EU Presidency

The country holding Presidency is largely responsible for the preparation of and chairing Council meetings. Every Member State holds presidency for six months, through a fixed system of rotation. This page contains information on the environmental priorities of past and future Council presidencies of the European Union:
Slovenian Presidency, between 1 January 2008 and 30 June 2008
Portuguese Presidency, between 1 July 2007 and 31 December 2007
German Presidency, between 1 January 2007 and 30 June 2007
·  Speech by Sigmar Gabriel
Finnish Presidency, between 1 July 2006 and 31 December 2006
Austrian Presidency, between 1 January 2006 and 30 June 2006
·  Biannual Report on the State of the European Union: Austrian Presidency
UK Presidency, between 1 July 2005 and 31 December 2005
Luxembourg Presidency, between 1 January 2005 till 30 June 2005
Dutch Presidency, between 1 July 2004 and 31 December 2004
·  Better Regulation and the Environment
·  Subsidiarity and European Environmental Law
·  The Lisbon Strategy and the Environment

Portuguese Presidency

During the Portuguese Presidency an integrated approach will be made to climate and energy policies with the aim of cutting greenhouse gas emissions, enhancing our energy security, developing and implementing renewable energy, the use of biofuels, and bringing air transport into the European scheme of emissions trading.

Climate change, water scarcity and drought, business & biodiversity, territorial planning and regional development are the priorities which have been set for this Presidency.
Click here for more information

EEB's Ten Tests
Since 1998, EEB sets out benchmark tests for the Council Presidencies. On 2 July 2007, the EEB has set out ten benchmark tests for the Portuguese presidency. This will be followed by an end-of-term performance report. The ten tests form part of an EEB memorandum directed at the Portuguese presidency.

Click here to see the ten EEB environmental tests

German Presidency

Germany held the presidency from the 1st of january till the 30th of June 2007. During 2007, Germany will also be the head of the G8.

The German Presidency prioritised climate change and energy. It set the course for a future international climate regime, calling for ecological innovation worldwide. They pursued and industrially friendly environment policy, with environment, innovation and employment as its theme, during the first informal meeting of environment ministers from 1 to 3 June 2007, in Essen. They tried to make clear that it is possible to have a successful industry, whilst having a strong environmental policy.

For more information see: the official website of the German EU presidency or the programme of environmental focal points

Speech by Sigmar Gabriel
On the 31st of January 2007, Federal Minister Gabriel gave a presentation before the mini EP plenary on climate change.
In this presentation he notes that 'climate change is a reality' and thus the only sensible economic and energy policy remains an ambitious climate protection policy.
He stresses that the German presidency will work on an ambitous, integrated climate and energy policy, during which new allies will be created on the international stage.
To view the whole speech click here

Finnish Presidency

At a very early stage Finland announced that environment would be high on their to-do list, and they would opperate under the slogan a new generation of environmental policy.

As planned the focus was mainly on issues relating to climate change, air quality, biodiversity, sustainable use of resources, marine environment and waste issues.

Concerning biodiversity the Finnish Presidency announced that action is severely necessary to stop the loss of biodiversity before 2010.

As for climate change policy it worked on progress towards developing a broad-based internatioonal agreement, which would build on the Kyoto protocol. The EU's relatively fargoing ambitions were discussed at the Nairobi climate talks, in November 2006.

The Council has spent a large part of their time trying to find an agreement on REACH, the new EU chemicals legislation. They only reached an agreement with the European Parliament in December 2006, and officially adopted the new legislation at the closing Environment Council meeting, on 18 December 2006.

During the closing meeting the Council also reached agreements on maritime and marine policy. It adopted a regulation on funding for the action of the European Maritime Safety Agency in the field of response to pollution caused by ships and amending regulation (EC) 1406/2002. It also reached a political agreement on a draft directive on community action in the field of marine environmental policy. 

Additionally, during the second half of 2006, the Council has dealt with the Commission's review of the Emissions Trading Directive, and sought a political agreement on the Waste Framework Directive and the Air Quality Framework Directive.

View the website of Finland's EU Presidency
View the Council Conclusions, Environment Council, 18 December 2006 (provisional version).

