EU environment plan for 1998 unveiled

Three new environmental laws, host of other proposals, in Commission's work programme

Draft directives on air quality, electronic waste and acidifying pollutants are the only new environmental laws proposed in the European Commission's work programme for 1998, which was presented today. However, the list is likely to grow in coming weeks with the addition of proposals for revised directives, policy papers and legislation held over from this year.

The relatively small number of new environmental laws reflects the Commission's growing preference for policy papers, economic instruments and better implementation to meet its environmental goals rather than legislation. Nevertheless, the three new environmental laws planned for 1998 are considerably more than last year's single proposal and make up almost a fifth of the proposals not connected with the Agenda 2000 strategy for enlargement.

As part of its acidification strategy, the Commission plans to present a directive setting national emission ceilings for emissions of sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, ammonia and volatile organic compounds. The Commission has already started drafting this proposal, which promises to be "controversial" according to a senior Commission official.

Also expected to be controversial is a planned directive on recycling electronic waste (ENDS Daily 26 September). The Commission has already started sounding out industry's opinions on its proposal and so far most of the reaction has been hostile.

Finally, the Commission is planning to propose further directives setting air quality limit values for tropospheric ozone, benzene and carbon monoxide following on from the "daughter directives" announced earlier this month (ENDS Daily 8 October).

In addition to new initiatives, the Commission is likely to present revised proposals on access to information and environmental auditing and draft directives limiting emissions from large combustion plants and laying down minimum standards for environmental inspectorates. Priority would also be given to clearing up the backlog of proposals left over from 1997, a Commission spokesman confirmed.

The Commission's report on implementation of its 1997 programme - also presented today - shows that this is likely to add considerably to the Commission's work burden for 1998. None of the three policy papers planned for this year - on aviation and the environment, protection against ionising radiation and employment and the environment - have so far been released, although the Commission says the latter is expected shortly. And a proposal on emissions from heavy goods vehicles now looks like being delayed until next year. A white paper on environmental liability originally planned for this year is also due in 1998.

Follow Up:
European Commission, tel: + 32 2 295 1111; European Environmental Bureau, tel: + 32 2 289 1090.

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