Wallström throws weight behind liability plan

EU environment commissioner-designate emphasises continuity in answers to MEPs' written questions

Margot Wallström, the candidate to be the new EU environment commissioner, has thrown her full support behind an environmental liability policy. In a written answer to a set of questions from the European Parliament published today, the Swedish politician said environmental liability was "an issue of first importance." She pledged to try to get the European Commission to publish a long-delayed white paper on the subject before the end of the year.

Although successive drafts of the white paper have been heavily criticised by industry and watered down at the insistence of other departments within the Commission, Ms Wallström said such a policy would be a useful "deterrent against non-compliance" with EU environment law (ENDS Daily 9 March). A liability regime should be introduced through a single policy instrument rather than inserted into various sectoral laws, she added.

The written answers from all the prospective commissioners have been made available on the internet prior to individual question and answer hearings at the European Parliament next month. Although giving away little about her political views, Ms Wallström's answers point to no major shifts in policy from her predecessor, Ritt Bjerregaard.

On biotechnology, for example, she supports a "science-based and prudent" approach to genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and applauds the development of a revised directive for granting marketing approvals. And, like Ms Bjerregaard, she insists that there can be no official moratorium on new GMOs until the new law is in place, despite the pleas of many MEPs and member states.

On the question of whether there should be a sixth environmental action programme after the current five-year plan expires next year, Ms Wallström sits on the fence. Despite threats by Green MEPs to oppose her candidacy if she does not agree to having a detailed programme that can be debated by the European Parliament, she expresses fears that such a plan could be too time-consuming. "My preoccupation is that, when we decide what action is needed, we are able to act without delay in a concerted way," she writes.

Follow Up:
European Commission, tel: +32 2 299 1111. References: The questions and answers can be downloaded from the Commission website .

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