From: Konstantin Testoridesk, Associated Press
Published September 24, 2004 12:00 AM

Macedonia Hosts U.N.-Organized Regional Conference on Environment

SKOPJE, Macedonia — International experts and officials from southeastern Europe gathered in the Macedonian capital this week to discuss ways of joining forces in tackling the region's environmental problems.

Addressing delegates from Albania, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Kosovo, Serbia-Montenegro and Romania, Macedonia's environment minister, Ljubomir Janev, said environmental problems have "little regard for national borders" and urged countries to cooperate on solutions.

"The environment does not recognize administrative borders, and it's our obligation to future generations to preserve and respect natural resources," Janev said.

The two-day conference, organized by the United Nations, follows an environment and security initiative launched two years ago by the U.N. Development Program and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

Delegates were discussing the links between natural resource preservation and security concerns, covering topics such as food and water scarcity, environmental disasters and large-scale migration. The meeting was also offering guidelines for dealing with identified environmental threats.

Frits Schlingemann, chief of a U.N. environmental program in Europe, said the conference would assess "progress made on projects related to trans-boundary risks of hazardous activities and the management of trans-boundary natural resources."

"The essence of this meeting is to tell us which environment problems create tensions between countries and how we can help them," Schlingemann said.

Pollution of lakes and rivers is the biggest regional environment problem, he said.

Marc Baltes, an OSCE environment expert, warned that ignoring environmental problems can "accelerate already existing political and social crises" and endanger regional stability.

In combination, "rapid population growth, economic decline, unbalanced distribution of resources and lack of institutional support could affect stability and ultimately trigger environmental disputes," Baltes said.

Associated Press

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