WWF launches EU Accession Initiative | WWF

WWF launches EU Accession Initiative

Posted on 22 November 2001
Vienna, Austria - WWF, the conservation organization, today launched a three-year EU Accession Initiative aiming to raise awareness on the threats and opportunities for nature conservation and sustainable development that are linked to European Union enlargement.

One of the focuses of WWF's Accession Initiative, which will cooperate closely with EU institutions, national governments, business, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), is to ensure the effective implementation of the Birds and Habitats Directives in Accession Countries.

The legislation, which establishes a European network of nature conservation areas, is a cornerstone of EU environmental policy. However, it has a poor record of implementation in Member States, according to WWF.

"While the European Union trumpets the need for sustainable development, public participation, and subsidiarity, the rhetoric is often distant from reality," said Dr Claude Martin, Director General of WWF International. "Accession Countries are often encouraged to adopt unsustainable practices of Member States rather than helped to improve their living standards in a way that does not harm the environment."

Contrary to common images of Central and Eastern Europe dominated by dead forests and industrial wastelands, the future member states in the East bring to the European Union a great part of the continent's natural wealth, including its last vast areas of wilderness.

Therefore, WWF believes that establishing the nature conservation network, referred to as Natura 2000, is especially urgent in the Accession Countries, where landscapes and natural areas are certain to come under heavy development pressure and where existing systems of nature protection are often weak.

Another major focus of the Accession Initiative is on building the capacity of NGO partners in the Accession Countries to act as effective advocates for the environment, not only during the enlargement process, but also beyond.

"WWF is concerned that the environment has been pushed down the enlargement agenda, and that the voice of citizens is not being adequately heard," said Andreas Beckmann, WWF's Accession Initiative coordinator. "WWF aims to demonstrate that there are real environmental benefits associated with enlargement, but that the opportunities to achieve these are currently not being utilized."

For example, much of the legislation and administrative systems being adopted by the Accession Countries to bring them into line with the EU contain stricter protection and clearer incentives for the environment than the laws they replace, the conservation organization points out.

WWF has been active in Central and Eastern Europe for more than 10 years working with both governmental and non-governmental organizations to restore, conserve, and sustainably manage the region's rich biodiversity.

For further information:

Andreas Beckmann, Coordinator of WWF's Accession Initiative, tel.: + 43 1 488 17 238, or +43 676 834 88 238 (mobile), e-mail: andreas.beckmann@wwf.at

Ellen Townsend, Accession Initiative Policy Officer, tel.: +32-2-740-0921, e-mail: etownsend@wwfepo.org.