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Sofia Conference

Third Ministerial Conference "Environment for Europe"

23 - 25 October 1995


The Third Ministerial Conference "Environment for Europe" was held in Sofia (Bulgaria), from 23 to 25 October 1995. It was attended by Ministers of Environment from 49 countries from Europe, North America and Central Asia (the UN/ECE region) and from Australia, Japan and Mexico. A representative of the European Communities also attended.

The agenda of this Conference was already decided upon at by the Ministers at the second Conference in Lucerne, 1993, to include a review of the implementation of the Environmental Action Programme for Central and Eastern Europe and the further development of the Environmental Programme for Europe. The Conference Agenda also included subjects such as industry and environment, finance, and the setting of new priorities.

In the Ministerial Declaration (EnFrRu), adopted on 25 October 1995, the Ministers reaffirmed their commitment to cooperation in the field of environmental protection in Europe, based on the principles decided upon at the Second Conference in Lucerne. They underlined the urgent need for further integration of environmental considerations into all sectorial policies, so that economic growth takes place in accordance with principles of sustainable development. The key issues contained in the declaration were as follows (the main conclusions under each heading can be found in the full text of the Declaration):

(a) Implementation of the Environmental Action Programme for central and eastern Europe (EAP);
(b) Environmental financing in central and eastern European countries;
(c) Business, industry and environment;
(d) Biological and landscape diversity;
(e) Environmental and nuclear issues;
(f) Environmental Programme for Europe;
(g) Public participation;
(h) Regional Environmental Centres, and
(i) Environmental conventions.

As for future action, the Ministers agreed that the "Environment for Europe" process remains essential as a political framework for cooperation in the field of environmental protection in Europe. The structure of the process must enable all countries of the European region to play a full and equal part and take account of related activities at the pan-European level, notably on environment and health, environment and transport, and sustainable management of forests, in order to create synergies and avoid duplication of efforts. The following concrete actions were recommended: 

The ECE Committee on Environmental Policy should screen the Environmental Programme for Europe in order to make proposals for concrete priority actions;

A regional Convention on Public Participation should be developed with appropriate involvement of NGOs;

The EAP Task Force and the PPC should continue their work;

The follow-up of the Pan-European Biological and Landscape Diversity Strategy should be pursued; The European Environment Agency should carry out further work on the pan-European state of the environment assessment.

The Ministers acknowledged the large extent of work done to date in the framework of the "Environment for Europe" process and the important role of the Economic Commission for Europe in overseeing it in close cooperation with relevant agencies. In view of the preparations for the fourth Conference, the Ministers agreed to simplify and streamline this complex process. They recommended that a preparatory Ad Hoc Working Group of Senior Officials be established at the next meeting of the ECE Committee on Environmental Policy. Furthermore, an Executive Committee should be established to prepare the work of this Working Group, composed of three senior officials from the central and eastern European countries and three senior officials from the western European countries. Denmark's offer to host the next Conference in 1998 was welcomed.