Your Excellency Ambassador Christides,
Mr. State Secretary Ionut-Sorin Banciu,
Esteemed participants and colleagues,
I am delighted to welcome you to this important event, the first of its kind in Romania: the Blueing the Black Sea Program, a regional initiative to tackle marine pollution in the Black Sea.
This Program became possible thanks to the leadership of Romania. It was when Romania had the Presidency of the Council of the European Union that the Common Maritime Agenda was signed in Bucharest in May 2019.
The Ministerial Declaration on the Common Maritime Agenda brought together all six Black Sea countries and Moldova with the joint vision for a sustainable blue economy and became an important instrument that underpins joint actions to solve the common problem of pollution in the Black Sea.
In the past 20 years, the Black Sea has been one of Europe’s most polluted seas. This problem is not a simple one to tackle and it requires a common and coordinated regional solution. So how can we work together in Romania to “de-pollute” the Black Sea and join efforts at the regional level?
Our work in Romania is governed by the World Bank Group’s Country Partnership Framework for 2018-2023. In addition to our overarching goal in the country to build institutions fit for a prosperous and inclusive Romania, we aim to maximize finance for development, including leveraging additional resources (like better absorption of EU funds), and contribute to regional and global public goods. By addressing pollution in the entire Black Sea region, our Country Program is helping us achieve just that.
Our work in Romania is very much in line with the objectives under the European Union Green Deal and the Black Sea Synergy by identifying common solutions for common challenges and seizing regional opportunities to bolster the sustainable blue economy, building environmental resilience and fostering cross-border cooperation – including in the Danube region.
Addressing pollution in estuaries and coastal areas is an important part of the answer to the “de-pollution” question. Eutrophication - the main culprit of freshwater and marine pollution - is driven by nitrogen and phosphorus, which are discharged into water bodies as a result of livestock and agricultural activities. The excessive nutrients in the waterways cause algal blooms leading to low-oxygen conditions that impact fish habitats.
Recognizing the importance of reducing the level of nutrient pollution flowing to the Black Sea and counteracting eutrophication, since 2007 my colleagues at the World Bank have been working closely with Romania’s Ministry of Environment, Waters, and Forests under the Integrated Nutrient Pollution Control Project.
The aim of the Project is reducing nutrient discharge, promoting changes in farming practices and behavior at the community level, and strengthening institutional and regulatory capacity at the national level. The project also supports farmers by providing small-scale infrastructure and community facilities for manure management and biogas recovery for reduction of nutrient discharge, as well as systems for monitoring the levels of nutrient pollution in water bodies.
In the past four years, the Integrated Nutrient Pollution Control Project has helped thousands of farmers by establishing local knowledge transfer networks and updating national agricultural policies. Importantly, the project is helping Romania meet the requirements under the EU Nitrates Directive – an integral part of the Water Framework Directive and one of the key instruments in the protection of waters against agricultural pressures.
By directly supporting small- and medium-scale farmers in Romania who may not otherwise have the capacity to invest in pollution reduction infrastructure, the Project has provided concrete and practical solutions that have further helped farmers gain access to financing in excess of EUR 75 million annually and to other EU resources under the EU’s common agricultural policy.
With 109 platforms already built, more than 30,000 farmers have directly benefited from the project. Of course, behavioral change is key to sustainable reform – and behaviors are already changing – with more than 21,000 hectares of land area where sustainable land management practices have been adopted as result of project.
Going forward, the success of this project in pollution reduction in Romania will serve as a replicable model based on the Blueing the Black Sea Program (BBSEA) platform in countries beyond the EU. Meanwhile, the capacity building approach under the Integrated Nutrient Pollution Control Project can serve as a value multiplier to other development projects, including in the sustainable blue economy in the Danube and Black Sea regions.
With the launch of Blueing the Black Sea Program consultations, Romania is now a part of a regional force in tackling climate mitigation issues and pollution. Today’s presentations and consultation further underscore Romania’s critical role in this regional effort.
In closing, I would like to thank the Organization of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC), the Government of Romania, and my World Bank colleagues for organizing this important event and wish you success today and going forward as we continue to roll out consultation workshops in other countries. Thank you!