EU environment ministers slam Commission’s 10-year plan

European environment ministers and various EU bodies have savaged the Commission’s 10-year environment programme for its absence of clear targets and timetables.

Ministers made their criticisms public during a televised debate of the Environment Council on 8 March. On publication of the European Commission’s sixth environment strategy in January, edie reported the programme’s failure to produce clear targets and timetables (see related story). The strategy, which represents the EC’s blueprint for its environmental aims, also received heavy criticism from the largest federation of environmental organisations in Europe (see related story) for the same reason.

Almost all the environment ministers criticised the plan but Denmark’s, Svend Auken was the most vocal. “I’m extremely disappointed,” he said. “We wanted something concrete – unfortunately we haven’t been given it,” and he called some of its proposals “banal and commonplace”. France’s Dominique Voynet said it “fell short” of expectations, whilst German junior minister Rainer Baake said the plan was “a bitter disappointment – too vague”. Ministers also criticised the lack of attention paid in the plan to the 13 EU accession countries, some of which are almost certain to be EU members before the end of the programme’s 10-year timescale and face considerable environmental problems.

In addition, other EU advisory bodies, simultaneously attacked the plan.

The European Economic and Social Committee (ESC), the Committee of the Regions and the European Parliament also criticised the lack of targets. “In this way, they rejected the Commission’s claim that it could not seriously propose a large number of targets because the necessary scientific data were not currently available,” the ESC said. “The result (of a lack of targets) may nevertheless be not only a loss of clarity and direction but also delays in implementation until the general objectives can be made more specific,” said the EU Forum on the Environment and Sustainable Development.

In response to the savaging, the EC’s Environment Commissioner Margot Wallström defended the plan, saying that it aimed to be easy to understand by the general public and sought to not “take over the work of other councils”. “I’m absolutely not against targets and deadlines,” she said, but added that they should be incorporated in later ‘thematic strategies’.

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