The EU and local governments in the fight against marine pollution
The European Commission's Technical Assistance and Information Exchange Instrument-TAIEX and the Municipality of Budva organised a two-day workshop "Plastic Waste Management-Combating Marine Pollution" for the needs of municipalities on the Montenegrin coast, which was attended by representatives of public institutions, local authorities, and the NGO sector involved in the field of waste management.
Along with Albania, Montenegro is the biggest polluter of the Adriatic Sea with plastic, which was pointed out at the workshop itself. Plastic pollution in the Adriatic Sea is one of the priorities of the European Commission and will be discussed in the coming period, during a series of conferences in the Western Balkans, dedicated to plastic waste management on land and the sea.
"80% of waste in the sea comes from the land and therefore it is necessary to start building regional landfills. This year, Montenegro expects the adoption of a new waste management plan and the establishment of a supervisory body that will supervise waste treatment in accordance with the invented legislation," said Dusan Bugarin, the Director of the Ecology Directorate of the Ministry of Urbanism and Ecology.
Sladjana Gvozdenovic Nikolic from the Institute of Marine Biology, the only scientific research institution in Montenegro that collects and analyses data from the sea and coast, as well as monitors the state of biodiversity, presented the results of measuring plastic waste in the Adriatic Sea. The Institute conducted this research in collaboration with colleagues from Italy, Albania, and Croatia through EU funds and instruments (DeFishGear, Plastic Busters, Adopt a Beach, MEDITS, and Fishing for Litter (FFL). Gvozdenović-Nikolić emphasised that preventive action and more efficient inter-municipal and regional cooperation are needed, as well as stronger connections between state and local institutions.
It was emphasised that one of the key problems of Montenegro is the lack of recycling and the lack of quality policies to stimulate recycling in order to achieve the goal of increasing the share of recycling in waste management to 50% by 2030.
EU expert Christof Delatter, Head of the Strategy and Policy Department of the Flanders Waste Management Agency, emphasised that one of Belgium's key successes in waste management was its impact on reducing household waste production through various legislations and quality campaigns. In Belgium, municipalities are responsible for the treatment of household waste and their success in relation to EU regulations is reflected in inter-municipal cooperation, Delatter said.
EU expert Stefan Trdan, from the Water Institute of Slovenia, explained the importance of collecting data related to waste management and the way in which municipalities should manage this data. Trdan pointed out the need for constant education, whether it is about the treatment of marine waste, or whether it is about the coordination of cleaning actions by institutions. According to Trdan, these actions would be more than a one-time waste disposal and would be oriented towards lasting and sustainable results.
The head of the department for monitoring marine waste in the Ministry of Ecology, Ivana Stojanović reiterated the need for a stronger connection between all institutions, but also the need to actively involve the NGO sector in this cooperation. Workshop participants pointed out the problems they face together, the need to improve the general environment for recycling through the opening of recycling centres, the purchase of secondary raw materials, and motivating citizens to reduce the use of disposable plastic.
At the invitation of the Committee of the Regions, the European Commission launched a pilot technical assistance and information exchange scheme (TAIEX) in 2018 to support local authorities in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Serbia. From 2021, the TAIEX strategic support to local governments was extended to all Western Balkan countries. The Initiative supports: capacity building in areas relevant to the local government's mandate to promote good governance and socio-economic development; effective provision of local services to citizens, accountability, and transparency; and cooperation with local communities and businesses. The initiatives will focus in particular on topics aligned with the priorities and implementation of the European Investment Plan.
The Western Balkans region is a priority for the European Union and the Commission. The Western Balkans Economic and Investment Plan will mobilise up to €9 billion in EU funds for investments in areas such as transport, energy, and green and digital transition. This will create sustainable growth, and new jobs. TAIEX's strategic support to local authorities will complement this investment, assisting local authorities in their efforts to improve waste management, digitise administrative procedures, support employment, and more.
"Plastic Waste Management/Combating Marine Pollution" is in line with the Green Agenda and services in the field of environmental protection, and the Municipality of Budva is considered as one of the most important applicants.