Navigation path

Left navigation

Additional tools

2253rd Council meeting- ENVIRONMENT -Brussels, 30 March 2000

European Council - PRES/00/91   05/04/2000

Other available languages: FR DE DA ES NL IT SV PT FI EL

Conseil/00/91

Brussels, 30 March 20007352/00 (Presse 91)

2253rd Council meeting- ENVIRONMENT -Brussels, 30 March 2000

President : Mr José SOCRATES

Minister for the Environment and Regional Planning of the Republic of Portugal

CONTENTS

PARTICIPANTS 

ITEMS DEBATED

IVNATIONAL EMISSION CEILINGS FOR CERTAIN ATMOSPHERIC POLLUTANTS AND OZONE IN AMBIENT AIR PAGEREF _Toc480100460 \h VEVALUATION OF THE 5TH ENVIRONMENTAL ACTION PROGRAMME COUNCIL CONCLUSIONS PAGEREF _Toc480100461 \h VIICOMMUNITY STRATEGY ON CLIMATE CHANGE PAGEREF _Toc480100462 \h XENVIRONMENTAL LIABILITY PAGEREF _Toc480100463 \h XCONVENTION ON BIOLOGICAL DIVERSITY PAGEREF _Toc480100464 \h XI?(a) Protocol on Biosafety PAGEREF _Toc480100465 \h XI?(b) Preparation for the 5th Conference of the Parties (Nairobi, May 2000) Conclusions PAGEREF _Toc480100466 \h XII?(c) Preparation for the 11th Conference of the Parties to the CITES Convention PAGEREF _Toc480100467 \h XXITHE PRECAUTIONARY PRINCIPLE PAGEREF _Toc480100468 \h XXIENVIRONMENTAL INDICATORS PAGEREF _Toc480100469 \h XXIIFRAMEWORK DIRECTIVES ON WATER AND ON END-OF-LIFE VEHICLES PAGEREF _Toc480100470 \h XXIIOTHER BUSINESS PAGEREF _Toc480100471 \h XXII?Shipwreck of the oil tanker Erika PAGEREF _Toc480100472 \h XXII?Pollution of the Danube basin PAGEREF _Toc480100473 \h XXII?Brominated flame retardants PAGEREF _Toc480100474 \h XXIIIITEMS APPROVED WITHOUT DEBATEENVIRONMENT PAGEREF _Toc480100475 \h XXIII--Strategic environmental impact assessment PAGEREF _Toc480100476 \h XXIII--Minimum criteria for environmental inspections PAGEREF _Toc480100477 \h XXIIIAGRICULTURE PAGEREF _Toc480100478 \h XXIV--Plant Genetic Resources PAGEREF _Toc480100479 \h XXIVTAXATION PAGEREF _Toc480100480 \h XXIV--VAT transitional provisions for Austria and Portugal PAGEREF _Toc480100481 \h XXIV--Excise duty for mineral oils derogation for the Netherlands PAGEREF _Toc480100482 \h XXVEXTERNAL RELATIONS PAGEREF _Toc480100483 \h XXV--Switzerland extension of the CCN/CSI PAGEREF _Toc480100484 \h XXVSPECIAL REPRESENTATIVES OF THE EUROPEAN UNION PAGEREF _Toc480100485 \h XXVAPPOINTMENTS PAGEREF _Toc480100486 \h XXVI--Economic and Social Committee PAGEREF _Toc480100487 \h XXVI

_________________

For further information call 285 62 19 or 285 74 59

PARTICIPANTS

The Governments of the Member States and the European Commission were represented as follows:

Belgium :

Ms Magda AELVOETMinister for Consumer Protection, Public Health and the Environment
Denmark :
Mr Svend AUKENMinister for the Environment and Energy
Germany :
Mr Jürgen TRITTINFederal Minister for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Reactor Safety
Greece :
Mr Dimitrios RALLISDeputy Permanent Representative
Spain :
Ms Isabelle TOCINO BISCAROLASAGAMinister for the Environment
France :
Ms Dominique VOYNETMinister for Regional Planning and the Environment
Ireland :
Mr Noel DEMPSEYMinister for the Environment and Local Government
Italy :
Mr Edo RONCHIMinister for the Environment
Luxembourg :
Mr Charles GOERENS

Mr Eugène BERGER

Minister for the Environment

State Secretary for the Environment

Netherlands :
Mr Jan PRONKMinister for Housing, Planning and the Environment
Austria :
Mr Wilhelm MOLTERERFederal Minister for Agriculture, Forestry, the Environment and Water Management
Portugal :
Mr José SOCRATES

Mr Manuel da SILVA PEREIRA

Minister for the Environment

Secretary of State for Regional Planning and Nature Conservation

Finland :
Ms Satu HASSIMinister for the Environment
Sweden :
Mr Kjell LARSSONMinister for the Environment
United-Kingdom :
Mr Michael MEACHERMinister for the Environment
Commission :
Ms Margot WALLSTRÖM

Ms Loyola de PALACIO DEL VALLE-LERSUNDI

Member

Vice-President

_Toc480100459ENDOCRINE DISRUPTERS COUNCIL CONCLUSIONS

The Council held a policy debate in which it warmly welcomed the Commission's strategy proposed in its Communication "Community Strategy for endocrine disrupters: a range of substances suspected of interfering with the hormone systems of humans and wildlife".

During the debate, all delegations stressed the importance of this strategy which included short, medium and long-term measures. Ministers noted that the strategy was an integral part of the overall future strategy on chemical substances.

The Council adopted the conclusions set out below.

"The Council of the European Union

    1. Welcomes the Communication from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament on the Community strategy for endocrine disrupters;

    2. RECOGNISES the importance of this issue, given the potential for adverse effects to human beings and wildlife associated with endocrine disrupters, the extent of public concern reflected by the European Parliament Resolution of October 1998 and the available scientific evidence elaborated by inter alia the Commission Scientific Committee for Toxicity, Ecotoxicity and the Environment in its Opinion of March 1999;

    3. CONSIDERS that it is necessary to develop a strategy consisting of short-, medium and long-term actions including further research, international cooperation, communication to the public, consultation with stakeholders and appropriate policy action including inter alia, appropriate phasing out; this strategy must be co-ordinated and be consistent with the general Community strategy on chemicals that will be proposed by the Commission;

    3a. RECALLS the necessity for Member States and the Commission to reinforce their full commitment to an effective implementation of this strategy, e.g. through the provision of sufficient resources to ensure that they meet their responsibilities in full;

    4. Stresses that the precautionary principle must be applied in order to respond quickly and effectively to the problem bearing in mind the goal of sustainable development;

    4a. CONSIDERS that, for endocrine disrupters, there is a need to develop quick and effective risk management strategies for substances which may, on the basis of a preliminary scientific evaluation, have potential adverse effects on human health or the environment, paying attention to their inherent properties, use patterns and possible exposure.

