Germany is actively engaged in EU Twinning activities to support institution building in the countries of Central and Eastern Europe, the Western Balkans, the Southern and Eastern Mediterranean region and the New Independent States. The aim of Twinning is to help new EU member states, accession candidates and EU neighbouring states bring their legislation in line with EU law (or acquis communautaire), build up structures necessary for its implementation and strengthen administrative capacities. Experts, primarily from the authorities of the German Federation and the Länder, are seconded for up to two years to partner countries, where they conduct projects jointly with the local authorities. Environmental protection is one of the instrument's main priorities, in addition to economic issues, agriculture and internal affairs. Germany is one of the most active member states in the environmental sector. Between 1998 and August 2016, the German Environment Ministry (BMUB) took part in more than 80 Twinning projects on environmental issues with a total budget of more than 80 million euros, acting as the project leader in most cases.
Germany’s committed involvement in the field of environmental protection prioritises projects on air and water monitoring, waste disposal and waste legislation, Integrated Pollution Prevention and Control (IPPC), general support for the development of environmental strategies, the establishment of structural funds and general institution building. At present, the BMUB is collaborating on projects with Israel and Serbia.
Twinning projects are financed with EU funds under the Instrument for Pre-Accession (IPA) for accession candidates and under the European Neighbourhood Instrument (ENI) for New Independent States and the Southern and Eastern Mediterranean regions.
Twinning projects are drafted and put out to tender by IPA /ENI states in consultation with the European Commission. The projects are awarded at the end of a competitive process in which interested administrative bodies from the EU member states draw up proposals and present them in the countries where the projects will run. It is also possible for several EU countries to form a consortium. Once a project partner has been selected, a comprehensive contract between the two countries is drafted to regulate the work plan for the project and its substantive content.
Twinning projects in the new EU member states
In the first years of the Twinning programme, projects focused on the fundamental EU accession criteria. The main cross-cutting priorities were legislative approximation, institution building and the development of environmental strategies. Sectoral activities concentrated on the development of monitoring capacities. However, the ten states that joined the EU in 2004 have largely completed the transposition of EU environmental legislation into national law and established the most important administrative structures. For a certain time, it was still possible for the new EU member states to put Twinning projects out to tender under the Transition Facility, but this instrument has now been phased out. However, the new EU member states may bid to act as EU partners in Twinning projects and so pass on their own experience of preparing for EU accession.
Bulgaria and Romania joined the EU on 1 January 2007. They have transposed most of the legal instruments in the environmental sector. Transitional periods were only agreed in a few fields that require heavy investment such as waste recovery, wastewater management and air quality control. Apart from fulfilling their legal obligations, the new member states also have to create the necessary structures to gain access to EU financial assistance. This is the only way for them to raise the funds they urgently require in order to comply with EU environmental standards. Since 1998, Bulgaria has put out to tender and conducted Twinning projects intended to support institution building. Romania has made intensive use of the programme as well, in particular to push forward the establishment of its regional environmental protection agencies. Germany supported both countries intensively in their preparation for EU accession with a total of 26 projects on a broad range of environmental issues. This support has continued after accession.
Croatia joined the EU on 1 July 2013. Over the past few years, Croatia has increasingly made use of the Twinning instrument to introduce EU standards. Between September 2007 and August 2009, the BMUB helped Croatian water management authorities prepare for the implementation of the Water Framework Directive via a Twinning project.
Twinning and the EU's new Neighbourhood Policy
Originally designed as an instrument that would guide new members into the EU, Twinning has in the meantime developed into an institution building instrument that is also used outside the immediate context of the accession process. Under the European Neighbourhood Policy Instrument (ENPI), Twinning has been gradually extended to the EU’s eastern neighbours and the Mediterranean region since 2007. Since 2014, the new ENI programme (European Neighbourhood Instrument) has replaced ENPI for cooperation with EU neighbours. Especially in the context of transboundary environmental pollution, it is important to create opportunities for cooperation between EU member states and non-EU countries and to support neighbouring states in necessary capacity building. The 2003 Twinning project between the Federal Environment Ministry and Ukraine served this purpose. The BMUB's first project with Egypt – on waste management – ran from the end of 2008 to spring 2011. From January 2013 to February 2015, the BMUB implemented its first Twinning project in the South Caucasus with the aim of helping the Armenian Ministry of Nature Protection to introduce an IPPC system. A Twinning project geared towards supporting the introduction of EU construction standards was launched in Azerbaijan in mid-2014 – the first Twinning project in the building sector since building became part of the BMUB portfolio following the government reshuffle at the beginning of 2014. The project ended in December 2015.
A Twinning project with Israel’s Ministry of Environmental Protection to support the introduction of an IPPC system and a Pollutant Release and Transfer Register (PRTR) was completed in February 2015. At the beginning of 2015, a German-Austrian-British consortium was awarded a contract for a Twinning project aimed at supporting the modernisation of environmental regulatory tools for Israeli industry. The project started in June 2015.
Twinning projects in EU accession candidate countries
At present, the official candidate countries Albania, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Turkey are preparing for accession to the EU. The BMUB has so far been focusing its Twinning activities on Turkey, which still has a great deal to do in terms of building up the capacities necessary for the effective administration of the environmental sector. Work has been undertaken on the introduction of regulated waste disposal structures, the improvement of air quality, noise protection and the protection of the country’s rich natural resources. Serbia and Macedonia are also increasingly using the Twinning instrument to adapt to EU standards. The Federal Environment Ministry has completed four Twinning projects with Serbia, one of Germany’s partners in the International Commission for the Protection of the Danube River, that focused on implementation of the Water Framework Directive, expansion of administrative capacities for implementing air quality management, assistance in the implementation of a management system for chemicals and introduction of the EU Emissions Trading Directive. An additional project with German cooperation is currently underway in Serbia with the aim of improving hazardous waste management.
Sixteen years of experience with Twinning projects in the environmental sector have shown that the committed work is worthwhile for both sides. German administrative experts who specialise in the implementation of European legislation and have vast experience in organising and reforming administrative structures at different levels can help their counterparts in partner countries understand precisely those everyday administrative activities that are often not covered by classical technical assistance. Daily cooperation on these projects fosters long-term partnerships with the country in question, strengthening bilateral contacts beyond the Twinning project and creating channels of communication for cooperation in other policy areas and economic sectors. In this way, Germany can make targeted contributions to environmentally friendly development in the accession states and the EU neighbouring countries.