UNUnited Nations Economic Commission for Europe

Press Release


UNECE/EU workshop identifies key areas for cooperation on water in Europe

Geneva/Budapest, 10 February 2011 --

In Western and Central Europe the quality of freshwater has in general improved in the past 20 years thanks to remarkable investments in wastewater treatment plants. However, many challenges still threaten water resources and aquatic ecosystems: among them, pollution from agriculture and urban areas; new pollutants — in particular micropollutants; as well as growing water scarcity; floods; and physical modifications. In some areas these pressures create serious water security problems. As most of the water resources in Europe are of a transboundary nature, these challenges need to be tackled jointly by riparian countries.

These were the main issues discussed at the workshop on transboundary water cooperation in Central and Western Europe, held in Budapest from 8 to 10 February. The workshop was organized by the Ministry of Rural Development of Hungary and the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), in cooperation with the International Water Assessment Centre (IWAC), within the framework of the UNECE Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes (Water Convention). It gathered more than 50 experts from national authorities, river basin commissions, international organizations and NGOs.

The workshop was the first event on water of the Hungarian EU Presidency. Hungary has water very high on its political agenda for the Presidency and plans to organize other high-level events, including the “Future of European Waters” Conference (24–25 March 2011) and the Danube Hydrological Conference “Tradition and development in water science” (16–17 June 2011).

The workshop was also part of the preparations of the second Assessment of transboundary rivers, lakes and groundwaters, currently being developed under the Water Convention for the Seventh “Environment for Europe” Ministerial Conference that will be held from 21 to 23 September 2011 in Astana, Kazakhstan.

Workshop participants worked together to develop an accurate picture of all transboundary waters of the region and exchanged views on the main political messages from Western and Central Europe to the Seventh Ministerial Conference.

Participants strongly called for the fulfilment of commitments, and in particular for the implementation of the measures included in the newly developed river basin management plans. Stronger transboundary cooperation between riparian countries was considered crucial to address emerging challenges such as climate change impacts on water resources. These considerations will support the water policy objectives of the Hungarian EU Presidency and the future European water policy.

For further information please visit: http://www.unece.org/env/water/

or contact:

Ms. Annukka Lipponen
UNECE Water Convention Secretariat
Phone: +41 (0)22 917 2666
E-mail: annukka.lipponen@unece.org

Ms. Maria Galambos
Ministry of Rural Development of Hungary
Phone: +36 30 932 7916
E-mail: maria.galambos.molnarne@vm.gov.hu

Note to Editors:

The second Assessment of Transboundary Rivers, Lakes and Groundwaters is being prepared for the Seventh Ministerial Conference that will be held in 2011 in Astana, Kazakhstan. As sustainable management of water and water-related ecosystems is one of the two main themes of the Ministerial Conference, the Second Assessment will be one of the key inputs to it. The second Assessment will illustrate the status of all transboundary waters in the region, both surface and groundwater, highlight legal, institutional and socio-economic aspects and emphasize cross-cutting themes, in particular the impacts of and adaptation to climate change. The second Assessment will provide an authoritative picture of the state of transboundary waters and identify joint priorities and challenges. It will be a powerful tool to inform, guide and stimulate further action by Governments, river basin organizations, the international community, including donors, and relevant non-governmental organizations. The Assessment is based on information provided by the countries of the region through nominated national experts. Where active, river basin and lake commissions also play an important role in providing a balanced and accurate view of pertinent issues within basins. The second Assessment is being prepared by subregions.

Ref: ECE/ENV/11/P02