Germany's EU presidency disappoints NGOs

EEB blames Schröder for undermining Germany's green image during six-month term

The German EU presidency has been judged a "disappointment" by NGO coalition the European Environmental Bureau (EEB). As Germany comes to the end of its six-month EU leadership this week, the EEB has published its traditional end-of-term report card, saying it had expected more greener policy-making from a newly elected left-leaning government with a Green environment minister, especially in the field of tax reform.

The NGO group claims that progress has been too slow on many environmental priorities, and blames German chancellor Gerhard Schröder, who, it claims, has "done his very best to undermine the green image of his government". The EEB says Mr Schröder's intervention to block an EU Council of Ministers position on the scrap cars directive was "the scandal of the German presidency" (ENDS Daily 24 June). Acting EU environment commissioner Ritt Bjerregaard has also made it known that she thinks Germany's conduct on the dossier was a "disgrace".

The chancellor's efforts would have been better spent lobbying the few countries still dead set against Germany's stated priority of agreeing an extension to EU-wide minimum tax rates for energy products, the EEB claims. The energy tax proposal was vetoed by Spain and is thought unlikely to resurface under the Finnish presidency (ENDS Daily 26 May), an outcome which might have been avoided if Germany had used "high profile diplomatic efforts," according to the EEB.

The NGO group similarly decries German diplomacy over the major farm policy reform which rook place under the German presidency. Although the new Red/Green coalition was more favourable to the common agricultural policy (CAP) reforms than its Christian Democrat predecessor, and steered ministers through tough negotiations, it missed the chance to inextricably link support payments to farmers to good environmental practice, the EEB says (ENDS Daily 26 March).

Although it says the presidency ran a productive meeting of EU environment ministers last week, the EEB claims three of the legislative texts agreed - on waste incineration, and the EU schemes for eco-auditing and ecolabelling - were insufficiently green. On the positive side, the NGO group applauded last week's agreement on revising the biotechnology directive, which now returns to the European Parliament with much tougher draft rules on authorising genetically modified organisms (ENDS Daily 25 June).

The EEB also praises Germany for picking up the proposed law on strategic environmental impact assessments (SEA directive) - a dossier that had been ignored by previous presidencies. The group now believes a decision on the issue will be possible under the Finnish presidency, which begins on Thursday. The group also acclaims the presidency's work on reviewing EU chemicals law and the new field of integrated product policy.

Follow Up:
EEB, tel: +32 2 289 1090.

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