The cooperation agreement of 10th December 2003 establishes the framework for concerted action between the Federal State, Regions and Communities, thereby facilitating the practical implementation of NEHAP, the Belgian National Environment and Health Action Plan.
In order to fully understand the established process, we have to go back to 1995. An initial cooperation agreement concerning international environment policy binding the Federal State and the Regions was signed on 5th April 1995. But this agreement only involved international policy, and was thus to the exclusion of the internal policies of the signatories; furthermore, it did not cover the Communities and therefore health policy.
In order to operate in a concerted way on the environment and health, a new agreement was therefore required which included the Communities as contracting parties. This was achieved through the new cooperation agreement of 10th December 2003, which this time set out to establish collaboration between the Federal State and the federated entities (Regions and Communities) in the areas of the environment and health.
Among its objectives, the cooperation agreement of 10th December 2003 mentioned that NEHAP indeed constituted "an initial frame of reference for actions which tend to prevent, reduce or even eliminate the risks related to health and the environment".
In practice, this cooperation agreement establishes the rules for concerted action between all the partners. It provides a legal and operational frame of reference for joint action and facilitates a multi-disciplinary approach. We would specify however that this integrated approach, formalised by the cooperation agreement, applies to the environment and health but not to other issues which are directly related to them, such as transport for example.
The cooperation agreement stipulates that "NEHAP should follow a schedule for its performance, including a strategy which makes it possible to update it in order to include changes in the situation in the area of health and the environment". To do this, the agreement contains various practical provisions. It establishes the proportions of the budget to be distributed between the partners for funding the joint projects initiated in the context of NEHAP. It also designates the two monitoring and implementation bodies in this plan: the Joint-Interministerial Conference on Environment and Health (JICEH), on the one hand, and the Cell Environment-Health on the other.