MEPs and ministers set to fight for "Life"

Parliamentary committee debates EU green project fund, ecolabel, structural funds, incineration

EU governments and the European Parliament are set to scrap over environmental project funding after MEPs in the parliament's environment committee this week repeated a demand to increase the budget of the Life programme for 2000-2004. The committee wants to make euros 850m available while environment ministers last year approved the European Commission proposal of euros 613m (ENDS Daily 25 June 1999).

The issue is now virtually certain to be settled through the increasingly frequently invoked conciliation procedure. The procedure was extended to most areas of environment policy by the Amsterdam treaty last year and is used to settle differences between national governments in the Council of Ministers and MEPs. A similar funding dispute over funds for clean energy took the conciliation path last year (ENDS Daily 10 December).

The Life initiative funds innovative pilot and demonstration projects aiming at environmental improvement, particularly in the waste and water sectors (ENDS Daily 20 October 1999). The Commission proposed a large increase in the euros 450m budget allocated for the 1996-1999 programme because the scheme is now being fully extended to the 13 countries aspiring to become EU members. The dossier will be considered by the full parliament in mid-February.

The parliament's environment committee meeting also touched on the current process of revising the regulation underpinning the EU ecolabel scheme. The MEP drafting parliament's opinion confirmed he was unlikely to call for major changes to a ministerial agreement last year (ENDS Daily 25 June 1999).

German Christian Democrat Horst Schnellhardt's second-reading report on the regulation makes only three minor amendments to the common position, which rejected Commission proposals to abolish national ecolabel schemes and create an independent administrative body (ENDS Daily 16 November 1999).

Mr Schnellhardt said a request to "allow" national ecolabels to expire after a specific transitional period was "not to be followed up". National and regional labels, such as the Nordic Swan and Germany's Blue Angel, have put in "years of effort" and have achieved a "very high degree of awareness and...are today a useful means of promoting environmentally-friendly consumer behaviour," he said.

MEPs also passed a resolution supporting the European Commission's insistence that EU structural fund applications from member states would not be processed if there was a potential threat to protected wildlife sites (ENDS Daily 20 January) and had a first debate on proposed changes to EU waste incineration rules (ENDS Daily 19 January).

Follow Up:
European Parliament environment committee, tel: +32 2 284 2111; Life programme home page.

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