Commission fires accession warning at Czechs

Impact assessment law must be passed or aid money will stop, says top EU environment official

The Czech Republic will be refused access to EU aid next year unless its parliament adopts a law to transpose EU environmental impact assessment legislation, a top Commission official warned Czech environment minister Milos Kuzvart today. Jean-François Verstrynge, deputy director-general of the Commission's environment directorate, said the EU needed to know that the impact of projects it was financing was being properly assessed.

"We're a little disappointed that EIA legislation has not yet been passed. We have clearly indicated that it is a prerequisite for financing some areas... We will stop giving money under any legislation next year if [the directive] is not transposed properly. We want no obstacles to funding," he told a gathering in Brussels.

Mr Kuzvart later told journalists that the delay was being caused by a number of Czech MPs who were opposing the public participation provisions in the directive on the grounds that they might give too much power to environmental groups. "The role of NGOs is not clear to all deputies," he said.

Mr Verstrynge also said that support among Czech MPs for an existing law on impact assessment to be repealed was misguided since expected adoption of the draft EU directive on strategic environmental assessment would soon force similar rules to be reinstated.

According to Commission sources, the Czech government has faced an uphill battle over environmental assessment legislation because it has only minority support in the parliament. "There has been quite strong industry pressure against these laws," one official added.

Earlier in today's meeting, Mr Kuzvart presented environment commissioner Margot Wallström with his country's implementation plan for the environmental chapter of EU accession negotiations. The plan contains detailed timetables and funding arrangements for the implementation of around 270 EU environmental laws.

It also requests transition periods in implementing seven important directives. The longest of these would see the integrated pollution prevention and control directive applied fully in 2012, five years later than will be required in other member states. Officials said meeting emission norms would not present a problem, but that industrial installations would need time to upgrade to "best available technology" as stipulated in the law.

Follow Up:
European Commission, tel: +32 2 299 1111; Czech environment ministry, tel: +420 2 6712 1111, and the Czech implementation plan.

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