Hungary to seek EU accession transition periods

Screening talks reveal more time needed to achieve waste management, IPPC standards

Hungary will ask the European Commission to grant it transition periods in the fields of waste management and integrated pollution prevention and control (IPPC) to enable it to join the European Union on its target date of 1 January 2002, ENDS Daily has learned.

Hungarian negotiator István Õri spoke to ENDS Daily today after the completion last Wednesday of "screening" talks with the Commission on the country's progress in implementing the environmental chapters of the EU's acquis, its canon of adopted laws. After the first round of talks Hungary signalled it would also need more time to comply with the EU's water laws (ENDS Daily 26 January).

Mr Õri said that "further negotiation" was necessary on around 20-25 pieces of EU legislation, and that a legacy of inefficient heavy industry and unregulated local waste dumping meant that compliance with EU legislation on waste and IPPC was impossible before the "working date" for entry, which is a year earlier than the other five countries hoping to join in a first wave of EU enlargement. In a December report on Hungary's progress the commission had criticised the "slowed rhythm" of legislative alignment in the environmental field.

However, Mr Õri said Hungary would not ask for a period longer than eight years after accession to adapt its existing industrial plants to the requirements of the 1996 IPPC directive - the same period he claims is being given to existing plants in current member states.

Full compliance on waste management will also need a similar "medium-term" transition period while Hungary completes a programme to construct regional waste treatment and recycling plants, he said. Around 20 of a proposed hundred plants have been built, with funding for the others expected to come from the euros 50m that the EU will make available in 2000 through its ISPA facility. Legislation in this area is still to be passed, but will include detailed provisions on chemicals policy, another area in which the commission had expressed reservations on Hungary's progress.

An equal amount of ISPA funds is to be allocated for transport and will be invested in public transport in a bid to combat rising emissions from this sector, Mr Õri said. In the meantime Hungary has banned the use of lead in fuels ahead of an EU obligation to do so, which comes into effect this year.

Hungary will present its position paper with definite proposals for transition periods in late spring, with a view to commencing full negotiations on the environmental chapters early in the Finnish presidency of the EU, which starts in July.Follow Up:
Mission of the Hungarian Republic to the EU, tel: +32 2 372 0800; Hungarian environment ministry, tel: +36 1 457 3300.

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