Debate tackles EU-25’s ‘Green strategy’

In a Green Week debate organised by Friends of Europe, participants assessed the key elements of the EU’s ‘Green strategy’ in light of the Union’s recent enlargement by ten new Member States.

The accession of ten new Member States on 1 May has had a
substantial impact on the EU’s Green strategy. In addition to
incorporating and co-ordinating the ‘clean-up’ efforts by the
newcomers, the EU now faces the task of developing a comprehensive
environmental strategy that can and will be supported by all 25
Member States. One main issue discussed during the debate was
whether the EU’s existing or future strategies have the potential
to satisfy calls for a bottom-up approach to reflect different
local conditions in the EU-25 and how best the EU should develop
its global stance on the key environmental challenges.

 

Representing the industry,
Joachim Bitterlich, executive vice president of
Veolia Environnement, argued that successfully tackling
environmental issues was key to the EU's future cohesion and
credibility. He said that the Member States should put an end to
their ideological debates and should instead strive to create a
framework in which the appropriate responsibilities are shared by
all stakeholders along clearly defined lines. Mr Bitterlich said
that the EU should prefer the public-private partnership model over
the "classical methods of privatisation", and should also make
better use of its research and development capabilities.

Political Secretary
Oraldo De Toni of the European Mine, Chemical and
Energy Workers' Federation (EMCEF) underlined the need for social
dialogue, especially in the new Member States. On behalf of EMCEF,
which represents some 2.5 million members and 35 organisations, De
Toni said that the EU should organise conferences on all key
environmental aspects, such as emissions trading, packaging and
packaging waste, environmental liability and health safety. He said
that the employment aspects of the planned environmental actions
should remain top priorities, and that the trade unions in the EU,
and especially in the new Member States, should work together on
sustainable development-related issues.

Eva Kruziková, director of the Czech Republic's
Institute for Environmental Policy, highlighted the environmentally
relevant assets which the new Member States have contributed to the
EU and argued that a completely new vision is needed for the whole
of Europe in this respect. Since the EU aims to become a world
leader in environmental issues, she said it was time for the Union
to stop looking at itself through the EU-15 versus the new Member
States division. She also said that the new Member States' ongoing
efforts to "catch up" with the EU-15 might stifle their creativity
and dynamism, and might thus prove counter-productive.

István Õri, permanent state secretary of Hungary's
Ministry of Environment, outlined his government's environmental
policy approach and said that the horizontal integration of the
most important issues with the EU-25 was a top priority. Õri said
that the new Member States should make every effort to decouple
environmental issues from those related to competitiveness, and
should also keep sustainable consumption high on their agenda. He
agreed with De Toni that the EU should organise and co-ordinate a
series of international fora on environmental issues of common
concern.

Timo Mäkelä, director for sustainable development
and integration at the Commission's DG Environment, recommended
that Member States concentrate on the future rather than the past.
He said that the Union should focus on eco-efficiency and related
technologies if it wants to become part of the solution rather than
part of the pro blem. Issues of consumption must be properly
addressed, he argued, and not only through regulations. In this
process, economic instruments such as taxes should play a much more
prominentr role. Makela also called for a better analytical base
for the EU's environmental policies to be established, and called
for more transparency in the process.

 

Between 2 and 4 June, the Commission held its annual Green
Week series of environmental events. On 3 June, EURACTIV moderated
a debate organised by Friends of Europe, Veolia and Unilever that
focussed on the enlarged EU's environmental policy-making strategy.

 

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