Ministers block soil agreement

European environment experts have slammed EU Council members for failing to reach an agreement on a major piece of legislation governing soil.

The European Environmental Bureau (EEB), the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements and BirdLife criticised a minority of ministers who blocked a compromise proposal on the Soil Framework Directive in a vote held just days before Christmas.

The UK, France, Austria, Germany and the Netherlands argued against the terms of the agreement, raising fears over issues such as conflict with domestic policy and possible costs.

EEB secretary general John Hontelez called on the new Slovenian presidency to give the legislation the highest priority, adding that the stalemate was "nothing short of a scandal".

He said: "Faced with a problem as serious as soil degredation, we need environment ministers from all member states to throw their full weight behind a common effort to address this problem."

European Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas also expressed his frustration at the failure to reach an agreement.

He said: "I am very disappointed that, in spite of the enormous efforts of the Portuguese Presidency, the support of many environment ministers in today's Council, and the positive vote and large support form the European Parliament, the Council has not been able to reach a political agreement.

"This is a missed opportunity for the protection of the environment and the fight against climate change."

The Soil Framework Directive would require EU member states to adopt a systematic approach to identifying and combating soil degradation.

However, Germany and Austria argued that the new law would interfere with domestic soil policy, while the UK claimed it would result in disproportionate costs to achieve a negligible environmental benefit.

Kate Martin



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