Low-key EU Environment Council in view

New ozone pollution limits only legislative item on agenda, ministers to hold open debate on noise

EU environment ministers meet in Luxembourg on Tuesday for their third regular legislative council of the year and the first under the presidency of France. The Environment Council is expected to reach agreement on one legal text, but a lengthy agenda of items for discussion includes current hot topics climate change and genetically modified organisms, plus a public debate on noise pollution.

* Tropospheric ozone limits:

Ministers will reach a first reading common position on a European Commission proposal to fix the maximum number of times member states are allowed to exceed a 120 micrograms per cubic metre (ug/m3) limit on ground-level ozone concentrations (ENDS Daily 9 June 1999). The Commission has proposed restricting exceedances to 20 annually by 2010 and has been backed up by the European Parliament (ENDS Daily 15 March). The proposed limits have been opposed strongly by Greece, Italy and Spain, where 60 exceedances annually sometimes occur. However, sources say a figure of 25 days has now been accepted by all delegations and Tuesday's meeting will focus on minor remaining disagreements.

* Noise:

The Council will hold a public debate on recent proposals by the Commission to harmonise noise measurement and monitoring (ENDS Daily 27 July). The plans are felt to be uncontentious.

* Climate change:

Now a regular fixture at environment ministers' meetings, the issue of climate change will again be debated. A set of "Council conclusions" are expected to broadly endorse the Commission's outline for an EU climate change programme of measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (ENDS Daily 8 March). Talks to finalise the EU's position ahead of the crucial COP6 climate summit in November will be deferred to an extraordinary council meeting early in that month.

* Electronic equipment:

Ministers will be updated on preliminary talks among diplomats on two proposed directives concerning waste recycling and bans on hazardous substances (ENDS Daily 13 June). One EU source said most delegations were in favour of combining the two proposals, an option also preferred by the European Parliament's rapporteur. The French presidency is said to be very keen to reach a political agreement on the dossier at the December council, though a formal common position will not be possible until after the European Parliament has delivered its opinion early next year.

* Other agenda items:

The French presidency will inform the Council on work to propose a framework which could eventually lead to a unified World Environment Organisation, a prospect already being opposed by Italy, Sweden and Germany; it will also call on the Commission to speed up work on GMO labelling and traceability proposals (ENDS Daily 17 July); delegations will also once again debate environmental liability.

Follow Up:
EU Council of Ministers, tel: +32 285 6111, and a full annotated agenda.

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