      5. CALLS UPON the Commission, in close consultation with stakeholders, to strengthen and speed up its efforts in establishing a dynamic priority list of substances based on transparent, scientific criteria for further evaluation of their role in endocrine disruption, as a means to prioritise testing, to guide research and monitoring efforts, to make full use of existing instruments where appropriate, and to identify specific cases of consumer use and ecosystem exposure for special consideration;

      6. CONSIDERS that there is an urgent need:

        (a) for the Commission and Member States to ensure the development, ideally at international level, of agreed toxicological and ecotoxicological test methods, and the development of testing and monitoring strategies in order to assess the hazards and risks of endocrine disrupting chemicals;

        (b) to strengthen and co-ordinate research at Member State and Community levels in order to increase overall understanding of endocrine disruption and the underlying causes as well as the knowledge about exposure patterns and effects in the human population and in the environment;

        (c) to take appropriate risk management measures for the control of these substances, if specific cases, inter alia, of consumer use and ecosystem exposure are identified, including the phasing out, when necessary, and the finding of replacements for substances of concern and to consider in this context that amongst other actors involved in these processes, industry has an important role to play;

      NOTES also the need for the Commission and the Member States to make in parallel, in the short-term, full use of existing legislation, in relation to the list mentioned in paragraph 5, including the completion of classification and, where necessary, phasing-out;

      7. STRESSES the importance of international cooperation and information exchange, in order to avoid duplication of efforts and facilitate the harmonisation of regulatory actions and TAKES CAREFUL NOTE of the work done or being done, namely within the Intergovernmental Forum on Chemical Safety (IFCS), the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the EU-US Science and Technology Cooperation Agreement, the UNECE Protocol on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs), the negotiations on the UNEP Global Persistent Organic Pollutants instrument and the Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North-East Atlantic (OSPAR);

      8. STRESSES the need to address the concerns of the public in this area and in a transparent manner to consult and to communicate reliable information through appropriate channels;

      9. RECOGNISES the horizontal nature of the problem, with implications in areas such as Consumer, Health and Environment Protection, Agriculture and Research;

      10. RECALLS the Council conclusions of 24 June 1999 on the development of the European Community's policy on chemical products and EMPHASISES the importance of the link between endocrine disrupters and the review of the overall chemicals policy at the European Community level, particularly the need for consistency and the need to ensure that instruments keep up with new scientific developments including, where appropriate, amendments and/or adaptations of relevant EU legislative instruments;

      11. INVITES the Commission to report to the Council on the progress of the work, at regular intervals, and for the first time early in 2001."

NATIONAL EMISSION CEILINGS FOR CERTAIN ATMOSPHERIC POLLUTANTS AND OZONE IN AMBIENT AIR

The Council held a further policy debate on two proposals for Directives, one on national emission ceilings for certain atmospheric pollutants (sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, volatile organic compounds and ammonia) and the other on ozone in ambient air. During the debate, Ministers replied to three questions asked by the Presidency:

     whether Member States were willing to go further than the reductions in emissions accepted in the framework of the Gothenburg Protocol;

     whether the possible willingness of countries applying for membership of the EU to go beyond the reductions set in the Protocol should be taken into account when calculating emission ceilings;

 whether Member States were committed to the interim targets for ozone reduction.

In their contributions, a large majority of delegations supported the Presidency in its intention to push work forward in this area, particularly on emission ceilings, and to reach political agreement at the Council meeting in June.

Several Ministers observed that the ceilings set by the Gothenburg Protocol seemed to them to be insufficient and said that they would be prepared to go further. Others stressed the need to keep to the ceilings agreed in the Protocol for the time being, and then to adopt more ambitious ceilings when it was revised in 2004. In this context they commented on the considerable effort, particularly in financial terms, which was already necessary to achieve the ceilings set by the Gothenburg Protocol, and also on the need for a balance between environmental benefits and the financial costs entailed by the measures to be adopted. However, some Ministers said that they were prepared to accept more ambitious ceilings, while pointing out the need for progress in discussions on the Directive on large combustion plants and the need to develop Community legislation in certain areas which might affect the emission levels of pollutants covered by the proposal.

Several delegations believed that additional effort would be needed from the countries applying for membership, over and above what they had accepted in the Gothenburg Protocol, while recognising the difficulties which they might have in this respect. Some Member States suggested that this question should be handled when the Directive was reviewed in 2004.

At the end of the debate, the Presidency thanked delegations for their comments on the political choices to be made, and declared his intention to continue this work in cooperation with the Commission, particularly through bilateral or multilateral contacts, in order to reach a decision with a view to a common position at the Council in June.

Both proposals for Directives are part of the Community strategy to combat acidification, and were submitted by the Commission on 14 July 1999. The first proposal aims at limiting emissions of the four pollutants responsible for acidification and eutrophication and ozone formation in the lower atmosphere (sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, volatile organic compounds and ammonia), in order to improve the protection of the environment and human health, with the long-term objective of no exceedance of critical levels and loads. The proposal sets national emission ceilings (NECs) for each substance, not to be exceeded after 2010. To achieve these objectives, Member States will have room for manoeuvre to choose the most appropriate means with regard to their national characteristics.

The accompanying, closely inter-related, proposal relating to ozone in ambient air is the third "daughter" Directive under the framework Directive on air quality (Directive 96/62/EC). It introduces interim target values for ozone concentrations for the protection of human health and vegetation to be attained as far as possible by 2010, and long-term objectives. Both the target values and the long-term objectives are based on the WHO air quality guidelines. The proposal also provides for the monitoring of ozone concentrations in ambient air and the communication of the results to the public.

At an international level, the proposals should be seen in close connection with the Gothenburg Protocol on the reduction of acidification, eutrophication and ground-level ozone, which was agreed on 1 December 1999 under the aegis of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe, and which sets targets at an international level which are less ambitious than those envisaged in the Commission proposal.

EVALUATION OF THE 5TH ENVIRONMENTAL ACTION PROGRAMME COUNCIL CONCLUSIONS

    "The Council of the European Union

    1. Bearing in mind Decision 2179/98/EC of 24 September 1998 on the review of the EC Programme of policy and action in relation to the environment and sustainable development "Towards sustainability" *(1) (the 5th Environmental Action Programme), and in particular the invitation to the Commission therein to submit a global assessment of the implementation of the 5th programme;

    2. Bearing in mind the Commission's Communication of 24 November 1999 on the Global Assessment of the 5th Environmental Action Programme, as well as the report from the Commission "From Cardiff to Helsinki and beyond" of 24 November 1999, submitted to the European Council in Helsinki (10/11 December 1999);

    3. Bearing in mind the Conclusions of the Helsinki European Council on environment and sustainable development, which take note inter alia of the Global assessment of the 5th Environmental Action Programme and invite the Commission to prepare, by the end of 2000, a proposal for the 6th Environmental Action Programme; bearing in mind further the ongoing process for integrating the environmental dimension into other policy areas, as recognised in those conclusions;

    4. Bearing in mind the report of the European Environment Agency "Environment in the European Union at the turn of the century";

    Assessment of the Fifth Action Programme in relation to the state of the environment

    5. Welcomes the Commission's Global Assessment of the 5th Environmental Action Programme and concurs with the main findings and messages presented in the document;

    6. Recognises the important contribution of the 5th Environmental Action Programme to strengthening sustainable development and integration as set out in the Amsterdam Treaty and considers the aims and principles of the 5th Environmental Action Programme to be still valid;

