Wallström celebrates 100 days in office

EU environment commissioner promises to shame lawbreakers, plays down precaution paper

EU environment commissioner Margot Wallström today marked her first 100 days in office today by pledging to "name and shame" countries failing to comply with EU environmental laws. She also played down the significance of the Commission's precautionary principle communication, to be published tomorrow.

The commissioner said she was planning a series of seminars designed to achieve greater compliance by member states with EU environmental laws. The events would list countries in contravention of EU legislation and highlight good practice, she said. NGOs and the European Parliament will be involved in the exercises, the first of which will focus on EU water laws.

Turning to tomorrow's precautionary principle paper, Ms Wallström said the paper would simply "get into writing rules we use and will continue to use" and "will not be a change in policy". She added that a consultation exercise to follow the publication would "not change substantial points" of the EU's interpretation of the principle, though they might affect its formulation.

The principle is mentioned in the EU treaty and has crucial relevance to policy on chemicals and genetically modified organisms (ENDS Daily 22 December 1999). The document is one of the most politically sensitive to come out of the Commission in recent times, according to officials, and has been eagerly awaited by industry and environment lobbies (ENDS Daily 26 January).

Summing up her "honeymoon" period in office, the commissioner pointed to successes in the recently negotiated biosafety protocol (ENDS Daily 31 January) and EU leaders' call for an EU sustainable development strategy (ENDS Daily 13 December 1999).

However, she said she faced a "big challenge to set her own agenda," which was "not always possible." She again criticised the EU's three southern countries recently granted two-year derogations from a ban on unleaded petrol, saying it was a "shock" to see "terrible debates" in which member states "spread lies" about the impact of the ban in order to force the delays (ENDS Daily 20 December 1999).

The affair was seen as an internal Commission defeat for Ms Wallström after her department originally indicated a one-year derogation had been agreed. On the plus side, she said, "it means I can be tougher next time."

Ms Wallström reiterated her determination to cajole EU countries into making greater efforts to reach greenhouse gas reduction targets envisaged under the Kyoto protocol, where all the trends are "disappointing and worrisome".

Follow Up:
European Commission, tel: +32 2 299 1111.

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