Advancing the climate change agenda on a global scale, developing the Urban, Air and Waste thematic strategies and reviewing the European Sustainable Development Strategy are among the main targets of the Austrian Presidency of the European Union. As the Environmental regulator, the Malta Environment & Planning Authority welcomed these priorities as Austria took over the Presidency on the first of January 2006. Other targets include making progress on the Environmental Technologies Action Plan (ETAP), and working towards "Better Regulation"
At a recent meeting with the Austrian Ambassador H.E. Dr. Elizabeth Kehrer where environmental priorities of the forthcoming Presidency were discussed, MEPA's Director General, Dr. Godwin Cassar expressed his concern regarding the difficulty for new member states to deliver on all environmental obligations in just over a year since accession. "While the biggest accomplishment of the outgoing UK Presidency has undoubtedly been the achievement of a deal on the EU budgetary package, a big challenge lies ahead for the forthcoming Austrian and Finnish Presidencies to actually translate budgetary figures into concrete environmental programmes and actions" said Dr. Cassar.
Assistant Director for EU & Multilateral Affairs Ms.Marie Briguglio commented that MEPA is no newcomer to fruitful cooperation with Austrian environmental institutions. MEPA established strong cooperative relationship with some of these institutions. Since 2002, MEPA partnered no less than four EU funded environmental capacity building projects with a total budget exceeding €1.8 million with Austrian institutions.
The twinning project successfully concluded in 2004 entitled "Establishing Institutional Capacity in the Environment Sector" (total value €900,000) was jointly implemented with the Austrian Environment Agency and partners from the UK. The Austrian partners led a component on environmental reporting to various EC institutions.
Currently, three institution building projects are still ongoing. The twinning project "Strengthening Institutional Capacity for the Implementation of the Nature Protection Acquis" has a total budget of €415,000 and is being implemented in partnership with the Austrian Environment Agency. It is expected to be concluded in 2007 and will result in an improved capacity of MEPA to comply with the EU Acquis in the field of nature protection.
Besides twinning, the Austrian Environment Agency is also MEPA's partner in 2 twinning "light" projects currently being implemented. The "Building Capacity to Comply with the EU Environmental Acquis through Improved Enforcement" project has a total budget of €280,000 to enhance the ability of MEPA and other bodies involved in the environmental protection to successfully enforce environmental legislation and policy.
The "Integrated Permitting & Monitoring Systems" project has an overall objective of the project is to provide specific services in environmental monitoring and information systems required to facilitate and promote compliance with obligations arising from EU environmental Acquis. The project has a budget of €250,000 and is expected to be concluded in the second quarter 2006.
In April 2005, MEPA produced a joint report as part of the Image & CORINE Land Cover 2000 (I&CLC 2000) project on behalf of the Austrian Environment Agency. The total value of the contract was €13,750.
In addition to institution building projects, MEPA cooperates with the Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Environment and Water (Austria) in an Interreg 3C funded network titled GRDP - Greening Regional Development Projects. The project has a total budget of €1.08 million with the main aim of aim of developing a common European methodology for integrating environmental sustainability as a horizontal theme within regional development programmes and Structural Funds programmes.
Furthermore, jointly with the Austrian partners, MEPA experts have committed themselves to provide assistance to Turkey through a twinning project titled "Harmonization and implementation of directive on biocidal products" lead by the Austrian Environment Agency.
"As soon as we strengthen our environment protection institutions in Malta to be able to adequately address the domestic challenges, we would be glad to lend a helping hand to other candidate countries working to achieve environmental standards" - said Dr. Godwin Cassar. MEPA's cooperation with Austria in this regard has undoubtedly proved to be a fruitful venture.