President. – The next item is the report by Jo Leinen, on behalf of the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety, on the review of the 6th Environment Action Programme and the setting of priorities for the 7th Environment Action Programme – A better environment for a better life (2011/2194(INI)) (A7-0048/2012).
Jo Leinen, rapporteur. – (DE) Mr President, Mr Potočnik, ladies and gentlemen, the European Parliament wants to introduce a 7th Environment Action Programme (EAP) in the European Union. It would not make sense for us to give up our efforts to improve the quality of the environment and of health in Europe when the 6th EAP comes to an end in June. However, the 7th EAP must not be a copy of the 6th programme. We have come much further along the road and we are facing much bigger challenges.
We need to take a new approach in the 7th EAP: a horizontal approach covering all other areas of policy. We are exposed to systemic risks. Mr Potočnik, you have just mentioned the fact that climate change, the loss of biodiversity and the shortage of resources are all challenges which cannot be overcome by traditional environmental policy alone. We need to involve all the other portfolios and all the other policy areas in the EU and, in particular, energy and transport policy, agriculture and fisheries policy, cohesion policy and, most importantly, economic and financial policy. I would like to emphasise this point, because this is the most difficult aspect. How can we ensure that the finance and economy ministers treat greening as a central issue within their areas?
Parliament has drafted 80 paragraphs containing proposals for the content and the procedure for a 7th EAP and these include calls for the abolition of subsidies which harm the environment. Following the greening of tax policy, we must incorporate external costs in our prices. The principle that the polluter pays must be applied gradually. As part of our macro-economic controls, we also need to monitor sustainability within the European Semester. We have come up with many other ideas in this area. Europe’s environmental footprint as a whole is far too large. If all the 7 billion people on this planet today and the 9 billion that there will be by the middle of the century were to use as much energy and as many resources as we do, we would need two planets, not just one. We know that there are limits to the resources which our planet can provide. For this reason, we need to make major cuts in our resource consumption. The 7th EAP must open the door to a green economy and to a policy of resource efficiency.
We need to focus, in particular, on urban environments. More and more people are living in large conurbations and in these areas, we can set a good example of resource management and resource efficiency. Green cities are our objective in Europe. There are many good examples and best practices which must be applied everywhere. Of course, protecting the environment should also help us to protect people’s health. We must send out a clear message to the public that protecting the environment and public health form an integral part of the 7th EAP. This will help to ensure that it gains acceptance. There are still a number of difficulties in this area. Air pollution levels are still too high and noise pollution is a huge problem. Noise is an issue that has been neglected and completely underrated in our environmental policy. There are still many toxic chemicals that make their way into the environment and have an impact on health. Nanomaterials and other new materials need careful investigation and also present us with new challenges.
The best legislation and the best programmes are useless if they are not implemented. The 7th EAP must resolve the problem of the implementation deficit. Ultimately, I believe that Europe must send a message to the world that we need sustainable management. Otherwise, the human race will not survive on earth.
Janez Potočnik, Member of the Commission. – Mr President, I would like to thank Mr Leinen for his work on this report, which comes at the right time. As you know, the Commission is busy preparing the 7th Environment Action Programme (EAP) for adoption before the end of this year. I can say that many of the ideas which you mentioned in the introduction are ideas which we are considering for inclusion in the 7th Environment Action Programme.
EU environment policy has been consolidated under the 6th Environment Action Programme. We now have legislation covering all areas except soil. In the meantime, we have developed a number of new initiatives – including on climate, biodiversity and resource efficiency – which set objectives for 2020 and contribute to the Europe 2020 strategy.
The 7th EAP should pull all these together in an overarching, coherent framework. It should also look beyond 2020 and put in place the conditions necessary to secure a resource-efficient, low-carbon future in which natural capital is protected, valued and substantially restored. Ensuring all this will require more coherent policy making and enhanced integration of the environment into other policies.
I was pleased to see implementation as the first priority highlighted in your report. As you know, I made this one of my top priorities in my nomination hearing before this House and from the beginning of my mandate. Implementation failures are a major stumbling block to delivering the benefits we seek from environmental legislation. They cost us around EUR 50 billion per year, lead to distortions in the single market and make it more costly to tackle environmental challenges down the road. After all, these challenges do not simply resolve themselves.
