Greece pushes back EU chemicals review deal

EU environment ministers will not reach a common position on a planned overhaul of European chemicals policy until the end of the year, it has emerged. In a joint Council of Ministers’ work programme for 2003, the Greek and Italian governments, which will chair EU meetings in the first and second halves of the year respectively, say scrutiny of the dossier in the council is “likely to enter a more active stage” under Rome's stewardship.

The development will disappoint environmentalists already angry at what they see as undue procedural hold-ups within the European Commission, which has still to table its legislative proposals. The review was originally supposed to be finalised by the end of last year. It is likely to be the most hotly contested EU environmental policy issue of 2003, reports Environment Daily.

Meanwhile, Athens is gunning for a ministerial agreement on the similarly contentious draft environmental liability directive during its presidency term. The dossier was virtually sidelined under the outgoing Danish presidency because the European parliament had not yet delivered its opinion. MEPs are now on their way to producing this and Greece says it “should be able” to reach agreement by June. A second reading would be handled by Italy.

Also high on the Greek wish-list is a rapid adoption of the European Commission’s proposed revision of the EU bathing water directive through a first-reading agreement between the council and parliament. Athens will also coordinate a council response to European Commission policy papers on the marine environment and on sustainable development in island regions.

Greece says work on three other items – the “intelligent energy” funding programme, a cogeneration support framework and expected Commission proposals for energy efficiency of appliances – must also be advanced before heads of government meet in March, to maintain EU commitments made at last year’s Johannesburg summit.

The March European council will also receive the Commission’s second progress report on the bloc’s sustainable development strategy. The environment council is to draw up “priorities, concrete measures and timetables” for the further implementation of the strategy.

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