EU Council landfill deal angers Commission

Bjerregaard accuses environment ministers of weakening proposal, ignoring Parliament

EU environment commissioner Ritt Bjerregaard has reacted angrily to proposed changes to its draft landfill directive agreed by EU environment ministers yesterday. Ms Bjerregaard told reporters that she was "not satisfied" with the Council's text, which represented a "too significant weakening of the European Commission's position".

Mrs Bjerregaard is particularly concerned at the reception the watered down proposal will receive in the European Parliament. At yesterday's meeting, the commissioner pleaded with ministers not to reach any formal agreement without first hearing the opinion of the European Parliament. Mrs Bjerregaard pointed out that the Parliament had rejected the last landfill proposal and said she was concerned that MEPs would do the same again. "The European Parliament could well say we haven't made any progress at all on the last proposal," Mrs Bjerregaard said at the close of the meeting.

But a Council of Ministers spokesperson said that it was "the European Parliament's own fault if they can't speed up matters". The Parliament was to have delivered its opinion on the proposal last month, but then delayed its first reading until February (ENDS Daily 24 September).

Although environment ministers stepped back from reaching a common position yesterday - out of courtesy to the Parliament - they did "reach agreement on elements which should allow Council to adopt a common position in March," according to the Council spokesperson. A spokesperson for Ms Bjerregaard's said that, in reality, this meant the Council was "not going to pay any attention at all to the European Parliament".

"The Commission felt the proposal was watered down in at least five areas," said Ms Bjerregaard's spokesperson, Peter Jørgensen. Amongst the changes the Commission is unhappy with are the weakening of targets for the reduction of biodegradable waste going to landfill, a new exemption for underground sites, the extra time operators of existing landfills could now be given to comply with the proposed new rules, and the diluting of the requirement to pre-treat waste before it is landfilled.

Environment ministers made few changes to the compromise text brokered by the Luxembourg Presidency of the EU, on which we reported last week (ENDS Daily 11 December). Exceptions included a new exemption for mining waste pushed through by Sweden and a reduction in the number of years a landfill site can be considered temporary from five to three years.

Follow Up:
Council of Ministers, tel: +32 2 285 6111; European Commission, tel: +32 2 299 1111.

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