The Baltic Environmental Forum (BEF) was founded in 1995 by the Baltic Ministries of Environment, Germany and the European Commission as a technical assistance project aiming at strengthening the co-operation among the Baltic environmental authorities. Multi-stakeholder seminars, trainings, information days and publications on EU environmental policy have been the key tools for meeting these objectives.
Over time the core project was prolonged and the BEF activities grew far beyond the initial project. BEF became accepted as institution for networking and experience exchange among environmental stakeholders in the Baltic States. The organization has contributed to the EU accession process in the Baltic States with a large amount of events and trainings targeted at understanding of the environmental legislation to be transposed and facilitating dialogue and experience exchange for its implementation.
The new BEF
In order to keep the network active the BEF team has founded in 2003 new NGOs in Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania and Germany. The organizations are independent in legal and fiscal terms, but they form a network as called “BEF Group” and have common goals and joint activities. The network character is laid down in an agreement on cooperation between all parties. According to this agreement BEF Latvia functions as headquarters of the network and the other organizations are its members. Since 2004 the BEF Group cooperates with the Centre of Transboundary Cooperation St. Petersburg, who became formally a member in the BEF Group in 2005.
The five independent NGOs develop projects together mainly in the Baltic Sea region, which is the target region of the operations of the organizations. Each of the NGOs also acts on national level in its country, however multi-country projects are predominating. The BEF NGOs are operating project based and depend on grants and contracts. In 2006 the network received first time the EU support for environmental NGOs acting in more than three countries – a kind of small core funding.
The goals of the BEF Group are to act in various fields of environmental policy with regard to capacity building, experience transfer and facilitation of different stakeholders in the Baltic Sea region. Additionally it is envisaged to extend the scope of activities to other countries in Eastern Europe – to make use of our location and facilitate cooperation with the neighbouring countries Russia, Belarus and Ukraine.