Tuesday

15th Oct 2019

EU refuses to 'name and shame' environment slackers

  • Environment commissioner Vella (l) said member states made their promises in Brussels with good intentions (Photo: The Council of the European Union)

The EU's environment commissioner has refused to "name and shame" countries that are failing to implement Europe-wide rules.

Karmenu Vella was responding to queries at the launch of the first Environmental Implementation Review (EIR) on Monday (7 February), which identified many problems with member states but did not name the worst offenders.

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“I have to say that the reason for coming up with this EIR is not to provide a ranking between the member states, it's not that we are shaming and blaming anyone,” said Vella, a Maltese politician.

Instead, the review is aimed at showing member states in what environmental sectors they need to improve themselves, and to learn from member states who have successfully implemented EU policies.

The EIR was announced last May as a way to get countries to comply with EU environmental law.

“If we really wanted to name and shame, there was no need to come up with another tool. We could have easily done it. The idea is to help those who are in need, the idea is to continue to encourage those who have got best practices,” said Vella.

He also noted that some member states may do very well reducing waste, but then are “weaker” providing their citizens with clean air.

“You cannot overall generalise who is best and who is worst,” he said.

The review included 28 country-specific reports, but also an overall summary document. This text did not mention specific countries.

It said for example that “two member states” had not drawn up the required plans for how they will prevent waste, and “one member state” did not have a national programme on waste management.

The summary report said that such waste plans are “a precondition” to receive cohesion policy funding, the EU's financial tool to reduce regional disparities, during the 2014-2020 budget period.

The legal text governing rules on cohesion policy said the commission may decide to suspend such funds if certain requirements are not met by 31 December 2016. This includes, among many other requirements, the waste plans.

An EU commission press officer told EUobserver that it was “too soon” to speak about suspending funding, because member states have until mid-2017 to report.

Vella said he did not think “that we have any member state who is refusing to come with these plans”.

“For the time being I don't see any reason for any member state to have their funding stopped,” he said.

Vella also did not believe that EU countries are flaunting the rules on purpose, even though they have agreed to them themselves as part of the Council.

“Why do member states commit and then they do not deliver? I don't think this is the general intention of any member state when they commit themselves in council,” said Vella.

Good intentions

“I think that most of the member states, or all of the member states come in council with very good intentions, and they leave councils with very good intentions, but at the end we have to be realistic, at the end we have to be practical.

“We often have then 28 different member states running at 28 different speeds. The important thing is they are all running in the same direction.

“The idea is that those who are not, for one reason or another, keeping up with their promises, this tool will help them … by identifying the causes of non-compliance, and by coming up with good solutions as well.”

He invited EU member states to ask the commission for help via “dialogues”, but also indicated that these are not obligatory.

“Those who feel that they will gain by having a dialogue with the commission, will just let us know, and we will help them,” said Vella.

He noted that two member states, Belgium and Slovakia, had already informed the commission they wanted its help.

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