ICPDR Presidency 2022 Dr. Robert-Eugen Szép
Every year, an expert personality from one of the ICPDR contracting parties is nominated to represent their country, with all countries taking it in turns to shoulder this important responsibility. In 2022, it’s the turn of Romania’s Dr. Robert-Eugen Szép.
1. You’ve already been involved in environmental policy in Romania during your career. How does it feel to now be taking responsibility for the entire Danube River Basin? Do you imagine any major differences in approach at this basin-level?
Having the responsibility of steering activities for the protection and sustainable development of the most international river basin in not only Europe, but the world, even for one year, is an honour for me – but also a big challenge. The challenge is related to the moral obligation to continue the activities developed within the ICPDR at least at the same level they’ve been performed until now. And this high standard should be kept in a period in which new European environmental targets have to be reached in the next decade, and I am referring here to climate change adaptation, the Green Deal, and the Biodiversity Strategy.
Developing and coordinating water management policy at the Danube River Basin level requires a larger effort to understand all challenges and opportunities specific to each Danubian country and have a comprehensive overview of the transboundary problems. On the other hand, working with 14 countries is a challenge related to the administrative aspects but also an opportunity due to so many experiences in providing solutions to the common challenges and problems. However, I want to say that I was impressed by the professionalism shown by the ICPDR Secretariat and the dedication of the national experts from the Expert Groups and I hope to benefit from your valuable support throughout this year.
2. What were your earliest experiences working with water and environmental policy in your career? How has it changed in recent years?
During my career of almost 20 years, I’ve had the opportunity to work in a wide range of environmental activities including air quality, hydrology and hydrogeology, sediment management and geochemistry. I started from the local level in the Harghita Environmental Protection Agency, where I was the head of the environmental monitoring and laboratory unit and then I was Chief Commissioner of the Harghita Environmental Guard. From 2014 I was the General Commissioner at the National Environmental Guard. I think that I’ve developed a comprehensive overview of the environmental policy at the local and national level starting with policy development and monitoring and ending with the implementation of the specific legislation of large number of environmental fields including water management. In parallel with this administrative career, I performed an important number of environmental studies as a researcher and University professor, including a few covering the Lower Danube. As of 2021, I am Secretary of State in the Romanian Ministry of Environment, Waters and Forests, in charge of water management, environmental regulation and biodiversity protection. These last years gave me the possibility for a more integrative approach on how to better contribute to the environmental protection and to moderate some conflicts between different activities. It was also an opportunity to extend my view related to international cooperation – particularly in the Danube River Basin
3. One of your main priorities as ICPDR President is to support the implementation of several important plans, including the DRBMP, DFRMP, and Danube Declaration, all recently endorsed at our Ministerial Meeting. Which activities stand out as the most important for you and your forthcoming presidency?
Indeed, the main priority of the Romanian Presidency is to support implementation of the recently approved plans, DRBMP and DFRMP, as well as the Danube Declaration. In this respect, it will be necessary to develop a framework for coordination of implementation able to support countries to overcome possible difficulties. Particular attention will be given to the actions and measures postponed from the previous plans as well as to those measures which are new.
In relation to the Ministerial Declaration we will focus on the aspects derived from the Green Deal and Biodiversity Strategy. In this respect we want to continue activities related to the migratory species conservation, particularly related to sturgeons. Moreover,further attention will be given to the protection of the Black Sea environment in order to implement the Marine Strategy Framework Directive in this marine region. Specifically, we want to have increased involvement of the Danubian countries in reducing plastic and microplastic pollution, including a proper monitoring and assessment network.
Also, because this year will start another regional financing period, we want to continue some of the regional projects or to start new projects in the Danube River Basin which are helpful for the implementation of the plans and Ministerial Declaration.
4. You’re a passionate Danubian and have worked a lot with water specifically. What, to you, is so special about the Danube River Basin?
The Danube River practically passes Europe from West to East, from the Black Forest to the Black Sea, and discharge its waters through unique Danube Delta the most valuable wetlands in Europe. In my opinion, the Danube River Basin is the most diverse river basin in Europe. And when I say diverse, I am referring here to the hydromorphological, cultural, economic and environmental aspects. For me this basin is my home and I have my family, my friends and my collaborators here.
I very much appreciate the involvement of the people and experts in our work, their kindness and readiness to cooperate and to share experience.
5. Finally, what do you hope to have achieved by the end of your Presidency?
I hope during our Presidency to bring our contribution to the further implementation of the Danube River Protection Convention for the benefit of the people living in the Danube River Basin. We want to keep the ICPDR as a global frontrunner within world organizations dealing with transboundary water management.