Economic development can be beneficial to the environment, and environmental protection can drive economic objectives. Integrating environmental protection with economic growth is one of the challenges that environmental agencies around Europe are trying to address. "Greening" economic development programmes, including those funded by the EU Structural and Cohesion funds, is one way to do it.
To tackle the challenge, MEPA has sought and obtained EU funds to participate in a project titled GRDP - Greening Regional Development Programmes.
Approved for EU funding during the third round of Interreg 3C West programme, the GRDP brings together over 35 partners from numerous EU regions to harness and share experience. Led by the Environment Agency for England and Wales, the project has an overall budget of over €1 million, of which MEPA's share is some €75,000.
The project aims to develop a common European methodology to ensure that environment is duly considered in EU funding programmes - particularly those programmes aimed at regional development.
The project looks at the various ways that the environment can be integrated starting from the point of programming to the point when projects are being implemented.
During 2005, all partners including MEPA carried out an audit which sought to determine to what extent environmental issues were being taken into account on a regional basis. In Malta, this audit was carried out for the whole country. A report was subsequently compiled, paving way for the development of the common European methodology.
Addressing the needs identified in the audit, partners developed guidelines on the application of the Strategic Environmental Assessment tool to "green" Structural Funds programmes, as well as guidelines on the application of partnership principle in the programming process.
Four international seminars were held as part of the project to date, where partners shared their experiences with other participants and obtained feedback on the guidance produced. The seminars also resulted in a GRDP Declaration, which outlined fundamental principles on which the partnership is based.
All of the documents mentioned may be downloaded from the project's website http://www.environment-agency.gov.uk/grdp/.