    7. Is conscious that the lack of a systematic ex-post evaluation process, appropriate monitoring mechanisms and indicators, does not allow a thorough assessment of the effectiveness, in terms of reducing environmental impacts and risks, of different Community environmental policy measures and that further work is needed to develop these systems;

    8. Notes that for a number of significant issues progress has been insufficient, and that projected trends for, inter alia, diffuse sources of pollution (in particular to groundwaters, soil and coastal areas), increasing waste generation and related disposal problems, continuing growth in the consumption of natural resources, chemical and associated health risks, soil degradation, global warming, and biodiversity losses, are cause for serious concern;

    9. Is concerned that many of these environmental problems are likely to persist or worsen over the next decade due, in large part, to worrying trends in production and consumption patterns, unless further measures are taken to reverse the adverse effects of those trends; agrees, therefore, with the urgent need for the integration of environmental protection requirements into other policy areas, in particular those already identified by the European Council (agriculture, transport, energy, internal market, development, industry, general affairs, Ecofin, fisheries) and notes the initial steps taken in this direction;

    10. Recognises nevertheless that important progress has been achieved in a number of areas, such as the phasing out of ozone depleting substances, the positive trends regarding the reduction of point source emissions to the atmosphere and surface waters, improvements in water quality and an initial reduction of acidification;

    11. Notes the need for improvements in implementation and enforcement of Community environment legislation;

    12. Is furthermore concerned about the insufficient progress made at the Community level on broadening the range of instruments, in particular economic instruments, inter alia the lack of an early decision on an appropriate framework for energy taxation.

    Nature of the Sixth Programme:

    13. On the basis of the principles set out in the Treaty, the 6th Environmental Action Programme should:

      (a) be a strategic document that sets clear priorities and objectives for the next 10 years, based on policy analysis, and, where appropriate, supported by thematic strategies or action plans;

      (b) set out a clear vision for the protection of natural ecosystems and for the quality of life based on a sound environment, which thus responds to the concerns of citizens;

    (c) put emphasis on the health-related aspects of environmental issues;

      (d) be the environmental component of the broader sustainable development strategy for which the Commission will have to prepare a proposal to be presented to the European Council in June 2001 in view of Rio+10 and contribute to the integration of the environmental, social and economic dimensions;

      (e) include, where appropriate, qualitative and quantitative targets, at least of an indicative nature, as well as indicators for the priority environmental issues and also, where appropriate, timetables;

    (f) aim at maintaining EU leadership in international fora;

      (g) emphasise coherence and consistency of environmental and other relevant Community policies;

    (h) reflect the challenge of enlargement;

    (i) be flexible and adaptive to new and emerging issues;

      (j) include a mid-term review on the basis of a report from the Commission and of the European Environment Agency's regular reports on the state of the environment;

      (k) be presented in such a way as to be interesting to and easily understood by the public, as well as be supported by a public information strategy designed to raise citizens' awareness.

    Priorities of the Sixth Programme:

    14. The priorities of the 6th Environmental Action Programme should be:

      (a) further improving the implementation and enforcement of Community environmental legislation, including through the integration of environmental requirements into other Community policies;

      (b) addressing new and emerging issues and issues where existing policy has failed to adequately reverse negative trends and break the link between economic growth and negative environmental impacts. This includes, inter alia:

     climate change,

     biodiversity,

     efficient use and management of natural resources,

     waste management,

       environmental safety/reducing the environment and health risks caused by chemicals and GMOs,

     soil degradation and desertification;

      (c) focussing on effective solutions to global environmental issues and to the relationship between trade liberalisation and environmental protection.

    Policy approach and instruments in the Sixth Programme

    15. The 6th Environmental Action Programme, in line with the principles set out in the Treaty for preparing Community policy on the environment, should:

      (a) emphasise a policy-making process which would include better analysis of environmental issues and of the costs and advantages of measures, and better implementation, monitoring and public awareness and participation, having regard to subsidiarity and shared responsibility bearing in mind the diversity of the regions of the Community;

      (b) encourage and support the successful development and implementation of integration strategies for the relevant sectoral policies, with a view to promoting sustainable development, in particular by clearly identifying where sectoral activities and policies contribute to existing and emerging environmental problems and where changes are needed if environmental objectives are to be achieved, and furthermore encourage consideration of sector-specific targets and timetables as well as indicators at the appropriate level for monitoring the successes;

      (c) promote in particular, with a view to breaking the link between economic growth and environmental pressures, the following instruments:

    (i) adequate economic instruments,

    (ii) legal instruments and standards, where appropriate,

      (iii) horizontal tools for reinforcing integration such as strategic environmental impact assessment and environmental appraisal of major Commission policy proposals,

    (iv) eco-efficiency approach and an integrated product policy,

      (v) participatory instruments, such as the Aarhus Convention and communication networks aiming at the exchange and dissemination of environmental information,

      (vi) multilateral environmental agreements in relation to international trade negotiations;

    (vii) adequate research activities.

Monitoring the policy performance

16. The 6th Environmental Action Programme should provide for:

    (a) appropriate instruments and mechanisms, in particular clear and agreed indicators and improved reporting system, in order to measure the progress and effectiveness of the policies and strategies in the programme, taking account of the need for consistency with the sectoral integration strategies and their respective indicators,

(b) multi-stakeholders participation,

    (c) regular reports from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council on the progress achieved in the implementation of the 6th programme.

17. The Council invites the Commission to report, by June 2001, on the progress in relation to the integration of the environment and sustainable development in the Commission's work, including progress in the development of procedures for the environmental appraisal of the Commission proposals."

COMMUNITY STRATEGY ON CLIMATE CHANGE

The Commissioner Ms WALLSTRÖM presented two documents to the Council, which had been adopted by the Commission on 8 March 2000:

     a communication on proposed policies and measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, which also establishes a "European Climate Change Programme";

 a Green Paper on greenhouse gas emissions trading within the European Union.

During lunch, Ministers discussed the strategy to be adopted in forthcoming international negotiations (in particular, informal consultations in New York in the margins of the UN Commission on Sustainable Development in April, and the twelfth meeting of subsidiary bodies to the Convention in Bonn in June).

After lunch, the President resumed the discussion on strategy which also took the documents presented by the Commission into account. The President reiterated the four principal elements on which there was consensus within the European Union with a view to preparations for the 6th Conference of the parties to the United Nations Convention on Climate Change to be held in the Hague in November; it should be possible to ratify the protocol, environmental credibility and integrity should be protected, and the links between the European Union and developing countries should be preserved.

It should be remembered that in the framework of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, the Community committed itself to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 8% during the period 2008-2012 in relation to 1990 levels, and that the 6th Conference of the parties in the Hague should adopt decisions to facilitate implementation of the Kyoto Protocol.

ENVIRONMENTAL LIABILITY

The Commissioner Ms WALLSTRÖM briefed the Council on the White Paper on environmental liability which the Commission adopted on 9 February 2000, and the Council then held a preliminary policy debate. Ministers' discussions were guided by questions which the Presidency had submitted to the Council, on:

 the need for Community action on liability for environmental damage and for its restoration;

     the form of Community action required: accession to the Lugano Convention or a Community Directive;

     the scope of the Community regime: types of activities to be covered, traditional damage (to health and property) or also damage to the environment (biodiversity and contaminated sites).

