EEB pulls out of EU standards development

Environmental NGO federation complains of secrecy, undue industry influence

EU environmental group federation the European Environmental Bureau (EEB) has suspended its involvement in development of EU standards for environmental protection, it announced yesterday. "Standards for products and production methods are being set without...proper environmental requirements," the group said in a statement.

Under the EU's so-called "new approach" to legislation, increasing numbers of laws relating to the single market specify general legal principles to be supplemented by detailed standards developed by the European Standardisation Organisation, CEN.

The first major application of this approach in a key environmental policy area came with the recent adoption of four CEN standards for packaging, designed to flesh out the 1994 packaging directive (ENDS Daily 27 April). The European Commission's enterprise directorate is now proposing a similar approach for new rules governing the marketing of electrical and electronic goods (ENDS Daily 2 May).

Having participated in CEN discussions for several years, the EEB now says that its presence is "on balance, not positive for the environment". "We do not want to lend credibility to a process that, in practice, is not guaranteeing integration of environmental interests," said EEB secretary general John Hontelez.

The EEB acknowledges that CEN has taken steps to boost its environmental capacity by creating an environmental advisory committee (Sabe) and an environmental help desk for member standards bodies (ENDS Daily 4 April) but says that the reforms are "unsatisfactory".

The help desk's mandate "is too restricted to be effective," it says, claiming that "industry representatives even insist on not publishing the [help desk's] advice within CEN. It further complains that the Commission recently refused funds to European environmental groups to create an "environmental technical bureau," without which it says it does not have the resources to participate effectively in standards-setting.

Follow Up:
EEB, tel: +32 2 289 1090.

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