MEPs voice worries over EU ecolabel scheme

Commission proposal for independent ecolabel body, graded logo, comes under attack

European Commission plans to overhaul the EU ecolabel scheme came in for some sharp criticism from members of the European Parliament's environment committee yesterday. MEP's lined up behind the author of the committee's report, Italian member Danilo Poggiolini, to oppose the creation of an independent ecolabel body and the introduction of a graded ecolabel logo.

Set up in 1992, the EU eco-label scheme has had a slow and difficult start. "The system has unfortunately not matched the expectations it created," writes Mr Poggiolini in his report. Amongst the problems mentioned by the rapporteur (draftsman) are "serious delays" in implementing the scheme at the national level and the "limited or non-existent visibility" of the label in the eyes of the public.

Despite these setbacks, Mr Poggiolini points out that "substantial progress has been made" in the past two or three years. This point was underlined by Commission official Marco Loprieno, who told the committee that the number of products authorised to carry the label had grown from just 45 when the ecolabel scheme revision proposal was published last December to 182 today.

Whilst welcoming the Commission's decision to revise the scheme, Mr Poggiolini is critical of many of the changes proposed. Most significantly, the Christian Democrat MEP opposes the creation of an independent body to manage the scheme. "Simply to set up a new agency does not appear to be the ideal solution," his report says. "It is totally unrealistic to believe that it could become self-sufficient in four years with its funds solely generated by new members joining the scheme."

Instead of a "new, costly structure which would cause delays and uncertainty," the rapporteur calls for the Commission to "retain its important role of political mediation and technical co-ordination". This it should do through an ad-hoc Commission committee called the Technical Committee for the Eco-Label, suggests Mr Poggiolini. Most MEPs who spoke during yesterday's debate supported this demand.

However, members were less charitable than the rapporteur towards proposed changes to the scheme's logo. The Commission wants to introduce grading, under which one, two or three "flowers" would be awarded according to a product's eco-friendliness, in place of the present pass or fail system. Mr Poggiolini supports this in principle, but would like to see it simplified. Other members of the Committee, however, said that a graded system was too complicated and would confuse consumers.

Other changes proposed by Mr Poggiolini and generally welcomed by MEP's are the extension of the scheme to cover not just products but services and the change in the legal basis of the proposal to the co-decision procedure. If accepted by the full Parliament, this would give the institution much greater power over the fate of the proposed revision.

Follow Up:
European Parliament, tel: +32 2 284 2111.

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