The European Commission has adopted a communication on accession strategies for the environmental sector in the EU candidate countries of Central and Eastern Europe. Upon the adoption of the communication, the European Environment Commissioner, Mrs. Ritt Bjerregaard, underlined the economic opportunities that the full implementation of the environmental acquis communautaire (the body of EU law) will provide for the candidate countries and the rest of Europe. The communication aims to complement the Accession Partnerships, and to provide assistance in the refinement of long-term strategies for gradual and effective alignment with the environmental acquis, in the form of National Programmes as proposed in Agenda 2000. Full compliance with the environmental acquis represents one of the major challenges for accession and will require considerable investment, however the key message of the communication is that this is justified both on environmental and economic grounds. The communication is divided into three main chapters which cover the following: - Chapter 1 provides a brief survey of the major challenges facing the candidate countries in the environmental approximation process from an institutional, financial and legislative point of view; - Chapter 2 discusses the question of how to set priorities in the process based on an analysis of specific environmental problems; - Chapter 3 presents a survey of EU assistance instruments and programmes which can contribute to efforts to meet EU environmental standards. The annexes present a survey of first estimates of the costs of environmental compliance and provide advice on key steps to follow in the development of national programmes for the implementation and monitoring of the environmental acquis.