Last month, the Commission presented ideas on how to improve the situation which will be further developed in the 7th EAP. I also agree that the 7th EAP should focus on the contribution of environment policy to better health and well-being. More needs to be done to tackle challenges arising from pollution that are not yet being adequately addressed. There are still some concerns that our current policy framework may not adequately cater for new and emerging threats. This will obviously need to be further explored.
Ongoing reviews of our water and air legislation will help inform the future direction of both policies. I also fully agree with you that the urban environment is an important dimension of our policy. The 7th EAP should promote and support efforts by urban communities to play a leadership role. The international dimension of environment policy also needs to feature prominently in the 7th EAP, which will also need to reflect the outcome of Rio+20 and provide for the timely implementation of EU international commitments under the UNFCCC. We need global climate action consistent with the objective of keeping the global average temperature increase below 2 °C compared to pre-industrial levels. I also agree that the 7th EAP should provide a framework for the transition to a low-carbon economy beyond our 2020 targets. This work has already started with the 2020 Low Carbon Road map, which sets out a pathway with milestones for a cost-effective, gradual transition and identifies essential enabling technologies and instruments.
As always, the commitment of all stakeholders concerned is fundamental to the success of many programmes. We need to mobilise actors at all levels and in all relevant sectors to do their part. I count on your support for this. I will be following today’s debate with keen interest and I would like to thank you again for your report.
Vasilica Viorica Dăncilă, rapporteur for the opinion of the Committee on Regional Development. – (RO) Mr President, nature, as a resource and legacy for future generations, must be a permanent concern for all citizens. Environmental policy never acts alone, but reflects the interests of the entire civil society in this respect, which is proven by the existence of numerous environmental organisations. On the other hand, the industry holds back when environmental objectives may require a set of limitations to be imposed on industrial competitiveness, affecting economic growth. These elements only highlight the need for a concerted approach at European level that must take into account local and regional specifics. Europe needs an active and integrated environmental policy, able to meet all the challenges faced, including economic challenges, but also facilitate improved cooperation between regions and across borders, especially with non-Member States. Pollution has no boundaries and all stakeholders in third countries must become involved in order to safeguard nature, ecosystems and protected areas, regardless of their location. Last but not least, I wish to congratulate the rapporteur for the approach adopted in this report.
Gaston Franco, on behalf of the PPE Group. – (FR) Mr President, Commissioner, Mr Leinen, thank you for the work that we have carried out together.
The European Union needs a manifesto, a common political vision with regard to the major environmental challenges for 2020 and beyond. That is why it is so useful to launch a 7th Environment Action Programme harmonising the existing financial frameworks and mobilising new funding resources. This programme should ensure that the EU’s environmental strategies are consistent with, and integrated into, sectoral policies, whether these relate to agriculture, fishing, research and innovation, health, transport, regional development or land management and, of course, urban policies.
In spite of the economic crisis that has been giving the European Union a hard time, we must not give in to a short-term vision and abandon all ambition in terms of the environment and climate. To do nothing would be fatal. The issues are too important, particularly with regard to efficient resource use and valuing natural capital. We must therefore invest resolutely in the sustainable economy and eco-innovation, which are sources of growth, competitiveness and jobs. It is up to us to promote eco-design and recycling, but also environmental labelling of products in order to avoid waste and poor consumption choices.
We cannot overlook this environmental lesson that European citizens need. The Environment Action Programme is a political programming instrument, but it is also a communication tool. It must provide the readability and predictability that is necessary not only for national and local authorities and citizens, but also for entrepreneurs and investors with regard to the European Union’s environmental choices. European regulation must not become a punishment or a vice.
Marita Ulvskog, on behalf of the S&D Group. – (SV) Mr President, the 10-year Environment Action Programme has helped to increase the focus on the connection between the environment and health. It has, in turn, contributed to comprehensive legislation on chemicals, pesticides and water. This is something of which we can be proud, but we cannot be satisfied.
Firstly, we must, in future, ensure that there is greater consistency between the formulation of environmental policy and its actual implementation. There have been clear shortcomings when it comes to monitoring and inspections to ensure that environmental legislation is actually being introduced and implemented in the Member States.
Secondly, and very importantly, we must have the courage to go further. I am therefore hoping for an ambitious 7th programme, despite the economic crisis, or perhaps precisely because we need the high environmental goals for economic reasons, too. They could be a tool for creating jobs and sustainable growth.
