Monday, July 19, 2004

Tough love?

Despite her passion for all things European, and her enthusiasm for further integration, this has not stopped the object of Mrs Beckett’s desires – the EU commission – from threatening to take her to court for breaches of EU environmental law.

In fact, not only is Mrs Beckett delinquent in her EU obligations, she actually a serial offender, with no less than eight violations due for consideration by the Euro-beaks unless she sharpens up her act.

Her crimes include two counts of failing to prohibit trade in all the endangered animals and plants under the EU’s protection, and another grave offence is her continued exclusion of Crown Land developments from environmental impact assessments and public consultations.

This latter issue is of particular interest as the Crown is traditionally exempt from UK law, under the doctrine of "Crown immunity", based on the precept that the Crown cannot prosecute itself. But Crown prerogative means nothing to our masters in Brussels. Betty Windsor is a "European citizen" like everybody else, and she – or her agents – must obey EU law like everybody else.

Other offences include waste water and air pollution issues, where the UK – as with environmentally conscious Sweden - has lamentably failed to implement the full provisions of the Water Framework Directive (Directive 2000/60/EC establishing a framework for Community action in the field of water policy).

This requires waste water discharged from towns of more than 15,000 inhabitants to be subject to what is called "secondary treatment" before it is discharged from sewage works, and is set to cost the water companies – and therefore the long-suffering water users – billions.

Needless to say, the commission considers implementation of its legislation, which had a deadline of December 2003, essential for "sustainable, integrated water management in Europe".

Thus, Beckett’s misdemeanours – to say nothing of the people who have to pay the bills - are getting no sympathy from environment Kommissar Margot Wallström.

The law is the law in her view. "EU environmental legislation is the decisive factor in protecting the environment. Eighty percent of environmental legislation in the Member States originates at the EU level. But to be effective, this body of law must be fully and correctly implemented".

"The United Kingdom", she says, "must amend its laws on key topics like nature protection and environmental impact assessment. This is important to ensure that agreed EU law is followed and to guarantee citizens a high level of environmental protection."

So there! Tough love, if ever you saw it. Or perhaps, just plain tough!

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