The secretariat of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe warmly welcomes the recent announcements by the Russian President, Dmitry Medvedev, that the Russian government will ratify two important UNECE environmental conventions: the Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment in a Transboundary Context (known as the Espoo Convention) and the Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-making and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters (known as the Aarhus Convention).
Jan Kubis, UNECE Executive Secretary said: "I was delighted to read President Medvedev's declarations. The processes laid down in the Aarhus and Espoo Conventions will contribute to help the Russian authorities improve environmental management. As demonstrated in the case of the Nord Stream gas pipeline project, these will also contribute to increased dialogue and cooperation with neighbouring countries on important infrastructure projects. This is a very positive development for our entire region".
The Russian President's announcements follow a recent seminar between the European Union and the Russian Federation to review the application of the Espoo Convention to the Nord Stream gas pipeline under the Baltic Sea. That seminar was followed by a meeting between UNECE and the Russian State Atomic Energy Corporation, Rosatom, at which the company declared its readiness to notify and consult neighbouring States about its nuclear power plans within the framework of the Convention.
The announcements are very timely for both Conventions. Espoo Convention governments are meeting in Geneva this week for the fifth Meeting of the Parties to that Convention. Coincidentally, Parties to the Aarhus Convention will meet next week, in Chisinau, Moldova, to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the entry into force of that Convention.
As a Member State the Russian Federation plays an important role in a number of UNECE processes, such as the UNECE's Committee on Sustainable Energy and the UNECE Committee on Environmental Policy. The UNECE secretariat is looking forward to the positive contribution the Russian Federation will make as Party to the Espoo and Aarhus Conventions once the ratification processes are complete. The UNECE secretariat notes the valuable contribution made already in these processes over a number of years by Russian civil society.
Note to editors
The Aarhus Convention is considered the leading instrument globally on environment and human rights. It was described by former United Nations Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, as the most ambitious venture in the area of environmental democracy so far undertaken under the auspices of the United Nations. The Convention was signed in 1998 and entered into force in 2001. It has 44 Parties from across the UNECE region, including 43 States and the European Union.
The Espoo Convention lays down the general obligation of States to notify and consult each other on all major projects under consideration that are likely to have a significant adverse environmental impact across boundaries. The Espoo Convention was signed in 1991 and entered into force in 1997. It currently has 45 Parties from across the region, including 44 States as well as the European Union.