Environmental aspects must therefore be included in all relevant policy areas, and these are many. For example, efforts to abolish environmentally harmful subsidies must continue. A more sustainable use of the land would reduce the pressure on ecosystems and the services they provide. At international level, the EU should also increase its potential with strict environmental standards and environment-related skills and products.
The issue of the environment is quite simply not just a condiment to have on the side of all of our so-called ordinary policies. Environmental policy is the actual yeast in the dough. The new Environment Action Programme must demonstrate that that is indeed the case.
Gerben-Jan Gerbrandy, on behalf of the ALDE Group. – (NL) Mr President, the Commissioner referred just now to the meeting of the Informal Environment Council in Denmark this week, so I would like to start with a quote from the meeting’s press release:
‘There is no other way out of the economic crisis than through a green economy, which will strengthen the development of new and greener technologies, resource reductions, and the protection of our nature and the biodiversity. A green transition will create millions of jobs and make Europe more sustainable and competitive’.
(NL) I really have to congratulate both the Commissioner and the Danish Presidency, including Minister Ida Auken, on this, for me, extremely positive and visionary report. It has been a while since we last heard such positive sounds from the Council. I therefore hope that the Council will follow up on this.
Mr President, we have just discussed biodiversity in this debate and, next month, we will be talking about resource efficiency in a plenary meeting. In my view, the 7th Environment Action Programme should determine the priorities for 2020 with the associated targets, indicators and actions. I also believe that we need to look beyond 2050 and lay down a vision for a green Europe; the Informal Environment Council has, in any case, already made a start.
The 7th Environment Action Programme should be an overarching framework that will streamline all targets and actions into EU policy because that is the only way we can preserve nature for our children and our economy. Indeed, as I have said many times: greening and economy go hand in hand.
Finally, I would very much like to thank rapporteur Leinen for his excellent work and I would call on the Commission to really speed up the new proposal in order to stop the gap between the 6th and the 7th Environment Action Programme becoming too wide. Today, we have shown that we in this House can inspire you with excellent ideas.
Bas Eickhout, on behalf of the Verts/ALE Group. – (NL) Mr President, first of all, thank you to rapporteur Leinen for this report on the 7th Environment Action Programme. Indeed, we, too, the Group of the Greens/European Free Alliance, believe that the 7th EAP is badly needed for our environment. First of all, Mr Gerbrandy, in order to map out the vision for 2020, but importantly, for 2050 as well, because we need to decide, as Europe, in what kind of economy we want to live.
The choice, indeed, is not about how green the economy will be, but about making sure that it is green. Only an economy that efficiently manages its natural resources will survive and it is crucial for Europe that we move in that direction. That is why we need vision, as well as action programmes, so that we can start to take these steps now. For the same reason, we also fully support this report’s focus on implementation, integration and the international dimension.
Let me first briefly consider implementation: time and again, we see how important implementation is. If we look at what can go wrong with oil drilling in the North Sea, and if we also look at what kinds of problems we in the Netherlands, otherwise a very prosperous country, have in simply protecting nature in the Western Scheldt, only then do we realise that we desperately need the European Commission to show us the way.
Next, integration, the green economy: though everyone has called for it here, it really means something fundamental. We need to look beyond just gross domestic product. We have to look at broader indicators and I therefore call on the Commission to hurry up on that score, to look beyond GDP.
However, the green economy also means that we need to start thinking about what our energy system will look like in the future. This means that we therefore need more targets for 2030 than just the famous low carbon target. We also have to set targets for energy saving and for renewable energy.
Finally, the international dimension. Everything we do in Europe has consequences for developing countries. We should always keep that in mind, because, without those countries, the green economy will never get off the ground internationally. Let us make a real start on that one at Rio+20.
Jaroslav Paška, on behalf of the EFD Group. – (SK) Mr President, the intervention of civilisation in ecosystems causes irreversible environmental destruction, and therefore our efforts to eliminate large-scale damage to the environment are fully legitimate and necessary.
The 6th Environment Action Programme, which has provided us with a framework for our environmental policy on the environment, is ending in July this year, and therefore it is necessary to deal with the continuation and continuity of European environmental policy. In the upcoming 7th EAP, it will be necessary, given our experience up till now, to put more emphasis on significantly strengthening legal regulations concerning the environment and on the gradual integration of environmental objectives into all sectoral policies. Greater emphasis will also have to be placed on the cross-border dimension of environmental protection. The broad thematic strategies should be reflected in legislation for defining goals and timetables in order to effectively monitor and evaluate their consequences. In addition to global environmental policy, we should also work on specific integrated strategies for each individual geographic area or urban areas, which would take into account the specific characteristics of their ecosystems.
