Barroso REFITs Europe for environmental deregulation?

The EU’s “REFIT-Fit for Growth” initiative, which was announced by the European Commission on October 2nd, raises serious environmental concerns. The Commission’s Communication cites the environment as a problematic policy area that needs to be subjected to “fitness checks”, whose aim “is to identify excessive administrative burdens, overlaps, gaps, inconsistencies and/or obsolete measures which may have appeared over time, and to help to identify the cumulative impact of legislation.

Their findings  will  serve  as  a  basis  for  drawing  policy  conclusions  on  the  future  of  the  relevant regulatory framework”. Apparently, fitness checks will not be taking into account other parameters, such as the need to strengthen legislation in sectors where environmental protection is inadequate.

According to the Commission’s Communication, important policy initiatives, such as public access to justice in the environmental field and the proposal for a Soil Framework Directive, will not be taken forward. Other important policy areas will be subjected to “fitness checks”. These will include:

  • shipment of waste, 
  • Natura 2000, 
  • the entire acquis on health and safety at work, 
  • the Eco label and EMAS, 
  • consumer rights, 
  • the general food law
  • the technical  measures  for  the  protection  of  marine  organisms. 

Specifically as regards Natura 2000, it is worth noting that according to the Commission Communication this was not identified as one of the “most burdensome EU legislation identified through that consultation”, yet it is included in the list of policies that will be subjected to a “regulatory fitness check”. During the economic crisis, Natura 2000 has been the stake of much criticism for drawing red lines to high footprint developments in biodiversity hotspots, especially in member states with significant protected area land cover.

As stated in an open letter addressed by environmental groups WWF, EEB and Birdlife to EU Heads of Government, EC President Jose Barroso and European Council President Herman van Rompuy, “[s]olid  evidence  exists  showing  that  environmental  legislation  actually  spurs  innovation  and competition.  Examples  of  this  are  the  way  EU  emission  standards  for  cars  have  led  to  a  rapid explosion in technological change and forced US and China to play catch up,  and the EU chemical policy favoring substitution of harmful chemicals leading to the development of safer alternatives. Unfortunately,  these  are  two  areas  of  legislation  that  are  under  direct  threat  of  environmental rollback.”

Sources: WWF EU, European Commission.

Last modified onTuesday, 03 June 2014 09:24
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