Finnish presidency's green plans in summary

Air pollution, waste management, among environmental priorities for next six months

Finland has unveiled the EU environmental policy dossiers that it will concentrate on during its six-month presidency of the EU which begins in July. Climate change, EU enlargement, environmental policy integration and the "northern dimension" will be the presidency's four "big idea" priorities, while it has identified 14 individual policy proposals to be discussed by EU environment ministers, which fall into three main groups.

1) Dossiers that Finland will aim to finalise if not completed under the current EU presidency:

Waste incineration

A new directive will bring together EU rules on burning hazardous and non-hazardous waste. Differences of opinion remain between the European Parliament, which wants the same emissions limit values for all types of waste, and the Council of Ministers which looks set to maintain the existing differentiation between the two waste streams (ENDS Daily 11 May).

Genetically modified organisms (GMOs)

Ministers look increasingly unlikely to reach consensus on the revised directive governing marketing approvals for GMOs under the German presidency (ENDS Daily 27 May).

Ecolabel scheme revision

Proposed revision of the EU regulation governing the voluntary scheme for labelling certain products as "greener" than others (ENDS Daily 15 February). The main point of discussion is the relationship between the fledgling EU scheme and other systems such as the Nordic Swan label used in Finland and other Scandinavian countries.

EMAS scheme

The proposed revision of the 1993 EU eco-management and audit scheme (EMAS) regulation aims to increase participation in the scheme by extending its scope to all organisations rather than just manufacturing plants. The European Parliament is pushing for much stronger requirements for companies registered under the voluntary scheme (ENDS Daily 16 April).

Life III

The Life programme is the EU's main environmental protection and nature conservation funding programme and its priorities for the third phase, due to run from 2000 to 2004. The revised regulation will contain a guideline budget figure, which the European Commission proposed at euros 613m, but which the European Parliament wants to increase to euros 850m (ENDS Daily 16 April).

2) Dossiers already proposed by the Commission that are not due to be completed by the current presidency:

Large combustion plants

Ministers would prefer to discuss this proposal - which sets emission limits for plants such as power stations - in tandem with a forthcoming proposal on national emissions ceilings (see below) so it has not been discussed much by diplomats (ENDS Daily 12 March).

Air quality daughter directives: carbon monoxide (CO) and benzene

These two proposals aim to reduce air pollution of these substances which come from road traffic and industry and are part of the EU's air quality strategy (ENDS Daily 2 December 1998).

Environmental inspection criteria

Ministers will have to decide whether or not to accept the European Parliament view to make proposed guidelines for national environmental inspection standards binding (ENDS Daily 31 March).

3) Dossiers expected to be proposed by the European Commission:

National emissions ceilings (NEC) directive

Following a request from Finland, the Commission may publish this proposal - which sets maximum limits for each EU state's emissions of acidifying pollutants - this month (ENDS Daily 25 May).

Air quality daughter directive: ozone

This will be proposed along with the NEC dossier as some of the pollutants covered in the NEC dossier are key contributors to ozone formation (ENDS Daily 25 May).

Chemicals strategy

The Commission will come forward with a strategy for more efficient and simpler EU legislation on chemicals after the summer (ENDS Daily 21 May). Ministers will discuss the review of existing policies at their next meeting at the end of June

Waste batteries

A draft directive amending an existing EU law will set targets for recycling batteries and may phase-out the use of cadmium (ENDS Daily 7 July 1997).

Electrical and electronic waste

The Commission's environment directorate (DGXI) wants to propose a manufacturer take-back scheme in order to reduce waste and increase recycling (ENDS Daily 9 September 1998).

Liability

If the Commission can sort out internal differences over the long-awaited policy paper on environmental liability, Finland is keen to get ministers to discuss the issue (ENDS Daily 9 March).

Follow Up:
Finnish environment ministry, tel: +358 9 19911. See also the Finnish presidency web site.

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