EU Funds Environmental Upgrades in Candidate Countries

BRUSSELS, Belgium, February 18, 2002 (ENS) - The European Union is assisting the candidate countries that are applying to join the bloc by funding 1.1 billion (US$958 million) worth of transport and environment projects that will help bring those sectors up to EU standards.

Michel Barnier, European Commissioner responsible for regional policy, announced the launching of 94 projects, to be financed by the Instrument for Structural Policies for Pre-accession program, in the environmental and transport sector in nine of the 13 candidate countries - Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia.

Most of the projects focus on the modernization of urban and municipal water supply, waste water systems, and road, motorway and railway rehabilitation and construction.


The century old casino at Constanta on the shore of the Black Sea (Photo courtesy Irina and Stephan Gheorghiu)
Constanta, Romania and the Black Sea will benefit from funding of 72 million under the program to be spent on modernization of the city's sewerage and wastewater treatment systems to bring them in line with European standards.

Aimed at protecting the Black Sea and its coastal areas, this project will also facilitate the development of tourism facilities in Constanta, the second largest city in Romania and its main harbor on the Black Sea. The project is co-financed by the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, which provides the remaining 20 percent of the total eligible costs.

The Instrument for Structural Policies for Pre-accession (ISPA) is aimed at preparing the applicant countries in Central and Eastern Europe for accession through financing of projects in the environmental and transport sector.

EU funding of 1.1 billion covers a little less than half of a total cost of 2.3 billion to be co-financed by the beneficiary countries and international financing institutions.

Announcing the decisions, Barnier said, "The projects financed by ISPA intend to help future Member States to implement EU environmental standards and strategic priorities in the field of trans-european networks."

"Candidate countries need to continue efforts to strengthen their administrative capacity to ensure speedy and effective implementation of ISPA projects," Barnier said.

The North Bohemia Water Project in the Czech Republic finances the modernization of five wastewater treatment plants, the improvement of the municipal sewerage collection system in Usti nad Labem, the modernization of the main water treatment plant and of the drinking water network.


Sunset on the Elbe River (Photo courtesy Viking River Cruises)
These Czech projects are part of the regional development strategy for the water sector in an area which is part of the Elbe River Basin. The project has a cross-border impact, since the Elbe runs from the Czech Republic through Germany, an EU Member State, to empty into the North Sea, which borders other EU countries - Denmark, and The Netherlands. The water treatment measures are included in the Czech Republic's program for the implementation of the EU law known as the Urban Wastewater Treatment Directive.

Total eligible costs for the North Bohemia Water Project are 19.80 million; of this the ISPA contribution amounts to 12.87 million.

Between 2000 and 2006, ISPA will fund projects in 10 candidate countries for a total of 7.28 billion.

In 2000 and 2001, the European Commission approved a total of 169 ISPA projects, amounting to 6.1 billion, of which the EU will finance 64.4 percent. Of these interventions, 100 correspond to environment projects, representing 38.4 percent of the total funds available, 64 to transport projects for 61.4 percent of the funds, and five projects for technical assistance.

Bulgaria, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Turkey are seeking access to the existing union of 15 European states.

The Commission will give its evaluation of the readiness of each candidate country to assume the rights and obligations of membership in 2002 progress reports. In the field of environment, the reportss will identify whatever needs exist to further strengthen administrative, monitoring and enforcement capacity, in particular in the field of waste, water and chemicals.

The EU aims to conclude the accession negotiations by the end of 2002 with those countries which fulfill the accession criteria.

On this basis these countries would be ready to become members of the European Union in 2004, in accordance with the objective set out by the European Parliament and by the European Council.