The last under Greek Presidency Environment Council, chaired by Greek Minister of Environment, Energy and Climate Change, Yiannis Maniatis, was held today in Luxembourg on 12 June.
In the morning session, the Environment Ministers discussed the issue of the draft Regulation of the European Parliament and the Council amending Directive 2001/18/EC as regards the possibility for Member States to restrict or prohibit the cultivation of Genetically Modified Organisms in their territory. This initiative allows the Member States for the first time to restrict or prohibit the cultivation of GMOs unilaterally. As Yiannis Maniatis said, "The text strikes the right balance between the competence of EU and Member States, taking into account the principle of subsidiarity.
According to the proposal, Member States, for the first time, based on a strong legal basis, will have the opportunity to restrict or prohibit the cultivation of GMOs, depending on the particular circumstances prevailing in each region, in order to take measures at a national level."
The Council of EU Environment Ministers reached political agreement unanimously. This is only the first step in the negotiation process which will begin with the new European Parliament.
Minister Maniatis stated: "It is very important that today, on a proposal from the Greek Presidency, 26 of the 28 elected governments of Europe, on behalf of 500 million European citizens, decided to establish the right to restrict or prohibit the cultivation of GMOs. It is an important contribution to the protection of the environment and the freedom of Member States to take their own decisions. This does not mean that the Commission should not consider and attempt to improve further the overall legislative framework, in order to approve the cultivation of GMOs in Europe. "
Concerning the non-legislative issues, there was an exchange of views on the Commission’s Communication on the "policy package on climate and energy in the context of 2030." Yiannis Maniatis said "All sectors (transport, agriculture, industry, etc.) should contribute to reduce greenhouse emissions. Nevertheless, the potential of sectors to contribute to the effort-sharing depends on many factors and differs between Member States. The discussion focused also on ways to address those impacts on Member States. "
EU ministers also exchanged views on investment challenges, as well as the best policies and relevant European tools. Discussions until today have helped to lay the foundations for a clear road map that defines the necessary steps on the way to the final agreement on the framework by October 2030, which is the target set by Heads of State and Government at the European Council. Yiannis Maniatis said: "I believe this discussion has helped to clarify some aspects of these parameters. After today's and tomorrow's debates with our Energy colleagues, I intend to summarize the outcome of discussions with a letter to the President of the European Council as a contribution to the debate which will be held at the European Council in June."
Moreover, at the Environment Council there was public debate on legislative consultation for the "Clean Air Package policies" and specifically on the Directive of the European Parliament and the Council on reducing emissions of certain pollutants to medium-sized combustion plants. Environment Ministers also discussed the Proposal by the European Parliament and the Council for a Directive concerning the reduction of national emissions of certain air pollutants and amending Directive 2003/35/EC.
Non-legislative activities were also discussed, such as the draft Council conclusions on "Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD)", while there was an exchange of views on the Commission communication on "policy package on climate and energy in the context of 2030."
Finally, the Council was briefed on the progress report concerning the Proposal for a Regulation by the European Parliament and the Council on the monitoring, reporting and verification of carbon emissions from maritime transport, on the Proposal by the European Parliament and the Council amending Directive 94/62/EC on reducing the consumption of plastic carrier bags, as well as on Proposals for Council Decisions concerning the ratification of the Doha amendment for the second period of the Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.