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Recent Activities in Serbia

By Tina Savic (Serbian Ministry of Agriculture and Environmental Protection)

The Serbian Ministry of Agriculture and Environmental Protection continues to be active in its march towards better environmental governance and approximation to the EU acquis. This article provides an overview of the most relevant initiatives in progress.

Recent activities

In order to facilitate the implementation of regulations in the field of water protection, the project “New approach to water protection in the Republic of Serbia” was implemented by the Department for Water Protection with the support of the OSCE. In the framework of this capacity-building activity, a series of presentations was delivered in order to clarify legal obligations in the field of water protection, as well as possibilities for financing infrastructure projects for wastewater treatment. Presentations were given in 18 towns, municipalities and Aarhus Centres in Serbia, attracting great interest among the public. Two additional workshops were held in November 2014 in Belgrade. The first workshop was for representatives of institutions that issue water permits and IPPC permits; and the second was for representatives of the Environmental and Water Inspectorate. The workshops aimed to improve understanding of water protection regulations and their application when preparing permits and carrying out inspections.

In terms of regional projects, Serbia is also involved in the Environment and Climate Regional Accession Network (ECRAN). Its mission is to strengthen regional cooperation between EU candidate countries and potential candidates in the fields of environment and climate action and to assist their progress in the transposition and implementation of the EU environment and climate acquis. The Division for Water Protection of the Serbian Ministry of Agriculture and Environmental Protection's Department of Natural Resources is part of the Water Management Working Group (WMWG). The tasks of the WMWG focus mainly on strengthening the technical capacities of the competent authorities in ECRAN beneficiary countries for the implementation of the Water Framework Directive (WFD), and specifically on providing assistance in the development of transboundary river basin management plans (RBMPs) and performing economic and financial analyses of programmes of measures. In addition, the WMWG provides a framework for capacity building on interlinkages between the WFD and the Marine Strategy Framework Directive.

The second ECRAN annual meeting and the third screening workshop for the pilot Drina River basin took place in Podgorica, Montenegro, on March 11 and 12, 2015. In the framework of the WMWG, assistance is being provided within this project for the development of transboundary RBMPs for the pilot site. The first screening workshop aimed to establish a common understanding of basic terms and definitions, the different policies and regulatory frameworks, as well as differences in the delegation of responsibilities, for the development, adoption, implementation and control of the programme of measures. The results of the first assessment were presented at the workshop.

The second screening workshop emphasised the crucial role of regular monitoring for reliable and rational water resources governance, and the group was therefore encouraged to initiate and support additional investments in its improvement. An extension of the status-pressure-impact link to the simulation of the expected effects of the programme of measures was presented in order to encourage beneficiary countries to explore the cumulative effects of properly designed programmes of measures as a step towards the rationalisation of costs. Based on the results of the assessment of screening templates and practical work during the second screening workshop, the first outline of the programme of measures concept for the Drina River basin will be prepared.

In the framework of French–Serbian cooperation, a seminar on water issues was organised in March 2015. The main results of the seminar were proposals for concrete areas of possible future cooperation (such as organisational, technical, financial and other aspects of river basin management, the establishment of surface water and groundwater monitoring, the implementation of the UWWT and Nitrates directives), through which French partners will help their Serbian counterparts on the path to European integration.

The EU environmental acquis

Directive 2008/105/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 16 December 2008 on Environmental Quality Standards in the Field of Water Policy, as amended by Directive 2013/39/EU, has been partly transposed mainly by the Law on Waters; and the Regulation on Limit Values of Priority and Priority Hazardous Substances Polluting Surface Water and Deadlines for Their Achievement (OG of RS, No. 24/2014). Full transposition will be achieved by amendments to the law and regulation, expected by 2018.

Directive 2006/118/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 12 December 2006 on the Protection of Groundwater against Pollution and Deterioration is partially transposed by the Law on Waters (OG of RS, No 30/10, 93/12); the Regulation on Limit Values of Pollutants in Surface Waters, Groundwaters and Sediment and Timelines for Reaching the Values (OG of RS, No. 50/12); and the Rulebook on the Parameters of the Ecological and Chemical Status of Surface Waters, and the Quantitative and Chemical Status of Groundwaters (OG of RS, No 74/11). Full transposition will be achieved by amendments to the law, regulation and rulebook, expected by 2018.

