The European Commission will allow four southern EU member states an extra year beyond the deadline agreed by environment ministers last year to phase out leaded petrol, it emerged today. A senior Commission official said that the proposal had been agreed by both its environment and enterprise directorates and would be adopted imminently. Under a fuel quality directive passed last year, EU states agreed to phase out leaded petrol by 1 January 2000. However, derogations from the obligation lasting up to five years were made possible for countries able to prove the measure would cause "severe socio-economic problems". Italy requested a three-year derogation from the phase-out, while Greece, Spain and France asked for five-year derogations. France's derogation request relates only to four of its overseas departments and does not affect its European territory. France and Portugal have also requested derogations until 2003 from standards on sulphur in unleaded petrol and diesel and are also expected to receive one-year exemptions, the official said. Reports that the EU's environment directorate was resisting any derogations on the fuel quality standards caused a row in Italy last month, with Italian EU policy minister Enrico Letta calling the stance "highly irresponsible" (ENDS Daily 12 November). It is unclear whether the likely compromise will assuage the concerns of Italy, whose car fleet includes 5.5 million cars unable to run on unleaded petrol.
European Commission, tel: +32 2 299 1111.
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