New Eco-Agenda as Portugal Takes the EU Helm

BRUSSELS, Belgium, January 4, 2000 (ENS) - Portugal will focus on new water quality legislation as a top environmental priority during its six months in the Presidency of the European Union which began January 1.

A Water Framework Directive will be given priority in order to provide "a new basic legal instrument serving water quality and sustainable management of water resources," said Portuguese Minister of State and Foreign Affairs, Jaime Gama.

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Portuguese Minister of State and Foreign Affairs, Jaime Gama (Photo courtesy government of Portugal)
A second priority will be to stimulate implementation of the European Union's commitments to limit global warming. Gama said these efforts are being shared among the EU member states "with a view to rapid ratification of the Kyoto Protocol."

The Portuguese presidency will also prepare the EU's participation in the 6th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations climate change treaty due to take place in the Hague, Netherlands in November 2000.

There is an ongoing effort within the European Union to integrate environmental protections into the policies of other sectors, an effort Gama said the Portuguese Presidency would continue to develop.

Improvement of the urban environment will be the focus of a renewed push during the next six months, Gama said. At the informal meeting of EU Ministers of Environment scheduled for April 2000, the Portuguese will focus on "financial instruments of the European Union in support of operations to re-qualify and improve the environmental indicators of European cities which nowadays experience the greatest problems of pollution with world-wide repercussions and significant damages to citizens' quality of life."

Three important upcoming conferences will receive priority attention, Gama said: the Biosafety talks in January, the biannual meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species in April, and the Biodiversity Convention in May.

Science and technology and the information society will be in the spotlight also at formal and informal meetings of EU ministers during March and April. Gama said that under the Portuguese Presidency a new strategy will be defined for "a truly first-rate European Science and Technology policy that we wish more competitive world-wide."

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Portuguese Secretary of State for European Affairs, Francisco Seixas da Costa (left) and Minister of Foreign Affairs Jaime Gama (Photo courtesy government of Portugal)
Food safety and consumer protection will receive special attention throughout the next six months and particularly during June at a planned conference in the Azores on "Globalisation, Regulation and Self-Regulations and Consumer Interests," Gama said.

In the forestry sector, Portugal is committed to promoting "sustainable management of the forests." Gama also said the presidency will attempt to reconcile the positions of the EU as a whole and its Member States "within the framework of the international dialogue on forests."

As a nation heavily dependent on its fishery, Portugal says "conservation and sustained responsible use of fishing resources are a core objective of the presidency." It will give special attention to "defining a new European strategy." It will develop ongoing cost/benefit analyses of the fisheries agreements with non-member countries and the role of regional fisheries organisations.

During the preceding six months, the Finnish Presidency focused on EU-wide energy taxation; strong EU measures to control the release of genetically modified organisms and trans-border pollution from non-EU countries such as Russia.

The European Parliament gets back to work in Strasbourg, France on January 17.