The Helsinki Summit
104. Expectations of the Helsinki Summit vary. The
Government stated in its memorandum to the Committee that "...
Helsinki should not be seen as the end of the process. In many
ways it is just a milestone."
English Nature told us that the situation had never been better
for promoting sustainable development
and the European Union could take a path that would really change
what happened on the ground or it could "choose to smother
change with rhetoric".
Mr Tony Brenton (FCO) told us that he expected Helsinki to inject
a whole new political impetus to the integration process.
105. The Commission's mainstreaming report of May
1999 states that "At Helsinki... Heads of State and Government
will have an opportunity for an in-depth discussion on the mainstreaming
of environmental policy, to make concrete decisions and to chart
the way forward towards sustainable development."
However, the opportunity for "in-depth discussion" is
likely to be very limited. Enlargement and the next Inter-Governmental
conference will be competing items on the Helsinki agenda and
Mr Meacher told us that there was no doubt that the emphasis of
the Summit would be on these issues.
106. It was therefore not clear whether there would
be substantive discussion on the question of environmental integration
at the Summit although it would certainly be addressed in the
When asked whether the UK would be pressing for discussion on
the matter, Mr Meacher told us that the DETR "were very keen
that Heads of Government should get their minds round environmental
integration and the whole issue of sustainable development. However,
Heads of Government could not be expected to engage in the details
of Council reports."
107. Mr Brenton told the Committee that the UK saw
the environmental integration dossier as the important part of
the likely output of the Council, not least because the UK launched
the dossier at the Cardiff Council. He thought that the amount
of time that Heads of Government would devote to it was likely
to be limited because they tended to devote most time to items
on which there was likely to be disagreement amongst them. On
the whole, there was a substantial measure of consensus on integration
amongst members of the EU. He therefore thought it likely that
Heads of Government would go over the draft communications and
give their weight to the Council conclusions in adopting them
but most of the drafting would have been done at a lower level.
108. Discussions concerning enlargement and environmental
integration are not mutually exclusive. Accession countries, like
the EU itself, will be unable to meet the environmental acquis
by regulation alone. Environmental integration will therefore
be an important area that they will need to consider and should
be a key part of enlargement discussions. Mr Meacher assured the
Committee that the accession states would be required to take
on any EU sustainable development strategy early in the transition
stage and meet the environmental acquis in full by the end of
the transition period.
He informed the Committee that although most accession states
were less integrated in institutional terms than most European
States, some of the Central European States, eg Poland, Czech
Republic and Hungary in particular were as advanced as many Western
European states in integrating environment into their wider polices.
109. The Committee welcomes the Helsinki Summit
as the first opportunity to discuss several key integration issues
at Heads of Government level. The Committee acknowledges the pressure
on the agenda presented by issues such as enlargement and the
Inter-Governmental Conference but believes that the UK Government
should press for discussion on integration and not just accept
pre-cooked conclusions. We believe that there are important links
between the integration process and other parts of the Summit
agenda such as enlargement and enabling accession countries to
meet the environmental acquis.
110. Progress on integration at the EU level has
been a long and slow process, not helped by the change of Commission
this year. The pace of progress is unsuprising in view of the
complexity of the EU and the fact that even individual nations
are struggling to make headway in this area. Dr Andrew Jordan
told the Committee that all four of the Member States which were
used in his comparative study on environmental integration (Germany,
The Netherlands, Denmark and the UK) were having difficulty in
implementing EPI and were all generally seen as progressive nations
in environmental terms.
He told us that it was an "incredibly difficult concept to
put into practice".
111. The EU has already proved itself to be an important
vehicle in driving the environmental agenda both in Member States
and internationally. European EPI clearly presents a major challenge
but one which is fundamental to furthering the EU's sustainable
development objectives and one which is in tune with the UK Government's
stated objectives and domestic commitments. The EU must build
on its achievements in the field of environmental regulation towards
the development of a more integrated approach to sustainable development
at EU and national levels. We would therefore like to see the
Helsinki Summit agree a robust framework for EPI which will be
regarded as a milestone along the path to sustainability, not
an environmental millstone to hinder economic and social progress.
125 Ev p. 43 paragraph 3 Back
126 Q7 Back
127 Q4 Back
128 Q124 Back
Cologne Report on Environmental Integration: Mainstreaming of
environmental policy, Commission working paper addressed to the
European Council, SEC (1999) 777 final, 26 May 1999, p. 3 Back
130 Q122 Back
131 Q118 Back
132 Q119 Back
133 Q122 Back
134 Q152 Back
135 Q151 Back
136 Q89 Back
137 Q89 Back