The European Union Commission

Compared to the U.S., Europe, in both its unified and pre-unified forms, has depended more on bureaucratic agencies. Today, the key player in climate policy is the EU Commission, located in Brussels. More specifically, the lead agency is the Directorate General for the Environment, with secondary roles played by the Directorates General for Enterprise and for Energy and Transport.

Their rivalries and competing interests parallel the U.S. situation with respect to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) versus the Treasury, Commerce and Energy Departments. The Commission is staffed by career civil servants drawn from all member states. Upon becoming employees, they take an oath to serve the Council only, and not to represent the interests of their home countries.

The Commission's two main duties are (1) to initiate and define new environmental legislation, and (2) to ensure that measures, which have been agreed upon, are actually put into practice in the member states. Unlike most legislatures, civil servants, not elected politicians, propose the exact text of a bill. Of course, they have already been negotiating for as long as a year, with the key members of Parliament, the Council of Ministers and interest groups before actually introducing the bill. The first step in the legislation process occurs in the Parliament, and if approved, the second step takes place in the Council of Ministers.

The European Parliament consists of 732 members elected directly by the citizens of the member countries. The size of a country's delegation is tied roughly to its population, ranging from ninety-nine for Germany to six for Luxembourg. The Parliament has a Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Consumer Policy with fifty-eight members. Officially, the seat of the Parliament is Strasbourg, but it often meets in Brussels where it holds most committee sessions. Over the years, the role of the Parliament has been evolving from merely advisory to acting more like a real legislature. The Parliament has authority in certain areas, but not others. For example, it cannot legislate on matters of a common foreign policy or defense, but it can do so on matters of the environment or health or safety. It is organized into Groups (that is political parties) who consult with the Directorate General staff. Coordination comes from a rapporteur from the largest Group, as well as shadow rapporteurs from the other Groups. While usually the Groups are the key to support and opposition, this is not always true. Sometimes the parliamentarians choose to vote by nationality.

All but a few parliamentarians belong to a Group, such as the Christian Democrats or the Socialists, which are trans-national political parties. Forty-two parliamentarians are Greens, making it a medium sized Group. Its co-president is Daniel Cohn-Bendit of France, who, a quarter of a century ago, won international fame as a student revolutionary during the Events of May in Paris. At that time he won the nickname of Danny the Red for both the color of his hair and his leftist politics. Other parliamentary Groups also are sympathetic to the environment, such as the United Left-Nordic Green Left Group. The Greens consider their first priority supporting sustainable development. With respect to climate change, they believe that the EU proposals are too weak, and they have pushed for prompt adoption of the Kyoto Protocol. The Greens have other interests besides the environment, and recently have added the term Free Alliance to their name to reflect their concerns with the Iraq War and economic development in the Third World, as well as environmental ones like clean air and water and genetically modified food. In 2004 all the green parties in Europe founded a combined party to coordinate campaigns for the Parliament. Like the American Congress, the European Parliament asks its lobbyists to register, and in so doing have produced a list of hundreds. While a few of them are pro-environmental, many more are pro-industry.

Once the proposed legislation is passed by the Parliament, it goes to the Council of Ministers in one of its nine configurations. The Council consists of ministers of the governments of each of the EU member states. One of its configurations is for environmental issues, in which case it consists of the environmental ministers of the twenty-five member states. For hammering out the details, the Council of Ministers convenes a Working Group, consisting of two or three civil servants from each of the member states, in other words not the EU bureaucrats. On average, Working Groups are able to resolve about 70% of the problems. The next step is that the proposed legislation is up for consideration by the Committee of Permanent Representatives (COREPER), which consists of the ambassadors or their deputies from member states stationed in Brussels. They are usually able to resolve another 10-15% of the problems. At this stage the legislative proposals go up to the full Council of Ministers (in its environmental configuration). The proposal now returns to the Parliament for its agreement. When agreement is not possible, both the Parliament and the Council of Ministers appoint members to a Conciliation Committee.

