Our work for CrisisWatch has allowed us to delve into the dismal reality of the economic crisis and the serious impacts caused on environment and society by Europe’s myopic response. We have also had the privilege to report on promising developments, in the direction of more sustainable pathways for European economies.
2013 was a tough year for environmental laws and policies in Europe.
In its assessment of the Portuguese structural adjustment programme, the European Commission reports that the dismantling of the country’s Reserva Ecológica Nacional legislation is a positive step “to reduce excessive licensing procedures”. Likewise, Spain revised its coastal legislation, in order to allow for more construction along its already troubled coastline. A massive rollback in laws and policies drags Greece towards environmental deregulation. In Italy, the Parliament is discussing a draft law stating that the country’s protected areas will need to be supported by own financial resources. In Romania, mass rallies swarmed for months the streets of major cities, in protest against the Government’s tailor-made legislation that would allow for high footprint investments in gold mining and hydraulic fracturing for shale gas. Britain also flirts with environmental backsliding, as the Government lobbies for the shale gas industry and questions the development potential of major EU environmental laws.
2013 was a tough year for green policy-making by the EU. The political agreement on the new CAP, which undermines the prospects for good farming practices and creates an environmentally perverse system of subsidies, and the “REFIT-Fit for Growth” initiative of the Commission, which questions the development potential of important common environmental laws, are the lowlights of a Europe that shies away from its progressive global green leadership of previous decades.
2013 was a year of missed opportunities for sustainability in the EU. Civil society needs to remain alert, in order to halt this inexcusable backslide, and to stand up for living economies across Europe.
Warm wishes for a happy and crisis-free 2014!
Theodota Nantsou, WWF Greece & Isabella Pratesi, WWF Italy