Content and Quality
83. In a report on environmental integration prepared
for the Cardiff Summit,
the Commission highlighted Agenda 2000 and climate change as urgent
areas for integration. It also stated that subjects such as: the
single market and industry, development and trade policies, tourism,
fisheries and taxation were examples which should be given early
84. We are currently also inquiring into the prospects
for a sustainable Millennium Round of trade negotiations at the
World Trade Organisation (WTO).
The EU is in the lead on negotiations at the WTO and its position
reflects elements of co-ordinated thinking on economic, environmental
and development issues. This approach and its delivery through
negotiations in Geneva over at least the next three years would
be assisted by the agreement of clear principles by the relevant
Council, the General Affairs Council, on the relationship and
balance between economic, environmental, social and development
objectives in EU external trade policy. The WTO Seattle Summit,
which will set the agenda, is due to start at the end of November
1999 and therefore work on articulating the EU approach in a sectoral
integration strategy appears to be overdue.
85. Our witnesses agreed that finance and fisheries
were key areas where sectoral strategies were needed. English
Nature advocated concentrating on the key areas of EU competence
ie agriculture, fisheries, trade, taxes and budget, enlargement
and energy to avoid duplicating too many areas where Member States
tended to have key national responsibilities and the EU was less
influential in driving policy.
86. The Committee believes that the sectoral strategies
invited to-date reflect the priority areas for integration.
87. The sectoral integration strategies invited to-date
are in various stages of preparation. The transport, agriculture,
development, internal market and industry strategies were agreed
at recent Council meetings,
and the Energy Council is due to agree its strategy at its next
meeting on 2 December 1999.
88. The strategies vary greatly in quality and content.
They acknowledge many necessary changes in policy and procedure
but do not promise action within specified timescales. In effect
the strategies are too bland, a description with which Mr Meacher
Witnesses commented on various drafts of the strategies which
they had seen but Dr Paul Jefferiss (RSPB) told us that there
was a relative lack of transparency in the process. He thought
that the public and NGOs should have more access to the documents
and ideally some opportunity for input.
(Some of the strategies which have been agreed are now available
on the internet but earlier drafts were not.)
The Committee did not discuss the content of the strategies in
detail in this inquiry but we will be looking to assessing them
after Helsinki and auditing their future progress.
89. Mr Meacher told us that at this stage he thought
the transport strategy
(as agreed) was probably the best and largely met the DETR's requirements
in terms of setting out specific targets for integration and timescales.
He felt that the draft energy paper was not quite so precise or
detailed and the weakest and "least satisfactory"
was the draft agriculture document. He also felt that there had
been good progress on the Development Council report.
Other witnesses tended to agree with this analysis based on the
drafts which they had seen to date. Dr Jefferiss (RSPB) commented
that the agriculture strategy very much stressed the economic
and social role of agriculture but said relatively little on its
90. The RSPB outlined a number of shortcomings to
us which it felt were generic to work on all the strategies which
had been done so far:
a lack of consistency of approach
between the different sectors made comparison difficult;
there were few targets and commitments
and generally no timetable built in for revising the strategies
or ratcheting up the stringency of the requirements that they
the documents were cautious and
conservative, containing no long-distance future, or radical thinking;
there was a tendency to celebrate
existing achievements without noting whether those achievements
were sufficient; and
there was no reference to the degree
of funding necessary to carry out the sustainable development
strategies which were proposed.
91. In advance of their Presidency, the Finns recognised
some of these weaknesses and proposed a framework at the Weimar
Informal Environment Council in May 1999 to guide each Council
in drawing up their strategies.
This guide seeks to clarify the action required by nominated Councils
before Helsinki. The UK Government has been supportive of this
92. The Committee is concerned that the sectoral
integration strategies produced to-date have been bland statements
of intent suggesting little action or timetables for action.
The Government should work to ensure that the Helsinki conclusions
respect the framework agreed at the Cardiff Council in 1998 and
refer to the need for the Councils to set themselves targets,
timetables and indicators.
93. We think that it is important that the sectoral
integration strategies share a common format so that they can
be compared and contrasted. The Committee is pleased that the
Government has actively supported the Finnish framework which
encourages such an approach. We will be using the Finnish criteria
to assess the quality of the strategies.
94. The Cardiff Conclusions suggest that in the long
term all Councils should prepare integration strategies. The Government
takes the view that in the medium to short term it is important
that good quality strategies are produced by the first nine and
that their work is fully co-ordinated with the developing concept
of an overarching sustainable development strategy.
It also wants to see Council strategies concentrate on priority
issues, rather than trying to cover all possible matters.
The Cologne Summit agreed that "climate policy is the most
important example of the Councils' commitment... to incorporate
the requirements of the environment and sustainable development
into other Community polices".
95. The Committee believes that the Government
should press for all Councils to prepare integration strategies
in the long term to ensure that all areas of EU policy address
the issue. In the short to medium term the Committee supports
the Government view that there is a need to develop robust strategies
in priority cross-cutting areas. The Committee accepts that it
would be unwieldy for the other 14 Councils to work simultaneously
on new strategies and endorses the staggered approach which has
been adopted so far.