EU Environment Council round-up

Ministers debate state aids, sustainable cities, chemicals, water pollutants, standardisation

EU environment ministers met in Luxembourg yesterday for their final meeting under the presidency of Portugal. An agenda long on talking points but short on legislative substance was dominated by first reading political agreements on directives to control pollution from large combustion plants and fix national emission ceilings (ENDS Daily 22 June).

Most time, however, was spent discussing the EU's position for upcoming climate change negotiations (see separate article, today's issue), leaving little time for consideration of other agenda items, which were as follows:

State aids for environment, renewable energy:

Ministers briefly discussed recently proposed guidelines from the European Commission's competition directorate on the treatment of government subsidies for environmental protection, including renewable energy support payments (ENDS Daily 23 March).

Commission plans to outlaw all such subsidies after five years have provoked outrage among NGOs. They have also faced resistance from EU energy commissioner Loyola de Palacio, whose recently proposed renewable electricity directive proposes to continue allowing subsidies under common rules yet to be proposed. Ministers "strongly" invited the Commission to give greater weight to environmental issues in a new draft of the guidelines it is preparing.

Sustainable urban development:

The Portuguese presidency reported on progress towards adoption of a proposed EU law instituting a framework to promote sustainable urban development, particularly through local Agenda 21 (ENDS Daily 18 April). The Commission has proposed financing the initiative to the tune of euros 12m over the 2001-2004 period. Ministerial agreement was not possible as the European Parliament has not yet given its opinion.


The Commission updated ministers on progress towards a proposed new EU chemical regime, which is to be put forward for discussion later this year (ENDS Daily 6 June). An orientation debate on the plan, which already has "broad support" among governments, is set for October's Environment Council.

Water priority list:

Ministers called for work to continue on finalising a list of substances to receive early regulatory attention under the expected new EU water framework directive. The 32-strong list was proposed by the Commission in February (ENDS Daily 24 February). The final form of the directive is due to be agreed between governments and the European Parliament at a conciliation meeting next Wednesday (ENDS Daily 26 May).

Environmentalists and standardisation:

The Danish delegation expressed concern at the European Environmental Bureau's recent decision to stop working with European standard-setting body CEN on the grounds that it lacks resources to counter industry lobbyists (ENDS Daily 8 June). With the support of several other delegations, Denmark asked the Commission to look into providing "other means" to ensure future EEB involvement in CEN. The Commission said a meeting to discuss the issue was scheduled for 12 July.

Other business:

The European Commission attempted to allay Swedish concerns over certain brominated flame retardants by announcing that control measures were pending; the Commission presented its recently proposed draft directives on electroscrap, public procurement and renewable electricity, and reported on progress on a forthcoming proposal to revise the batteries directive; the Portuguese presidency commented on the increasing importance of the codecision procedure in EU environmental policymaking. Ministers also "took note" of a call by Austria to ban TBT in products involving human contact (ENDS Daily 19 May).

Follow Up:
EU Council of Ministers, tel: +32 2 285 6111, the climate conclusions are contained in the minutes of the meeting see also European Commission press release IP/00657 on large combustion plants and national emission ceilings on Rapid.

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