In any case, the 7th Environment Action Programme should be better structured, more precise, more ambitious and more effective in order to make best use of the experience gained over many years of EU environmental policy.
Horst Schnellhardt (PPE). – (DE) Mr President, Mr Potočnik, ladies and gentlemen, the general perception of environmental action programmes is that their purpose is to establish important medium- and long-term goals for European environmental policy. However, the evaluation of the 6th Environment Action Programme (EAP) has shown that the programme has fallen below expectations, despite the fact that it is the first EAP that was drawn up jointly by the Council and the European Parliament using the new ordinary legislative procedure. It sets the priorities for climate change, biodiversity, natural resources, waste, health and food quality.
It has become clear that we cannot achieve these goals, largely because the EAP was not implemented correctly in the Member States. However, we did pave the way for this development ourselves. In the introduction to the report, there is a reference to a communication with the title ‘Europe 2020 – a strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth’. Then there is the road map for a green Europe, which will soon be presented, and the road map for a resource-efficient Europe. The list goes on and on. I cannot mention them all here, because I would run out of time.
This plethora of parallel strategies, action plans and specific legislative initiatives has resulted, and is still resulting, in a failure to ensure the necessary coherence between the individual policy areas. Instead of constantly creating new indicators which have to be checked and which lead to more bureaucracy but bring no useful results, we need to take into consideration in our decision-making processes the developments in society as a whole. Only then can the policies be implemented in an appropriate way. My opinion differs from that of the rapporteur who has said that the EAP must take a horizontal approach. That is not correct. It should act as an umbrella. It must not be applied horizontally, but on a sector-by-sector basis. It needs to play an overarching role with other areas beneath it, rather than there being a whole series of strategies, plans and initiatives running in parallel which do not take a coordinated approach and, therefore, will not produce successful results.
Judith A. Merkies (S&D). – (NL) Mr President, thank you, Mr Leinen, for your report and the major focus on a broad approach for implementation and integration. Thank you, too, Commissioner, for the attention you have given to this and your preparations for a 7th Environment Action Programme.
Mr Leinen is absolutely right when he says that this is not just about the environment but, above all, about all parts of the economy; about transport, about health care and, generally, about economic policy. The environment is economic policy, now and especially in the future.
I would like to draw your attention to two specific issues that I am worried about. Very often it is the case that we enthusiastically fix upon a new technology which does not always prove to be the right one to produce the results we desire. So, we have paid a great deal of attention to biomass and it is true, of course, that the economy of the future will increasingly be based on biological resources. However, we have been too enthusiastic about biomass and this has resulted in a large proportion of biomass disappearing in the oven right now, whereas it could also be used for higher applications than energy alone.
I therefore believe that you are right, Commissioner, and that Mr Leinen is right. A lot of implementation, yes, but we need to ask ourselves, in particular, how are we going to achieve that with biomass? Sustainable use. How should we process biomass so that this really leads to CO2 reduction, so that it does not lead to greater water consumption, and to finish: nanotechnology, too, has many ....
(The President cut off the speaker)
Frédérique Ries (ALDE). – (FR) Mr President, our rapporteur, Jo Leinen, mentioned how important it is for Parliament and the EU to keep the environment at the top of their agenda. It is not easy in these times of crisis and austerity when these concerns are often put on the back burner, both in national policies and in the media. I think that the presidential election campaign in France is a good example of this.
In my view, there are two priorities, two axes, in order to do better with less money: firstly, we must move towards greater coherence. This is mentioned in item 3 of the resolution. In short, that is what I would call ‘tobacco’ case-law: the European Union must remove all subsidies on products that have harmful effects on the environment and biodiversity.
Secondly, another axis, which has hardly been mentioned so far, is the better taking into account of environmental health. We have been saying this since 2003 and since my report on the Environment and Health Action Plan. We must reduce our people’s exposure to cocktails of chemical products that have serious effects on health. That is why it is essential to include this environmental aspect in plans to combat cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, obesity and so many chronic illnesses which thrive in unhealthy environments.
Satu Hassi (Verts/ALE). – (FI) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, my thanks go to the rapporteur, Mr Leinen, for his excellent work. As my fellow Members have already said, the EU’s 7th Environment Action Programme should be adopted as soon as possible. We are forever making decisions that affect the environment under other headings, as the report says.
