APPENDICES TO THE MINUTES OF EVIDENCE
Memorandum from Anita Pollack (former
Member of European Parliament)
PROGRESS ON INTEGRATING ENVIRONMENT INTO
I was Labour Member of the European Parliament
for London South West from 1989-99 and served on the Committee
for Environment, Public Health and Consumer Protection for all
The last Committee meeting before the break
for the June European elections was before 1 May when the Amsterdam
Treaty came into force, and at that time no formal mechanisms
for monitoring the progress on sustainability from the Treaty
provisions were in place. Neither was there any formal monitoring
mechanism in place in Parliamentary procedures for the Cardiff
Summit's demand to integrate environment into other EU policy
I was not returned to Parliament in June and
am not closely aware of meeting agendas and content, and am not
in receipt of documents. This submission is therefore largely
intuitive and highly subjective.
The long gap between Members breaking for the
election campaign at the end of April and not resuming for work
effectively until September, plus the hiatus due to the resignation
of the European Commission and the lengthy period before the new
Commission began work also in September, means that very little
progress has been made on anything this year. There does appear
to be a lack of real leadership on this issue since the end of
the British Presidency.
Parliament's subject-based Committee system
is still imperfectly geared to the notion of "joined-up thinking".
Each Committee tends very much to do its own thing dependent on
the legislative texts before it from the Commission and also the
budgetary timetable. Strategic debates are rare and so is liaison
across subject Committees.
As far as I am aware from anecdotal information,
since the June election concerns have been largely focussed on
the Hearings for new Commissioners, and now areas such as the
Budget, preparing second readings and dealing with the legislative
programme. I am not aware that any debates have been held on the
integration issue, but I cannot assert this definitively.
The formal objective of sustainable development
is now part of the Amsterdam Treaty. Logic would suggest that
both national parliaments and the European Parliament should set
in train some sort of mechanism by which progress on this objective
could be reviewed. However since the priority in the European
Parliament always tends to be the legislative programme at the
European level, I am not aware that any such mechanism has been
Even without a laid-down scrutiny mechanism
it is still possible for Parliament to review issues if it so
desires. However without a formal Communication on a regular basis
from the Commission on which to comment, the procedures are less
than straightforward. It would depend on a determined effort being
made by key Members, such as Chair of the Environment Committee.
The Commission can, for instance, be forced to respond to an Oral
Question with Debate tabled in full plenary session of the European
Parliament. However to get this on the agenda this would have
to compete with many other pressing subjects for plenary time,
and generally have a consensus of support from a majority of political
groups. Parliament does normally have a general resolution before
and after Council summit meetings, but these tend to be prepared
by the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Parliament and environment
is usually an afterthought, given no more than a couple of lines.
Otherwise, opportunities arise in Committee
for summoning and questioning the Environment Commissioner on
a range of issues perhaps a couple of times a year.
The Environment Committee has in the past been
in the habit of summoning the President of Council in the areas
under its responsibility (environment, consumer protection and
health) during each Presidency and subjecting the Minister concerned
to rigorous questioning. Other Committees began to follow this
lead in recent years, however the decision rests with the Committee
concerned and its Bureau, often predicted by available time. Whether
integration would be raised during that questioning, however would
depend on the determination of individual Members, who often want
to pursue issues relevant to their own areas, country or subject
interest. With a majority of the Committee consisting of new Members,
it is impossible to evalute from the outside whether the political
will is present to pursue the integration issue. My experience
leads me to think that it is only Members of the Environment Committee
who are likely to pursue such a line of questioning and the other
subject areas, where it most ought to be pursued, lack the interest
or commitment to proceed along these lines.
Since one of the areas in which integration
of environment policy is important is the enlargement process,
there ought to be some built-in mechanism for reviewing progress
in the accession negotiations. It may be that this takes place.
However the mechanism by which the Parliament reviews enlargement
is in the Joint Parliamentary Committees (JPCs) with the accession
countries. There is little or no integration of the issues discussed
with the relevant subject committee of the Parliament. The remit
for the JPCs comes from the Foreign Affairs Committee.
In the past the Parliament has vigorously pursued
a policy of "greening the EU budget". There is little
evidence of real commitment to this either in Commission or Council
especially since a majority of the agriculture and development
budgets are not under the remit of the European Parliament.