Austrian Presidency, 2006

Official website of the Austrian Presidency : 

Biannual Report on the State of the European Union: Austrian Presidency
EEB's Ten Green Tests for the Austrian Presidency On 4 January 2006, the European Environmental Bureau (EEB) launched its Ten Green Tests for the Austrian Presidency of the EU - in a bid to encourage greater priority for the environment in European policy-making. The EEB, Europe's largest federation of environmental citizens' organisations, has been setting these benchmark tests for each EU Presidency since 1998, and then following them up six months later with an 'end-of-term' performance assessment. See Press release and Full text of the Ten Green Tests in English and German.

UK Presidency

The UK Presidency has issued a priorities paper. As for environmental issues, it is set out that the UK wants to make progress on Climate Change through the EU and G8 Presidencies, and wants to work with EU partners to reinvigorate the international negotiations on climate change by exploring options for a post-2012 strategy and developing stronger co-operation and real dialogue with key international partners on ways of securing low-cost emissions reductions. Furthermore, an opportunity to begin the work of extending the EU emissions trading scheme to cover aircraft emissions is mentioned.
EU unsure about replacing dangerous chemicals
In Short:
The key outstanding issue in the REACH debate is how to substitute the most dangerous chemicals, the UK Presidency indicated after a debate with EU ministers.
The Parliament on 17 November 2005 voted in first reading on the REACH regulation (EurActiv, 17 Nov. 2005). A large majority of MEPs backed a cross-party agreement struck the week before which dealt with the registration aspects of REACH (EurActiv, 9 Nov. 2005).
EU ministers on 29 November broadly agreed on the registration aspects of the draft REACH regulation, thereby paving the way for a possible political agreement in Council before the end of the year.
Diplomats said the current compromise draft broadly takes on board the Parliament's position of 17 November concerning the registration of health and safety data within the future chemicals agency. It should therefore remain largely unchanged.
The remaining outstanding points are relatively few: principally authorisation and scope, the British Presidency indicated.

On authorisation aspects, the Presidency indicated that some member states are pushing for the most dangerous chemicals to be banned as a general rule whenever safer substitutes are available. This is the position defended by Parliament who voted in first reading to authorise the most toxic substances for a limited period of five years in cases where they cannot be swiftly replaced.
Germany, with the support of the European Commission, big industry and several other member states, argue authorisations on dangerous chemicals should be granted, for an unlimited period, if it can be demonstrated that the risks from the use of these chemicals are adequately controlled. However, some member states have raised the issue of defining clearly under which conditions a substance is 'adequately controlled'.
In a bid to find a compromise, France has proposed to grant authorisations on a case-by-case basis, for an agreed time-period. Under the French proposal, substitutes would be allowed only after studies confirm they are acceptable from an economic and social point of view.
French diplomats said they were able to rally a minority support, made up of Belgium, Luxembourg, Denmark, Sweden and Estonia, for the plan. Germany, Poland, Ireland and Lithuania are opposed.
Latest & next steps:
  • 13 December 2005: Competitiveness Council expected to strike a political agreement on REACH (first reading)
  • 2006: bill returns to Parliament for a second reading
  • End 2006-beginning 2007: possible political agreement in Council (second reading)
European Union
EU Actors positions
Luxembourg Presidency

By Pamela van der Goot
8 February 2005
Lisbon process
At the beginning of this month the Commission introduced a new start for the Lisbon strategy. In this communication from the president of the Commission Barosso, the focus is now on growth and jobs. The third pillar, the environment, seems to of lesser a less importance although it has been said (in the Q+A: A new start for the Lisbon Strategy) that actions taken to promote jobs and growth will be “fully consistent with sustainable development”; it will respect the existing body of policies and regulations and will promote environmental technologies. More than before, the environment will play a role only when it can stimulate economic growth.

