The General Assembly of the European Union Network for the Implementation and Enforcement of Environmental Law (IMPEL) convened in Luxembourg on December 1 and 2, 2015, hosted by the Luxembourg Presidency of the European Council. In addition to the IMPEL national contact points, the meeting was attended by some of IMPEL’s partners, including the Themis Network, the European Network of Prosecutors for the Environment (ENPE), and the Regional Environmental Network for Accession (RENA).
The General Assembly discussed IMPEL’s work on the definition of implementation challenges, and the outcomes of a meeting of national coordinators on how to improve IMPEL’s governance and work effectiveness. The IMPEL Board reported on its engagement with members and partners, approved the 2015 projects, and agreed on a work plan and accompanying budget for 2016. Finally, IMPEL’s membership, membership fees, statutes and financial standing were also discussed.
The meeting was also the occasion for the official signing of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) between IMPEL and the Regional Environmental Center (REC), as secretariat of the Themis Network, in recognition of the benefits of working closely together and reinforcing each other's work programmes to improve the implementation and enforcement of environmental legislation in Europe. The MoU was signed by Marta Szigeti Bonifert, executive director of the REC, representing Themis, and by Chris Dijkens on behalf of IMPEL.
The MoU establishes channels for mutual advice and support, the exchange of information and best practices, and cross-fertilisation between each party's activities. Following the signature of the MoU the Themis Network offered concrete possibilities for cooperation with IMPEL, which include the contribution of IMPEL to the 2016 Themis regional trainings and to the preparation of standard operating procedures for the detection, investigation and prosecution of environmental crimes; joint peer reviews of Themis Network member countries' implementation and enforcement systems with IMPEL and/or EU member states; and Themis participation in IMPEL projects.
A joint press release was issued on December 4, 2015, stressing how the two networks share common goals and objectives with respect to environmental protection and sustainable development in Europe and neighbouring regions. Both IMPEL and the REC are convinced of the importance of contributing to environmental protection through the effective implementation and enforcement of European environmental law.
"Following on from the regular and constructive cooperation between the REC and IMPEL over the past years, we are very proud to sign this memorandum of understanding with IMPEL," explained REC Executive Director Marta Szigeti Bonifert. "It represents a step into the future: one in which we will grow stronger and support each other in the shared goal of improving environmental governance in Europe, both inside the EU and within neighbouring regions. The REC has been especially active with the Themis Network in managing natural resources and combating environmental crime, and is therefore a natural partner with IMPEL. The REC and the Themis Network hope to benefit from intense mutual advisory support, and the exchange of information and best practices. By capitalising on each other's work, we will reach further. We look forward to starting the groundwork."
"IMPEL is excited about this collaboration agreement," added IMPEL Vice-Chair Chris Dijkens. "Cooperating with the Themis Network will not only enable the sharing of skills and knowledge among each other's members, but also opens the door to other countries in the region who are not a member of IMPEL. Further, it creates wider opportunities to promote IMPEL products and tools."