks were also extended to the Ministry of Environment of Albania for co-hosting the meeting.

Raffi Balian, Director of the Regional Environmental, Science & Technology, and Health Office for Central Europe, U.S. Department of State, followed with a keynote speech during the following session on the topic of “ENVSEC in Light of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”. Mr. Balian cited five major threats to the implementation of SDGs in the region: corruption, inequalities and discrimination against minorities, outdated thinking, violence and war, and climate change.

Gordana Kozhuharova, REC Regional Director for South Eastern Europe and ENVSEC Regional Desk Officer for South Eastern Europe, provided a detailed overview of ENVSEC’s work in the region, which includes the implementation of up to 27 projects with a combined value of USD 8 million. Achieved results and outputs were categorised according to four priority areas: 1) Management of shared water resources; 2) Hazardous waste and industrial legacies; 3) Environmental good governance; and 4) Climate change and natural disasters.

The day continued with four plenary sessions: Panel 1, “Management and reduction of transboundary risks from hazardous activities”; Panel 2, “Management of shared natural resources; Panel 3, “Strengthening regional cooperation on environmental governance through participatory and informed decision making and implementation processes”; and Panel 4, “Adaptation to the impacts of climate change for reducing security risks in South Eastern Europe”.

Focus in the late afternoon turned to a joint statement prepared during the meeting. ENVSEC national focal points, partner institutions and resource partners reiterated their commitment to further facilitating opportunities for regional and cross-border cooperation, and to support the SDG 2030 Agenda and transposition of EU legislation. Climate change adaptation and impacts mitigation was high on the agenda for all regional countries.

Priority areas for further programme development by ENVSEC in the 2017-2020 work programme were identified within the following topics: 1) Enhancement of capacities and support for bilateral and regional dialogue and cooperation on environment and security risks; 2) Management and reduction of transboundary risks from hazardous activities; 3) Management of shared natural resources; 4) Strengthening regional cooperation in environmental governance and informed decision making and implementation processes, and active engagement of the Aarhus Centres; and 5) Adaptation to the impacts of climate change to reduce security risks in SEE.

Indicative of the levels of regional resolve shown at the meeting, Olijana Ifti, Deputy Minister at the Ministry of Environment of Albania, expressed her ministry’s institutional commitment to “implement stricter legislation on the importing of waste, reorganisation of the state environmental inspectorate, law enforcement, the transposition of the EU acquis communautaire, public participation, education, and the promotion of a sense of responsibility for the environment and nature conservation.”

The day formally closed with an ENVSEC ambassadorial briefing for the diplomatic missions and representations accredited to Albania, and for the participants of the ENVSEC Regional Meeting for South Eastern Europe.

A site visit to Shkodra on June 30 concluded the event.

For more detailes you can download the meeting minutes, joint statement, list of participants and agenda.