On the 22-23 March 2005 the Spring European Council, on the Lisbon strategy of economic, social and environmental renewal, will be held. In line with November 2004 report “Facing the Challenge”, in which three action points were identified in relation to the environment: climate change, decoupling economic growth from resource use and defining a new regulatory framework, this presidency will focus on addressing climate change “by establishing a clear vision in terms of strategies (…) and associated objectives for reducing emissions”. Furthermore, it wants to restrict the number of priorities, simplify the governance of the process so that the issues involved are more accessible to everyone.
Further reading:
·  The Dutch presidency dossier: “The Lisbon Strategy and the Environment” on this website.
·  Commission launches ambitious Growth and Jobs strategy for the EU
·  Commission staff working document in support of the report from the Commission to the Spring European Council
Kyoto Protocol:
On 16th February 2005 the Kyoto protocol entered into force. After Russia’s ratification more than 55% of the total carbon dioxide emissions for 1990 of the Parties is accounted for, one of the bottlenecks to entry into force. Now the time has come for the international community to initiate the discussion on the actions needed after 2012, the end of the Protocol’s first commitment period. The Luxembourg presidency is  preparing for the introduction of a global, ambitious and equitable scheme post-2012.
Further information:
·  Commission – environment: Kyoto protocol – a brief summary.
·  Commission – environment: Action on climate change post 2012.
·  United Nation Framework Convention on Climate Change: press release.
·  The European Climate Change Dossier on this website
Quality of bathing water
The quality of bathing water is currently regulated by Council Directive 76/160/EEC on Bathing Water Quality.  This directive has lead to a lot of litigation before the ECJ. For instance, Spain is paying a huge penalty. See case-278/01 (in our own EEl case law database) In October 2002 the Commission adopted a proposal to adapt the directive which has been amended and the Council has formulated a common position that has now been communicated to the European Parliament 13th January 2005. The European Parliament is working on its second reading and will probably part-session at 10 May 2005. A priority of the Luxembourg presidency is to try and reach an agreement with Parliament on this issue
Further information:
·  Commission – environment: Bathing water quality
·  Commission – press release 2002: Commission proposes more modern and simple rules to ensure clean bathing water across the EU
·  The Legislative Observatory: COD/2002/0254
·  PreLex: COM (2002) 581
Sulphur content of marine fuels
The sulphar content of marine fuels is regulated in directive1999/32 EC. In 2002, the Commission issued a proposal for a directive amending Directive 1999/32/EC as regards the sulphur content of marine fuels, which has been amended and the Council has formulated a common position that has now been communicated to the European Parliament on 16 December 2004. The European Parliament is working on its second reading and will probably part-session at 12 April 2005. The Luxembourg presidency will try to reach an agreement with Parliament on the sulphur content of marine fuels.
Further information
·  Commission – environment: Stationary source emission
·  Legislative Observatory: COD/2002/0259
·  PreLex: (2002) 595
Underground water
The Commission released a proposal for a directive on the protection of groundwater against pollution. The Ground water directive would introduce quality objectives, obliging Member States to monitor and assess groundwater quality on the basis of common criteria and to identify and reverse trends in groundwater pollution. The Water-Framework directive asks for a separate directive for groundwater in article 17. The proposal is now in its first reading and will probably part-session by 27 April 2005.
The presidency has appointed ground water protection as a priority dossier.
Further information
·  Commission – environment: Groundwater protection against pollution under the Water Framework Directive
·  Legislative observatory: COD/2003/0210
·  PreLex: COM (2003) 550
LIFE  (L’Instrument Financier pour l’Environnement: Promouvoir L’Union
Soutenable) was launched in 1992. The current LIFE III programme finishes at the end of 2006. In September a Proposal for a new regulation concerning the Financial Instrument for the Environment (LIFE +) was adopted by the Commission that would run from 2007-2013. LIFE+ has as its objective to “to contribute to the development, implementation monitoring, evaluation and communication of Community environment policy and legislation as a contribution to promoting sustainable development in the EU”
The presidency wants to focus on this dossier as well.
Further information
·  Legislative Observatory: COD/2004/0218
·  PreLex: COM (2004) 621 final
·  Commission – environment: The LIFE homepage
The INSPIRE dossier is another priority of the Luxembourg presidency. INSPIRE is an INfrastructure for SPatial InfoRmation in Europe initiative. Because of problems like fragmentation of datasets and sources, lack of harmonisation between datasets at different geographical scales in Europe, the INSPIRE directive was proposed by the Commission in July of last year. A practical example of the need of such an initiative is a “bridge over the river Rhine linking Germany and Switzerland that did not meet in the middle. Each country had started the construction on its own side using its own height measurements. When they reached the middle, they found a 27 cm difference between the two sections.”(Environment for Europeans Issue 17). The proposal is now with the European Parliament and is expected to part-session by the 25 May 2005.
Further information
·  INSPIRE Work Programme Preparatory Phase 2005 - 2006
·  Commission – Environment: Geographic information in support of Environmental Policy
·  Environment for Europeans: INSPIRE, EU’s geographical data in the spotlight
·  Legislative Observatory: COD/2004/0175
·  PreLex: COM (2004) 516
The presidency will continue to examine the proposal for a regulation on chemical substances. The proposal is now being considered by the European Parliament and will probably part-session by 27 September 2005. 

