EEA chief envisions "larger, greener" EU

Jiménez-Beltrán claims agency's expansion, new goals, will help EU to world sustainability lead

European Environment Agency (EEA) chief Domingo Jiménez-Beltrán today set out an ambitious vision for a larger, greener EU, ready to take a world lead in policies for sustainability. His comments follow a meeting of the agency's management board on Monday that approved an early increase in membership to 31 countries and a new five year work programme.

Interviewed by ENDS Daily, Mr Jiménez-Beltrán said that the Copenhagen-based agency was now set to expand its membership from 18 to 31 countries next year, well ahead of the expected full accession of new states to the EU. Ten of the prospective new members are central and eastern European countries; the other three are Cyprus, Malta and Turkey.

Countries are looking for "ecological union" before entry into the EU, according to Mr Jiménez-Beltrán. Membership of the EEA will help EU applicants to implement the full framework of EU environmental laws at lower cost. Europe's environment will also benefit, because enlargement will also "finally allow a consistent approach and therefore consistent policies" across the continent.

Mr Jiménez-Beltrán stresses that it is the applicant countries themselves that have requested EEA membership, despite the costs, and not the EU institutions. Formal negotiations for EEA enlargement are due to be kicked off by the European Commission on 27 March, he adds.

The EEA's new five-year work programme approved by the management board also marks an important step forward, Mr Jiménez-Beltrán says. The EEA is now moving towards a more active and action-oriented reporting system, including annual indicator reports to provide "signals" of progress plus major state of the environment reports every five years.

The "very challenging vision" for the next five years is focused on supporting Europe's shift to sustainability, Mr Jiménez-Beltrán said, and specifically to EU preparations for the ten-year review of the 1992 Earth Summit due in 2002.

The EEA is now becoming not just a reporting mechanism for the EU but will also support benchmarking of progress and will "feed" EU policy making by doing prospective studies, according to Mr Jiménez-Beltrán. Together, these initiatives will enable the EU to take a clear leadership position in world efforts to achieve sustainability, particularly in relation to the USA, he claimed.

Follow Up:
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