Comment: There are no formal procedures for
integration in the European Parliament and these ought to be put
in place. They should include better integration of discusision
in the JPCs.
A Commission paper was delivered to the Cologne
Summit in June 1999 on integration of environmental policy. I
have not seen that paper. However the debate at the Council appears
to suggest that the content of decision making simply reaffirmed
the intention of the Council to review the situation at the Helsinki
Summit and also to ask the General Affairs Council to report on
other areas such as economy and fisheries to report back in 2000.
In July the Environment Council held an informal
discussion on the main challenges for EU environment policy at
the turn of the century. The integration process was discussed
as one of these items. There was talk of identifying key problems
to be solved by the economic sectors and that co-operation with
stakeholders should be sought at the national level "as well".
It asked for the Commission to issue the draft co-ordinated report
on integration indicators by October 1999. If this document has
been completed it is not yet publicly available.
The Environment Council felt that Helsinki will
be crucial for stocktaking and that it should also address the
issue of indictors measuring overall progress in sustainable development.
It suggested that an EU strategy for sustainble development should
be available by 2001, making next year a crucial year in this
respect. It will require a substantial effort in democratic scrutiny
which has not hitherto been evident. It spoke of the aim to de-couple
economic growth from adverse environmental impacts. It also spoke
of raising environmental issues with implications for "human
welfare of citizens" (sic) as a priority.
Comment: Progress on the integration process
should be on the agenda of every Council meeting and debated in
Parliaments as often as possible. Unless this happens it is in
danger of slipping off the agenda. Whilst a paper is obviously
in the throes of preparation for Helsinki, it is fairly obvious
that not a lot of action has so far taken place in the eighteen
months or so since the Cardiff Council. It is therefore essential
that the Helsinki decision includes real targets for progress
in each sector. Hopefully the UK can take a lead in pushing for
The Commission is preparing a paper for the
Helsinki Summit, but copies are not available to the public at
There was no mention of environment in Commissioner
Prodi's inaugural speech to the European Parliament in September.
Content focussed on enlargement, fraud, economics, the single
market and liberalisation. However Mr Prodi has in previous speeches
during the summer acknowledged that sustainable development is
one of the EU's "fundamental challenges" and called
for "renewed and meaningful commitment to sustainable development",
which he translated to mean greater integration of environment
considerations into other policies especially agriculture, industry
The Commission's broad work programme for the
next five years will not appear until January 2000. It is also
about that time that Vice-President Commissioner Kinnock's proposals
for reform of the institutions will see the light of day. It is
unlikely, therefore, that much progress on putting into place
means by which integration can be implemented in the various Directorates-General
of the Commission will be ready before that time.
In her Hearing before the Environment Committee
of the European Parliament, Commissioner for Environment Wallstrom
affirmed her commitment to integration, but her assessment was
that "almost everything remains to be done".
Comment: The Commission has failed to appoint
a Vice-President in charge of sustainable development and policy
integration, which leaves it weak in terms of implementing the
integration policy unless pushed by democratic forces or the Council.
It is not acceptable for the integration issue to be simply under
the remit of the Environment Commissioner.
In the past the Commission sometimes seeks to
cover inactivity by recourse to the subsidiarity principle but
it is essential to acknowledge that this integration policy cannot
be achieved by action at Member state level alone.
I propose now to outline a (non-comprehensive)
list of policy areas and make some subjective comments, intended
to highlight some of the areas in which a more pro-active approach
to policy integration should be implemented with the greatest
The main areas in which integration is seen
as important are transport, energy and agriculture. I submit that
industry, finance and external affairs (in particular trade) and
fisheries are also essential areas currently ignored when it comes
to integration of environment. Furthermore, the work on developing
the Sixth Environmental Action programme is hugely behind, partly
because of the lack of dynamism in the Commission for most of
this year. Policy making throughout the EU continues to be sectoral
and vertical. If integration is to work, a new horizontal approach
will have to be devised.
