EU: Commission slacking on policy integration, say NGOs

European Commission President, Jacques Santer, was accused of not doing enough to carry out his duty to integrate environmental protection in EU-policies. Seven leading environmental citizens organisations met Santer this week to discuss the role of the Commission in integrating environmental concerns in all EU-policies, as required by the Amsterdam Treaty.

According to Lone Johnsen, President of the European Environmental Bureau (EEB), “The rhetoric about environmental integration and sustainable development becomes better day by day. But practise is stubborn. The latest negotiations on the CAP-reform show that environmental policy integration by and large is not improving. We do not underestimate the responsibility of certain Member States for this disappointing conclusion and we do not deny the attempts made by the Commission. But we see a clear co-responsibility of the Commission, due to the fact that by and large it has left it to DGXI to promote environmental integration”.

The environmental organisations directed attention to the partial and weak nature of the Environmental Policy Integration inside the Commission so far. The lack of profile for environment and sustainable development within the Commission was exemplified by the general nature of the Commission’s Agenda 2000 proposal, which had some proposals on environment, but was far from being an integrated approach. Another example was the fate of the Communication on Environment and Employment. Basically a good document, but not at all reflected in the Commission’s proposal for the 1999 Employment Guidelines, says EEB.

The Commission is to enable the EU Summit in Helsinki, in December this year, to take far reaching decisions aimed at different policy sectors to improve the environment. President Santer was urged to play a lead role in this crucial year for the environment and embark on a coherent, consistent, high profile effort of the Commission as a whole.

In June, the Commission is to present to the EU-leaders a report on how such integration is improving in general. It also has to present a comprehensive strategy on climate change by that time. In December, in Helsinki, the Commission has to present proposals for targets, indicators and timetables for the EU as guidance for sustainable development processes.
The organisations called for politically challenging targets for a number of strategic pollutants and resources to be reduced by the years 2010, 2020 and 2050 and proposals for initial sectoral burden sharing to achieve these. They also asked the President to ensure “substantive, high level, consultations of environmental organisations” by all the relevant parts of the Commission in preparation of these policy proposals. More in general they urged the President to ensure comprehensive consultation processes, where environmental organisations can participate, to be set up as routine by all parts of the Commission.

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