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7. Europe (East)

7.0 Introduction

The countries of Central and Eastern Europe are currently in transition. Transition means the recovery process from the breakdown of the state-controlled economies after the political changes in the beginning of the 1990s to market-oriented economies. Now, after 10 years of transition, new legislation is approaching market economy requirements. Privatisation of small and medium enterprises and of agricultural land is developing, and realistic environmental taxes and economic instruments are being legislated to protect the environment. However, in all transition countries the economy has priority over the environment, so there are only limited financial resources available for investment, modernisation or reconstruction of environmental protection facilities. In some countries, in order to keep jobs from disappearing, parts of industry and agriculture are still subsidised by governments. In short, there are big differences between single countries or country groups of this region concerning economic performances, social achievements and the realisation of environmental protection measures.

In this overview, the countries of Central and Eastern Europe are subdivided into three different groups (see Table 7.1):

  • the 10 Accession Countries (AC); transition countries which are on the way to become members of the European Union in the future.
  • other transition countries (Balkan countries, except Accession Countries and countries of the former Soviet Union),
  • some of the European countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS)- the former Soviet Union Republics- Belarus, Republic of Moldova, Russian Federation, and Ukraine. During the preparation of the overview, no information was available regarding the three Caucasian countries Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia.

In March 1998, the European Union (EU) handed over to ten transition countries (Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia) individual Accession Partnership Agreements (APAs), which set out for each country the conditions for the granting of EU pre-accession aid and criteria for assessing progress made in aligning their economies and legislation with the EU's (EIS, 1998). For five of these countries (Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Poland and Slovenia) special talks with the EU are ongoing concerning an accession in the near future. An important prerequisite for technical and financial assistance by the EU is the alignment to the EU environmental standards, specially in the areas of water and energy. At present, none of the Accession Countries will be able to achieve full compliance with the environmental requirements in the short to medium term (EIS, 1998).

In the wastewater sector, the most important EU requirement is the Urban Waste Water Treatment Directive (UWWTD). The objective of the Directive is to protect the environment from adverse effects of discharges of urban wastewater and of wastewater from industrial sectors. The implementation of the Directive in the Accession Countries could result, with high effort on sewerage development and wastewater treatment with nutrient removal, in a two-thirds reduction in organic matter load and a 40-50% reduction of nutrients input. This would potentially reduce the nitrate and phosphate loading to both the Baltic and Black Seas by around 15-30 %, but would increase the sludge production and the costs by about 9 billion Euros (EEA, 1998). The three scenarios for the Accession Countries are presented in section 7.3.

Table 7.1: Overview of the transition countries of Central and Eastern Europe by groups

Country *Total area (in km2) **Population (103)
  Accession Countries  
Bulgaria 110 910 8 336
Czech Republic 79 000 10 282
Estonia 45 226 1 429
Hungary 93 030 10 116
Latvia 64 589 2 424
Lithuania 65 301 3 694
Poland 312 680 38 718
Romania 237 500 22 474
Slovakia 48 845 5 377
Slovenia 20 251 1 993
  Other Transition Countries  
Albania 28 750 3 119
Bosnia and Herzegovina 51 129 3 675
Croatia 87 600 4 481
The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia 25 713
1 999
Yugoslavia, Federal Republic 102 000 10 635
  Commonwealth of Independent States  
Belarus 207 600 10 315
Moldova, Republic of 33 700 4 378
Russian Federation 17 075 400 147 434
Ukraine 604 000 50 861
* Data of the total area are taken from the "The World Factbook", 1999
** The population data are gathered from the UN Population Estimates and Projections, 1998.

The wastewater management situation in most of the other transition countries, including the countries of the former Soviet Union, is even more severe, because of lack of technical, financial and sometimes institutional support. Quite often, the limited financial sources are used for stabilising the water supply system rather than for wastewater management. Most sewer systems are old, overloaded and leaking. Inflows of groundwater, diluting wastewater and resulting in overloading treatment plants are very common. Most of the treatment plants have operational problems and low levels of efficiency.

In all transition countries, both, drinking water supply and wastewater management have top priority in environmental policy. Particularly in the economically most advanced Accession Countries, as well as e.g. in Croatia and in parts of Russia (the Moscow region) investments in wastewater treatment have been rising remarkably. In the other transition countries these investments depend very much on the current economic and financial situation and on the national/local priorities given to wastewater management. Often only hot spots in collection and treatment can be covered by national budgets and/or with international support. New solutions for financing national wastewater management and water pollution control are necessary to meet the challenges today and in the future.

In order to foster the economic development and legislative basis of transition countries, the European Union and other international organisations and banks (e.g. UNDP, World Bank, the EBRD) help to foster bilateral agreements between countries. Furthermore these organisations participate in this transition process through a number of different technical and financial projects, credits and loans. The European Union for example, is supporting the Accession Countries and the other transition countries through investment programs (i.e. PHARE and TACIS projects). The programs are targeted to hotspots or specialised tasks (monitoring, construction of environmental protection facilities etc.). Here, special attention has to be devoted to long-term sustainability of these projects in order to assure the financing and operation/maintenance of the projects in the long run.

The role of the European Union and other international institutions in financing the enormous demands in wastewater management of the transition countries can only be minor, but should be catalytic. Resource mobilisation has to be more effectively integrated into the national financing strategies of the transition countries themselves, which should include the national private sector, regional and local investments of the governments, taxes, fees and charges. The responsibility of financing wastewater management investments should be increasingly transferred to polluters and consumers of water through the implementation and strict enforcement of for example the polluter-pays-principle and water service taxes.

In this regional overview, most of the statistics and information of the transition countries are derived from the UN/ECE and OECD Environmental Performance Reviews (EPR), which describe the state of environment and the new environmental policy as well as achievements of the countries. The National Environmental Action Plans (NEAP) were taken into consideration for the preparation of the EPRs. At present, 7 EPRs of transition countries have been published by UN/ECE (Croatia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Republic of Moldova, Slovenia and Ukraine) and the OECD has published one for Bulgaria.

The UN/ECE International Environmental Data System (IEDS) was used for gathering statistical data, as well as national environmental yearbooks, and the Dobrish Reports of 1995 and 1998 of the European Environmental Agency in Copenhagen. These data were transmitted and checked by the countries themselves, but unfortunately, there are still no international harmonised definitions of terms which limits the comparability of the data.

For the Accession Countries, most information was taken from different publications put together by the European Union, DG XI and IA, or their releases on the internet (see references).


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