..:: Development of the EU Environmental Policy ::..
Development of the EU Environmental Policy
In the early days of building Europe, environmental issues were not treated with the necessary importance by the official authorities and economic circles. For the past 30 years the EU has been paying serious attention to the environmental policy within its member countries. It has been only recently when mandatory legislation has been adopted. Before 1986 there has been a series of programmes trying to reduce the water and air pollution. In the 1970s the European Union has been concentrating on certain issues, mainly aiming at reducing the health problems and diseases, protect animal species, etc. All of these programmes were short-term and were not mandatory for the member states but only recommended. In July 1972 Paris Summit the Heads of State and Government and it was recognised that attention need to be paid to the environment in the context of economic expansion and development. It was followed by the first enviornmental action programme set in 1973. During the 1980s more serious actions took place after it was found that the envioronment was getting worser because of the steady economic development of the EU countries. Studies found that pollution was not a local problem any more but it is actually a global problem, especially the depletion of the ozone layer. Long-term possible problems that could cause problems for the future generations were identified. Since the late 1980s the EU environmental policy became mandatory and it became part of the legislative process of the union. In 1987 the Single European Act came into force and that was a turning point for environment within the EU. The next major step was the EU treaty of 1993, aiming at further progress in the environmental policy. Followed the Amsterdam and Cardiff treaties preparing the environment for the new millenium by looking at it in a global economical way.
In 1987 UNCED (United Nations Commission on the Enviornment and Development) published the "Brundtland Report" showing a direct co-relation between the increased local and global economic development and the deteriorating enviornment. It outlined that the increasing development should be able of "meeting current needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet theirs". This became a turning point in the policy-making process concerning the economic and enviornment development.
The UN conference on Environment and Development held in Rio in June 1992 promoted that the enviornment should be taken into account when adopting economical and enviornmental policies. Series of important decisions were taken on this conference:
Agenda 21 - this is a general plan outlining the necessary actions to be taken by all countries in order to sustain a certain level of economic development while saving the environment. The EU proposed that industrial countries should reduce the emissions of CO2 to 85% of its levels in 1990 by the year 2010.
Rio Declaration on Environment and Development.
Climate Change Convention.
The Biodiversity Convention.
The Forest Declaration.
During the second meeting in 1997 reports showed that environmental problems are continuing and that the globalisation process is causing negative effects to the environment, such as: transport, national resource overuse and increased consumption, while on the other hand the globalisation brings some good effects, such as: global use of environmentally friendly technologies, improving economic and environmental efficiency. Following the Rio conference the World Trade Organisation created in April 1994 a Committee on Trade and Environment (CTE).
So far there have been five environmental action programmes and currently the sixth environmental program is being developed.
First environmental action program 1976-1976.
Second environmental action program 1977-1981.
Third environmental action program 1982-1986.
Fourth environmental action program 1987-1992.
Fifth environmental action program 1993-2000.
Especially important are the 4th and the 5th environmental action programmes as they were done in a time when the environmental policy began to adopt as series of legal acts and became mandatory for all member states.
After the Rio conference the EU adpoted three very important principles, which are layed down in the environmental policy making process:
Adopting preventative measures in the environmental area instead of fixing the consequences of ecologocial injuries.
The pollutor pays.
Injuries made to the environment should be rooted out in the very source of the pollution.
The 5th programme was set in 1992. It was prepared in parallel to the Rio conference and set an ambigious target by the year 2000 for achieving sustanable development in the areas of economic and social development for present and future generations, which ensures the preservation of the ecosystem. The policy areas were grouped in the following environmental themes:
General policy and overviews - Fifth environmental action programme. Preparing a New Environment Programme. European Consultative Forum on the Environment and Sustainable Development. Climate Change. Implementation of Agenda 21. Agenda 2000 and environment.
Air - CO2 and Cars. Air quality. Emissions of Air Pollutants. Ozone layer protection.
Urban environment - Sustainable Cities. Noise Policy. Non motorised transport.
Nature protection and biodiversity - Nature protection. Integrated Coastal Zone Management. Wildlife Trade/CITES.
Industry - Eco-industries.Eco-label. Integrated Product Policy. Chemical Accident Prevention, Preparedness and Response. Protection of laboratory animals. EMAS Helpdesk.
Chemical and biotechnology - Dangerous Substances. Plant Protection Products. Chemicals and genetically modified organisms. Chemical Accident Prevention, Preparedness and Response.
