European Commission hosts ‘Green Week’ experiment

The EC has held its first ‘Green Week’ attempting to engage European citizens with its plans for the environment and raise the subject’s general profile.

The event, combining conferences and exhibitions and the brainchild of Environment Commissioner Margot Wallström, was held from 24-28 April in Brussels. It was designed to publicise the EC’s recent much-maligned 6th Environment Action Programme (see related story and related story) and to showcase environmental success stories in both member and candidate nations. European NGOs, representatives of industry and local authorities, journalists, research and scientific institutes and decision-makers were all involved in debating major issues confronting European policy-makers.

Officials had planned for about 1,500 attendees, but about 2,200 registered, which the EC said, showed the event’s success, especially when informing EU citizens about the Commission’s work, acknowledged by Wallström as a shortcoming of the EC. “We need to empower people by giving them information and inspiring them to take action,” she announced at the opening of the event, before telling journalists that criticism of the EC’s 10-year environment plan was no worse than expected.

In all there were 27 discussions and workshops covering the five major policy areas outlined in the Programme: climate change, nature and bio-diversity, health and environment, water and waste management. Wallström defended the lack of targets and deadlines in the plan, by saying that plans for each policy area would be elaborated in detail. However, cracks in differing views of EC policy were apparent at the event with Energy and Transport Commissioner Loyola de Palacio, contradicting Wallström’s aims to discontinue nuclear energy use, by saying that the EU will need nuclear power “for the medium term” and called for “rational” discussion on the subject. “If we don’t do something [about greenhouse gas emissions] we’re actually going to see a five percent increase during the Kyoto compliance period,” she said. A leaked EC document recently called for more loans for new nuclear plants (see related story).

Over 80 exhibitors from member states and candidate countries, including Poland, Romania and Slovakia, presented their environmental projects focusing on such themes as protecting wetlands and wildlife species, waste and waste water recycling, treating oil spills, reducing noise pollution and the benefits of crop diversity and car sharing.

Painting and drawing, speech writing, story writing, photography and video production competitions “put young EU citizens aged from 7-23 years centre stage” and gave them the chance to express their views on the environment and vision of the future. Young people also took part in a mock Environment Council of Ministers.

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