MEPs voted on EU environment ministers' common position on the directive last month (ENDS Daily 3 February). They supported the principle that car owners should have their cars collected and recycled free of charge, and that manufacturers should pay "all or a significant part" of the costs at least for "new" cars produced from 18 months after the directive comes into effect.
For "existing" cars sold before this date, however, a confused and narrowly-passed amendment left intact a planned free collection and recycling scheme, while seeking to remove car makers' obligation to pay for it. A related suggestion for the costs to be funded through a levy on new cars was defeated by a whisker, leaving it unclear how the scheme would be financed.
The Commission is deeply committed to the principle of producer responsibility and has all along interpreted the parliament's amendment as eliminating it from the directive's controls on "existing" cars. In its comments on the latest draft of the directive it excludes the parliament's amendment, along with several others to a planned ban on heavy metals in car manufacture, as a "major weakening of environmental protection."
The parliament's rapporteur, centre-right MEP Karl-Heinz Florenz, says the amendments clearly leave it up to EU governments how they pay for recycling (ENDS Daily 11 February). Other members of the assembly's cross-party "conciliation" delegation, which will have to negotiate with EU governments over the differences in May, have grudgingly accepted the rapporteur's interpretation, ENDS Daily understands.
It remains to be seen how strongly they will support the parliament's stance in the face of opposition from EU governments, which only reached their common position after bitter negotiations (ENDS Daily 22 July 1999). One government diplomat told ENDS Daily today the Council "will reject all the amendments [and] will put pressure on parliament" to reconsider. "We can only agree on a [producer responsibility] provision that is crystal clear," he said. A preliminary meeting to discuss the conciliation achieved "no breakthrough" today, according to sources.
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