Enlargement - Enlargement of the EU by accepting new countries.
Environmental law and economics - Environment and Employment. Environmental economics. Environmental Law. The role of Financial Services in Sustainable Development Conference: Pricing water - Economics, Environment & Society.
Civil protection - Civil Protection and Environmental Emergencies.
The general approach to the fifth programme (approved by the governments of the member states of February 1st, 1993) sets long-term objectives and focuses on a more global approach. The features of sustainability in the 5th environmental action programme are:
to maintain the overall quality of life.
to maintain continuing access to natural resources.
to avoid lasting environmental damage.
to consider as sustainable a development which meets the needs of the present without.
compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.
The 5th programmes formed the environmental agenda for the time 1993-2000. There are two major principles forming the agenda:
The first principle states that the enviornmental policy should be implemented in all major policy areas.
The second principle tries to replace the command-and-control approach with a shared responsibility approach between the various participants - government, industry, the public, etc.
The 5th programmes achieves its targets by the following methods:
Legislation to set environmental standards.
Economic instruments to encourage the production and use of environmentally friendly products and processes.
Horizontal support measures (information, education, research).
Financial support measures (funds).
The EU creates directives, which member states are obliged to transponate into their local legal systems. The directives are divided into seven distinct themes:
Acidification and Air Quality
Management of Water Resources
Protection of nature and Bio-Diversity
Three important areas were identified with respect to risk management:
Nuclear Safety and Radiation Protection
Civil Protection and Environmental Emergencies
On the 10th January 1996 the Commission approved a progress report showing that progress has been made in some areas, while others require more attention.
After the Single European Act (in force since 1987) and the Maastricht treaty (entered into force in November 1993) the next logical step in the continuous development of the EU legislation is the Amsterdam treaty signed in June 1997. From the environmental point of view the Amsterdam treaty (also known as the Single European Act II) sets that the environment policy should be of a great importance to the European economical policy making. The Amsterdam treaty entered into force on 01.05.1999 and it was ratified by all member states. The treaties sets aim to integrate the environmental policy in all sectors of the economy and especially in the transport and agriculuture sectors. The treaty states that all member countries has to follow the standards in environment accepted by the EU and can impose stricter requirements if they do not obstruct the freedom of trade and movement of people. Following the treaty the Commission took further steps to intergrate the environmental policy in all areas:
All GDs must have staff responsible for the integration of the environmental policy.
Extensive research of the ecological effects financed by the EU projects.
Research and evaluation of the ecologocial consequencies for every new project financed by the EU.
Increasing the budget need to maintain a successful environmental policy.
The Amsterdam treaty made some changes to the EC Treaty. The EC Treaty now requires all proposals by the Commission to be based on a high level of environmental protection. Previously, after a harmonisation measure had been adopted by the Council, any Member State could still apply different national provisions if warranted by major environmental protection requirements. The Member State in question had to notify the Commission, which then verified that the provisions involved were not a means of arbitrary discrimination or a disguised restriction on trade between the member states.
The European Council Cardiff took place in June 1998 by initiative of the UK. In the area of environment the Cardiff meeting decided that quality of life for the Europeans should be imporved including the environment. The Council discussed and stressed on the fact that the decisions signed with the Amsterdam treaty should take place in the practice. Following the discussion on environmental topics the European Council Cardiff arrived at the following decisions:
The Council requires from all of its structures to develop integration strategies, taking into account the environment. It was decided that the process will start in the following areas: energy, transport and agriculture.
At the European Council Helsinki it is expected to have developed reports on strategies in the areas of: industry, internal market and development.
The European Commission stated that the strategies developed for the transport, energy and agriculture need further development and could not be accepted as long-term strategies for these sectors:
Transport sector - the strategy in that area is a good starting point for a short-term development (1999-2001). However deeper analysis are required for the long-term prioritites in this sector.
Energetic sector - It is needed to develop monitoring indicators for the development in this sector. The strategy (concerning the period 1999-2000) consists mainly of on going programmes with specified length.
Agriculture - the Berling Council supported the inclusion of environmental strategy in the single agricultural policy. The result of this policy will mainly depend on the member states and the way they will develop this strategy.
Industry - the report indicates some common environmental problems (such as changing climate), but fails to indicate what are the present and future negative influences of the industry on the environment.
Internal market - the principles of "prevention" and the "polutor pays" are not even mentioned in the report. More attention needs to be paid for the creation of indicators to monitor the development of the internal market.
