ENVSEC in SEE
Security in South Eastern Europe (SEE) is becoming more and more consolidated, although controversial environmental issues such as the management of transboundary hazardous activities, the management of shared natural resources and the emergence of new and unexpected transboundary risks caused by the impacts of climate change threaten the growing cohesion between these countries.
The SEE region is mainly affected by heavy industrial pollution, including pollution from the mining sector; urban pollution; intensive agriculture; and a lack of water technology and infrastructure. In addition, the use and management of shared natural resources such as transboundary lakes and rivers, mountain forests and biodiversity (e.g. in the Dinaric Arc and Balkan Mountains) can be seen both as challenges and as opportunities for cooperation.
Until recently, environmental issues did not feature among the top priorities on the political agendas of SEE countries, most of which were affected by the Yugoslav Wars in the 1990s. The violent conflict added to the barriers to economic growth posed by isolation from the global economy and the transition from a planned, socialist economy to a free market economy. Low economic growth resulted in a search for the cheapest operating principles, which in turn are extremely hazardous to the environment. Unsustainable mining techniques, for example, resulted in serious pollution throughout the region, while unsustainable agricultural, hunting and forestry practices exploited natural resources and threatened the region’s biodiversity.
The focus of ENVSEC work in SEE corresponds to the initiative’s three main pillars:
- carrying out in-depth vulnerability assessments, ensuring early warning and monitoring environment and security risks;
- improving awareness of the interrelation between the environment and security, strengthening environmental policies, and improving the capacities and roles of environmental institutions; and
- providing technical expertise and mobilising financial support for clean-up and remediation.
Priority fields of action for SEE were developed jointly by the ENVSEC partners and national consultants in close cooperation with representatives of national governments during regional consultations, the first of which was held in Skopje in 2004. The priorities are:
- the management and reduction of transboundary risks from hazardous activities;
- the management of shared natural resources;
- strengthening regional cooperation on environmental governance through participatory and informed decision-making and implementation processes; and
- adaptation to the impacts of climate change in order to reduce security risks.