With respect to climate change policy, the Commission staffs the EU delegations to the annual Conferences of the Parties established by the Framework Convention on Climate Change signed at the Rio Summit in 1992. Delegates come from a range of Directorates General. The Environmental branch is always represented, but so are the Enterprise and the Energy and Transport branches, assuring that business has its say. Others come from the planners in Economy and Finance, as well as experts from Research and from Development. Members of the Parliament, which are often part of the delegation, but they do not serve as negotiators [1]. In comparison to the U.S., career civil servants are much more important.

The Environment Directorate General has a staff of 550. Its current Action Programme, the sixth, will run to 2011. It concentrates on climate change, biodiversity, health, natural resources and waste. In the last decade or so, its programs have shifted from command and control to market based solutions, following the trend in Britain, the U.S. and elsewhere. Critics of the Commission claim that it sometimes makes arbitrary decisions. Unlike the situation in a single country, these Brussels bureaucrats can impose detailed requirements with little control by an elected parliament. This "democracy deficit," as it is called, causes resentment.

The European Union traces its history back to the Coal and Steel Community, established in 1951, a genesis that would seem to be the antithesis of an effort to reduce carbon. It consisted of France, West Germany, Italy, Belgium, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands. Six years later, the Treaty of Rome united these same six countries into the Common Market. Its goals were economic integration through eliminating tariffs and allowing workers and investment to move freely. Environmental protection was not included. It was only twelve years since the end of World War II, and the continent was still recovering industrially. Moreover, public and elite awareness about the environment was minimal, a situation mirrored on the other side of the Atlantic.

The European Community, as it styled itself at that time, passed its first environmental directive in 1967, setting standards for classifying, packaging and labeling dangerous substances. The aim, however, was more to facilitate trade than to protect the environment. Twelve years later, it promulgated detailed regulations to control hazardous chemicals. In 1972, the Community began to write a formal policy and established the Environment and Consumer Protection Service as part of its Industrial Policy Directorate. The Service was later moved out of the Industrial Directorate. Although regulations and standards were issued piecemeal, by 1987 there were a total of 150. Most were concerned with water and air pollution. The Commission on the Rhine River, established in 1816, was brought under the EC aegis. The Rhine had been polluted by salt, heavy metals, and chemicals, and the Danube had suffered from similar pollution. Other water problems were found in the Mediterranean, Baltic, and North Seas.

In 1973, the Environment Directorate set out its first Action Programme, which might be classified as pre-environmental since it declared its goal was quality of life. This reflected the limited authority under the Treaty of Rome; however, this shifted as time went on as the Directorate issued a new Action Programme about every five or ten years. In 1981 the organization became a Directorate General with a staff of one hundred fifty. Today, it is one of thirty-six Directorates General and specialized service agencies which make up the Commission.

Under the Treaty of Rome, environmental protection had to be justified under provisions for trade, but the Single European Act, signed in 1986, included a title on environmental protection, designated Articles 130 r—t. The articles listed the objectives of protecting the environment and ensuring a prudent and rational utilization of natural resources. It enumerated the principles of preventive action and declared that damage should be rectified at the source, and that the polluter should pay for any damage. Voting would be on the basis of a qualified majority, not unanimity. This would prevent a veto by allowing passage by a majority, albeit greater than a simple majority of half. This qualified majority does not operate for taxes, which must be passed unanimously. By this point the original six countries were joined by six others: Britain, Ireland and Denmark in 1973, Greece in 1981, and Spain and Portugal in 1985. Later, three more joined: Sweden, Finland and Austria.

Another environmental bureaucracy exists, but one with little policy importance. The European Environment Agency, which was established by the Council in 1990, is charged with gathering technical data. The Environment Agency got off to a slow start, not beginning operations until 1994. It manages the European environment information and observation network (EIONET), and considers its role to be restricted to data collection and analysis. It denies that it is a regulator, a policy maker, or a research body. From time to time, the suggestion is made that it should inspect the inspectors—in other words, it should audit the environmental agencies of the member states—but in the view of most on the Council, this would give the agency too much power. Agency membership extends beyond the Union by including Switzerland and several Balkan countries. It has a budget of 25 million euros (US $30 million) and a staff of one hundred. Its headquarters are located in Copenhagen.

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