Once Serbia joins the European Union, its citizens will find themselves in a community sharing the same high values regarding environmental protection.
In your opinion, what are the biggest ecological problems in Serbia?
Decades in which values and prosperity have been created based on the principles of traditional economic models have not managed to bring about a change in the increasing excessive consumption of natural resources, or to overcome marginalization of environmental problems. This diagnosis applies to the entire Western Balkans region. In my opinion, in spite of some good projects relevant to the environmental sector, the biggest problem facing Serbia, as well as all countries in the region, is the "position" this sector finds itself in: namely, it is just not a priority problem.
Serbia is facing one of the toughest chapters in the negotiation process with the EU, Chapter 27, which relates to environmental issues. What steps is Serbia undertaking in order to prepare for the opening of this chapter?
Serbia has been dedicated to the question of membership in the EU for the past 14 years. The environmental protection sector has always been, and still remains, a great challenge, particularly in view of our heritage. I can say that the improvement made is obvious. However, many issues remain unsolved.
In 2012 Serbia became a candidate for EU membership, and on January 21st, 2014 official negotiations on accession began. The negotiation process on environment protection in Serbia began with the explanatory screening in September 2014, to be followed by a bilateral screening in November 2015. The screening report is expected to be presented in the course of 2015. Progress towards the EU in reference to the environmental sector (and climate changes) varies from limited improvement (2005) to moderate improvement (2006), small improvement (2008, 2013, 2014), some improvement (2012), good improvement (2011), introduction of an ambitious legislative program (2002-2004), and good improvement (2009, 2010).
Getting back to the question, Serbia has been preparing and is ready for opening negotiations on Chapter 27. I strongly feel that the following message should be sent out: it is of great importance that experts with adequate knowledge, skills and experience be included in this process, as well as that efficient coordination with other sectors is ensured.
What is the significance of events like the 4th International Miteco for this process?
I support the intent of the Miteco Forum to bring together professionals and experts, along with government officials, representatives of international organizations, and everyone interested in the topic. I am happy to have had the chance to share the thoughts voiced at the European Forum, recently held in Berlin, regarding resources. There, I talked about promoting sustainable use of natural resources, as well as climate changes. Part of my presentation was a brief introduction to the auditorium of the Miteco Forum.
The significance of the Miteco Forum is that it is becoming a "family gathering" of professionals interested in environmental and waste issues. I am pleased to see among the participants my colleagues, supporters, former and present students, but ordinary citizens as well.
In your opinion, what would be a good model for solving the problems of industrial and hazardous waste in companies in the restructuring process?
It is well known that I became engaged in the environmental sector through my work dealing with hazardous waste. For years, I was a technical expert for issues relating to the Basel Convention.
I support the main principles of preventive and ecological measures as a prerequisite for the well-being of future generations. What I don't support is the standpoint that "one model suits all" in solving historical and present pollution related to industrial and hazardous waste in companies that are in the process of ownership change.
Serving as guidelines could be the principles of environmental protection, combined with feasible technical solutions. For the time being, for countries that don't have a licensed facility for treating hazardous waste, the technically feasible solution is exporting the hazardous waste (as is the practice in Serbia). It must be understood that in the case of change of ownership of a company, that issue should be included in the proposed solutions, along with a decision on who is to pay for it all.
What are the environmental protection benefits Serbia can look forward to after joining the EU?
When Serbia joins the European Union, its citizens will find themselves in a community sharing the same high values regarding environmental protection.
Strengthening the environmental protection sector, including the promotion of knowledge-based activities, strengthening of expert capacities, as well as investment in the infrastructure which supports all types of sustainable development, creating jobs, all these challenges are before us. We have to position the ecological sector a lot higher on the development list.