Draft European Constitution Keeps Green Policy Gains

BRUSSELS, Belgium, June 17, 2003 (ENS) - A new draft European Union constitution to be presented to EU leaders on Friday has preserved key environment policy pillars of the current treaty, easing fears that the constitutional exercise would delete key concepts introduced in previous treaty rewrites.

Following a joint statement by environment ministers in May and strong lobbying from green groups, the blueprint for a new constitution now includes a strengthened definition of sustainable development.

A reference to integrating environmental concerns into other policy areas has been reintroduced into the draft constitution, known as the Convention on the Future of Europe.

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Valery Giscard d'Estaing, President of the French Republic from 1974 to 1981, is now president of the Convention on the Future of Europe. (Photo courtesy European Union)
Earlier drafts had removed mention of environment from the sustainability definition and dropped the integration principle altogether, prompting disquiet among campaigners and the Commission's Environment Directorate.

The new wordings are now roughly unchanged from the current Treaty of Rome, amended by the Amsterdam and Maastricht treaties in response to increasing environmental concerns.

"We've pretty well managed to stay where we were - we're treading water," Tony Long of WWF's European office said today.

The sustainability definition appears in the first of two sections completed by the European Convention last Friday and is due to be presented to EU leaders in Salonica, Greece, this weekend by President Valery Giscard d'Estaing.

The integration principle appears in the constitution's part three, which will deal with EU policies, including those governing the environment. Work on this is unfinished and Giscard will ask for a short delay for more negotiations before producing a definitive draft.

The eight largest European environmental organizations, the Green Eight, are calling on the European Council at in Greece this Friday to back an extension and a revised mandate for the Convention on the Future of Europe.

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Valery Giscard d'Estaing conducts an online chat about the Convention on the Future of Europe. (Photo courtesy European Union)
The eight organizations, which count more than 20 million members and supporters in Europe - the European Environmental Bureau, Friends of the Earth Europe, Greenpeace, WWF, Friends of Nature International, the European Federation for Transport and Environment, BirdLife International and Climate Network Europe – say it is vital that "a meaningful extension is given to the new treaty.

"Without this, the Union’s policies will remain an antiquated set of provisions reflecting the priorities of a Europe of 50 years ago," warn the Green Eight.

The eight groups want to see a longer extension for the Convention to allow a comprehensive rewording of articles defining EU approaches to agriculture, trade, energy and transport policies than the few weeks that Giscard d’Estaing is expected to ask the EU summit for on Friday.

"We want to see the idea of integration visible in the language of the policies themselves," Long said.

The Green Eight group also wants the European Court of Justice to be accessible by individual citizens of the European Union.

The membership of the European Union will increase from the current 15 to 25 member states on May 1, 2004, when Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia are due to become members.

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{Published in cooperation with ENDS Environment Daily, Europe's choice for environmental news. Environmental Data Services Ltd, London. Email: envdaily@ends.co.uk}