The Water Framework Directive (2000/60/EC)has been partially transposed by the Law on Waters (OG of RS No. 30/10 and 93/12); the Decision on the Designation of Water District Boundaries (OG of RS No. 75/10); the Rulebook on Reference Conditions for the Types of Surface Waters (OG of RS No. 67/11); the Rulebook on the Designation of Surface Water and Groundwater Bodies (OG of RS No. 96/10); the Regulation on Limit Values of Pollutants in Surface Waters, Groundwaters and Sediment and Timelines for Reaching the Values (OG of RS No. 50/12); the Regulation on Limit Values of Priority and Priority Hazardous Substances Polluting Surface Water and Deadlines for Their Achievement (OG RS, No. 24/14); the Rulebook on Parameters of the Ecological and Chemical Status of Surface Waters, and Quantitative and Chemical Status of Groundwaters (OG of RS No. 74/11); and the Regulation on the Establishment of the Water Status Monitoring Programme (OG of RS No. 100/12, OG of RS No. 43/13 and OG of RS No. 85/14). Full transposition by amendments to the Law on Waters and secondary legislation is expected by 2018.

Council Directive 91/271/EEC of 21 May 1991 concerning urban wastewater treatment, amended by Directive 98/15/EC and Regulations (EC) 1882/2003 and (EC) 1137/2008, is partially transposed into national legislation by the Law on Waters (OG of RS No. 30/2010, 93/2012); the Regulation on emission limit values in waters and deadlines for their achievement (OG of RS No. 67/2011, 48/2012); and the Regulation on threshold values of pollutants in surface waters, groundwaters and sediment and deadlines for their achievement (OG of RS No. 50/2012). Full transposition is expected by 2018.

Other important developments include:

  • The ongoing pre-arrangements for the formation of the working group for the preparation of amendments to the Rulebook on surface water ecological and chemical parameters and groundwater parameters of quantitative and chemical status.
  • The preparation of draft amendments to the Law on Waters, which is now in its final phase. These amendments provide for the transposition of certain provisions of the Environmental Quality Standards, Drinking Water and Groundwater directives and the legal basis for sensitive areas and vulnerable zones. They are due to be adopted by the end of 2015.
  • The process of obtaining opinions on the draft Regulation on the establishment of the water status monitoring programme for the year 2015. The regulation is expected to be adopted in 2015.
  • The ongoing work on the Water Management Plan for the Danube River Basin (Serbia). It is due to be adopted in 2015.

Liability Directive

A meeting of the working group for the preparation of the draft Law on Environmental Liability was held in December in the framework of the Policy and Legal Advice Centre (PLAC) project. Based on the information presented at the bilateral screening meeting, the full transposition of Directive 2004/35/CE is scheduled for 2017. The preparation of the draft law is ongoing and the first draft has been sent to the working group for comments.

A representative of the civil sector is a member of the working group for the preparation of the draft Law on Environmental Liability. Public consultations for economic operators, NGOs and the public concerned on the draft law were held at the Chamber of Commerce on March 13, and at the Novi Sad Aarhus Centre on April 24 with the support of the PLAC project.

Nature protection

The Habitats Directive (92/43EEZ) has almost entirely been transposed through the relevant law and bylaws, while complete transposition will be achieved on accession, when the network of protected areas established in accordance with the requirements of the relevant directives formally becomes an integral part of the European ecological network Natura 2000. The Birds Directive is fully transposed. Protected areas in Serbia currently cover 6.37 percent of the country's territory. The Spatial Plan of the Republic of Serbia (OG of RS No. 88/10) stipulates that, by 2020, about 10 percent of Serbia should be protected. In the framework of the expansion of protected areas and the ecological network, including Natura 2000, new protected areas were established in 2014 at republic, provincial and local level.

