Over the past decade, the NDEP has orchestrated joint efforts between financial donors and international financial institutions in 23 projects relating to environmental improvements in the Northern Dimension Area including Northwest Russia and Belarus, with the total amount of investments exceeding EUR 3.3 billion.
NIB, along with four other international financial institutions, the European Commission and Russia, is part of the NDEP Steering Group.
The NIB Newsletter met with Jaakko Henttonen, NDEP Manager, to ask him how successful the Partnership has been in achieving its goals.
What are the partnership's major achievements in the past ten years?
"We have quite a few concrete results related to different projects in St Petersburg and the whole of Northwest Russia, which have significantly improved the state of the environment by reducing discharges into rivers, lakes and seas. It has been a joint effort of the international financial institutions, the Russian government, the EU, the donors, as well as the local partners. The completion of the Southwest Wastewater Treatment Plant in St Petersburg in 2005 has so far been the most important event for the NDEP. The second most important project is to get the construction of a wastewater treatment plant in Kaliningrad restarted. The completion of the Northern incinerator in St Petersburg and the closure of the remaining direct discharge points are also significant milestones in NDEP history. Moreover, initiating wastewater investments in Belarus can be regarded an achievement as such."
How is the Kaliningrad project proceeding?
"There is a strong commitment from the Russian government, which has solved the local financial issues. The IFIs involved in the project, NIB and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), have had an important role in convincing the regional government to take the necessary measures together with grant providers, the NDEP and SIDA."
The NDEP programme has been extended until 2017 at the request of Russia, and Belarus joined the partnership in 2009. What challenges do you expect in NDEP activities in years to come?
"The NDEP will still be pursuing its targets for the treatment of wastewater, solid waste and agricultural waste. A new challenge lies within the energy efficiency sector. Now that we are close to completing our task of improving wastewater treatment in St Petersburg, we will have to shift the focus to smaller municipalities. Practically all regions will have to improve wastewater treatment, as well as introduce more effective solid waste management and energy efficient solutions, which is in line with the Helsinki Commission's (HELCOM) Baltic Sea Action Plan. A challenge here will be how to establish a financial base, which definitely seems to require state support. We are looking forward to a strong commitment from the Russian government to back these projects. I'm happy to hear that the Russian Ministry of Regional Development also considers infrastructure development a priority. In Belarus, we initially have three projects of upgrading wastewater treatment - in Brest, Grodno and Vitebsk, all three cities are discharging their wastewater into major rivers of the Baltic Sea catchment area."
The NDEP provides grant funding for projects implemented under its umbrella. How much has the NDEP paid out in such grants?
"The total amount of grants provided by the NDEP Support Fund in the past ten years is EUR 117 million. Each of those 23 projects the NDEP has dealt with has received a grant in an amount of several hundred thousands euros to several million. The largest grant, of EUR 24 million, was provided for the implementation of the Neva Programme of closing the remaining discharge points of untreated wastewater in St Petersburg. With relation to the partnership's anniversary, the donors have initiated the replenishment of the NDEP Support Fund. Following this initiative, the European Commission has already contributed an additional EUR 14 million, Sweden has added EUR 7.2 million and Norway EUR 0.6 million. And we are looking forward to other partners to follow suit."
You will have a celebration in St Petersburg in June. What's to be expected?
"I'm looking forward to a happy celebration, because most of our partners have grown to know each other. We will organise discussion panels to give us guidance for the future."
NIB hosts a recently established secretariat of the Northern Dimension Partnership on Transport and Logistics. What would be your advice for this new institution?
"My first advice is to keep the secretariat as small as possible and to lean on the services of the Bank in project development and legal assistance. The NDEP has managed to keep its secretariat at the size of two people thanks to the support of our host, the EBRD. Secondly, it's crucial to develop close contacts with all relevant partners to work with. Both formal and informal contacts create an atmosphere of true partnership and will help solving inevitable problems and will lead to decisions and concrete results."
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