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Environment: a battle in the offing

Posted by Richard Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Despite the holidays, EU commission continues to toils away in pursuit of its agenda, to which effect it has just announced the launch of a twelve-week "stakeholder consultation process". The intent is "to gather input for its mid-term review of the Gothenburg sustainability agenda".

The EU's Sustainable Development Strategy (SDS) was adopted at the June 2001 Gothenburg European Council and now, being three years old, the mid-term review is "to assess what the strategy has achieved and where further progress is needed during the next five-year term of the new incoming Barroso Commission".

What seems to be worrying the commission is that, since Gothenburg and the August 2002 Johannesburg World Summit, the EU's other major strategy "to become the world's most competitive knowledge society by 2010 (the 'Lisbon agenda')" seems to have overtaken the EU's commitment to sustainable development.

Hinting at some fierce fighting behind the scenes, the commission remarks that:

...fierce stakeholder lobbying battle on REACH (the EU's chemicals policy) and the Commission's leadership role on fighting climate change have started a new debate on the relationship between economic growth, competitiveness and the EU's commitment to the environment and sustainable development.
A sign of this emerged recently when the Director of the Brussels Office of the Verband der Chemischen Industrie (German Chemical Industry Association), Dr Reinhard Quick, wrote a letter of complaint to the Financial Times (see report).

Dr Quick’s association is only one of other business organisations, which include UNICE and the European Round Table (ERT), which have accused the EU of undermining industry competitiveness by over-regulating on the environmental front.

Now, it appears, environment NGOs are fighting back, accusing the commission of not taking seriously the mid-term review. From the commission’s response, it appears the NGOs are making the running.

But this is only the first round: a major battle shaping up, as the "green" agenda hits the buffers of economic reality.