Commission reviews EU integration process

Report to European leaders calls for greater focus on origins of problems, overall review in 2001

A series of plans by EU Council of Ministers formations to integrate environmental considerations into their policy making activities has received a mixed review by the European Commission in a report published today.

Based on six strategies due to be presented to the Helsinki European summit next month, the Commission says it is "encouraged" that work has started to address integration, but concludes that "progress is clearly uneven, and further work is required". It calls for EU leaders to make a second "overall review" of progress in June 2001.

Senior figures in the Commission's environment department have privately been scathing about the first clutch of integration reports from energy, agriculture and transport ministers. This scepticism, expressed publicly by former environment commissioner Ritt Bjerregaard (ENDS Daily 18 May), is largely absent from the paper.

The Commission's strongest criticism of the first-wave reports relate to EU leaders' request that they should contain action timetables and suggested indicators (ENDS Daily 14 December 1998). "Clear timetables for individual measures as well as objectives are largely absent, which makes the monitoring of progress difficult," the Commission finds.

Commenting on each report in turn, the Commission notably compliments transport ministers on their report (ENDS Daily 7 October), which it describes as a "well-advanced strategy". At the other end of the scale, a report by energy ministers due to be adopted in about a week's time, is said to do little more than "reflect existing commitments." The Commission stresses that agriculture ministers' strategy (ENDS Daily 15 November) needs to be bolstered by a further commitment to monitoring and evaluation.

Requested by European leaders at the Vienna summit in December 1998, a second wave of reports by internal market, industry and development cooperation ministers are also reviewed. The Commission notes that the internal market strategy (ENDS Daily 29 October) is "to a large extent" based on an earlier Commission communication (ENDS Daily 10 June). It underlines "the importance and the consequences" of integrating environmental requirements into internal market policies.

EU industry ministers have "made the first steps" towards preparing a strategy (ENDS Daily 10 November), the Commission says, and calls for "further operationalise" it. Development cooperation ministers have also adopted a report (ENDS Daily 15 November), which the Commission summarises without comment.

Follow Up:
European Commission, tel: +32 2 299 1111. References: "From Cardiff to Helsinki and Beyond: Report to the European Council on Integrating Environmental Concerns and Sustainable Development into Community Policies," SEC(1000) 1941.

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