EU: German Presidency welcomes green challenge from NGOs

The German Presidency has welcomed a memorandum of key expectations from the European Environment Bureau (EEB) as "important support" for its environmental objectives.


Founded in 1974, the European Environment Bureau is an umbrella organisation for 130 environmental organisations from all the EU member states and a number of other European countries. Traditionally the EEB submits a list of demands to each EU Presidency on the basis of which it then judges the success of the Presidency from the standpoint of the environmental organisations.

On accepting the memorandum, German State Secretary Baake noted that the objectives of the German Presidency in the environmental area were largely identical with the demands of the EEB. “Even if it will not be possible to conclude some of the projects under the German EU Presidency, e.g. in connection with expanding environmental impact assessment regulations as well as regulations governing environmental liability, we will nonetheless use our Presidency to finally initiate a debate in the EU on these important instruments.”

The demands included progress in the harmonisation of energy taxation as well as the elimination of tax advantages for the air transport sector. The EEB is also demanding the integration of environmental requirements in the other areas of Community policy.

Baake also noted that a number of issues to which the German Presidency attributes high priority were not included in the EEB list. He said it was a key objective to create a common legal framework for waste incineration with strict requirements both for waste incineration plants as well as for industrial plants in which waste materials are also burned. He indicated that the in some cases very considerable differences in the levels of requirements in the member states for the burning of waste materials needed to be eliminated.

Baake added that the Federal Ministry of the Environment had noted an absence of progress in the development of an EU climate strategy and the definition of specific measures to be taken within the Community. He remarked that this was a significant conclusion drawn from the results of the Fourth Conference of Parties to the Framework Convention on Climate Change in Buenos Aires.

The EEB’s “Ten Green Tests” for the German Presidency

Issue

Target for Presidency

Environmental Tax Reform

  • An intensive EU-level debate about the potential of environmental tax reform on the EU level involving all EU Member States and the relevant stakeholders in society.
  • Adoption of the so-called Monti Directive as a first step. Limitation of the sectoral and temporal exemptions in the proposal.
  • No postponement or cancelling of the abolition of tax-free shopping at airports and introduction of kerosene taxes/emission charges for aviation .

Environmental Policy Integration

  • Discussions in ALL Councils on the consequences of the Cardiff conclusions for EU-legislation and policies, leading to strategies and work programmes by the end of 1999.
  • Active support to the development of targets, timetables, indicators, as well as of instruments by the Commission. Opening up of this discussion by organising a brainstorming/conference with representatives of civic organisations with special interest in sustainability, and scientists.
  • Refusal to take under consideration any Commission proposal or policy initiative unless it is accompanied by an environmental appraisal and a statement of how the results of the appraisal have been incorporated.
  • Appointment of a President of the European Commission with a proven track record for environment and sustainable development.

Agriculture and CAP reform

  • Environmental conditions on side-payments to be obligatory.
  • Strengthening of the environmental dimension of the rural development pillar.

Cohesion Policy

(Structural Funds)

  • Ensured compliance with existing environmental legislation, combined with a pro-active aim to contribute to the reduction of resource use and pollution as well as the protection of biodiversity;
  • Ensured rights and resources of environmental authorities and citizens organisations in project design, implementation and assessment.
  • Inclusion of a broader concept of cost-benefit analysis for projects, including a method to assess the external costs and benefits and the requirement of full strategic environmental assessment.

Enlargement

  • Integration of environmental concerns into the entire negotiations process. Ensure strong involvement of environmental experts of both Member States and accession countries as well as DG-XI.
  • A public discussion in the Environmental Council about the progress made in the accession process, the needs to ensure that environmental conditions will not deteriorate in agriculture, biodiversity etc, and ensure that all pre-accession aid is positive for environment and sustainable development.
  • Publication of the results of the environmental screening process and organisation of public consultations.

Strategic Environmental Assessment

  • A common position of the Environment Council including the amendments from the European Parliament.

Integrated Product Policies

  • Revision of the Chemicals Policy to improve the control of hazardous substances.
  • Waste prevention and full producers responsibility as key elements of product and waste management policies.

Environmental Liability

  • Mandate for the Commission to develop a Directive for strict environmental liability.

Water Framework Directive

  • Revision of the political agreement reached in June: establishment of precise targets or goals, reduction of periods for implementation, determination of quality objectives on the precautionary approach and integration of the polluter pays principle.

Large Combustion Plants

  • Inclusion of existing plants in the new Directive

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