EU accession countries win more green funds

Czech environment minister welcomes Commission shift on Ispa project financing

Countries due to join the EU in the next few years have been promised easier access to EU environmental funding, Czech environment minister Milos Kuzvart said yesterday. Speaking during a joint press conference with EU environment commissioner Margot Wallström, Mr Kuzvart said the EU had promised to relax a threshold of euros 5m before projects can qualify for funding under the EU's Ispa programme.

Ispa is one of the EU main financing tools to help candidate countries fund environmental improvements enabling them to meet its entry demands. The Czech Republic had led complaints that many of its projects, for example for waste waster plants, did not qualify for Ispa help because they were too small. Hungary and Poland have also criticised the rules.

For her part, Ms Wallström continued to press for the Czech Republic and other accession countries to accelerate the passage of legislation to enable full compliance with the EU's environmental "acquis". "We are asking for 100% compliance, not 90%, she said, stressing the need for progress by the Czech Republic on water and air quality, waste treatment, environmental impact assessments, and integrated pollution prevention and control.

Ms Wallström said the situation of the Czech Republic was similar to that of Poland, which she recently attacked for not giving enough priority to environmental legislation. As well as accelerating the passage of new laws, the European Commission is also looking for proof that local and regional governments in the Czech Republic will be given the funds and know-how to implement them, especially following the recent decentralisation of some environmental responsibilities.

Mr Kuzvart said the Czech Republic's progress passing environmental legislation should not stand in the way of EU membership by January 2003. He added that the Czech Republic would be seeking transition periods for seven EU environmental directives at most. These would mostly cover the problem areas of water, air quality, waste and IPPC said a spokesperson.

Follow Up:
Czech environment ministry, tel: +420 2 67 12 11 11; European Commission, tel: +32 2 299 1111. See also a profile of the Ispa instrument.

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