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Coming of Age: The European Community and The Economic Summit

Susan Hainsworth

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Environmental Issues

Because of its inherently transnational character and global implications,environmental protection and preservation has recently blossomed into an urgent and salient sphere of co-operation and co-ordination in the increasingly interdependent global community. Indeed, EC Commission President Delors has referred to global environmental management as "the greatest phenomenon of world interdependence there is". 109 International environmental accords and regimes are still sparse, but their numbers have increased in the late 1980's.

At recent western summits, the leaders have begun to focus more conscientiously on environmental issues. While the environment was specifically mentioned as a concern in summit communiqué at Paris.

The EC has been influential in global negotiations on the environment recently, as the Community is backed by both multiple legal and political pressures to act vigorously in this domain. First, the Single European Act established legal Community competence in environmental policy, based upon the core concept of 'subsidiarity'.The subsidiarity principle dictates that the Community performs only those projects or programmes which cannot be carried out successfully at a lower level. Thus, only projects and initiatives which cannot be implemented effectively at the regional or member-state level are taken up directly by the Community machinery. The Commission thus has the established legal authority to represent the Community in international environmental negotiations.

Secondly, the Commission stresses the organic link between the environment and the completion of the internal market, and the fact that the maintenance of high and stringent standards for the protection of the environment is considered a high priority in the move toward '1992' . Legally, as a result of the SEA Article 100A, all internal market legislation will "take as a base a high level of protection" where the environment is concerned. This fact is visible in the case of automobile emission standards regulations which have recently been implemented within the EC.

Thirdly, in April 1989, the EC Commission proposed the establishment of a European Environment Agency, which would serve as a neutral and objective scientific authority to reinforce environmental legislation and regulation throughout the EC. The Commission's proposal for the establishment of an impartial environmental authority received approval from the Council the Council of Minsters in November 1989. This Agency will boost EC environmental protection and surveillance activity through the increase in available research and statistical evidence on which EC environmental programmes can be based.

Fourthly, the Commission has emphasised the fact that all Community activities will be executed with consideration to potential environmental ramifications. For example, the Lome Convention which has been re-negotiated between the EC and the ACP countries and is scheduled for implementation in 1990 will at the EC's insistence include increased attention to environmental preservation measures in the development process.110

A paramount political factor in the environmental arena is the great success and popularity of Europe's Green Parties , and the doubling of seats which went to the Greens in the June European Parliamentary elections which have given powerful impetus to the "tendance vert" in the EC system. This phenomenon has forced the European leaders to educate themselves in technical environmental matters, and to intensify their efforts to get tangible results in order to satisfy an increasingly educated and demanding electorate. As The Economist has argued: "because the environment is one of those rare EC issues where ordinary people can understand the point of what the Community is trying to do, the topic attracts the second largest number of parliamentary questions."111

Thus, a multitude of strong legal and political pressures have emerged within the EC firmament in the late 1980's, promoting incentive to act productively and quickly to save the environment.The EC Commission points out that its experience and expertise in environmental legislation and the co-ordination of co-operative environmental undertakings among its member states and regions can serve as a model for the adoption of environmental regulations on a wider international scale.

These pressures within the Community have been transposed into the international arena in several ways, and particularly in EC assertiveness in the management of one of the most problematic contemporary international environmental concerns: the increasingly rapid damage and depletion of the ozone layer, caused by production of chloro flouro carbons (CFCs). The European Community is the world's largest producer of CFC's, with 40% of the world's total production in 1988. 112 In 1987, the EC and its member states signed the Montreal Protocol for the Protection of the Ozone Layer, the first international environmental accord which the EC has signed since the SEA codified its legal competence in this sphere.The EC became party to the Protocal on the basis of a so-called 'mixed agreement' which technically involves the sharing of authority and responsibility for the fulfillment of the terms of the accord among the Commission, the collective entity of the EC member states,and individual member-states themselves depending upon existing competences in the field.

This Montreal Protocol is an unprecedented international pioneering effort to establish a regime to control global CFC output. It was specifically endorsed in the 1988 Toronto Summit communiqué at Paris.

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