EP environment chair warns of “trench warfare” with Council of Ministers

A period of "trench warfare" between the EU Council of Ministers and the European Parliament (EP) was predicted at a meeting of the EP Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Consumer Policy this week by committee chairman Mrs Caroline Jackson.

Jackson’s concern was based on what she described as the “distressingly unsatisfactory” replies given by Mrs Satu Hassi, President-in-office of the Environment Council and Finnish Environment Minister, to key questions put by committee members in a two-hour exchange.

Mrs Jackson told the President-in-office, who was on her first visit to the committee: “We want a more fiery approach from the Council”. She singled out three areas where the Presidency’s replies had failed to satisfy members, who wanted the Council: (1) to hold a joint meeting of Environment and Trade Ministers to prepare for the forthcoming World Trade Organisation talks in Seattle instead of leaving everything to the trade negotiators; (2) in the interests of open government, to open the final law-making stage of Conciliation to the public; (3) to “name and shame” Member States which failed to implement Union law (given the time it took to prosecute Member States for infringement).

In her response to this criticism, the President-in-office said that her experience suggested that a joint Council meeting of Trade and Environment Ministers would be impossible at this stage. Intergovernmental talks would be needed to open up conciliation, said Hassi. However, she did appear to accept Jackson’s challenge to expose publicly Members States which dragged their feet over implementing legislation.

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