New draft of EU liability paper emerges

Environment directorate goes for "more open" style, drops plan for joint and several liability

Several contentious issues surrounding a planned EU white paper on harmonising rules on civil liability for environmental damage have been left out of a new draft sent out for internal discussion within the European Commission by the environment directorate today. The draft, which succeeds a previous draft that displeased both industry and environmentalists as well as other departments after it was widely leaked last year, "is not much different in substance but is more open and less conclusive in style," Commission sources told ENDS Daily. One key difference, however, is that a proposal to introduce an EU-wide system of "joint and several" liability for damage, under which companies could be forced to pay in cases where they bore only partial responsibility, has been left out. The department has also decided to defer for the time being any proposals on how to assign the "burden of proof" for establishing whether damage has taken place. New EU environment commissioner Margot Wallström of Sweden is very keen to get a white paper adopted by the Commission by the end of the year. The deadline is thought by some officials to be ambitious given the debate the subject has aroused in the past two years. The new draft is also much shorter than its predecessors, at just 20 pages, in line with new Commission guidelines, sources say.

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