Countries such as Poland are not abiding by European standards on the environment.
The European Commission’s follow through and enforcement of environmental legislation has shown to be a concern. Many countries have not adhered to a range of standards outlined in legalisation by the European Parliament.
Poland has not been meeting a range of standards that are required of the European Union. Eva Lichtenberger, Green Member of the European Parliament (MEP) and the rapporteur for annual report on the implementation and enforcement of EU law, showed her concern about the situation.
“The European Parliament is very ambitious when it comes to environmental standards” she said. “It is a major problem when less significant problems, and infringements incur consequences, and yet there is not enough respect for the environment that consequences are taken seriously.”
Lichtenberger posed an thought provoking question: “If a two year old EU legislation doesn’t get respected, we need to then ask why do we make laws for if no one respects them?”
Areas for Poland to improve
In February of this year, the Europa website released a range of press releases explaining their communication with Poland over different environmental issues. Poland is soon to be taken to the European Court of Justice over not adhering to the EU nature protection law, where birds have not been protected. Also according to the articles, Poland has been sent a reasoned opinion due after not complying with the standards for their quality of surface water. They have also received another reasoned opinion over failing to protect their seas, as well not meeting requirements to reduce pollution to levels that minimise the harmful effects on human health and the environment. If these matters aren’t responded to in the next two months, the Commission will take them to the Member State Court of Justice.
Lichtenberger recognised that the environment is not Poland’s number one priority currently. “New countries to the EU have a focus on economic policy and growth and then with the growth, time and finances can and then will take care of the environment”.
European Commission must do more
Swedish Green MEP Carl Schlyter criticises the commission for not enforcing the standards. “The Parliament puts in place very high standards, but the commission has always been very relaxed when it comes to the environment, and the council has always been the weakest” said Schlyter.
Lichtenberger agreed with this: “The environment is big reluctance of the commission”. Lichtenberger also blamed Barroso. “Less has been done since Barosso has been in power as the environment is not a priority to him, hence the commission don’t act”.
“It is so important that the European Parliament, and the Commission act in a transparent way. Citizens should be able to clearly see what the issues are and how they are being enforced. That way, concerns can be heard, and the Parliament and Commission can act on the situation for what it really is” Lichtenberger explained.
Polish MEP states Poland’s case
Polish MEP Boguslaw Sonik from the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats) has seen an improvement within Poland in regards to the environment.
“Environmental awareness has increased incredibly amongst Polish people over the last decade. People no longer look at being environmentally friendly as being forced into an annoying task, but rather an investment for the future,” says Sonik.
Boguslaw also explains that it has been an issue of the economy why more has been done. “If we reacess how Poland’s revolution in 1989 was only 20 years ago, we can see how Poland is a young country and how our priority has been rebuilding our economy, rather than making changes to the environment that we are now implementing.”
When the Commission halted the construction of the Via Baltica (highway) through an EU Natura 2000 protected area of the Rospuda Valley, Poland learnt a lesson stated Sonik. “Decision makers in Poland after that incident realised the importance of abiding by the European Union guidelines. You can’t outwit such a large body,” he said.
Environment continues to fall behind in many countries
Poland is not the only country with environmental concerns. Schlyter sees Spain as the country with the most concerns within the European Union, as they are failing to meet requirements met within the Kyoto Protocol.
Swedish Green MEP Isabella Lovin, working on the fishery issues, sees the same issues with Iceland. “If Iceland wants to be a part of the European Union, they must sign up to all of the policies. Fisheries are part of those policies… Of course Iceland can apply for an exemption on the matter, there are exemptions to many policies, but I don’t think that EU will make an exemption for this matter”
On the 8th of March a new energy efficiency plan was introduced. In a press conference discussing this new plan, Danish EU Commissioner for Climate Action Connie Hedegaard has been asked what is being done to enforce new and old policies on the environment many times. She has the view of looking at each country uniquely, and examining their unique situation before enforcing consequences.
“You cannot compare countries. Richer countries like Denmark and Sweden are in a different situation to Romania and Bulgaria. In the past EU countries have not held standards for the environment. Even the most energy efficient countries can do more”.
Lichtenberger says that Poland has the resources and knowledge to make improvements now; it just has to become their priority. “Poland has excellent technicians who should be given a chance go develop ways of becoming a more environmentally friendly society, as an alternative to money being invested further into the coal industry.”
Sonik as seen changes and believes they will continue only to get stronger. “Slowly we are able to see the changes in the Polish mentality” he said.