Slow progress for EU treaty talks

Dutch Presidency sees little room for manoeuvre on environmental guarantee proposal

The European Union's founding treaty is likely to be somewhat greener by the summer, but not as green as some member states would like, judging by the outcome of talks in Brussels over the last two days. National officials discussed whether and how to write stronger environmental protection requirements into the EU treaty, but made little progress, according to participants interviewed by ENDS Daily.

The environmental dimension of the EU treaty is being reviewed in the Intergovernmental Conference, which is due to be completed by the summer. Governments are updating the treaty to more fully reflect the EU's political objectives.

Most EU countries say that the treaty should explicitly support fuller integration of environmental objectives into other policy areas. Last December, the Irish Presidency proposed that a new article - 3d - should be written into the treaty. This says that environmental protection requirements must be integrated into other EU policies.

The UK, France and Spain are against the proposal. Their opposition is significant because any treaty change requires unanimous agreement. However, one participant in this week's meetings said that he believed these countries' opposition to be "not so strong that they cannot live with [the proposal] in the end."

Several countries want to insert similar "integration" requirements into individual treaty chapters on transport, agriculture and trans-European networks. A Dutch Presidency official told ENDS Daily today that agreement on the idea looks increasingly unlikely.

Another key area of debate this week was a proposal to write an "environmental guarantee" into the treaty. EU countries are allowed to maintain measures imposing stricter national environmental standards than those agreed at EU level, under certain conditions. But Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Austria and Germany want the text strengthened to make it explicit that they also have the right to introduce new measures.

A spokesman for the Dutch Presidency told ENDS Daily today that several countries - believed to be the UK, France, Spain and Italy - strongly opposed strengthening the provision because it would "fragment the unity of the single market". He concluded that: "The room for manoeuvre on both sides is very small." He suggested that the Presidency is unlikely to make much headway in accommodating the opposing views on this issue.

Follow Up:
Intergovernmental conference . Dutch Presidency .

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