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Recommendation 100 (2001)1 on management of transboundary water resources in Europe Strengthening the capacity of territorial authorities for a co-operation and sustainable integrated management

The Congress, bearing in mind the proposal of the Chamber of Regions,

1. Recalling:

a. the Strasbourg Declaration: Relearning about Water, adopted by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in 1998, which stated that “the management of water and all its uses presents a political, economic, cultural and social challenge around which the contours of tomorrow’s Europe are being drawn”;

b. the fact that the European Union launched its Water Framework Directive (WFD) on 22 December 2000, which aims to ensure overall co-ordination of water policy in the EU by introducing the principle of integrated water management at the river basin level, and encourages efficient and effective water protection at the local level by providing for a common approach and unified objectives, principles, definitions and basic measures;

c. that the Danube River basin is of particular relevance because of the impact of political transition in the central and eastern European countries and the interrelationship between natural resources management, economic growth and democratic stability;

d. the problems of how to co-operate over and share the water of transboundary watercourses in the Danube basin, which contains eighteen basin states at different stages of economic and political development, are unique, but the experience gained in other basins, particularly the Rhine River should be taken into account;

2. Observing:

a. the lack of co-ordination in transboundary water management among the regions of the Danube basin, which is leading to difficulties in the control of, among other factors, pollution and flooding;

b. the risk that conflicts may arise, as they have done in the past, among water users and/or between neighbouring basin countries, due to diversion or contamination of the shared watercourse;

3. Concerned:

a. by the serious problems which have recently arisen in the Danube basin, particularly those caused by the conflict in the Balkans and the Baia Mare cyanide contamination, which have proven that the mechanisms for rapid information exchange and co-ordinated action already in place are inadequate to prevent serious transboundary contamination;

b. by the many changes in water-related policy and legislation at national level that are already taking place in central and east European countries – and which will increase in response to the EU’s Water Framework Directive – considers that these changes should pay due attention to transboundary and environmental concerns, and be formulated with the active participation of civil society;

c. by the fact that local and regional authorities who do not always have adequate access to information or training in sustainable integrated water management;

4. Highlighting:

a. the importance of integrated water management for central and east European countries in meeting the environmental and social requirements for accession to the European Union;

b. that non-discriminatory public participation in water resources management and policy-making is an essential element in any democratic state;

5. Considering that:

a. in the complex management of transboundary river basins, local and regional authorities are currently faced with three main issues concerning water management: pollution control, privatisation of water services, and involvement and information of the public;

b. although the establishment of rules and standards to limit pollution is often the role of national governments, the responsibility for the implementation of these rules usually rests with regional and local bodies;

c. water supply has traditionally been managed on a local or regional level by government authorities, but now public entities, particularly in urban areas, are facing the controversial question of whether, and how, their water supply should be privatised;

d. these issues have transboundary impacts, since pollution and contamination do not stop at national borders and privatisation is often driven by international companies;

e. the management of transboundary water resources is closely related to: the questions of water as a human right; the issue of subsidiarity; the challenge of including stakeholders in the decision-making process through public participation and information; the environmental protection;

f. the Council of Europe, as a promoter of democratic decision-making and human rights throughout Europe, is therefore the appropriate institution to take the lead in this area;

6. Welcoming:

a. the work of, among others, the Danube Commission and the Environmental Programme for the Danube River Basin, and recognising the value of the Convention on Co-operation for the Protection and Sustainable Use of the Danube River;

b. the role which Green Cross International proposes to play in gathering information, analysing the current decision making system and helping create a situation conducive to participatory integrated management and co-operation among the nations and regions of the Danube basin,

7. Recommends that the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe call on the governments of the member states:

a. to promote the strengthening of transboundary and interregional co-operation in the European river basins through stronger information exchange mechanisms, and co-ordination of different initiatives;

b. to assist local and regional authorities to establish awareness raising and public participation programmes;

c. to encourage a greater European unity and an improved water policy through the sharing of experiences in water management and conflict resolution procedures between western, central and east European countries. This should include understanding of the history of co-operation and joint management of the European rivers, the development of national and regional laws, the issue of privatisation, and of the role of local authorities and water boards in the different European countries;

d. to facilitate the process of central and east European countries aligning themselves to the WFD by providing nationally- and regionally-specific advice to policy-makers and to the public with regard to the potential impact and benefits which an integrated water resources management can bring, and by considering the necessary course of action which must be taken to achieve sustainable and participatory management in a transboundary context;

e.
to recognise the singular importance of resolving existing serious water problems in the economic and social transition of Danube basin countries on the way to becoming full members of the European Union, and the need to provide support in establishing an integrated, transboundary system of management.

1 Debated and approved by the Chamber of Regions on 30 May 2001 and adopted by the Standing Committee of the Congress on 31 May 2001 (see Doc. CPR (8) 3, draft recommendation presented by Ms C. Jacobs, rapporteur).

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