WWF pushes for greener EU enlargement

Environmental group anticipates launch of official negotiations with week of events, reports

Environmental group WWF is underlining a call for a greening of the EU's eastwards enlargement process with a week of special events and new reports. The initiative anticipates the scheduled launch of official EU-accession country negotiations on environmental policies in January, after nearly two years' preparation (ENDS Daily 8 November).

The NGO launched its enlargement week on Friday, with a report warning against using environmental difficulties "as an excuse" to delay candidate countries' accession, and calling for environmental issues to be given a higher status in the negotiations. "Environmental issues can benefit an enlargement process that is facing increasing scepticism east and west," WWF said, but have been "shamefully neglected".

The EU should double its pre-accession funding for environmental improvements, said WWF, echoing an identical call made by MEPs this summer (ENDS Daily 30 August). The NGO specifically demanded an increase in the proportion of the Sapard pre-accession fund for agriculture and rural development earmarked for environmental protection from 4% to 65%. It called for similar increases in environmental funding under the Ispa environment and transport fund and the Phare economic reform and restructuring fund.

Three further WWF demands were to avoid any weakening of nature protection standards in accession countries which currently have stricter rules than the EU, for the EU to develop new policies to reflect the priorities of its prospective new members, and for environmental issues to feature in all aspects of the accession negotiations in line with the EU's "Cardiff" environmental integration process.

The NGO's enlargement week continued today at an open meeting with representatives of the Swedish government, which takes over the EU presidency from France on 1 January and will thus preside over environmental negotiations in the enlargement process. Tomorrow, WWF will publish a review of wetlands and the water environment in five accession countries, highlighting expected problems these states will face in complying with the EU's new water framework directive.

Follow Up:
WWF European policy office, tel: +32 2 743 8800, and a press release.

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