EU sectoral integration plans "disappointing"

Bjerregaard criticises ministerial papers for Vienna summit, more initiatives announced

EU environment commissioner Ritt Bjerregaard has criticised as too weak a series of reports from EU energy, agriculture and transport ministers on integrating environmental considerations into their existing policies.

The reports were requested by heads of government at the Cardiff summit in June, and are supposed to mark the start of each sector's strategy to integrate environmental goals into their policies (ENDS Daily 17 June). But speaking to the annual meeting of the NGO umbrella group European Environmental Bureau (EEB) yesterday, Ms Bjerregaard said that they mostly contained "a few nice words about the environment, but it's not what we are looking for."

Head of the EEB, John Hontelez, singled out the report from agriculture ministers as the least impressive of the three (ENDS Daily 25 November). With the EU on the brink of a major overhaul of its farm policy, he said, integration in this sector is the most important. The farm ministers' report, however, was "extremely defensive," restating, for example, that environmental protection must not be at the expense of the EU's competitiveness in world markets.

Austrian environment minister Martin Bartenstein, who currently chairs meetings of EU environment ministers, admitted, diplomatically, that the report from farm ministers "could be more progressive". However, he said he was confident that the integration process would gain momentum.

Mr Bartenstein announced just such progress in the pipeline, telling the conference that Germany was looking to add the fisheries and finance sectors to the process when it takes over the EU presidency in January. Ms Bjerregaard said she hoped that discussions at the Vienna summit would lead to a request for the Commission to report back in six months on the process made by the various sectors.

ENDS Daily has seen a draft of the integration report to be agreed by transport ministers on Monday. The paper admits that there is currently no coherent EU strategy for an environmentally sound transport policy and sets out three key areas where short, medium and long-term action is needed. These are: enhancing fuel efficiency and reducing emissions and noise; making the best use of existing infrastructures; and shifting traffic to less environmentally damaging modes of transport. Transport ministers say they will draw up an "ambitious yet pragmatic" EU work programme, with a first report by the end of next year.

Follow Up:
European Commission, tel: +32 2 295 1111; EU Council of Ministers, tel: +32 2 285 6111.

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