EU industry ministers address integration

Sector becomes fourth to study policy greening after energy, transport, agriculture

EU industry ministers will this week rubber-stamp a progress report on efforts to draw up a detailed report on integrating environmental considerations into their policies, ENDS Daily has learned. A draft statement, to be adopted by ministers in Luxembourg on Thursday, sets the general political stance of industry ministers on environmental integration, and stresses the need to balance economic and social factors with environmental protection measures.

In a draft of the three-page statement, ministers promise to come up with a detailed report before the issue is discussed by heads of state and government at a summit in Helsinki in December. It was government chiefs who, last year, instructed various EU ministerial groups to provide reports on environmental integration. The concept that the environment should be taken up by policy makers in all sectors is now enshrined in the EU's new Amsterdam treaty which comes into force next month (ENDS Daily 12 April).

Three sectors - transport, agriculture and energy - have already produced reports, and will be expected to expand these into detailed strategies by the time of the Helsinki summit (ENDS Daily 14 December 1998). Industry is the first of three other sectors which have been instructed to address the issue so far. Preliminary statements are expected soon from ministers involved in overseas development and the EU's internal market.

The draft industry ministers' statement begins by stating that "major improvements in environmental performance have already been made by the industry sector". It cites the take-up environmental management systems as an example of how some companies have already taken environmental considerations on board. The document also repeats a number of times that environmental policies must be sure not to harm EU competitiveness and employment.

EU environmental NGOs who have seen the draft statement have been unimpressed. Christian Hey of the European Environmental Bureau described it as the "usual rhetoric" but with little real substance. He commented that the text read more as if the ministers were looking at integrating industry concerns into environmental policy, rather than the other way around.

If the text is adopted in its current form, it will mean industry ministers accept the need for all major policy proposals to be accompanied by an environmental impact assessment - something which environmental groups have been calling for at EU level for many years. The ministers will stress, however, that there should also be an assessment of the impact of proposals on industry and employment.

It contains little more concrete information about integration, but promises that ministers will continue to work on the issue.

Follow Up:
EU Council of Ministers, tel: +32 2 285 6111.

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