Given public concern about environmental damage, particularly following the recent shipwreck of the oil tanker Erika, the Council welcomed the Commission's adoption of the White Paper. The majority of speakers were in favour of a Community approach, while requesting thorough discussion at expert level. With regard to the form which Community action should take, most Ministers expressed a preference for a Community framework directive, since the scope of the Lugano Convention and hence its ratification by the Community was believed to be insufficient.

It was stressed that a Community approach on the subject would strengthen the implementation of environmental legislation and respect for the environment by the various interested parties.

Most delegations believed that the Community approach on environmental liability should be wide-ranging.

The White Paper submitted by the Commission details the structure of a future Community system for environmental liability to prevent environmental damage. It examines various solutions to improve the application of the fundamental environmental principles of the Treaty (the polluter pays principle, the preventive and precautionary principles), and the implementation of Community law on environmental matters, and to ensure that the environment is restored appropriately.

In its White Paper the Commission envisages a Community system which would cover both "traditional" damage (damage to people or goods) and "environmental" damage (contaminated sites and damage to the natural environment and to biodiversity). In connection with Community legislation in force, the Commission proposes a restricted scope. The contamination of sites and traditional damage will only be covered if they are caused by dangerous or potentially dangerous activities which are regulated at a Community level. Damage to biodiversity will only be covered if there is damage to protected areas and species under the Natura 2000 network (areas chosen by Member States by virtue of the "Wild Birds" Directive of 1979 and the "Habitats" Directive of 1992).

The planned system would not be retroactive, and would therefore only apply to future damage. Following the example of nearly all national systems for environmental liability, strict liability (that is, without it being necessary to prove that the polluter has committed a fault) for damage resulting from dangerous activities such as those regulated by legislation on the discharge or emission of dangerous substances into the air or water, waste-management, genetically modified organisms and the transport of dangerous substances. Fault-based liability will be provided for in the case of damage to biodiversity caused by a non-dangerous activity. The liable party must be the party carrying out the activity which caused the damage.

It is provided that in the case of environmental damage, the compensation due by the polluter should be allocated to the effective restoration of the environment.

Various solutions are presented and evaluated as regards the possibilities for Community action: Community accession to the Lugano Convention adopted in the Council of Europe framework but only covering cross-border damage a recommendation or a directive. The Commission concludes that the most appropriate solution would be that of a Community framework directive.

CONVENTION ON BIOLOGICAL DIVERSITY

  • (a) Protocol on Biosafety

The Presidency informed the Council on the outcome of the Extraordinary Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity which was held at the end of January 2000 in Montreal, where agreement was reached on a Protocol on Biosafety (the text of the Protocol is available on the convention web site: www.biodiv.org).

It is recalled that on 29 January 2000 more than 130 delegations reached agreement, after nearly four years of negotiations, on the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety. The Protocol aims to create a framework for transboundary movements of living genetically modified organisms. The Protocol will be open for signature during the 5th Conference of the Parties in Nairobi in May 2000. The Commission has stated that a proposal on the signature of the Protocol by the Community will be submitted to the Council shortly.

  • (b) Preparation for the 5th Conference of the Parties (Nairobi, May 2000) Conclusions

Secondly, the Council adopted the conclusions set out below in preparation for the 5th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity which will be held in Nairobi from 15 to 26 May 2000.

    "Item 12. Report on the status of the Biosafety Protocol

    The Council

     welcomes the adoption of the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety as an important step forward to ensure Biosafety and to implement the Convention on Biological Diversity;

     underlines the importance of the expression of the Precautionary Principle given in the operative part of the Protocol in relation to decision-making;

     welcomes that the Protocol balances trade and environmental concerns and that it recognises mutual supportiveness between the trade and environmental agreements;

     welcomes that the Protocol sets out provisions on capacity building, information sharing, notification and documentation, as necessary elements for countries to take responsible decisions with respect to transboundary movements of Living Modified Organisms (LMOs), raising public awareness and providing predictability for exporters and importers;

     encourages the signing of the Protocol by the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity at their 5th Conference in Nairobi in May 2000 and ratification as early as possible to ensure entry into force of the Protocol at an early stage;

     encourages Parties, governments and international organisations to contribute actively to the preparations for the 1st meeting of the Parties to the Biosafety Protocol and appreciates the offer of France to host the 1st meeting of the Intergovernmental Committee for the Cartagena Protocol (ICCP), Autumn 2000.

      Item 16.1 Progress report on the implementation of the programme of work on the biological diversity of inland water ecosystems, marine and coastal biological diversity, and forest biological diversity

    The Council

     considers that the 5th Conference of the Parties should strengthen and expand the cooperation with all the relevant organisations, institutions and conventions in the implementation of the programmes of work addressed under this item, making sure that relevant co-operative arrangements are open to all Parties to the Convention;

     in this respect,

      welcomes the ongoing cooperation with the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands and endorses the proposed second joint work Programme 2000-2001 of this Convention and the Convention on Biological Diversity;

      encourages closer cooperation with relevant regional agreements and conventions inter alia with the OSPAR Convention;

     is of the view that the 5th Conference of the Parties should fully integrate the issue of coral bleaching in the programme of work and prepare a specific work plan, in cooperation with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and other relevant organisations, institutions and conventions, on coral bleaching taking into account inter alia the conclusions and recommendations of the Expert Consultation on Coral Bleaching;

     affirms the need of making progress in the implementation of the programme of work on forest biological diversity. The work on status and trends and identification of options for conservation and sustainable use of forest biodiversity (Decision IV/7 of the Conference of the Parties) should be completed in time for the 7th meeting of SBSTTA in 2001, and before the 6th meeting of Conference of the Parties in 2002;

     considers that the 5th Conference of the Parties should establish an ad hoc technical expert group on forest biological diversity on the basis of recommendation V/7 of the SBSTTA, taking also into account the proposals for action of the Intergovernmental Panel on Forests (IPF), the outcome of the Intergovernmental Forum on Forests (IFF) and CSD8.