In its second assessment report the European
Environmental Agency reported that the latest "business as
usual" scenario suggests the EU will increase its CO2 emissions
by 8 per cent to 2010 rather than decreasing the basket of greenhouse
gases by 8 per cent as agreed at Kyoto in 1997. There are still
huge gaps in energy policy. Much hope has been pinned on a carbon/energy
tax at EU level, but agreement seems as far away as ever. The
target of 12 per cent renewable energy by 2010 is still not legally
binding, only voluntary. There needs to be a directive also on
cogeneration to exploit its high CO2 reduction potential. Liberalisation
of the energy supply which is proceeding apace provides no stimulus
whatever for improving energy efficiency, and the energy sector
is still the largest contributor in the EU to CO2. No targets
appear to have been set for improvements in energy intensity.
Acidification is still a problem as to SO2 emissions
and there is still a reluctance to tackle the problem of fossil
fuel burning because of the political sensitivity for those countries
which still have coal mining industries. Subsidies have still
not begun to be phased out. Apart from in Germany the funds necessary
to implement flue-gas desulphurisation measures on coal-fired
power stations do not seem to be available. Much of the effort
currently seems to be going into the "dash for gas"
without looking at the predictions of oil and gas depletion in
There remains a gap in concrete action in the
energy sector in more than one area and the lack of integrated
thinking is obvious.
Verdict: The EU must do better than this in
such a critical area.
Goods transport continues to grow unchecked,
as does road transport in general. Energy use in the transport
sector, for instance, grew by 44 per cent from 1980-95. Forecasts
for transport growth in Western Europe indicate that this could
still nearly double between 1990-2010, with the number of cars
increasing by 25-30 per cent. Apart from the Auto-oil programme
which will bring cleaner fuels and cars by around 2005, little
else in the policy area seems to have been implemented. The transport
sector is also a dominant emitter of nitrogen oxides. Internalisation
of external costs in transport seems not to have progressed past
the paper of some years ago from Commissioner Kinnock. Political
will to attack this issue with more than rhetoric seems to continue
to be lacking.
Verdict: A sad story.
Agriculture and Structural funds
Agenda 2000 seeks integration of agri-environment
measures into the CAP and to make them compulsory. Moves towards
de-coupling environment schemes from production are intended to
be part of this. Environmental concerns are still only a very
small part of the CAP and this issue needs revisiting every couple
of years. Reform of the CAP is still only partial. It is unclear
exactly how much the environmental considerations have been written
into the actual regulations for the CAP and for management of
the structural funds. Environment safeguards should clearly be
written into payments mechanisms. Agri-environment schemes should
account for at least 25 per cent of the CAP however over-use of
pesticides is still rife in the countryside and there is still
a tendency to build roads with structural fund money. Better
implementation of the Habitats, Nitrates and Wild Birds Directives
would help. This is not happening at member state level at present
and the Commission has in the past been slow to act on enforcement.
There appears to be no-one overseeing these issues in the European
Verdict: Must try harder.
Agriculture is not the only sector where pesticides
are a problem. Where is the democratic monitoring of the UNECE
Convention on Transboundary Air Pollution (CLRTAP) which was expected
to be ready for adoption in 1999? The EEA says that it is unlikely
the EU will meet its 2000 target for a 30 per cent reduction of
emissions of nitrogen oxides between 1990 and 2000. As of 1995
only 8 per cent had been met. Where is the precautionary principle
on assessing toxicity of potentially hazardous chemicals? (One
only has to look at how long it has taken not to achieve a ban
on lindane and other organophosphates, or to ban pthalates in
children's toys). Where are the binding measures to reduce exposure
to endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs)?
Groundwater quality is still threatened by high
concentrations of nitrates from agriculture despite a European
directive dating from some years back on this subject. The framework
water quality directive is still in the throes of its rocky ride
through the system.
Verdict: Little effort to be seen.
One third of European bird species are in decline,
largely as a result of damage to habitats and land use changes,
yet policies do not seem either to be in place or at least not
enforced to tackle this problem. The EEA points out that it is
still the case that conservation of biodiversity is still regarded
as less important than short term economic interests. This is
clearly an area environment has not integrated into other policy
areas. We still need innovative ways to pay for sustainable management
of the Natura 2000 network. Offshore biodiversity does not seem
to be on anyone's agenda. Poor implementation by member states
of several directives (see Agriculture above) is unacceptable
if integration is to work in practice. Yet there is little political
will on the part of some member states to do this, despite some
cases in the European Court of Justice.
