CEE countries "making environmental progress"

Regular annual report highlights "acceleration" in transposing EU acquis ahead of enlargement

The European Commission has issued a guardedly positive assessment of progress made by central and eastern European (CEE) countries in the last year to bring most environmental laws into line with EU rules before joining the union.

Presenting the latest annual survey of the state of the EU enlargement process, Commission president Romano Prodi told the European Parliament in Strasbourg today that there had been a "clear acceleration in adopting [environmental] legislation." Last year's evaluation claimed that relatively little had been done.

However, the environment chapter continues to command apparently little priority in the overall accession process. The subject received no further mention in Mr Prodi's speech, nor in that given later by enlargement commissioner Günter Verheugen. It merited only one paragraph in an enlargement strategy paper also released today.

The paper stresses that much still needs to be achieved despite progress to date. "Efforts are needed in particular in the areas of water, industrial pollution control, chemicals and nature protection," it says.

A series of reports on progress by each accession country helps to identify current leaders and laggards. Poland and Hungary are picked out as making little or limited progress on the environment, and the Czech Republic is reported only to be making "some" progress. Slovenia and Estonia get higher marks, rated as having made "substantial" and "considerable" progress respectively in transposing EU laws. Lithuania, Latvia and Bulgaria also get good mentions; Slovakia and Romania do not.

Conspicuous by its absence is any explicit reference to the dispute between the Czech Republic and Austria over the Temelin nuclear power station (ENDS Daily 30 August). But the Commission does acknowledge that there has been "some public concern in certain parts of the EU" over the installation.

Follow Up:
European Commission, tel: +32 2 299 1111; see also a press release, speeches by Prodi and Verheugen, Commission enlargement pages, including strategy paper and individual country regular reports.

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