NEWS

Greek presidency all set to tackle EU’s environmental challenges in 2003

The European Union hopes that initiatives in favor of clean energy sources and a new legislative framework to protect the marine environment will see an end to toxic chemical pollution by the end of 2003. A landmark in the fight to save the environment was this year’s long-awaited «Rio+10» conference on sustainable development in Johannesburg (the sequel to the Rio conference in 1992). Although the results were less encouraging than had been hoped, the EU set certain goals that it now has to fulfill. This will be a difficult task for Greece to carry out during its tenure of the EU presidency in the first half of the year, particularly as the country is not known as a pioneer in environmental issues. The presidency provides Greece with a period of grace regarding charges against it for violations of environmental legislation but it will also have additional obligations to fulfill. Moreover, the grace period will only last a few months. As of next September, the European Commission’s Environment Directorate-General will be raising the question of the Kouroupitos landfill site in Hania, on the island of Crete, and the protection of the Caretta caretta turtle on the Ionian island of Zakynthos. In the meantime, Greece will have to promote a legislative package on chemical substances and on the marine environment, and negotiate the implementation of a community system of responsibility for the environment as well as initiatives on water management and energy, among other issues. The dangers of toxic chemicals, the condition of the seas and forests, and renewable energy sources will top the agenda. The good news is that even at this late date, Greece has set environmental policy goals for its tenure of the EU presidency. All that remains to be seen is whether these are met. According to Environment and Public Works Minister Vasso Papandreou, these goals are: – Initiating a 10-year energy program for sustainable production and consumption, with an emphasis on clean technology and ecological efficiency, conservation of materials and energy, promoting non-invasive practices in the farming, transport and energy sectors. – Protecting natural resources and biodiversity so as to reverse losses by 2010. – Promoting appropriate economic tools so that prices of products and services incorporate costs to the environment and society. These will include the gradual abolition of environmentally damaging subsidies and the promotion of taxation reforms that benefit the environment. – Adopting a program for monitoring forests. Greece also intends to introduce amendments to ensure cleaner seas.