In order to improve the transposition and implementation of the Habitats and Birds directives, various legal acts and activities are foreseen:

  • Draft Law on Amendments to the Law on Nature Protection (2016)
  • Draft Decree on Appropriate Assessment (2015)
  • Amendments to the Decree on Ecological Networks (2015)
  • Amendments to the Rulebook on the Proclamation and Protection of Strictly Protected and Protected Wild Species of Plants, Animals and Fungi (2015)
  • Amendments to relevant sectoral laws (the Law on SEA, Law on EIA, Law on Fishing, and Law on Waters) will be considered in order to assess the compliance of the procedures and mechanisms required for the proper implementation of the Habitats Directive
  • The Decree on Ecological Networks (adopted in 2010) determines the protection, management and financing of ecological networks and/or ecologically important areas and ecological corridors of national and international significance, including Emerald and Natura 2000
  • The Biodiversity Strategy of the Republic of Serbia for the period 2011 to 2018 is currently being revised according to the global Strategic Plan 2011-2020 of the Convention on Biological Diversity (under the UNDP/GEF project “National Biodiversity Planning to Support the Implementation of the CBD 2011-2020 Strategic Plan in the Republic of Serbia)
  • Within the CARDs project “Development of the Emerald Network in Serbia”, 61 sites have been selected and the EU IPA twinning project "Strengthening Administrative Capacities for Protected Areas in Serbia (Natura 2000)" was recently closed

Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES)

The management authority for CITES is responsible for coordinating the implementation of the convention and of wildlife trade regulations, including the coordination and training of the relevant enforcement authorities on issues related to wildlife trade. As the management authority, the Group for CITES Implementation has established a system of contact points for issues related to wildlife trade in all the enforcement authorities and within the office of the public prosecutor.

The Republic of Serbia has been a party to CITES since 2002 and has progressively developed a number of legislative acts since the ratification of the convention in order to improve the implementation of its provisions. A significant number of legal acts have been developed and in great part harmonised with the EU Wildlife Trade Regulations, and only limited work is required on the legislation gap analysis. Major efforts are, however, required to increase the capacities of enforcement authorities to be able to fully implement the provisions of national wildlife trade legislation. The development of national legislation for the implementation of CITES provisions has been slow. The Law on Environmental Protection (2004) and the subsequent Law on Nature Protection (in 2009) and bylaws established the legal basis for regulating wildlife trade.

With this in mind, ensuring efficient wildlife trade control is a priority as it constitutes an essential aspect of preserving biodiversity at local, regional and global level. The Republic of Serbia is home to a significant number of species of wild fauna and flora that are listed as protected by CITES and by national and EU legislation. Serbia is geographically located in a region that is considered to be strategically important in terms of the illegal traffic of endemic and exotic wildlife. In addition, Serbia has land borders with four EU member states and four other countries, which makes the efficiency of wildlife trade control and enforcement a priority not only for Serbia, but for the EU as well.

As wildlife trade control is a very diverse and complex topic, all the authorities responsible for ensuring the enforcement of the provisions of international agreements and national legislation require a significant improvement in their capacities in order to efficiently control legal transboundary movements and trade, and internal trade and possession, and to sanction illegal activities related to protected species of wild fauna and flora.

The Guidebook on the Control of the Transboundary Movement of and Trade in Protected Species contains 146 illustrated pages and is intended to increase the capacities of enforcement officers. It was developed by the CITES management authority in 2011 with funding from the CITES Secretariat).

The Danube

Most of the territory of Serbia (more than 90 percent) falls within the Danube River basin.

Bilateral cooperation:

  • Agreements on active bilateral cooperation with Hungary and Romania date back to 1955. New agreements are needed.
  • Bilateral cooperation with Bulgaria is not active. The existing agreement dates back to 1958 but there has been no cooperation since 1982. A new agreement is needed.
  • There are no agreements at present with neighbouring internationally recognised states (Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia). Following the break-up of the former Yugoslavia, shared rivers and groundwater resources acquired transboundary status, which requires the establishment of intergovernmental and international cooperation in the field of water.

Multilateral cooperation:

  • Serbia became a party to the Convention on the Protection and Sustainable Use of the Danube River (Sofia Convention, 1994) in 2003.
  • Framework Agreement on the Sava River Basin (2002).
  • Serbia became a party to the UN Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes (Helsinki Water Convention, 1992) in 2010.
  • In the framework of the International Commission for the Protection of the Danube River (ICPDR), Serbia participates in the river basin management expert group, the monitoring and assessment expert group, the pressures and measures expert group, the groundwater task group, and the climate change team.