      Item 16.2. Agricultural biological diversity: review of phase I of the programme of work and adoption of a multi-year work programme

    The Council

     acknowledges the progress made in the SBSTTA-5 recommendation on agrobiodiversity;

     mindful of Decision III/11 of the Conference of the Parties and of chapter 14 of Agenda 21, which addresses the multifunctional character of agriculture that plays a part in the maintenance and development of a richer biodiversity, stresses that the multi-year work programme on agrobiodiversity, to be adopted at the 5th Conference of the Parties, should:

      €? promote a broader scope and address as appropriate the different functions that agricultural practices and biodiversity in agricultural landscapes have for providing several services, including ecological services;

      €? take into account in a balanced manner the three main areas of interaction between agriculture and biodiversity in functional agroecosystems:

        (a) the conservation and sustainable use of genetic resources useful for food and agriculture,

        (b) the conservation and sustainable use of components of biological diversity useful for maintaining the productivity of agriculture and food security, and

        (c) the conservation and sustainable use of any other component of biological diversity occurring in agricultural landscapes,with a clear annotation on the functions of agroecosystems biodiversity for nature conservation, landscape protection and sustainable use;

      €? put more emphasis on the need for mainstreaming agrobiodiversity by integrating biodiversity in agriculture sector planning and policies, for example through the development and implementation of Action Plans on Agriculture and Biodiversity, using appropriate indicators and making the best use of partnerships and networks between public and private sectors and civil society;

      €? address the development or redeployment of supporting tools for agricultural practises which maintain or enhance biodiversity;

      €? focus on highlighting and further developing agricultural practices that maintain and develop biodiversity, in particular as regards in situ conservation of genetic resources, life support functions and activities integrating agriculture and nature management, also to illustrate that agrobiodiversity issues can be translated by farmers into their daily management schemes, in using inter alia traditional low intensive farming, where appropriate;

      €? be applicable to the characteristics of agrobiodiversity in the different regions of the world;

     for the same reason, strongly favours at the international level expansion of the CBD-FAO cooperation with the International Agricultural Research Centers (IARC) of the Consultative Group on International Agriculture Research (CGIAR), ICRAF, IUCN, UNEP, UNDP, the World Bank and other relevant bodies and organisations;

     is of the view that the multi-year work programme should also support policies for ex-situ, in-situ and on-farm conservation, evaluation and sustainable use of genetic resources relevant to farming systems. These policies should be compatible with the policies developed under relevant fora, in particular the FAO.

    Item 17.1 The ecosystem approach

    The Council

     considers very important the adoption of a description and coherent set of principles for the ecosystem approach, to be explicitly included in a decision of the 5th Conference of the Parties, for which document UNEP/CBD/SBSTTA/5/11 forms a useful basis;

     recognises that the ecosystem approach should be used by all Parties and Governments in particular regarding the implementation of Article 6 of the Convention. It should also be implemented through all the relevant work programmes of the Convention. This implementation should be supported by a set of voluntary guidelines and suggestions for action, drawing on regional workshops;

     considers of great importance that the 5th Conference of the Parties sends out a clear message to UN bodies and relevant international and regional organisations and donor agencies to incorporate the ecosystem approach in their policies, programmes and projects.

      Item 17.2 Identification, monitoring and assessment, and indicators (implementation of decision IV/1 B)

    The Council

     considers the development of adequate indicators to be an important key to the implementation of the Convention;

     recognises that indicators should be based on a sound set of principles and key questions and urges the 5th Conference of the Parties to endorse the SBSTTA5 recommendation V/11 while aiming at developing a working set of appropriate indicators preferably by the time of the 6th Conference of the Parties. The concept of state-pressure-response indicators should be taken into consideration in developing these indicators;

     stresses the importance of regional cooperation and information exchange, considering these as necessary means to develop adequate indicators.

      Item 17.3 Alien species that threaten ecosystems, habitats or species (implementation of decision IV/1 C)

    The Council

     reiterates the view that introduction of alien species is a priority issue requiring, as appropriate, national, transboundary and international action, and stresses the importance to prevent such introduction, by adopting proactive measures in addition to reactive ones;

     notes that the guiding principles for the prevention, introduction and mitigation of impacts of alien species, requested to be developed by SBSTTA, have not yet been finalised and stresses that this work should be completed as soon as possible, in particular on standardising terminology and definitions. The 5th Conference of the Parties should decide how to progress further on this issue, ensuring that the precautionary principle, and the ecosystem and the biogeographic approaches are fully reflected;

     considers in particular that these guiding principles should also address sub-species and varieties of alien species, and alien genotypes;

     is of the firm view that, to ensure coordination and to avoid duplication of efforts, collaboration with other fora relevant to the issue of alien species that threaten ecosystems, habitats or species, should continue and be further developed, including with the Global Invasive Species Programme, the IUCN, the FAO, the Ramsar Convention, the Bern Convention and CITES;

     also believes that, using information on the case-studies available through the Clearing-House Mechanism, Parties should facilitate research, education and increase public awareness in relation to the risks associated with the introduction of alien species.

      Item 17.4: Global Taxonomy Initiative: implementation and further advance of the suggestions for action (implementation of decision IV/1 D)

    The Council

     considers the Global Taxonomy Initiative (GTI) to be an important element in the implementation of the Convention;

     supports the baseline taxonomy initiatives of the GTI, suggested by SBSTTA in recommendation V/3, and emphasises the need to build upon existing activities. The Clearing House Mechanism of the Convention should support these baseline initiatives;

     recognises the need for coordination under GTI, and therefore supports the creation of a coordination mechanism, consisting of interested United Nations agencies (including GEF), representatives of key taxonomic institutions, representatives of other relevant organisations. This mechanism should assist the Executive Secretary of the Convention in formulating projects that would strengthen regional network initiatives, support training activities, as well as enabling countries to assess, monitor, conserve and sustainably use its biodiversity. Existing and proposed broader biodiversity projects should also be subject of needs assessments regarding taxonomic tools and information;

     stresses that priorities for actions taken under the GTI should be driven by needs identified for implementing the Convention. This should be taken into account in the draft work programme and in defining timetables and goals;

     recognises as an important activity for the GTI to co-ordinate a series of regional workshops of scientists, managers and policy makers in order to identify regional and national priorities and projects that would need external funding.

      Item 18.2 and 18.5 Scientific and technical cooperation and the Clearing-House Mechanism/Education and public awareness

    The Council

     addresses the need to raise public awareness on the Convention and its objectives and recognises the possible role that the Clearing-House Mechanism can play in this field and in the greater involvement of the public in the discussions on the Convention and its future development;

     as regards education, sees a need to work with UNESCO and UNEP, in coordination with partners such as IUCN;

     emphasises the role of the Clearing-House Mechanism as the Convention's information and communication system for promoting and facilitating technical and scientific cooperation on biodiversity related issues;

     actively supports the use of the Clearing-House Mechanism to promote also public awareness on the Convention and its objectives;

     therefore gives particular priority to closely integrating the implementation of Art. 18.3 "Clearing-House Mechanism" and Art. 13 "Public awareness";

     in respect to public awareness building, considers that there is a need to:

      = systematically collect and distribute examples and best practices on public awareness building related to the Convention by using and/or developing the CHM;

      = promote and ensure that interest groups in biodiversity are (a) made aware of the importance of biodiversity, (b) be kept informed of issues and measures likely to affect them and (c) facilitate their participation in "learning" about the Convention;

      = develop targeted education programmes on biodiversity issues for specific sectors including with educational institutes working in these sectors;

      = support capacity building in participation and communication methods to facilitate the implementation of local, regional and national biodiversity policies;

     further gives particular priority in respect to the Clearing-House Mechanism on:

      = the further need to identify and work on clear priorities for the development of the CHM taking into account the priorities for the biennium 2001-2002 recommended by SBSTTA, which should avoid overlap and duplication of work in relation to other international information initiatives and Conventions related to biodiversity;

      = the fact that new regional and international information initiatives created in the light of the CBD such as the "Global Biodiversity Information Facility" (GBIF) should be designed so as to give full support to the objectives of the Convention on Biological Diversity.

