Eventful Espoo Convention Meeting

The 9th session of the Meeting of the Parties to the Espoo Convention, which took place in Geneva, Switzerland from 12-15 December, was eventful, to say the least. There were many developments to celebrate, such as a commitment to coordinate more on marine issues, constructive collaboration between Moldova and Ukraine to resolve the disputes that led to the longest standing case under the Espoo Convention, and exciting panel discussions during the high-level event on the contribution of the Convention and its Protocol towards the energy transition, circular economy and green financing, including an excellent contribution from Andriy Andrusevych of RACSE, a frequent partner and collaborator with J&E and its member organizations. 

At the same time certain Parties were clearly there to filibuster, to block findings by the Convention´s Implementation Committee (IC) in specific cases against them, or support Parties who were opposing such findings. It was generally certain pro-nuclear countries that came together, namely Belarus, Bulgaria, Czechia, France, in one very non-constructive bloc, and other countries in the majority, including notably Austria, Germany, Switzerland who urged not only endorsement of the IC findings, but the adoption of the Geneva Declaration, which Belarus had objected to. The fight is a fundamental one, threatening or confirming the basic mandate of the IC, and thus ultimately, the basic relevance of the Espoo Convention as a whole.

It was precisely as these more contentious issues came to the fore, and the risk of a fillibuster became clear, that Summer Kern intervened on the behalf of Justice and Environment. Firstly, to, as a matter of principle, support the work of the IC as the democratically elected panel of experts with the mandate to assess implementation and compliance, and then as to the issue of transparency, as Czechia wished to not have its opposition publicized, but merely shared with a subset of those attending the MOP itself. Afterwards, Veronika Marhold of Ökobüro intervened specifically to make bare the cynical and ultimately futile efforts of Czechia to forestall endorsement of the IC´s findings of non-compliance concerning the LTOs of its nuclear reactors. All three interventions were met with great support, not only within the NGO community, but by friendly Parties, IC members, and the secretariat itself, all underscoring the necessity of a robust NGO representation at such meetings, where one must sometimes react spontaneously, with expert input, that no briefing before can prepare you for. In the end, the meeting was not an entire success, but through the interventions of certain Parties, and certainly though J&E and ÖB made a huge and positive influence. Presumably an Ex-MOP will be scheduled to address the remaining issues.

Finally, for all those engaged with the Espoo Convention over the years there was a touching moment when Tea Aulavuo publicly announced she is stepping down from her role as the secretary to the Convention. Her service on the behalf of the Convention was commemorated by cheers, tears, and much applause. And whilst we will miss her, we are excited about her taking on new important duties and wish her well.