Sweden fears EU go-slow on environment

"Foot dragging" could force changes to Swedish presidency plans, complains Larsson

Sweden's ambition to put environment at the heart of its six-month stint as EU presidency next year risks being damaged by "foot dragging" by the European Commission and EU governments, Swedish environment minister Kjell Larsson warned on Friday. Accompanied by EU environment commissioner Margot Wallström - who is also a Swede - the minister was outlining his plans for the Swedish EU presidency to journalists in Stockholm.

Sweden has prioritised sustainable development, a European integrated product policy (IPP) (ENDS Daily 13 January) and finalisation of the EU's sixth environmental action programme (6EAP) (ENDS Daily 11 May), along with an emphasis on chemical safety and more efficient resource use.

With less than a month to go before Sweden takes over the EU helm from France, however, the 6EAP has still to emerge from the Commission, and it is rumoured that officials were ordered back to the drawing board by Ms Wallström after they delivered a first draft. Mr Larsson said he feared that the presidency would not have time to deal with the paper unless it was published by January.

Mr Larsson said he feared a similar delay in emergence of a major EU sustainable development strategy, which the Commission was asked to prepare at last December's summit of EU leaders (ENDS Daily 13 December 1999).

This is supposed to be considered at Sweden's end-of-term summit in Gothenburg next June, alongside detailed strategies for environmental integration by nine EU ministerial groupings. Mr Larsson said a result might not be possible unless the Commission could produce a strategy by May. He suggested that "foot dragging" in Brussels corridors was behind the delays.

The collapse of last month's international climate talks in the Hague could also upset Sweden's plans, the minister said, by requiring it to spend time preparing for "COP6-bis" - the follow-up talks that are due to be held next May. One result of this, he said, was that Sweden might have to give up its pledge to champion the development of a European IPP during its presidency.

Follow Up:
Swedish environment ministry, tel: +46 8 405 1000; see also the Swedish presidency site's environmental section.

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