Strategy for integrating the environment into the single market
The European Union has established a set of measures and proposed guidelines aimed at developing the synergies between the single market and Community environmental policy.
Communication of 8 June 1999 from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council: Single Market and Environment [COM(99) 263 final - not published in the Official Journal].
Environmental standards are often perceived as barriers to market access (strict technical standards), just as open markets are frequently seen as a threat to the quality of the environment.
The Amsterdam Treaty has reinforced the principle of integrating environmental requirements into other policies since this is the key to promoting sustainable development (Article 6 of the Treaty establishing the European Community). The Community must therefore seek a coherent approach enabling it to pursue the objectives of the Treaty as regards both the single market and the environment, whilst also honouring its international obligations.
One of the targets set in the action plan for the single market was to deliver a single market for the benefit of all citizens, in which environmental protection would play an important role. The Commission considers it essential to reinforce the synergies between the single market and environmental policies, with the aid of a series of measures on public procurement, State aid, standardisation, financial reporting and eco-labelling.
The Community must also use economic instruments such as taxes (environmental taxes and charges) that can be an appropriate way of implementing the "polluter pays" principle.
The Commission has proposed a series of measures that could be taken to integrate environmental objectives more fully into various areas of the single market:
- publish a handbook on application of Articles 28 (former Article 30) to 30 (former Article 36) of the EC Treaty to national environmental measures (with specific examples based on previous experience) and a communication interpreting and clarifying how to take environmental considerations into account in public procurement;
- assess, with the help of appropriate impact analysis and consultation processes, how proposed environmental measures will contribute to better functioning of the single market;
- simplify environmental legislation and administrative procedures, as part of the SLIM initiative;
- update the existing Commission database on environmental taxes and charges used in the internal market;
- adopt, together with the European standardisation bodies, a programme which will progressively integrate environmental considerations into their activities and explore the possibility of promoting participation by environmental NGOs in the standardisation process;
- develop the role of environmental agreements with a view to further harmonisation of environmental performance by industry within the single market;
- develop, in close cooperation with the relevant national authorities, the role and contribution of the Community eco-label award scheme;
- periodically review the environment-related national technical regulations notified under Directive 98/34/EC in order to determine where harmonisation measures may be required;
- review the Community framework for State aid for environmental protection;
- contribute to the measures taken by the Council on transport and energy, in order to integrate environmental considerations into transport and energy policy.
At its summit meeting in Cardiff the European Council called on all relevant formations of the Council to establish their own strategies for giving effect to the general principle of integrating environmental policy into all other Union policies. In Cardiff the focus was mainly on energy, transport and agriculture.
Continuing along the same lines, in Vienna the European Council extended this process to three other fields - the internal market, industry and development.