New EU countries to keep tough green rules

Austria, Finland, Sweden, win upward harmonisation of EU rules on chemicals, labelling

Austria, Sweden and Finland, are to keep virtually all the environmental standards they joined the EU with in 1995, the EU has accepted. A Commission communication released today confirms the outcome of four years of negotiation with the three countries. On accession, each had more stringent environmental rules in some areas than those prevailing in the EU, and harmonisation was supposed to be achieved by the end of this year. As ENDS Daily has already reported, virtually all the negotiations have ended in the three countries' favour (ENDS Daily 10 November). The EU is to ban mercury in batteries, for example, and to completely phase out leaded petrol. In only a very few cases, relating mainly to minor issues of formats for warnings on chemical products, have any of the new countries had to change their practices to bring them into line with EU rules. Extended derogations have been granted in a few areas where agreement has not been reached on harmonisation should be upwards or downwards, such as restrictions on the cadmium content of chemical fertilisers. EU environment commissioner Ritt Bjerregaard warmly welcomed the outcome of the process today. "It was always inconceivable to me that member states might have to lower their environmental standards in order to become a member of the EU," she said.

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