EEA's eastwards enlargement formalised

Twelve countries sign up to join European environment agency from January

The European Environment Agency (EEA) will expand from 18 to 30 member countries from 1 January following formal conclusion of negotiations with the EU in Brussels today. The EEA has thus become the first EU agency to take in new members ahead of the bloc's planned enlargement. EU environment commissioner Margot Wallström described the step as a "historic moment" for the broader enlargement process.

Negotiations for the EEA to broaden its membership started earlier this year (ENDS Daily 23 March), and are intended to take the number of countries participating to 31. "Final acts" were today signed by the European Commission and environment ministers from Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Malta, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovenia, Slovakia, Hungary and Turkey. Leading EU accession candidate Poland was missing from the list, but says it will be able to sign a deal with the EU within the next few months.

Welcoming the talks' completion, the EEA said today that broader membership would "foster progress towards more sustainable development for the new member countries and for Europe as a whole - 550m people living in an area of more than 5.5m square kilometres." The Commission also stressed the benefits of the move, while noting that the EEA would now have to go through "a period of tremendous readjustment".

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