Ms. Astrid Schomaker, Director of the Global Sustainable Development Directorate, DG Environment at the European Commission, introduced the workshop, emphasising our current planetary challenges for example climate change, biodiversity loss and unsustainable production, and how important it is to reverse our current consumer trends. She also stressed the need for transforming industrial production into circular processes. Mr. Lawrence Meredith Director from the Neighbourhood East and Institution Building Directorate, DG NEAR talked about how Europe should be the first climate neutral continent, and how the COVID pandemic has brought radical changes in our behaviour (how we travel, work, communicate and consume). Mr. Meredith underlined that this is a very good opportunity to re-shape our habits without putting competitiveness aside. Among the high-level representatives of the EPPA Network beneficiary countries, Ms. Sandra Dokic (Serbia), Mr. Danilo Mrdak (Montenegro) and Mr. Mirza Hujic (Bosnia and Herzegovina) also made remarks about the sectors which need to be focused on in these countries namely, waste management, wastewater treatment, sustainable tourism and education. They also highlighted several CE on-going initiatives such as the Road Map for CE in Serbia and a legislative package on CE to be developed by October in Montenegro. Ms. Madalina Ivanica, delivered a presentation on the EU Green Deal, emphasizing the “less waste, more value” motto. Mr. Slobodan Perovic (EPPA Senior Expert) touched upon the knowledge, governance and skills needed to move forward the CE transition. The workshop also counted with the presence of a Hungarian and Austrian representatives (Mr. Barnabas Peczka and Ms. Francesca Montevecchi) presenting national CE case studies. Speakers from the European Environmental Agency, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, and the private sector were also invited to this event, who focused on the plastic and package sector and the topic of extended producer responsibility.
During the 2nd day of the workshop Mr. Máté Kriza, Director of Circular Point, delivered a presentation on what CE means in practical terms for EU businesses, how they are moving to models that are more ‘circular’ and where are new business opportunities. Case studies were presented from EU MS businesses, with a focus on new business models that prevent waste generation and ensure that the inevitable waste is effectively recycled, closing material loops as efficiently as possible. Mr. Kriza also emphasised that the involvement of SMEs and the consumers is a key issue in the transition to the CE. It implies the knowledge, enabling environment, market and financial incentives as well as engagement and awareness. In the following sessions the focus shifted from the topic of plastic and packaging to the construction and demolition sectors, closing with the topic of food waste. Relevant good practices in countries like Sweden, Austria, and the Netherlands were showed-cased with a positive feedback from EPPA beneficiaries and the audience.
The project EU Environment Partnership Programme for Accession (EPPA) in the Western Balkans and Turkey seeks to be a major driver of policy reform and development in environmental governance through compliance with the EU environmental acquis.