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[Luxembourg 2005 Presidency of the Council of the European Union]
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Lucien Lux addresses the European Parliament’s Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety

Date of Speech : 02-02-2005

Place : Bruxelles

Speaker : Lucien Lux

Policy area : Environment Environment

I.   Mr President, Members of this Committee, Ladies and Gentlemen,

The Luxembourg Presidency of the Environment Council was already actively cooperating with the Parliament before this opportunity to address you arose. Since December of last year, we have met with rapporteurs and their colleagues with a view to gaining as much time as possible to explore all the possibilities of compromise between the Parliament and the Council. This method will guide us throughout these six months.

In terms of content, the Luxembourg Presidency will be led by a two-fold focus: preserving the environmental dimension while better integrating it into the sectoral decisions and policies, as well as to allow the human component to prevail, especially in linking civil society to the decision-making process.

The Luxembourg Presidency is heading to a key juncture: the mid-term review of the Lisbon Process, the preparation for the review of the Sustainable Development Strategy and reflections on the fight against climate change after 2012 are three important projects the Presidency will tackle. We hope to be able to lay the ground for the new policies.

We will rise to the challenge!

Confronted with globalisation, confronted with rising unemployment, confronted with the deterioration of the environment, it seems to me to be more appropriate, more important and more urgent now than ever to believe in the European model of development, that is, sustainable development, synonymous with sustainable economic growth, with social cohesion and with a healthy, natural, humane environment.

The European model of social and environmental responsibility has been a success: it will be the guarantee of our future prosperity. Europe should become "the most dynamic and the most competitive knowledge-based economy in the world", and this will never be realised on the back of human dignity, nor through the waste of natural resources and the deterioration of the environment. Protection of the environment and social cohesion should not benefit from growth alone, but should also make a positive contribution.

Furthermore, we should stop the fruitless debate between environment and economy, move beyond it and concentrate on the tremendous synergies that are possible.

The environment is actually a driver of innovation if you look at it from the point of view of opportunities to be taken instead of focusing on hypothetical risks.

It is important to me to express my determination to reconcile vision and pragmatism! It is the means, and not the ends, that must be discussed and evaluated. We will avoid useless bureaucracy and excessive regulation, but we will also avoid competition based on lowering environmental standards. Concerns about practicability should not be used as leverage for dismantling the social and environmental acquis.

In any case, we have no choice!

Global warming of more than 2°C above the level reported for the pre-industrial period increases the risk of irreversible damage.

The erosion of biological diversity continues at an alarming pace. According to Birdlife, 43% of the species of birds in Europe are threatened. We are at risk of failing in our goal of stopping the loss of biological diversity by 2010 if we do not implement substantial and consistent measures to protect it.

II.   As it does every year, the Environment Council will provide a substantial contribution which should feed the debates that the Heads of State and Governments will have on the Lisbon Strategy.

This afternoon we received, as did you, the communication from the Commission to the spring meeting of European Council regarding the mid-term review of the Lisbon Strategy, presented by President Barroso to the Parliament today at 2:00 p.m. This is certainly an important report that we should study and which will be the subject of discussions in an entire series of sectoral formations of the Council of the Union. These groups will make their contributions in anticipation of the meeting of the European Council in spring.

I do not doubt that these contributions will be a reminder, beyond the necessity of restarting growth and employment, of the commitment of the Member States to the three dimensions (economic, social and environmental) of the Lisbon Strategy, which should also represent aspects of European competitiveness.

Ambitious environmental policies, far from constituting obstacles to growth and competitiveness, contribute to the realisation of the Lisbon objectives. In particular, environmental technologies and environmentally efficient innovations offer possibilities that should be fully exploited.

The synergy between the socio-economic objectives on the one hand and environmental objectives on the other hand do not limit environmentally efficient innovation. This also encompasses such concepts as

• costs incurred through not taking action: future economic losses related to climate change could be substantial over the long term

• the potential for the general marketplace to favour products and investments that do not have an adverse effect on the environmental plan

• the elimination of subsidies that are not compatible with sustainable development.

The Sustainable Development Strategy represents over the long term the agreement of different policies centred on a general vision of what is sustainable. The Environment Council of 20 December 2004 invited the Commission to present, in view of the European Council of spring 2005, a list of progress made, and an analysis of the principal results of the public consultation and policy options for a review of the above strategy. The review of the Strategy itself will take place later. But we already intend to present a strong policy signal. Our Presidency launched the idea of a European charter on sustainable development that defines the general orientations and the guiding principles that will be applied to all the policies of the Union.

In summary, two points seem essential to me in this context which will put an end to the confusion between the Lisbon Strategy and the sustainable development strategy:

1. Nurture the Lisbon process, thereby clarifying and even fleshing out the content of its third dimension, which is the environment.

