EEA expansion on course following EU ratification
The European Environment Agency welcomes the European Unions ratification of agreements that will enable the 13 countries seeking accession to the EU to become members of the Agency within the next few months.
The agreements with the 13 candidate countries in central and eastern Europe and the Mediterranean basin were ratified by the EU Council of Ministers on 18 June. The agreements also require ratification by the countries themselves, and five - Bulgaria, Cyprus, Latvia, Malta and the Slovak Republic - have already done so.
By the start of 2002, the EEA will become the first EU body to welcome the candidate countries into its ranks, greatly expanding the geographical area of our membership and making us a truly pan-European agency, said Domingo Jiménez-Beltrán, EEA Executive Director.
Though the Agency has been working with most of the candidate countries since 1996 on specific projects with support from the PHARE programme, EEA membership will allow their full and permanent integration into our activities and decision making. Agency membership will give these countries the tools to monitor consistently how the new environmental laws they are putting in place are being implemented and how their rich natural heritage is being preserved, as well as familiarising them with EU procedures prior to joining the EU.
At the same time, a more regular flow of data and information from all member countries will allow the Agency to improve the coverage and quality of our environmental assessments to assist policymakers, added Mr Jiménez-Beltrán, who visited the three Baltic States last week to discuss their forthcoming membership of the EEA.
Candidate countries will be eligible to join the Agency one month after ratification of their membership agreements has been notified by each side. This means that the five states that have already ratified should be in a position to join the EEA within a few weeks. The eight others are expected to complete ratification procedures over the coming months. To ensure consistency, the full integration of all 13 new members into the Agencys work programme is expected to take effect from 1 January 2002.
Notes to editors
The 13 accession countries are Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Cyprus, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Romania, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, and Turkey
About the EEA
The European Environment Agency aims to support sustainable development and to help achieve significant and measurable improvement in Europes environment through the provision of timely, targeted, relevant and reliable information to policy making agents and the public. Established by the European Union (EU) in 1990 by Council Regulation 1210/90 (subsequently amended by Council Regulation 933/1999), the Agency is the hub of the European Environment Information and Observation Network (EIONET), a network of some 600 environmental bodies and institutes across Europe.
Located in Copenhagen and operational since 1994, the EEA is open to all countries that share its objectives and are able to participate in its activities. It currently has 18 member countries - the 15 EU Member States, plus Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein, which are members of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA).
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