One of them is agricultural policy, which affects, for instance, biodiversity, bodies of water and climate. For example, the future of the Baltic Sea environment will largely be addressed through decisions on common agricultural policy. After all, the Baltic is one of the most polluted seas in the world, and its major problem is eutrophication, which is mainly the result of agriculture. If the quantities of phosphorus or nitrogen that are washed off our fields into the rivers and seas are not reduced radically, there is no hope for any improvement in the Baltic Sea, and rafts of toxic blue-green algae will, in future, float on its surface. The environment and the economy are not in opposition, just as the Commission’s report out this week says.
Elisabetta Gardini (PPE). – (IT) Mr President, ladies and gentlemen, I shall not speak for long as I would just like to mention a few things in the short time at my disposal.
I believe that this 7th Environment Action Programme could doubtless prove to be a useful instrument, but only provided it is based on a long-term view that takes account of the need to maintain a solid industrial base in Europe. This is essential in order to maintain a dignified and acceptable employment level.
Some aspects concern me. I think that it is a top priority for this programme to ensure that the existing rules are implemented more effectively before setting further binding objectives. Also, I am strongly convinced that in order to address current environmental challenges, we must look to future environmental policies that are grounded on solid evidence and the latest scientific knowledge.
Paragraph 24, which talks about an ‘ecological footprint’ as an absolute indicator, concerns me; this represents an indicator, an empirical model of reality, not reality itself, and we must keep this very much in mind. It has many limitations: it tells us how much we are affecting the environment, but it absolutely does not, for example, assess the quality of the environment, so my concerns remain and I urge everyone to bear them in mind.
Andrés Perelló Rodríguez (S&D). – (ES) Mr President, one of my first initiatives as an MEP was to ask the Commission why they had no plans to continue the 6th Environment Action Programme.
At that time, there were some who said that the instruments and authorities already at our disposal were sufficient and that perhaps it was not necessary. Today, with three months left to go, as Mr Leinen has rightly pointed out, this Parliament is clamouring for the Commission to tell it that we need a common link for community policies, a common environment strategy, a reference, like the action programmes, and that without this, we cannot function.
I was in Catalonia recently, where I was able to follow first hand the recycling of refrigerators, for example, and I was very pleased to see that it is already possible to recycle 95%. That set of policies for recycling and waste needs coordinating, as paragraph 32 rightly states, in order to get to 100% recycling.
If we want to be coherent in relation to the 2020 objectives, clearly we need there to be an action programme, like the one proposed, and we need it as soon as possible.
I am glad that one of the proposals involves the programme contributing to ensuring adequate funding of research, development and innovation (R+D+i). In this context, I take the opportunity to denounce those governments that, under the pretext of the crisis and using the tool of austerity, are feeding on scientists and researchers, cutting back on R+D+i and, accordingly, making cuts to this Europe’s future.
What we ought to say is that, in this matter, austerity and crisis provide no justification, are not acceptable as alibis, and that the action programme to support the financing of R+D+i must be motivated by tremendous political will and ambition.
Elena Oana Antonescu (PPE). – (RO) Mr President, we are pleased to hear that the Commission’s initiative on the 7th Environment Action Programme will be available in the second half of the year. Much remains to be done in terms of integrating environmental policies among all other EU policies, including structural policies, and I believe this must be our priority. We need a coherent strategy, and this programme must integrate our vision on the environment.
At the same time, it is crucial to ensure that the legislation we adopt will be implemented and we need goals and specific deadlines for achieving goals.
Environmental indicators should be better correlated with existing realities in Europe. We must act at once in terms of biodiversity, and we need political will and adequate financial instruments, while the EU biodiversity strategy to 2020 must be included entirely in the 7th Action Programme.
Matthias Groote (S&D). – (DE) Mr President, it is important that resource efficiency is also included in the 7th Environment Action Programme (EAP), which is what we have been discussing today. I hope that we will vote in plenary in the same way as we voted in the committee and that the Rio+20 conference will be a great success. Following the discussions with the environment ministers this week, I am in a very positive mood. We should design the 7th EAP accordingly and include the concrete decisions which we hope will be made in Rio, in other words, the international dimension.
As far as doing business sustainably is concerned, we need to introduce an end-to-end approach, for example, in car manufacturing. We must consider the car from production right through to recycling. To achieve this, we need a legislative framework. The 7th EAP is a good location for this framework, which can then be applied when the relevant legislation is revised.
