Who is the real motor for environment policy – the EU or national governments?

Some critics of the Grenelle have pointed out that many of the measures contained in Sarkozy’s final announcement were little more than a promise to honor European Union directives which are either already or soon-to-be mandatory for France and other European nations. So who really drives policy on the environment? And how might the new Lisbon Treaty on a European constitution affect the way Europe deals with environmental issues?

In a recent interview with Les Echos, European Transport Commissioner Jacques Barrot, noted: “The measures announced (at the Grenelle) correspond overwhelmingly to, if not completely, the goals of community policy. Nicolas Sarkozy acknowledged himself that Europe has always been ahead on the environment. But I am delighted that France today wishes to be at the head of the pack. It’s an excellent sign for the second semester of 2008, when France takes over the presidency of the European Union.” He singles out a number of measures which reproduce European Union directives – the carbon tax, the emphasis on shifting away from highway transport to train transport, stricter carbon emissions norms for cars and so on. “The important thing is, above all, that this “Environmental New Deal” can only succeed if France carries it with Europe.”

What about the controversial Lisbon Treaty, agreed last month and due to be adopted in December? It creates two big new posts – a High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and a new standing president of the European Council. In theory this should ultimately allow Europe to speak with one voice on issues such as energy, climate change and migration, giving it significantly more heft at the international level. A survey of world public opinion by the European Council on Foreign Relations, a new think-tank, depicts a world which is favorable to increasing influence from the European Union and increasingly hostile to military power. Based on interviews of 57,000 people from 52 countries, more than a third of respondents (35 percent) said that an increase in the Union’s power was key to the development of a better world.

So did Sarkozy hood-wink the French public into believing that he was signing onto a Green Revolution when France was already on notice from the European Union to clean up its act on the environment? Or, as Barrot suggests obliquely, was Sarkozy’s role more that of a preacher to a recalcitrant private sector? “I appreciated the fact that Nicolas Sarkozy has explained that the fight for the environment will not be won without new investments. Sometimes I hear people say that all you need to do is tax and regulate.”

via Les Echos


One response to “Who is the real motor for environment policy – the EU or national governments?

  1. Pingback: How to find a green job in France « La Vie Verte

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