History and significance of the Environment for Europe process

What is the “Environment for Europe” process?

The “Environment for Europe” (EfE) process is a political process focusing on environmental protection and sustainable development in Europe. In recent years, the focus in the EfE process has been on environmental protection and sustainable development in the Eastern regions of Europe, including in particular South Eastern Europe (SEE) and Eastern Europe, Caucasus and Central Asia (EECCA). For these two regions, the EfE process currently represents the most important political process related to environmental protection, apart from the UNCED/Rio follow up process. Environment Ministers stated in Para 2 of the 1998 Aarhus Ministerial Declaration:

“the political importance of the EfE process is recognized as the major long-term pan-European political framework for the promotion of environmentally sound and sustainable development.”

The EfE has evolved around – so far – six conferences of Environment Ministers, with the first conference taking place in 1991 in Dobris (then Czechoslovakia), the second in 1993 in Lucerne (Switzerland), the third in 1995 in Sofia (Bulgaria), the fourth in 1998 in Aarhus (Denmark) and the fifth in 2003 in Kiev (Ukraine). The sixth EfE ministerial conference is scheduled for 10-12 October, 2007 in Belgrade (Serbia).

Significance and characterization of the Environment for Europe process

Overall, the Environment for Europe (EfE) process has made a significant contribution to experience exchange (and sometimes policy convergence) in the fields of environmental protection and sustainable development. The EfE process has also contributed to address security concerns, health and migration issues, especially in Eastern Europe, and has helped strengthen economic and political partnerships between Eastern and Western Europe. Due to the EfE process, environmental policy gained additional weight in overall policy making in Europe.

The EfE process is characterized by a functioning multi-stakeholder and open approach. The process has involved active participation of all countries of western Europe, Central and Eastern Europe (CEE – now EU Member States), SEE, EECCA and North America, as well as international organizations and institutions including for example the European Commission, OECD, UNECE, UNEP, UNDP, the Council of Europe, the WHO Regional Office for Europe, OSCE, the Energy Charter Secretariat, the World Bank, EBRD, Regional Environmental Centers and environmental NGOs.

Within the EfE process, several useful expert networks have been created which allow for exchanging experience. For example, there is a donor-IFI network created through the Project Preparation Committee (PPC). The EAP Task Force has created several expert networks, such as: an environmental financing specialists network, an urban water management specialists network and an enforcement specialists network. Around the work related to the implementation of the Pan-European Biological and Landscape Diversity Strategy (PEBLDS), specialist networks have been established related to biological and landscape diversity. Around the Strategy for Education for Sustainable Development (ESD), a network of ESD officials and specialists has been established. In addition, specialists networks have been established for monitoring and reporting environmental data and state of the environment information.

The EfE process is flexible in adjusting process contents: most of the current process contents are based on temporary mandates which need to be reviewed and renewed at Ministerial EfE conferences and may be continued or discontinued depending on prevailing circumstances and priorities. Most of the EfE programs are designed and funded on a project basis.

Last update of this page: 14 May, 2007.