Tuesday, July 05, 2005


EU Governing Commision divided on pollution measures

According to an Agence France Presse report, the EU is divided over the implementation of environmental recommendations made in reports on air quality and marine protection by its own environment commission:

The European Commission has implicitly acknowledged that it is divided over how best to tackle pollution, by pushing back the publication of two new reports on the problem.

The head of the EU's executive, Jose Manuel Barroso, personally decided to delay the reports, compiled by environment commissioner Stavros Dimas and due for release on July 20, and opt instead for an "orientation debate" on them.

"The commission had not up until now discussed the environment," said spokeswoman Francoise Le Bail Monday. "It is a subject on which the president wants to find a consensus, that is to say that there be no divisions in the commission."

She said Barroso had not withdrawn the documents, on air quality and marine protection, but that he "thought it useful that there be an orientation debate among the whole commission and not just some of its commissioners."

It appears that the anticipated cost of the recommendations is causing some dissention among the EU’s leadership:

She said the problems with the reports were not a question of "objectives, but more the way they are implemented."

The decision means it is now unlikely that the reports will be published before the end of the European summer.

According to Monday's Financial Times newspaper, Barroso, industry commissioner Guenter Verheugen, and internal market commissioner Charlie McCreevy are worried about the potential costs of the Dimas initiatives.

An impact assessment has put their direct cost at between 5.9 billion and 14.9 billion euros (seven and 17.7 billion dollars) a year from 2020, which will be paid by businesses and consumers, the daily said.

Predictably enough, environmental activist groups are not pleased, and have banded together. Acting through the “open letter” approach, the activist groups are campaigning to cast the delay as a result of the lobbying of “powerful business interests”:

In an open letter released on Friday, environmental groups including Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth and the World Wildlife Fund urged Barroso not to give in to "powerful business lobby interests".

"If there is even a hint of a suspicion that these issues are linked, the current European crisis of public confidence in the EU institutions can only deepen," the letter read.

"Our view is that any weakening of the commission's environmental ambitions at this time would be the wrong response," it went.

These environmental groups, the same folks who routinely block the construction of refineries and exploitation of energy resources in this country, of course see evil big business interests behind the apparent balking at spending the equivalent of almost $18 billion per year (which will obviously increase from year to year), and adopt the “open letter” approach to disguise what is in fact their own lobbying effort. The “open letter” is nothing but a PR ploy designed to avoid the appearance of advertising or a press release. Also, it is worth noting that the figure represents only the direct costs of implementation, not the economic consequences.

Realize, the EU acts as if it is not in any way responsible to the people of Europe. Rather than being responsible to the average European, the EU is a construct of the governments of Europe’s member nations. The fact the EU believes the referenda in which the French and Dutch citizens rejected the proposed constitution is irrelevant, while national leaders, who do answer to their citizens, have attached great importance to these votes, demonstrates the disconnect.

When the Founding Fathers wrote the US Constitution, they took exactly the opposite approach: rather than being a construct of the states, the Constitution derives its authority directly from the people of the United States, and the states have no power to alter the Constitution. In the EU structure, it is the people who have no authority over the governing commission, which answers, only indirectly, to its member states. And representation in the EU decision-making process is skewed in a way that the American people would never stand for. Earlier members, France for example, are more heavily represented than later members which are actually larger countries. There is no proportional representation. It is as if the Founding Fathers had drafted a constitution which allowed five Senators to the first few states to ratify, and three to all others. And had left out the directly proportional House of Representatives completely.

This report seems to reflect a division among the members of the EU governing commission itself. This is not good news for the EU, which is already seeing growing divisions among the member nations over economic and social issues. Clearly, as it moves toward a more complete integration of member states into a “single entity”, the EU is experiencing growing pains.

It is perhaps fair to start wondering at this point whether the EU can proceed further without some basic changes to its fundamental nature and structure.

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