EMAS regulation finalised in conciliation

EU governments accept most parliamentary demands over revision to eco-audit scheme

EU governments and the European Parliament have reached a conciliation agreement on new rules for the EMAS eco-audit scheme. The deal was formally approved on Wednesday without the full conciliation committee procedure even being launched and now only requires formal ratification to take effect.

Introduced in 1993, EMAS has been widely adopted in certain European countries - notably Germany, Austria, Sweden and Denmark - but has performed far less well than the ISO 14001 environmental management standard elsewhere. The European Commission unveiled plans to update the scheme in 1998, with the aim of boosting participation and broadening access to non-industrial businesses and smaller companies (ENDS Daily 9 June 1998).

During formal legislative readings, the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament diverged on several issues, with the parliament in particular pushing for tougher environmental controls while ensuring special treatment for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) (ENDS Daily 6 September).

Conciliation talks eventually had to deal with 27 parliamentary amendments that had not been accepted by the Council at second reading. Twenty-two have been passed partially or in full, with MEPs winning extra guarantees of transparency, involvement of environmental groups and trades unions, and stronger requirements for EMAS-registered companies to demonstrate compliance with environmental laws.

The new regulation explicitly allows EU member states to create incentives to encourage participation in the scheme. It also calls on the European Commission to help accession countries to participate, and makes more explicit that SMEs should have the possibility of submitting validated environmental statements less frequently than once a year.

As the Council wanted, member states will be directed to consider how to "take account" of EMAS registrations in implementing and enforcing environmental laws and inform the Commission. In addition, the parliament has won a requirement for the Commission to report on this information at least every three years.

Follow Up:
European Parliament conciliation committee, tel: +32 2 284 2734; EU Council of Ministers, tel: +32 2 285 6423, and press release; European Commission EMAS homepage.

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