Water Protection Declaration adopted by 16 countries

The European Commission and Environment Ministers from all 16 countries sharing the Danube River Basin and Black Sea region today adopted a new Declaration on the Enhancement of Cooperation during a High Level Meeting in Bucharest, Romania.

The 16 countries are Austria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Georgia, Germany, Hungary, Moldova, Romania, Russian Federation, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Turkey and Ukraine. Each country is a party to one or both of the protection conventions already in existence, the Danube River Protection Convention and Black Sea Protection Convention.

"On January 1, the Black Sea became a European Union sea," said Sulfina Barbu, Romanian Minister of Environment and Water Management. "On this date, my country also joined the EU and it took over the Presidency of the International Commission for the Protection of the Danube River (ICPDR). As both a Danube and Black Sea country, Romania is proud to host this important meeting that is needed to increase cooperation among our countries for the challenging work that lies ahead for all of us."

The Declaration recognizes the important values of the Danube/Black Sea region, the historical damage that it has undergone and recent signs of environmental recovery as a result of cooperative actions. At the same time, more cooperation and efforts are required by all 16 countries and the EU to improve the environment.

One key challenge is for the Danube countries to meet the requirements of the legally binding EU Water Framework Directive by 2015. "The Declaration clearly states that Danube countries are aware of the huge financial resources needed to meet this EU directive through the implementation of a joint programme of measures," said ICPDR Executive Secretary Philip Weller. "Increased coordination between all countries will be crucial to reducing costs."

One highlight of the declaration is the need to develop measures to reduce nutrient pollution of the Black Sea. "The entire Danube Basin is a 'sensitive area' under the EU Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive," said Peter Gammeltoft, Head of the Water & Marine Unit of the EU's Directorate-General, Environment. "This means that EU Member States must use advanced urban waste water treatment."

"The nutrient pollution problem is far from over," said Ivan Zavadsky, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)/Global Environment Facility (GEF) Danube/Black Sea Regional Programme Director. "We have been working for over 15 years to better understand the problem and come up with solutions. Now is the time for concerted action for basin-wide measures such as municipal waste water treatment upgrades and introducing phosphate-free laundry detergents."

The Danube Regional Project (DRP) was the last major intervention of UNDP/GEF in the Danube Basin. The High Level Meeting in Bucharest followed a two-day Final Seminar where the DRP's main achievements and suggestions for the future were presented. 

The Declaration also confirmed a strong commitment among all signatories to implement the ICPDR's Action Programme for Sustainable Flood Protection in the Danube River Basin, given the risks stemming from floods and accidental pollution, which often leads to massive damage and loss.

"What happened in the Danube Basin over the last 15 years is a model of success for rivers throughout the world," said Ahmet Kideys, Executive Director of the Black Sea Commission Permanent Secretariat. "The Danube countries, UNDP/GEF and the EU were able to pool their resources together in a way that will significantly improve water management, water quality and ecosystem health. Now that the Black Sea is an EU sea, we are confident that many of the Danube's successes will be repeated through the concerted efforts of the Black Sea countries, Black Sea Commission, EU and UNDP/GEF, supported by this new declaration signed today."

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    The Black Sea is the world's most isolated sea-connected to the Oceans via the Mediterranean Sea through the Bosphorus, Dardanelle and Gibraltar straits, and linked with the Sea of Azov in the northeast through the Kerch Strait. The catchment area of the Black Sea is six times larger than its surface with the Danube being its main tributary. The Black Sea Protection Commission is responsible for the sustainable management of the Black Sea.
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