MEP calls for EU environmental law shake-up

Environment committee chairman Jackson condemns "growing crisis" of poor implementation

The chairman of the European Parliament's environment committee has delivered a damning assessment of the state of national compliance with the EU's canon of green laws. In a pamphlet aimed at governments as they gear up for talks on a new EU environmental action programme and intensify negotiations with candidate member countries, UK conservative MEP Caroline Jackson says the bloc needs to make radical changes to the way it adopts, implements and enforces its environmental legislation.

"We must stop kidding the public that a new environmental law means that the same improvements will happen everywhere," she says. Poor costing of directives which are expensive to implement, such as those on nitrate pollution and sewage treatment, plus protracted infringement procedures for bringing errant member states to account, has led to a "growing crisis" of patchy implementation, she says. This affects the environment and distorts competition, she adds.

Much of the blame is laid at the door of the European Commission: it should propose fewer laws, with better assessment of the financial consequences of proposals. It should also act more swiftly against non-compliance, instead of dancing the "delicate legal gavotte" which has led to only one EU member being fined over poor implementation - and then almost two decades after it should have implemented the law.

National parliaments should have a greater say in framing EU laws, she says, and the conciliation talks which are often necessary to finalise details of laws should take place in public. "This is the moment for bargaining on nuances of meaning, which may have major consequences for practical application," she says. The result of closed, rushed talks is often "muddled" texts "whose complications few, at the time, understand".

This crisis will be compounded if the problems are not resolved before the EU expands, she says. "If the new states are seen to be allowed to enter without taking environmental legislation seriously, they will simply supply alibis for the existing states to delay their own programmes of implementation."

Follow Up:
European Parliament environment committee, tel: +32 2 284 2111. The pamphlet, "Playing by the (Green) Rules: the Adoption and Neglect of European Environmental Law," can be obtained from Mrs Jackson's UK office on +44 1793 42 26 63.

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