Verdict: Keep at it.
Fisheries are yet only peripherally identified
as a subject area for integrating environmental policy which is
a disgrace given that overfishing and pollution of oceans is one
of the great environmental issues of our time. There is a need
to redirect subsidies to encourage sustainable fish management
and to tackle mismanagement of funds. This is an area which is
always politically delicate for the Council.
Verdict: Getting started would be a good thing.
Urban environment and Local Agenda 21
Despite excellent work since Rio and since the
Urban Environment White Paper of 1990, there is still a coherence
gap in ensuring the policies are able to be fulfilled. The Aalborg
Charter of European Towns and Cities for Sustainability set the
scheme and there is an excellent network in place, producing some
good examples of best practice. However this work is constantly
hamstrung by the lack of joined up thinking at the Commission
level. The Budget line specifically for urban environment was
abolished in a tidying up exercise last year in favour of mainstreaming
it into a bigger general environment line in the EU budget. Since
then it has been virtually impossible to liberate the funds to
run the network and the office in Brussels and to undertake new
projects because of the "lack of a legal base". Despite
Councils and Commissioners both from Environment and Structural
Funds, the Budgetary department of the Commission is still blocking
projects and programmes designed to implement this work. A new
"legal base" piece of legislation is after 12 months
still being fought behind the scenes in the Commission by the
budget department as "unnecessary", yet payments will
not be authorised because of lack of a legal base. Catch 22. With
Parliament out of action for half the year no progress has been
made. Where is the integrated thinking here?
Verdict: A prime example of lack of integration.
Forestry policy in the EU is still mostly production
oriented and dealt with under agriculture rather than taking into
account the large biodiversity or climatic change issues.
Tropical forestry is dealt with under a mixture
of Development policy and External Trade divisions and this leads
to a lack of coherence. There is a constant battle year on year
to maintain the funds for helping sustainable management of tropical
forests and in general the environment in developing countries.
Because these areas do not come under the competence of the environment
directorate in the Commission nor the Environment Committee in
the Parliament, there appears to be no coherent oversight of environment
Verdict: Not much evidence of integrated thinking
Waste management continues to be dominated by
cheapest available options and waste prevention and minimisation
is not yet effectively the highest priority. In some places a
solution is being sought by incineration, but there are comprehensive
arguments (see "Creating Wealth from Waste" by Robin
Murray, Demos books 1999) that this is a damaging line to be taking.
Verdict: A long way to go.
Where is the integration of environmental thinking
into trade issues? Recent judgements of the WTO disputes panel
have clearly shown that there is a pressing need to ensure respect
for at the very least Multilateral Agreements on Environment and
for this to be written into the rules of the WTO. This should
have been a large part of EU preparations for the WTO Millennium
trade round talks in Seattle this November. Where is the sustainable
development paper for this? As far as I am aware neither the European
Parliament nor home parliaments have held comprehensive policy
debates on this issue. Further, what moves are there on efforts
to integrate environmental concerns not only into the WTO but
also into other regional or bilateral trade agreements eg Mediterranean
Free Trade Zone, Transatlantic Economic Partnership and the Lome
Convention? Because talks are led by industry or economics departments,
the integration of environmental thought does not appear to have
crossed the barbed wire border into this subject area. It is long
Strategic environmental assessment for all policies
remains at this stage a figment of imagination. Headline indicators
of sustainability have been suggested by the European Environment
Agency. These should be closely linked to targets and responsibility
delineated between EU and Member states. I am not aware of any
evidence that this process has been initiated at all. Making real
progress will entail agreement on horizontal mechanisms such as
intensification of greening the budget, introducing liability
for environmental damage, better use of the precautionary principle,
review of subsidiarity policy and ecological and ecological tax
In short I believe that both procedures and
progress are lacking on integrating environment into other policy
areas. There is a lack of provision for monitoring and little
evidence of target setting. There appears to be a democratic deficit
in that elected members of parliaments do not appear to be involved
in the process at any stage. Despite integration being one of
the much-lauded priorities of the Fifth Environmental Action Programme
and being called for by Council, and being the subject of many
political speeches, much remains to be done.