Denmark warns on EU enlargement

Competitiveness at risk unless EU applicants told to implement all environmental laws, says agency

The competitiveness of present European Union countries could be threatened if prospective new members do not implement all EU environmental legislation by the time they join, the Danish Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said today.

The European Commission believes it would be impossible for the ten applicant countries of central and eastern Europe to comply fully with EU environmental legislation before, or even for some time after, accession.

But in a new report, the Danish EPA suggests otherwise. Even though "substantial resources are is not impossible for the [candidate] countries to comply with EU requirements...before accession," it concludes. And it suggests that failure to achieve alignment by the time of accession could put existing EU members at a competitive disadvantage.

EU ministers and the European Parliament are preparing to debate the Commission's proposals for enlargement this autumn. In July, the Commission recommended that five central and eastern European countries should be allowed to join the EU in 2006, while talks would also be started with another five countries that might join later.

The Danish government is likely to oppose several aspects of the Commission's proposal, a senior EPA official told ENDS Daily. Danish ministers believe that negotiations should be started with all ten applicant countries together, rather than in two waves. Denmark also believes that the EU should "as a matter of principle" demand that candidates implement all EU environmental legislation by the time they join. It would then be up to applicant countries to negotiate to be allowed more time for implementation if necessary.

Today's report roughly estimates that the work required of applicant countries to implement EU environmental laws will cost at least DKr500 billion (Ecu66 billion). Environmental benefits for the entire European continent should be set against these costs, it maintains. "Considerable environmental gains can be achieved by including the central and eastern European countries in the EU provided that EU regulation is properly implemented and enforced," the report concludes.

Conversely, it warns that: "If reasonably identical terms regarding air and water pollution and waste disposal are not applied, new member states which have a considerably lower level of regulation may obtain competitive advantages." They may even "pursue an environmental dumping policy, thus attracting and maintaining polluting production facilities."

Follow Up:
Danish environmental protection agency , tel: +45 32 66 01 00. References: "The Enlargement of the European Union: Environmental Perspectives".

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