2. Enhance sustainable development, based on a European charter on sustainable development.

III.    In the area of climate change, it is under our Presidency, on 16 February 2005, that the Kyoto Protocol will enter into force. Thus the circle will be closed: you may remember that it was also under the Luxembourg Presidency of the European Union that the Kyoto Protocol was adopted on 11 December 1997.

But the path is still long, as we know that the protocol is just the beginning in the fight against climate change. The Presidency has already organised an informal workshop on climate change. This workshop will bring our experts together to prepare the European Union with a view to the entering into force of the Kyoto Protocol, as well as in anticipation of the next sessions of the ancillary bodies of the framework convention, which will take place in May 2005.

Above all, the countries of the European Union, like all the parties that have assumed specific responsibilities in the framework of the protocol, will have to demonstrate in 2005 that they have made progress in their commitments for 2008-2012.

Thereafter, preparations will need to be made for the post-Kyoto period (after 2012). In Bonn, in May of this year, a seminar of government experts will be organised by the secretariat of the framework convention. The decision made in Buenos Aires to have an informal exchange of information is not what the European Union wanted to see, which was rather the preparation of the post-Kyoto negotiations on a more formal basis during the process of the framework convention. But this seminar provides us with the opportunity, for the first time in a very long time, for developed and developing countries to discuss existing policies and measures, but above all, to discuss the future. Countries like the United States, China and India will participate in this seminar.

On the subject of climate change after 2012, the European Union has taken as a point of departure an increase in global temperature not in excess of 2°C in comparison with the pre-industrial era. To achieve this objective in the long term, it will be necessary to put a ceiling on the emissions of greenhouse gases within two decades, and then to reduce them by at least 15%, and maybe by 50% in 2050, in comparison with their levels in 1990.

The European Council meeting in the spring of 2004 decided to consider strategies and objectives for reducing emissions in the medium to long term during their meeting in spring 2005. It should be based on a cost-benefit analysis that the Commission will not present until 9 February.

The Environment Council will pursue the analysis of such a strategy in its March meeting. Two possible options are currently under discussion:

- either propose strategies, with corresponding objectives, for reducing emissions in the medium to long term to the spring meeting of the European Council (in accordance with the mandate to the Environment Council of December);

- or not reach any decisions before the beginning of the negotiations at the next conference between the parties, but instead first discuss the options for a post-Kyoto strategy with the other parties before adopting the objectives in the framework of our international negotiating position.

I would be pleased to hear the views of your Committee on this subject.

The desire to ensure that the European Union maintains its leadership role in this area leads me to favour the first option: we must convey a clear and determined message to the European Council of 22 March.

In addition, and given that climate change is a problem that affects our entire planet, it is still vital that the countries that have not yet ratified the Kyoto Protocol be convinced to do so as rapidly as possible, and here, as well, the Council is counting on the support of the European Parliament to raise this issue with all of your contacts.

I will soon go to North America and Asia to explore the possibilities of a long-term common approach.

IV. The importance the European Parliament attaches to REACH was well illustrated by the public hearing of 19 January that your Committee jointly organised with the Committees on Industry and Internal Market. Allow me to congratulate you for having taken the initiative in bringing together all of the actors in this process.

REACH is an important example of what the new type of European policy will be within the framework of the Lisbon Process, and it is for this reason that the REACH dossier is one of the priorities of the Luxembourg Presidency.

Much progress was made in the examination of the REACH dossier under the Dutch Presidency, and I trust I shall be able to say as much in six months’ time when the Luxembourg Presidency comes to an end.

As was already mentioned in your hearing, the Luxembourg Presidency intends to focus its efforts on an exhaustive discussion of headings IV to VIII of REACH and of their annexes.

A thorough examination of REACH is planned during the Competitiveness Council of 6 June 2005, as well as during the Environment Council of 24 June 2005. Certain critical points and open questions related to the practicability of REACH, above all for the MEPs, need to be analysed during our limited workshop of 10-11 May 2005 in Luxembourg, which is why we invited the rapporteurs of the European Parliament.

Mr President, I must congratulate you on your closing words at the end of the hearing in which you proposed that a "roadmap" be outlined based on 10 points that allow the key issues to be identified: the Commission needs to have a clear idea about what is involved in beginning the next steps towards the implementation of REACH. In addition, after the Irish Presidency, we adopted a similar approach at Council level.

It is in this perspective that I once again emphasise that the Luxembourg Presidency is dedicated to continuing an exchange with the parliamentary committees on this dossier, in particular with the rapporteurs, in order to allow our successors to be able to reach a policy agreement in the shortest time possible.

V.    As regards the other legislative dossiers, the Luxembourg Presidency intends to arrive at a political agreement on the following dossiers. As you are already familiar with these dossiers, I will not go into detail in their contents.

