The Convention on the Transboundary Effects of Industrial Accidents aims at the prevention, preparation and response to transboundary effects of industrial accidents, either in terms of air or water pollution. The Convention also encourages inter-parties cooperation on research and development, information and technology exchange. The Convention was adopted in 1992 and entered into force in 2000.
The strong majority of cases related to the Convention concern water pollution, namely installations which are located in the proximity of state borders.
The main features of the convention are:
• identification of installations
• notification to neighbouring countries
• adoption of measures to prevent, prepare and respond to industrial accidents
• public participation
The approach and main features of the convention are very similar to the EC Seveso directive, as well as its obligations. The main difference is that the convention concerns transboundary pollution and the relation between two countries, while the Directive deals with the relation between installations.
The record of the EU member states’ attitude towards the convention is positive. The Member States usually comply with the obligations of the convention since they are also used to the obligations of the Seveso directive. The Central Asia and Eastern European countries (ECA) have more problems with compliance.
The main focus of the convention is to assist the ECA countries to establish a better industrial safety policy. The Committee of the Parties (COP) of 2004 launched an assistance programme (AP) for these countries and also for those countries that should implement the convention in the near future but have not yet ratified it. The AP is based on two phases: preparatory and implementation phase. Ad hoc fact finding missions have been created to evaluate the preparatory phase of the AP in EC countries.
On enforcement, the COP of 2000 established a working group on the implementation reports. All parties are required to prepare a Report on the implementation of the convention. The reporting format is a questionnaire which must be filled by the parties.
No compliance mechanisms exist in this convention, since the convention is very technical and focuses on the implementation phase. The convention contains an article where dispute settlement is regulated (such as in cases where country A recognises a dangerous industrial plant in country B). The report on implementation is due every two years. Unfortunately, the reporting obligations are not taken seriously by the parties and this is demonstrated by the fact that the last report did not change from the previous one of two years earlier. In this case, there is a lack of an adequate enforcing mechanism which should involve all authorities which have the competence with the issue at stake.
The only tool the convention authorities have in order to compel the convention parties to meet their obligations is to present the report at the COP and have a decision of the COP urging parties to comply. For instance in 2006 one party did not report: the COP expressed its concerns about this and asked the UNECE executive secretary to write to the minister in charge and this worked perfectly.
The secretariat of this convention has a staff of only two persons.