    Item 18.4 Implementation of Article 8(j)

It was agreed to re-examine this important topic at a later stage and to formulate Council conclusions on the basis of the outcome of the meeting of the Ad Hoc Group on Article 8(j), Seville, 27-31 March 2000. (2)

    Item 18.6 Impact assessment, liability and redress (Article 14)

    The Council

     recognises that Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), as an important tool for decision-making, should be initiated in the early stages of project design and take into account provisions under Article 7 of the Convention;

     thinks that the evolution of Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) in the EU, based on the principles of EIA, as reflected in relevant national and Community legislation, and stressing such issues as public participation and impact assessment in a transboundary context, gives the EU an active role world-wide in achieving good practice in the implementation of Article 14 of the Convention;

     affirms that the Strategic Environmental Assessment, by integrating environmental, economic and social concerns into the context of decision-making at the programme and plan levels, and achieving a broader approach (including the cumulative, synergetic and induced impacts through feed-back on IA and project appraisal) will promote sustainable development and thus the Convention goals;

     supports the further development by SBSTTA, in collaboration with relevant organisations (e.g. IAIA, IUCN) as well as the private sector, of guidelines on the incorporation of biodiversity related issues into legislation and/or procedures on EIA to be submitted to the 6th Conference of the Parties.

    Item 18.7 National reporting

    The Council

     regards national reporting as a vitally important process in helping to ensure the implementation of the Convention, and in building a comprehensive picture of the collective impact of each Party's efforts. In this respect the Council recognises the importance of the link between the reporting process and indicators;

     also welcomes the pilot project undertaken by the Secretariat and 9 Parties, and other similar initiatives under the auspices of UNEP. While recognising that this is only a first step, it does begin to show how a comprehensive picture of the Convention's impact might be constructed;

     on content, favours SBSTTA's recommendation of targeted reports focussing on specific issues, for example as they arise on the agendas of forthcoming COPs as well as periodic across-the-board reports, covering in less detail all aspects of the Convention while giving an overview of the status of biodiversity, building on the approach adopted in the recent pilot project;

     on the reporting cycle, assuming COPs every two years, would envisage targeted reports on specific issues every two years, and across-the-board reports on the implementation of the Convention every four years;

     is of the view that efforts to streamline national reporting to the various biodiversity-related conventions should start now;

     finally regards support for further national implementation as crucial underpinning for whatever the COP decides on reporting.

    Item 19 Operations of the Convention

    The Council

     remains keen to see a positive outcome to the review of operations of the Convention and strongly believes that making the way in which the Convention operates more efficient and effective will increase the chances of the successful achievement of all the objectives of the Convention;

     therefore welcomes the outcome at the 4th Conference of the Parties, when a number of valuable proposals were adopted, some of which are already improving the way we do business. There is a need to continue to implement such agreed changes;

     notes that more recently the Intersessional Meeting on the Operations of the Convention (ISOC) agreed a set of elements for a draft decision by this meeting of the Conference of the Parties, which provides an excellent basis for further progress;

     is able to accept many of the proposals in the ISOC recommendations with a few exceptions and some necessary updating and regards the suggested improvements in the Conference of the Parties as worthwhile, although it is not persuaded of the need to review the institutional linkages of the Secretariat;

     believes the Conference of the Parties should commission preparation of a strategic plan for the Convention, for adoption at the 6th Conference of the Parties;

     considers that all the proposals for improving the operations of SBSTTA should be accepted, and also welcomes most of the "miscellaneous" proposals, including the need to revitalise regional level activity;

     on measures to enhance the implementation of the Convention, remains of the firm view that improving the operation of the existing institutions should be continued and believes that there is still sufficient scope to make improvements in this way, and that it is premature to contemplate more fundamental change such as the creation of new institutions.

      Item 21 Consideration of options for conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity in dryland, Mediterranean, arid, semi-arid, grassland and savannah ecosystems (included in UNEP/CBD/SBSTTA/5/9)

    The Council

     recognises and affirms the importance to the implementation of the Convention of the conservation and sustainable use of the biological diversity of dryland, Mediterranean, arid, semi-arid, grassland and savannah ecosystems, given the fact that these ecosystems harbour a large variety of unique species and habitats, many of which are extremely vulnerable and fragile, are centers of many of today's domesticated food crops and livestock, and for thousands of years have been and still are very closely related to the livelihood of millions of people, both in agricultural and pastoral communities and in urban areas;

     notes that large numbers of the world's poorest people live in drylands and are dependent on its biodiversity for their livelihoods. Furthermore, these ecosystems have been and still are subject to intense habitat conversion, grazing pressures, pressure from introduced species, changes in fire regimes, over-harvesting and climate change;

     welcomes the draft work programme on the conservation and sustainable use of the biodiversity of dryland, Mediterranean, arid, semi-arid, grassland and savannah ecosystems contained in the Annex of SBSTTA recommendation V/8 to the Conference of the Parties. This draft programme of work follows the ecosystem approach and the principles of integrated and sustainable management, is in line with other thematic work programmes, and should be developed in synergy with the programmes of work of other relevant fora, such as the Convention to Combat Desertification and the UN-Framework Convention on Climate;

     affirms its commitment in the implementation of this work programme as a large number of these ecosystems, and particularly the Mediterranean-type ecosystems, lie within the boundaries of EU Member States;

     therefore believes that the 5th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity should endorse a work programme on the conservation and sustainable use of the biodiversity of dry and sub-humid lands that takes info account the special needs of these areas.

    Item 22 Sustainable use, including tourism

    The Council

     reaffirms the importance of integrating biological diversity considerations into all human activities and sectoral policies, and considers sustainable tourism as one important example of sustainable use of biodiversity;

     therefore welcomes the outcome of SBSTTA 5, in particular as regards the request to the Executive Secretary of the Convention to set up practical principles, operational guidelines and associated instruments of sustainable use as can be derived from the case studies submitted by the Parties;

     also advocates making full use of economic incentives for which valuable documentation has been developed in particular by the OECD;

     welcomes further the outcome of the seventh meeting of the Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD) on tourism and sustainable development as well as recommendation IV/7 of SBSTTA on the development of approaches and practices for the sustainable use of biological resources including tourism;

     recommends that the Conference of the Parties adopts the assessment of the interlinkages between biological diversity and tourism in SBSTTA recommendation IV/7 and accepts the invitation to participate in the international work programme on sustainable tourism development under the CSD process with regard to biological diversity, in particular with a view to contributing to international guidelines for activities related to sustainable tourism development in vulnerable terrestrial, marine and coastal ecosystems and habitats of major importance for biological diversity and protected areas, including fragile mountain systems;

     is of the firm view:

      = that the 5th Conference of the Parties to the Convention should decide on the preparation of a proposal for the contribution of the Convention to these international guidelines, making use of existing material, including at regional level, and

      = that the Executive Secretary should be requested to undertake the necessary steps so that the proposal can be presented for consideration at the 6th Conference of the Parties. Furthermore the Secretariat of the Convention should actively contribute to the preparatory process of the UN-year 2002 "Eco-tourism".