 - The regulation proposal on the financing instrument for the environment (LIFE +) merits special attention. Without prejudice to the negotiations on financial perspectives, a policy agreement is subject to the following conditions:

  • sufficient budget financing;
  • the right of scrutiny of those responsible for the environment as regards both the eligibility of beneficial activities and methods of financing those activities;
  • safeguarding the integrity and the very essence of environmental projects themselves;
  • the guarantee of financial support for all of the environmental activities covered by the current LIFE programme, in which the acquis in the area of the human and natural environment should be preserved and developed.

Among the priority objectives of the future community framework in the area are financing the NATURA 2000 network and measures related to the community commitment to stop the decline in biodiversity by 2010.

 - the proposal of a directive that establishes a space information infrastructure in the Community (INSPIRE).

 We have already had positive contacts with your rapporteur and I hope that our close cooperation will result in an agreement on the first reading of this dossier.

 - the directive proposal on protecting groundwater against pollution

The work was well advanced under the Dutch Presidency and the Council expects to be able to examine the report and the amendments of the Parliament within a reasonable time, with a view to reaching a policy agreement in June.

- the regulation proposal on the creation of a European register of waste and transfers of pollution. An agreement on first reading of this dossier seems completely reasonable to me.

- finally, as regards the directive proposal on access to justice in the area of the environment, the Luxembourg Presidency hopes that the Council will be able to make progress by June. But I am aware of the political sensitivity in the area which does not make our task any easier.

VI. As regards the dossiers in the second reading, I would like to draw your attention to the following points:

- the directive proposal on the management of the quality of bathing water, which is the result of long and difficult negotiations and which takes into account, to the greatest degree possible, the advice of the Parliament in the first reading. The Presidency is prepared to work with the Parliament to try to find an agreement in the second reading of this dossier.

 - the directive proposal on the sulphur content of marine fuels: I understand that your Committee is now finalising its advice on the second reading. On this dossier as well, we should do everything in our power to come to an agreement in the second reading and to avoid entering into a delicate conciliation process.

On five other dossiers on the transfer of waste, management of waste from the extractive industries, fluorinated greenhouse gases, application of the Århus Convention to institutions of the EC, and batteries and accumulators, the common position of the Council will be submitted to the European Parliament during the second half of our Presidency.

Particularly as regards the Århus regulation, the Council hopes to be able to rapidly draft an agreement that satisfies the Parliament, so that a positive signal can be sent during the meeting of the Parties in May 2005 in Almaty (Kazakhstan), as a sign of the will of the European Community to promote transparency and public participation in the area of the environment.

As regards fluorinated gases, you know that this is an important part of the European Programme on Climate Change. The Council has worked under three successive Presidencies to arrive at a policy agreement that takes into account two-thirds of the amendments by the European Parliament. I hope that the Parliament will primarily evaluate the substance and not spend too much time on the formal aspect that the initial proposal of the Commission has been divided into two separate legislative acts.

VII. May I now draw your attention to the fact that the Luxembourg Presidency is currently preparing a series of important international meetings during the first half of 2005, namely:

- the 13th meeting of the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development, policy session, will be held in New York this April. The mandate of this meeting is to decide, based on the state of the locations outlined by CSD-12, on measures and suitable options for accelerating the implementation of the commitments that the international community has decided on in the areas of water, environmental remediation and human settlements. In this context, I have invited the President of the CSD-13, Mr John Ashe, to present the results of a CSD preparatory meeting during the Council meeting of 10 March.

The European Union attaches a great deal of importance to the success of this meeting, which should make a substantial contribution to the mid-term review of the Millennium Development Objectives to take place in September 2005 in the framework of a high-level summit.

- the second Conference of Parties to the Århus Convention in Almaty in May will address the strategy to be adopted in the area of public consultation as regards decisions related to genetically modified organisms.

Other important meetings will be

 - the Administrative Council of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP),

- the second meeting of the parties to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, which will be held in Montreal

 - the first Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (Stockholm Convention), also to be held in May, in Uruguay.

As regards these large international meetings, the Luxembourg Presidency has agreed to establish close coordination with the outgoing and incoming Presidencies, which will allow us to work jointly as a team with the Commission and the Secretariat of the Council in addressing the large international meetings.

Mr President, Members of the European Parliament, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am delighted by the close and successful cooperation between our two institutions at a time when the Luxembourg Presidency is trying to successfully guide a very substantial and ambitious programme in the area of the environment. In doing this, we are, of course, sharing the responsibility with you and we will work for the well-being of all of our fellow European citizens. Let’s make sure that they are happy with the work done.

I would be glad to come back again in June to take stock of what we have accomplished.

This page was last modified on : 08-02-2005

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