Development - the report urges for a closed cooperation between the development sector and some other sectors, such as agriculture, industry and trade. A special attention has been paid to the connection between the environment, the globalisation and the poverty. The Commission recommends better coordination in the financial discussions between the European Council and the Development Commission.
The European Commission is developing a set of inidcators concerning the enivornment and integrational indicators. Not all of the sectors have developed such a system, therefore it needed more efforts in order to develop such a system. Lately the indicators system has been developed to include 27 indicators assessed annually.
Following the European Council Helsinki the following progress has been observed:
Agriculture - The measures set out encompass environmental requirements and incentives integrated into the market policy as well as targeted environmental measures forming part of the Rural Development Programmes. As a general principle, farmers have to bear the compliance costs of observing "good agricultural practice" including the respect of mandatory environmental legislation. More ambitious environmental objectives above this reference level can be pursued through payments to farmers for environmental services. The Strategy sets objectives for water, agro-chemicals, land use and soil, climate change and air quality, as well as landscape and biodiversity. It is stressed that achieving sustainable agriculture will depend on the implementation of the available measures by Member States.
Industry - The report emphasises the three pillars of sustainable development and address issues such as climate change, employment, enlargement, changing production and consumption patters, eco-efficiency and integrated product policy. It underlines the need for a broadening of the range of policy instruments, development of policy and performance indicators and improved co-operation and exchange of information between relevant formations of the Council as well as with all stakeholders. The Council commits to continue its work towards the development of the integration strategy.
Internal markets - Environmental objectives should be mainstreamed throughout the WTO Millennium Round negotiations to be launched in 2000. This is necessary in order to maximise positive synergies between trade liberalisation and environmental protection (e.g. through the removal of environmentally harmful subsidies) and to prevent the conflicts and tensions that could arise if trade rules unduly constrained the ability of countries to pursue effective environmental policies. Key issues to clarify include the use of trade measures in international environmental agreements, eco-labelling and the relationship between trade rules and core environmental principles, such as the precautionary principle. It is also necessary to improve transparency in the WTO to make it easier for civil society to express concerns effectively. The assessment aims at identifying potential sustainability impacts and appropriate policy responses.
The Global Assessment is presented to the Helsinki Summit in December 1999 together with a report on integration and a report on indicators for an overall review of progress on integrating environment and sustainable development in Europe.
Preparing the sixth action programme for adaption by 2001 the Commission will take into account discussion with Member States, target groups etc., comments from the general public as well as the 1999 State of the Environment Report, presented by the European Environment Agency in June 1999, the results of the 1999 Eurobarometer and results of on-going studies and research.
Taking into account the conclusions of the progress report, the Council and Parliament in a co-decision on the review of the 5th Action Programme in September 1998 required the Commission to submit a Global Assessment of the implementation of the Programme. The Commission was asked to give special attention to any revision and updating of objectives and priorities which may be required, and present proposals for priority objectives and measures that will be necessary beyond the year 2000. The global assessment and the discussion with Member States, target groups etc. will be a major building block for the sixth program, which will be presented by the next Commission.
International borders do not restrict polluting the environement. The Chernobyl catastrophy, which affected countries far away from the USSR, proved that the world is really a small place. From that point of view the EU member states decided that the enviornmental policy should be mainted at the EU level not for each country seperately. Nearly 70% of the citizens living wihtin the EU believe that the European Union should and will play more significat role on environmental issues, rather than the local governments. Before passing the Single European Act in 1986 the EU environmental policy consisted of a series of environmental programmes, starting from 1973. Previously there have been specific programmes aiming at some areas, such as: water pollution, regulating the lead contents in the fuel emissions, and control of the emissions of CO2. After the Rio conference in 1992 the world environmental policies move towards a balance between the economic growth and the resistance of the environment. The Single European Act (1986) gives the environmental policy legislatory base and it becomes mandatory for the member states, who are expected to incorporate the directives issued by the EU into their own legislative system. The most important decision about the Amsterdam treaty was that it was decided that the environmental policy should be included into the development of all sectors of the economy. The Cardiff and Helsinki Councils assessed the current situation and developed a set of 27 indicators to be monitored annually. Short-term plans were accepted and the individual sectors were advised to develop more sophisticated reports on long-term development in the area of environment. Currently the 6th environmental action programme is being developed, which is expected to lay out stricter control and policy measures in order to ensure that the EU directives are followed and to prevent damages to the environment.