Item 23 Access to Genetic Resources

    The Council

     welcomes the report and takes note of the findings of the Panel of Experts on Access and Benefit-sharing;

     considers prior informed consent a core requirement for access, with potential implications for benefit sharing, under the Convention and emphasises the need for this to be reflected in relevant legislative, administrative and contractual arrangements as set out in Article 15 of the Convention. In this context, the Council welcomes the Panel's emphasis on the need for sufficient flexibility to accommodate different types, sources and uses of genetic resources;

     recommends that the Conference of the Parties should call on Parties to urgently take steps to establish focal points and competent national authorities, as appropriate, for access and benefit-sharing arrangements to indicate from whom prior informed consent is required as suggested by the Panel;

     emphasises that Article 15 of the Convention on Biological Diversity makes clear that contractual arrangements are the main mechanism for making arrangements operational for access and fair and equitable sharing of benefits from the use of genetic resources falling under the scope of the Convention. Such arrangements should be consistent with the legislative and administrative framework of the Parties concerned;

     recognises that intellectual property rights may have an influence on the implementation of access and benefit-sharing arrangements. The Council also notes the finding of the Expert Panel that intellectual property rights may have a role in providing incentives for users to seek prior informed consent and recommends, in line with Decision IV/8, that all options should be equally explored by the Conference in this respect, including inter alia the provision of information, if known, on the origin of the genetic resources when submitting intellectual property rights applications. These issues should be considered with other issues relating to intellectual property rights in all relevant international fora, in particular WIPO;

     recognises the need to ensure that the Convention and the TRIPS Agreement are implemented in a mutually supportive manner, promoting synergy between the two instruments;

     recalling the conclusions of the Panel of Experts on Access and Benefit-sharing and of the 30th FAO Conference, strongly encourages all Parties, in developing national policies and legislation, to take into account and allow for the elements of the revised Undertaking on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, dealt with in the framework of FAO;

     would encourage that every effort be made to finalise the negotiations on the revision of the Undertaking in 2000 and that the revised Undertaking, including the multilateral system on facilitated access and fair and equitable sharing of benefits for plant genetic resources for food and agriculture, should take the form of a legally binding instrument. This revision is a crucial step in implementing the Convention in particular as regards access and benefit-sharing arrangements for plant genetic resources for food and agriculture;

     bearing in mind Decision III/11 of the Conference of the Parties, is of the view that the legally binding instrument incorporating the revised Undertaking should have strong links to both the FAO and the Convention. The Council intends to consider the options for the legal status of the revised Undertaking, that are set out in decision III/11, in good time before the FAO Conference due to take place in November 2000;

     considers that adequate national strategies including, as appropriate, legislative and administrative or policy measures on access and benefit sharing should be adopted by provider and user countries in order to meet the objectives of the Convention and welcomes efforts by a number of Parties and stakeholders to that effect, including on sectoral guidelines and voluntary measures;

     recommends that the Conference of the Parties should thoroughly consider how to best bring this process forward, acknowledging the need for concrete progress and takes the view that future work needs to be based on an assessment of the existing legislation, policies, voluntary measures, guidelines and codes of conduct taking into account the relevant expertise and actively involving relevant stakeholders."

  • (c) Preparation for the 11th Conference of the Parties to the CITES Convention

In preparation for the 11th Conference on the CITES Convention (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora), which will take place in Nairobi from 10 to 20 April 2000, the Council made a preliminary examination of the conclusions defining the position to be taken by the Community at this Conference with regard to elephants, whales, sea turtles and sharks. Work will continue in order to adopt these conclusions in good time before the Conference.

THE PRECAUTIONARY PRINCIPLE

The Commissioner Ms WALLSTRÖM gave a presentation to the Council on the communication which the Commission had adopted on 2 February 2000 on the precautionary principle. The Commission's communication aimed essentially to inform Member States on the approach which the Commission intends to take in implementing the precautionary principle, and to establish guidelines for applying it on the basis of well thought out and consistent principles.

The presentation of the communication was followed by an initial exchange of views by Ministers, in which Member States welcomed the approach taken by the Commission in its communication.

According to the Commission, the principle would apply particularly where the scientific data were insufficient, inconclusive or uncertain and where a preliminary scientific assessment showed that there are grounds to fear potentially dangerous effects for the environment and for human, animal or plant health, which would be incompatible the high level of protection sought after by the European Union.

The communication has four objectives:

 to outline the Commission's approach to applying the precautionary principle;

 to establish Commission guidelines for applying it;

     to build agreement on how to assess, appraise, manage and communicate risks which science is not yet able to evaluate fully;

     to avoid unwarranted recourse to the precautionary principle as a disguised form of protectionism.

The communication also aims to give impetus to the ongoing debate on the precautionary principle both within the Community and internationally.

ENVIRONMENTAL INDICATORS

Ms WALLSTRÖM gave an oral briefing on progress on the definition and establishment of environmental indicators. The Commissioner pointed out to Ministers that the European Environment Agency and the Commission were currently preparing two reports on finalising the indicators which would be published during this year.

Concluding, the Presidency expressed the hope that the Commission would be able to present substantial progress on the subject in the not too distant future.

It is recalled that the subject is of importance in the field of sustainable development policy and in the policy of integrating environmental requirements into other Community policies. Environmental indicators will be used to establish practical targets for a range of policies (energy, transport, agriculture, industry, etc.).

FRAMEWORK DIRECTIVES ON WATER AND ON END-OF-LIFE VEHICLES

The Presidency briefed the Council orally on progress on these two subjects, which are currently subject to the conciliation procedure with the European Parliament.

OTHER BUSINESS

  • Shipwreck of the oil tanker Erika

The Council tackled the question of the shipwreck of the Erika while discussing environmental liability. On this subject, Ministers heard a presentation by Ms de Palacio, Commission Vice-President responsible for Transport, on the legislative proposals which the Commission has submitted following the accident and which were presented to the Transport Council on 28 March. These proposals aim to:

 strengthen port inspection of oil tankers;

 improve the supervision of vessel inspection authorities, and

 progressively ban access to Community ports for single-hull vessels between now and 2015.

A large number of delegations congratulated the Commission on its rapid reaction and noted that these proposals were a good example of the integration of the requirements of environmental protection into other Community policies.

  • Pollution of the Danube basin

The Council took note of comments by the Commission and by the German and Netherlands delegations on the accident in the Baia Mar gold mine in Romania which caused pollution in the Danube. The Commission pointed out that it had immediately set up a Task Force. The German delegation informed the Council about a recent German mission to the region.

  • Brominated flame retardants

Following the note presented by the Swedish and Danish delegations at the last meeting of the Environment Council on 13 and 14 December 1999, in which they described the risks which these substances have for human health and for the environment, the Council was informed by Ms WALLSTRÖM of the work which the Commission had subsequently undertaken in this area. As the results of this work had shown the need to take action, the Commissioner declared her intention to include this question in the communication which she is intending to make on policy on chemical products.

ITEMS APPROVED WITHOUT DEBATE

(Acts adopted for which statements in the Council minutes have been made available to the public are indicated by asterisks; the statements in question may be obtained from the Press Office.)

