EU: Environmental criteria to be relaxed as Prodi plans accelerated accession

Romano Prodi has proposed the relaxation of environmental criteria in an ambitious accession plan to increase the number of countries involved in accession negotiations and to speed up the process.

Addressing the European Parliament on 13 October, the President of the European Commission presented arguments in favour of increasing the pace of current accession negotiations and beginning accession negotiations with the following countries:

  • Bulgaria
  • Latvia
  • Lithuania
  • Malta
  • Romania
  • Slovakia

Such a plan would require a relaxation of the environmental terms of accession. Prodi suggested the use of transition periods, whereby countries could be granted accession to the EU and given a number of years to reach specific environmental goals and to implement changes in environmental law.

Despite an admission by the EC that none of the potential accession countries has made significant progress in applying EU-standard environmental laws, Prodi highlighted only one specific environmental case that could keep one country, Bulgaria, from succeeding in any accession bid. “In in the interests of nuclear safety, negotiations with Bulgaria should not begin until the Bulgarian authorities have set an acceptable closure date for the four unsafe units at their Kozloduy power station,” said Prodi.

Following Prodi’s speech by just two days, the OECD has published a report into the environmental progress of central and eastern European countries since the fall of communism. Environment in the Transition to a Market Economy concludes that economic reforms have had a positive environmental impact by generating resources for investment in cleaner, more efficient technologies and by reducing the share of pollution-intensive industries.

Nevertheless, the report states that it may take countries acceding to the EU twenty years or more to meet all current EU environmental requirements, and that even this pace would represent a far from sustainable pattern of development.

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