Mairead McGuinness (PPE). – Mr President, I think one of the most important points in this debate is the conflict between our long-term objectives and the short-term concerns of citizens. When we talk about sustainable production and consumption, there is not enough emphasis on what we mean by ‘sustainable’. If you listen to the debate on jobs and growth, which is so important to so many who are unemployed, the question of sustainability is not part of that discussion. We need to convince people that the words we say here will actually be reflected in an increase in jobs if we adopt the sustainability model and the resource-efficiency agenda which has already been discussed.
Lastly, I would make the point that, while it is absolutely vital to implement existing legislation, we also need to review it. There is a proposal in the CAP reform to extend cross-compliance to include water framework and pesticides legislation, which will be a very big burden on agriculture in terms of bureaucracy, but it is something we need to discuss in the reform proposals.
End of the catch-the-eye procedure
Janez Potočnik, Member of the Commission. – Mr President, I would first of all like to thank the Members for their support and clarify that for me, there was never any question of having or not having the 7th Environment Action Programme. I was always in favour of it, but there were some things which were – according to the legislation – simply vital. One of these was that we do a full report of the existing 6th Environment Action Programme and that we learn the lessons, which, in a way, is logical.
Even if there will be some time between the 6th and the 7th Environment Action Programmes, I can assure you that we are listening to you carefully and are implementing many of the things that you have underlined. For example, even though, this year, you will have a very comprehensive water proposal on the table, we will also be addressing the question of phosphorous and other issues.
Many of the questions concerning biodiversity that we had discussed previously – resource efficiency and so on – have been dealt with over the last two years, so we are really trying to be active. But, at the same time, we very much understand that we need a longer-term and coherent framework on which we can all agree and cooperate.
Secondly, I would like to say that we are much closer to a common understanding of the shape and substance of the 7th Environment Action Programme after this week. At the beginning of the week, we discussed it in informal Council in Denmark, and today we are discussing it here. My conclusion is that the views are converging and the common understanding of what the programme should actually include, what it should address and how it should be shaped, is emerging. The public consultation is also still open. It will go on until May, and we are expecting to receive input from that.
I would like to sum up in one sentence the dilemma which sometimes exists between green growth and so-called brown growth. We would really not be discussing green growth if everything were alright and if brown growth were not problematic. Brown growth in itself is limited in terms of growth capacity, and many businesses today are starting to understand that and to shift their activities. If we do not take into consideration some of the limited resources that we share today on the planet, like water, land, oceans and ecosystems, we will simply hit the walls of development ourselves.
That is why the green economy is inevitable. It is simply logical. To give you just one example: if we continue with business as usual, then in the year 2030 – which is not so far from now – we will need 40% more water than we actually have on Earth. The situation is simply not going to go away. That is something which cannot happen and cannot work.
Of course, some of you mentioned indicators and GDP. I fully agree. There is a well-known saying: what you do not measure, you do not take into consideration when you are creating your policies and your decisions. I think we need them quite urgently.
To conclude, I think the situation we have today is quite different from the situation of ten years ago, when we were discussing and adopting the 6th Environment Action Programme. Much more legislation is in place, but – on the other hand – we understand much better some of the challenges that have emerged as a result of knowledge. Some things that are much more obvious today than they were a decade ago inform our decision on what we will have to incorporate into the 7th Environment Action Programme.
It is obvious that climate, biodiversity and resources will still have to be our main focus, but we should not replicate – double or triple – the messages. I think we should simply focus on creating a synthesis, a longer-term view and visions. I have heard from many of you that we should pay attention to urban issues, health, chemicals, the air and a strong international dimension. I basically agree. That is no problem at all, but I would underline that our main focus should be on two major things. One is implementation of the things that are already completed or which concern legislation where we are really lagging behind. Nothing will improve if the things we agree are not implemented.
Parliament – as a legislative body – should be very much interested in ensuring that the things to which you agree and give your blessing are implemented in practice. I will certainly follow up on that. The second point is integration, which some of you call coherence. I think it is of the utmost importance that all our policies take into consideration the fact that we are living in a very interconnected and interdependent world. The next financial MFF financial proposal will need to focus on and give proper attention to the questions we are discussing today.
I would like to thank you again, and especially the rapporteur, Mr Jo Leinen. I think we are on course for some good results.