ENVIRONMENT

Strategic environmental impact assessment

Following the unanimous agreement reached at the meeting of the Environment Council on 13 and 14 December 1999, the Council formally adopted the common position on the Directive on the assessment of the effects of certain plans and programmes on the environment. The common position will now be forwarded to the European Parliament for a second reading in accordance with the codecision procedure.

According to the common position, an obligatory environmental impact assessment would be carried out for all plans and programmes in a number of sectors such as agriculture, industry, transport, tourism, regional planning etc, setting the framework for the implementation of projects covered by the "EIA" (environmental impact assessment) Directive (Directive 85/337/EEC on the assessment of the effects of certain public and private projects on the environment), or for which, given the impact which they are liable to have on the sites involved, an assessment is required by virtue of the "Habitats" Directive (Directive 92/43/EEC of 21 May 1992 on the conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora). Plans and programmes serving the interests of national defence or civil emergency protection, financial or budget plans or programmes, and those falling under the Structural Funds for the period 2000-2006/2007 are not covered.

The results of the environmental impact assessment are included in a report which is made available to the relevant authorities and to the public to express their opinion. The report and opinions expressed on it will then be taken into account in the preparation and prior to the adoption of the plan or programme. (See also press release 13854/99 of 13/14 December 1999).

Minimum criteria for environmental inspections

Following unanimous agreement at the meeting of the Environment Council on 13 and 14 December 1999, the Council formally adopted its common position on a recommendation providing for minimum criteria for environmental inspections in the Member States. The common position will now be forwarded to the European Parliament with a view to its second reading in accordance with the codecision procedure.

The proposal for a recommendation aims to ensure better compliance with, and more consistent application and implementation of Community law on environmental matters in the Member States.

The recommendation applies to environmental inspections of all industrial installations and other enterprises and facilities whose emissions and discharges into the environment are subject to authorisation, permit or licensing requirement under Community law. The text of the recommendation defines minimum criteria relating to the organisation, implementation, follow-up and publication of the results of environmental inspections. It lays down that Member States should ensure in advance a programme of environmental inspections which will cover their entire territory and the installations on it. These plans should be available to the public in accordance with Directive 90/313/EEC on the freedom of access to information on the environment. (See also press release 13854/99 of 13/14 December 1999).

AGRICULTURE

Plant Genetic Resources

The Council adopted a negotiating position with a view to the revision of the International Undertaking on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture. A revised version of this Undertaking, currently being negotiated, is to be submitted to the 119th meeting of the FAO Council in November 2000.

The revision aims to harmonise the Undertaking, which has been in force since 1983, with the Convention on Biological Diversity, which recognises that States have sovereign rights to their natural resources and makes national governments responsible for access to genetic resources. In this framework the Undertaking proposes the establishment of a multilateral system to facilitate access to plant genetic resources for food and agriculture and the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits stemming from the exploitation of these resources.

The current negotiating position is additional to the negotiating directives adopted by the Council on 26 October 1999, and addresses certain points which were still pending, such as the legal form of the Undertaking and the financing strategy.

TAXATION

VAT transitional provisions for Austria and Portugal

The Council adopted the Directive on the common system of value added tax transitional provisions granted to the Republic of Austria and the Portuguese Republic.

This Directive authorises

     the Republic of Austria to apply one of the two reduced rates provided for in the third subparagraph of Article 12(3)(a) to the letting of immovable property for residential use, provided that the rate is not lower than 10%;

     the Portuguese Republic to apply one of the two reduced rates provided for in the third subparagraph of Article 12(3)(a) to restaurant services, provided that the rate is not lower than 12%.

Under the terms of the 1994 Act of Accession, Austria had been allowed to apply a reduced rate to the letting of immovable property for residential use until 31 December 1998, provided that the rate was no lower than 10%. Austria asked for this derogation to be extended from 1 January 1999, since the transitional VAT regime was still in force and the situation had not really changed since the negotiation of the 1994 Act of Accession: dispensing with the reduced rate would inevitably lead to an increase in the price of immovable property rental for the final consumer.

As regards Portugal which applied a reduced rate of 8% until 1991, and the normal rate since 1992 the reintroduction of a reduced rate for restaurant services was justified by the fact that maintaining the normal rate had adverse consequences, in particular job losses and an increase in undeclared employment, as well as an increase in the price of restaurant services for the final consumer. The Council considered that there was no risk of distortion of competition with other Member States, given that the services would be supplied within the single Member State concerned.

Excise duty for mineral oils derogation for the Netherlands

The Council adopted a Decision authorising the Kingdom of the Netherlands to apply a reduced rate of excise duty to certain mineral oils used for specific purposes, in accordance with the procedure provided for in Article 8(4) of Directive 92/81/EEC.

By virtue of this derogation the Netherlands is authorised to apply a differential rate of excise duty of NLG 125,56/1 000 kg for LPG used by waste-collection, drain-cleaning and street-cleaning vehicles from 1 May 2000 to 31 December 2000.

EXTERNAL RELATIONS

Switzerland extension of the CCN/CSI

The Council adopted a Decision on the conclusion of an Agreement in the form of an Exchange of Letters between the European Community and Switzerland concerning the extension of the common communications network/common systems interface (CCN/CSI) within the framework of the Convention on a common transit procedure.

It is recalled that the implementation of the computerised transit system provided for by Decision No 1/1999 of the EC/EFTA Joint Committee on common transit requires the setting up of an international computer network to make possible the exchange of information between the competent authorities of the contracting Parties to the Convention of 20 May 1987 on a common transit procedure.

Decision No 2/1999 of the EC/EFTA Joint Committee on common transit provides that the common communications network/common systems interface (CCN/CSI) is to be used by all contracting Parties to the Convention, and that the financial participation of the partner countries and other related issues will be determined by mutual agreement between the Community and each of the partner countries.

SPECIAL REPRESENTATIVES OF THE EUROPEAN UNION

The Council adopted draft guidelines on the appointing procedure and administrative arrangements for EU Special Representatives (EUSR).

The amendments to the existing arrangements governing the appointment and administration of EUSR aim to reinforce political accountability of EUSR to the Council and to address budgetary responsibility for the financing of EUSR administrative expenditure.

APPOINTMENTS

Economic and Social Committee

The Council adopted Decisions on the appointment of the following members of the Economic and Social Committee:

     Ms Ursula DERWEIN to replace Mr Wolfgang WARBURG for the remainder of his term of office , which expires on 20 September 2002;

     Ms Inger PERSSON to replace Ms Anita HARRIMAN for the remainder of her term of office, which expires on 20 September 2002;

     Mr Heinz PUTZHAMMER to replace Mr Klaus SCHMITZ for the remainder of his term of office, which expires on 20 September 2002;

     Ms Laura GONZALEZ DE TXABARRI ETXANIZ to replace Ms Amaia BETELU BAZO for the remainder of her term of office, which expires on 20 September 2002.

    (1)* OJ L 275, 10.10.1998, p. 1.

    (2) EU biodiversity experts meeting in Riga on 20 March 2000 agreed to reinstate this paragraph from document ENV/00/41.


Side Bar

My account

Manage your searches and email notifications


Help us improve our website