DGXI outlines millennial EU policy priorities

Commission assessment of environmental policies could contain a "factor 10" commitment

The European Commission's environment directorate (DGXI) has given a glimpse of its emerging strategy for EU policy making at the start of the next millennium. Speaking at a conference in Brussels yesterday, organised by the public affairs firm Government Policy Consultants, DGXI's Grant Lawrence explained that four policy goals would be included in a "global assessment" of the last five years' policy making, to be published in the autumn.

According to another DGXI official, the paper could form the basis of new long-term action programme to replace the current five-year plan, the "fifth environmental action programme" which expires at the end of this year. EU heads of government are due to discuss the future of EU environment policies at a summit meeting in Helsinki in December.

The most novel of the four policy priorities unveiled yesterday could be the adoption of a "factor 10" improvement in resource and pollution efficiency as an explicit goal of EU environmental policies. This goal, which would probably be the most ambitious in the world to be adopted officially, was still only being discussed within DGXI at this stage, Mr Lawrence told the conference.

He said that adoption of a factor 10 objective would require EU policy to be used to support clean technologies and product design and on getting consumers to change their habits. DGXI is already working on such ideas in its "integrated product policy" (IPP) work (ENDS Daily 10 May). The first Commission policy paper on this is expected in the autumn, Mr Lawrence said.

The other three strategic priorities concern areas are all already at the forefront of

EU policy making - climate change, improving the ecological quality of the environment, and controlling environmental risks posed by chemicals and genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

As most of the legislation dealing with ecological quality was already in place - such as water and air quality directives - the EU should concentrate on implementation rather than making new laws, said Mr Lawrence. He said the one area where new EU legislation might be required would be on soil quality. Mr Lawrence explained that DGXI had recently established a "soil forum" where member state experts would look at the issue of soil quality and see if EU legislation was needed. The group is expected to meet around the end of this year.

On risk control, Mr Lawrence highlighted the need to take forward the work on assessing the risks posed by chemicals (ENDS Daily 10 May) and maintaining a "vigilant" approach toward genetically modified organisms.

Follow Up:
European Commission, tel: +32 2 295 1111.

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