Proposed LIFE+ regulation is now in a last-chance conciliation procedure after MEPs rejected the Council’s position to delegate 80% of environmental funds directly to member states.
LIFE (The Financial Instrument for the Environment) has been in operation since 1992 and co-finances environmental initiatives in the EU as well as in some candidate, accession and neighbouring countries.
The Parliament’s second-reading vote on 24 October 2006 was predicated by a desire not to ‘re-nationalise’ the LIFE programme and to ensure that the Commission remains central to environmental policy definition. Thus, MEPs rejected the Council’s position which foresaw at least 80% of the LIFE+ budget being managed directly by member states.
However, the Commission supported the Council’s position to delegate management of the programme on concerns that it lacked sufficient staff to manage the funds on its own.
MEPs also called for an increase in the budget size by €100 million and for at least 55% of Life+ funds to be allocated to the nature and biodiversity component.
The process now enters into conciliation. In order to avoid a financial gap if no agreement is found by the end of 2006, the Parliament called on the Commission to guarantee the continuity of the programme in 2007.
Since 1992, LIFE has co-financed some 2,750 projects, contributing approximately €1.35 billion to the protection of the environment. LIFE+ is the proposed successor to LIFE III and will have a budget of approximately €1.9 billion for the period 2007-2013.