EU parliament sets out green policy priorities

MEPs debate Commission work programme, ecolabels, outdoor machinery noise, habitats

The European Parliament has called on the European Commission to exercise "particular vigilance" in the areas of trade, EU enlargement and structural fund projects in its environmental planning for 2000. Responding to the Commission's annual draft legislative programme, MEPs also called for new EU legal proposals on waste electronic and electrical equipment, soil quality and civil liability, and noise.

The parliament called for a "detailed review" of the 1992 habitats directive and a "speeding up" of the evaluation of substances controlled under the 1991 pesticides directive. MEPs added that the maximum sulphur content of fuels should be reduced from 50 parts per million (ppm) to 10ppm. In addition, they demanded "clearer signs of a shift in energy policy towards the promotion of renewable energies".

Renewing a call already rejected by ministers and the Commission, the parliament demanded extra powers for the European Environment Agency as a super-regulator of industrial facilities. It also called for the forthcoming sixth environmental action programme to include "quantified targets and timetables" for improvement.

Also in the European Parliament this week:

* The plenary approved revisions to the regulation underpinning the EU ecolabelling scheme, including acceptance that national and regional schemes will be able to coexist with the EU one, even when both have labels for the same products. The Commission has already accepted that both types of label should continue to operate, having originally proposed primacy for the EU scheme.

In amendments to a ministerial common position at first reading, MEPs called for more active involvement by NGOs in awarding labels, a cap on administration fees for businesses whose products are eligible to carry a label, and a discount on administration fees for some organisations. If ministers do not accept the changes, small businesses, those in developing countries and companies operating EU-approved environmental management schemes will benefit from lower fees.

* MEPs passed without amendments a directive on noise from machinery used outdoors (ENDS Daily 19 May 1999). Agreed by ministers last year, the law will harmonise noise standards by forcing manufacturers to label over 50 types of equipment while imposing tighter noise emission standards on around half of them. Ministers resolved the only dispute over the law last year by agreeing to postpone deliberations on introducing tighter restrictions for lawnmowers (ENDS Daily 25 June 1999).

* The assembly adopted a resolution supporting the European Commission's warning that EU member states would not receive structural funding if they did not comply with EU nature protection laws (ENDS Daily 16 March). MEPs said several member states had "taken a restrictive and narrowly defined approach" to the laws and urged the Commission to "ensure EU-funded programmes do not damage or destroy actual or potential protected sites".

* MEPs also adopted reports aiming to improve the integration of environmental concerns into foreign aid policy, and to promote the conservation and sustainable management of forests in developing countries.

Follow Up:
European Parliament, tel: 284 2111. All texts adopted by the parliament {{here}}.

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