DG Environment sets out two-year work plan

Director Currie stresses need for long-term vision, unveils outline legislative priorities for 2002

The European Commission's environment department has issued a two-year management plan with a pledge from administrative chief Jim Currie to move to triennial planning in future. The detailed document gives a first clear insight into the operational and policy priorities of the directorate general (DG) since it underwent a major restructuring earlier this year (ENDS Daily 1 December 2000).

Though DG Environment has received successive budget increases in recent years, Mr Curries stresses in an introductory note on "major challenges" that resources "remain insufficient". One of the aims of the plan, he continues, is to identify "areas of work to be postponed or dropped through a lack of resources".

Final negotiation and then implementation of the EU's sixth environmental action programme will be a key challenge for the DG to the end of 2002. Other key challenges highlighted are input into the development of an EU sustainable development strategy and working towards greater integration of environmental considerations into EU sectoral policy making

In response to ever growing numbers of infringement procedures against member states suspected of breaching EU environmental rules, the DG is planning new steps to ensure "effective and timely implementation". It also pledges a new communication strategy including enhanced cooperation with civil society.

The bulk of the document sets out detailed mission statements and tasks for each of DG Environment's more than 20 units, reinforcing the modernising agenda introduced in the recent reshuffle. The highlight of this was to reorient the department's administrative structure in line with priorities in the draft 6EAP, including the creation of new units on sustainable development and environment and health issues.

Also included in the plan is a timetable for publication of legislative proposals, communications and other documents to the end of 2002. The 2001 agenda is essentially drawn from the Commission's overall work programme issued in January (see link below), but the plan for 2002 is new information.

Set for publication before the August break are amendments to the 1994 packaging directive, a framework directive on environmental liability, a new directive on bathing waters, an amended version of current rules on batteries and accumulators, a communication on voluntary agreements and an administrative decision on environmental integration into decision-making.

This autumn's highlights include a series of climate-related initiatives, among them a communication on the implementation of the European climate change programme. Legislative initiatives due in other fields include a directive to set air quality limits for certain pollutants, an amendment to current rules on sulphur content of certain liquid fuels (mainly fuel oils), a directive on mining waste and one on sewage sludge.

Important non-legislative initiatives are also in the offing. They include a review of environmental reporting, a communication on protection of the marine environment plus another on environmental aspects of PVC and a further document, which could be a communication, a green paper or a thematic strategy on the sustainable use of pesticides.

A further 36 proposals are timetabled for 2002. Highlights include a legislative proposal to strengthen access to justice on environmental issues, a framework directive on greenhouse gas emissions trading and follow-up proposals to this year's white paper on chemicals, the water framework directive and the forthcoming PVC communication.

Some kind of regulatory policy should emerge "based on" voluntary agreements, while a communication on how to control voluntary dissemination of GMOs is also expected. There will be a communication and action plan on soil quality, plus communications on risk assessment and environment, health and children.

Follow Up:
European Commission environment directorate, tel: +32 2 299 1111, and DG Environment management plan 2001-2002. See also Commission's 2001 work programme.

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