Jo Leinen, rapporteur. – (DE) Mr President, the debate has shown that there is a consensus in favour of the 7th Environment Action Programme (EAP) within the European Parliament. I would like to thank all the shadow rapporteurs who have helped us to reach this consensus. I would also like to thank Mr Potočnik, who took the initiative within the Commission, because not everyone there supported the 7th EAP at first sight. It is clear that there was a certain level of resistance. Following the debate in the Council of Environment Ministers and in the European Parliament, it is clear how useful and how important a 7th EAP can be, because it brings together all the objectives which were previously spread across different strategies and road maps. The amalgamation of these objectives, the message that Europe’s environmental footprint must be reduced and the measures needed to achieve this are the main points of the 7th EAP.
I would like to say once again that we need to address our calls to the finance and economy ministers. I hope that the report will not be watered down during the vote later today. We must call for the greening of tax policy and economic policy because we will not be able to make our economy sustainable by means of environmental policy alone. This point has been made in many of today’s speeches.
The environmental strategy must be reflected in the finance strategy. We will soon be debating the medium-term financial plan up to 2020 and the Commission has proposed putting aside for climate change and sustainability 20% of the billions of euro available. I believe that this should be a minimum and I hope that Parliament can increase this figure during the negotiations. We must not allow 80% of the funding to be devoted to areas that go against the environment and only 20% to be used to protect the environment. Overall, this has been an important debate and we are looking forward to your draft, Mr Potočnik. This will go into the ordinary legislative procedure where it will be finalised. We will help to ensure that the result is an ambitious programme.
President. – The debate is closed.
The vote will take place today at 12.00.
Written statements (Rule 149)
Radvilė Morkūnaitė-Mikulėnienė (PPE), in writing. – (LT) Today, we are discussing further EU environment policy guidelines. This area of policy is relatively new and rapidly developing, and it is therefore no surprise that new areas of regulation appear with every Environment Action Programme that is approved, and existing regulation is often tightened during the life of the programme. Both new scientific data and technical possibilities and accidents that have an impact on the environment mean that the concept of a ‘high level of environmental protection’ constantly needs to be reviewed, raising the bar ever higher. One of the aspects that we should highlight in the 7th Environment Action Programme, which is still in preparation, is improving the environmental impact assessment (EIA) process, ensuring its independence. This process, which started as a voluntary assessment of planned activity, has become an integral part of the planning process. Nevertheless, the existing arrangements do not guarantee that this process will proceed in an objective manner and will be independent from the customer – in the EU, there are numerous cases where there are reasonable doubts as to whether the EIA process was truly transparent. I therefore call for a guarantee of the independence and objectivity of the EIA process to be set as one of the priorities of environment policy, and for discussions on possible mechanisms to begin now, without waiting for the review of the EIA Directive.
Vladko Todorov Panayotov (ALDE), in writing. – The 6th Environment Action Programme is the first to be adopted in codecision, which not only reflects its legitimacy but also the importance given to the Environment Action Programmes over the past 40 years. In fact, these programmes have managed to provide an efficient framework for the protection and promotion of a healthy environment with a constant deepening and reinforcement of environmental policies. This is why we urge the European Commission to present the proposal for a 7th EAP in such a way as to ensure continuity of the EU environmental framework policy and avoid any gaps which might discredit our political will. I believe the persistence of the EAPs represents a major element with which to build a strong political message from the EU institutions, on the one hand, and a firm position on the protection of the environment, on which real progress has still to be achieved, on the other.
Rovana Plumb (S&D), in writing. – (RO) The current 6th Environment Action Programme, the first one to be adopted by codecision, having therefore increased its legitimacy and helping create a sense of involvement for subsequent policy proposals, will expire in July 2012. It has provided an overarching framework for environment policy, in which environmental legislation has been consolidated and substantially completed. The 7th Environment Action Programme should provide a comprehensive and coherent framework for strategic initiatives, setting priority objectives and showing clearly how environmental policy can contribute to green growth, improved health and increased welfare. The programme should ensure the adherence of all stakeholders – EU institutions, Member States, regional and local authorities, companies, private sector stakeholders, NGOs and the civil society – to a joint programme. I welcome in this regard the launching by the Commission, from March to 1 June 2012, of the public consultation to gather opinions on the EU’s 7th Environment Action Programme. This will set out the priority objectives to be pursued by 2020 in order to ensure better environmental protection and sustain our prosperity, while taking into account the limitations of the planet.