German Presidency – disappointments outweigh successes say NGOs

Despite the progress made on some of the issues the German Presidency has not lived up to high expectations, and the Red-Green coalition has failed to restore Germany's environmental leadership, says EEB, a European federation of 132 environmental citizens' organisations.


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The EEB was disappointed with the “meagre results” of the reform of agriculture and cohesion policy agreed at the Berlin Summit in March. The agreement “does not reflect a positive role of the German Presidency which seemed to be more concerned with cutting its own contribution to the EU”, it says.

Another “big disappointment” was the stalemate in the promotion of an environmental tax reform, a benchmark for success of the German coalition at the national level. According to EEB the presidency did not put the necessary political weight into an agreement on the already severely weakened proposal for an environmental tax on energy products. Consequently the opponents, led by Spain, did not feel they had to give in.

Another of EEB’s bones of contention was the water framework directive. Despite strong disagreement with the European Parliament, and despite the fact that Germany agreed with part of the Parliament’s proposal, it decided not to re-open the discussion and simply stick with the Council agreement of a year ago. Consequently, a very difficult negotiation process between Parliament and Council will be unavoidable.

The way Chancellor Schröder intervened in the decision making on a draft directive on End-of-life Vehicles is described as scandalous by the EEB. “His intervention clearly demonstrated that economic interests of some car manufacturers override concerns for the interests and the wellbeing of EU citizens, it also demonstrated a lack of respect for his EU partners who reacted furiously about the postponement”.

Successes

On a more positive note, the EEB refers to the results of the informal environment council in May, where important decisions were taken on integrated product policy and the Review of EU Chemicals Policy. It says the Presidency deserves another positive mark for finally putting the draft directive on strategic impact assessment on the agenda even though this has not led to a decision yet.

During the Presidency, the EEB noted “two positive results, in which the Presidency did not play a lead role”: one was the outcome of the June Environment Council on GMOs, the other the proposal the Commission put on the table, despite its outgoing status, for a Directive on National Emission Ceilings (NEC), which would complement a deficient Directive on Large Combustion Plants that only refers to new but not existing plants.

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