They presented their concerns on the Auto/Oil proposals to MEPs, along with national alliances from Spain and Italy, which presented manifestos on actions necessary to reduce traffic pollution. The groups are worried that the European Parliament might accept amendments proposing derogations, sought by southern member states, from measures to combat air pollution from traffic.
Many Italian, Greek, Portuguese and Spanish MEPs are concerned about the potential costs of stricter limits on the sulphur content of fuels and have introduced amendments to the second reading of the report on the quality of petrol and diesel fuels, due for adoption by the Parliament's environment committee tomorrow. The amendments propose to give a four year derogation to "countries with severe socio-economic difficulties" to meet fuel quality standards due to be met by 2000. The NGOs want to scrap the derogations - what they call "equal treatment for all of Europe".
At a press conference today, environmental groups accused southern MEPs of "hypocrisy" - taking a strong stance on stricter emissions on the one hand, while being prepared to accept derogations for their own countries.
However, a Parliament source told ENDS Daily that María Teresa Estevan Bolea and Carmen Díez de Rivera - two of the Spanish MEPs who had proposed allowing derogations - had withdrawn their amendments.
The report on the agenda for Wednesday is a second reading and will address the revised emission standards for cars and new standards for fuels. If adopted by the environment committee, it will go to the plenary of the European Parliament in Strasbourg in two weeks time. The first reading was in April 1997 (ENDS Daily 10 April 1997).
The EU Council's common position is "far from being satisfactory", according to Finnish MEP Heidi Hautala, who prepared the report for the committee. She will seek to re-introduce stricter sulphur limits for adoption on Wednesday. Her amendments will attempt to bridge the gap between the Council's Common Position and the Parliament's first reading with a proposal to improve fuel quality standards by 2000 for both petrol and diesel; with less sulphur, a lower aromatics content and a higher oxygen content.
"There should be less room for manoeuvre on limit values of 50 ppm (parts per million) sulphur for both petrol and diesel," she says, "as in order to improve air quality and for the industry to plan its investments in good time, it is necessary to make the common position's 2005 values mandatory".
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