The EU CBRN Centres of Excellence Project 67
Another regional project aimed at enhancing chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) safety and security in the SEEE region has been successfully completed. The project 67 (P67) entitled “Strengthening CBRN waste management capabilities in South-East and Eastern European countries” was funded by the European Union (EU) within the framework of the CBRN Centres of Excellence Initiative (EU CBRN CoE).
The management of CBRN materials is one of the key components of the CBRN materials lifecycle. Every country needs to pay special attention to the different phases involved in the process of these hazardous materials: from their production to their disposal. If not properly managed, CBRN waste can have a devastating impact on the health of humans, animals and on the surrounding environment. Not to mention, the greater risks associated to the possibility of these CBRN materials falling in the wrong hands of terrorists and organized crime groups, which may use them for their malicious purposes. Smuggling of CBRN material (especially radiological and nuclear) is an increasing phenomenon which, despite the efforts of law enforcement agencies, represents a growing threat.
Very often the proper management of contaminated CBRN waste is compromised by limited disposal and treatment capabilities; the insufficient experience of decision-makers and the absence of waste management facilities. The high costs of disposing of hazardous is also one of the main challenges for an appropriate CBRN waste management.
The main focus of the P67 was to strengthen the CBRN waste management capabilities through the evaluation of relevant legal frameworks; to establish sustainable national training programs to enhance competencies and technical capabilities; to promote the exchange of good practices, and regional and sub-regional cooperation. All beneficiary countries of the project were concerned to different extents by safety, security and environmentally sound handling and disposal of hazardous CBRN waste materials and remediation of contaminated locations. The ten countries of the SEEE region involved were Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, Moldova, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia and Ukraine. Relevant ministries, agencies and services of these countries were represented in the project.
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the project 67 consortium managed to turn relevant difficulties into unexpected opportunities. Due to the travel and in-person meeting restrictions, all training activities were conducted in online or hybrid formats. These time-saving arrangement allowed many experts from the partner countries to participate without being taken away from their primary daily duties. This does not imply that countries will opt for this type of training in future projects, as the hands-on practical training, in-person communication with other experts and partners, sideline meetings and physical presence in the training room are unparallel. The main challenge for the project was the availability of subject matter experts on biological safety and security, as many of them were on the front line to fight back the COVID-19 pandemic.
The final meeting of the P67, hosted by Albania, was held in Tirana from 7 to 8 September 2022. The project consortium provided the beneficiary partner countries and participants with the summary of the objectives, deliverables and outcomes achieved. During three breakout sessions (dedicated to chemical waste, biological waste, radiological and nuclear waste) participants discussed separately about the effectiveness of the project capacity building and training activities. The discussion continued the second day with a focus on the follow-up actions required, and on the sustainability of the project achievements.
Follow-up recommendations and suggestions were expressed by the beneficiary partner countries. All these inputs will be reflected in the final report which will be submitted for consideration to the European Commission and the Regional Secretariat of the SEEE region. The ten partner countries of the SEEE region underlined the importance of further enhancing their national legislation on CBRN waste management. This desire is perfectly in line with the CBRN Regional Action Plan of the SEEE region which presents the CBRN national legislation as one of the regional priorities for the next 5-year timeframe.
Most importantly, the participants of the final meeting of the P67 stressed the importance of ensuring the sustainability of the project by creating a network or a platform to ensure ongoing communication among the subject matter experts and partners in the field of CBRN safety and security. This is a real challenge not only for this project implemented in the SEEE region, but also for many other projects carried out in the other seven regions involved in the EU CBRN CoE initiative. Due to the frequent rotation of personnel and discontinuation of the online training resources made available during the implementation of the project, the risk of losing the wealth of knowledge acquired over the years is quite high. This suggestion will be carefully discussed during the next meeting of the CBRN National Focal Points of the SEEE region and some possible solutions will be recommended.
Launched in 2010, the EU CBRN CoE is a global Initiative funded and implemented by the European Union. The Initiative is led by the European Commission (EC), in close coordination with the European External Action Service (EEAS) and with the support of the United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute (UNICRI). The initiative is developed with the technical support of relevant international and regional organizations, the EU Member States, and other stakeholders, through coherent and effective cooperation at the national, regional and international level. The initiative involves 62 countries in eight regions across the world. The EU CBRN CoE represents the EU’s largest civilian external security programme.
Project 67 is implemented by a highly experienced European consortium led by Sustainable Criminal Justice Solutions Europe (SCJS Europe, Belgium) which was in charge of the overall project implementation management and oversight. Additionally, the consortium consisted of Cranfield University (UK) that provided expertise on chemical waste management; the UK Health and Security Agency (UK HAS) which ivolved biological waste management key-expert and led one of the project work packages in chemical waste management; the Nuclear and Decommissioning Company (Jadrová a vyrad’ovacia spoločnost’, a.s. (JAVYS Slovakia) that provided expertise on radioactive waste management; the International Security and Emergency Management Institute (ISEMI, Slovakia) that provided expertise in the area of chemical, biological and radioactive waste management and led one of the work packages; and the Verification, Research, Training and Information Centre (VERTIC, UK) that conducted the assessment of the chemical, biological and radioactive waste management legislative frameworks in the partner countries.