Further reading:
·  Seethe dossier “Dutch Presidency and REACH” on this website.
·  Commission – Enterprise & Industry: REACH
·  Commission – Environment: REACH
· PreLex: COM (2003) 6440175
·  Legislative Observatory: COD/2003/0256
Dutch Presidency

The Dutch Presidency, from 1 July to 31 December 2004, has issued an extensive document listing the The Presidency's priorities on the official Dutch presidency website. From that source and from other sources, commenting on these priorities for instance from the side of the EEB, the following list of issues has been assembled.

Environmental Council 14 October 2004

This Council meeting will deal, inter alia with the Aarhus package, eco-efficient innovations and mining waste. The Council is expected to reach political agreement on a draft European Parliament and Council Directive on the management of waste from extractive industries. The directive will be aimed at preventing accidents and consequent damages for the environment and human health arising from the treatment and disposal of mining waste, by setting minimum requirements intended to improve mining waste management. WWF and the EEB have issued a joint briefing paper on this issue for the Council 14 October.
See further:
REACH, an acronym of Registration, Evaluation and Authorisation of Chemicals, is a regulatory framework for chemicals adopted by the Commission on 29 October 2003, COM(2003)0644.(link naar PDF) This Presidency strives to make as much procedural and substantive progress as possible. It will probably not be able to complete a Common Position after the First Reading. See further:
Environment as an opportunity:
The Council will examine how the environment can contribute to the economic objectives of the Lisbon process. It will try to boost the prospects and importance of the environment as the third pillar of the Lisbon strategy. One of the suggestions is for governments to only purchase innovative products, which are less harmful to the environment. To extend its effect it should also be in the rules on Public tendering. See further:
  • Dossier on this website: Better Regulation and the Environment, by Pamela van der Goot
Make progress in the field of international climate policy.
During the Environment Council of 14 October Russia’s decision to set in motion the ratification process the Kyoto protocol will be welcomed as it enables the protocol to enter into force. The presidency aims to adopt a feasible, forward-looking decision at the Tenth Conference of Parties to the Climate Convention 6-17 December 2004. See further:
Sustainable Mobility to further the quest for quieter, cleaner and more economical cars.
One of the actions to enhance the sustainable mobility is the Energy in Motion Conference 19-20 October 2004: it aims to encourage carbon filters, tightening CO2 emission requirements, tackling noise pollution at its source.

Sustainable agriculture in relation to social constraints.
The main attention will be focused at the administrative burden, the integration of the new member states into CAP and the further reform of CAP. Besides agricultural policy reform the presidency also focuses on the implementation of the reform of the Common Fisheries Policy.

European flood protection initiative
The Presidency wants to commit to the Action Programme for flood protection. It has done so in during the informal council meeting in July 2004 and plans to do so in to formal council meeting 14 October 2004. See further:
European Marine strategy
Based on the 6th Environmental Action Programme a European Marine Strategy has been introduced by the Commission. In this light the 2nd stakeholders conference will be held 10-12 November 2004 in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. The first stakholder conference was held during the Danish presidency in 2002

European Environmental Bureau

EEB Memorandum to the Dutch EU Presidency, including the ten green tests
Press release: 2 July 2004: EEB urges focus on Sustainability, Ten Green Tests for new Dutch EU Presidency
Press release: 16 July 2004:Will the Dutch Presidency be clean, clever and competitive?
Press release: 13 October 2004: Six demands to Environment Council from EEB Environmental Priorities of the Dutch Presidency

About: European Environmental Law Network

Welcome to the European Environmental Law network. Here you can find full text cases and legislation in our database. Dossiers offer a more in depth view on specific issues. ‘National pages´ provide an overview of national developments and issues and the EEL News Service informs you of updates.

Policy documents