|Author (Person)||Frost, Laurence|
|Series Title||European Voice|
|Series Details||Vol 7, No.16, 19.4.01, p4|
EURO MPs are threatening to cancel a vote next week over concerns that they may have been "mis-advised" by Environment Commissioner Margot Wallström over the enforceability of rules designed to reduce levels of toxic chemicals in rivers and lakes.
MEPs have asked the environment chief for clarification after lawyers at the Council of Ministers argued that the water framework directive was not legally binding on member states.
The deal was agreed in eleventh-hour negotiations between the Parliament and EU governments last October; the Commission gave assurances that an obligation to "aim to achieve" the elimination of certain hazardous chemicals would be watertight.
Now the Parliament's environment committee is considering whether to postpone next week's vote on the list of substances to be covered by the framework directive, unless the Commission confirms that it will be binding.
German Green Hiltrud Breyer - who is drafting the Parliament's position - and British Liberal Chris Davies have written to Wallström, saying: "The European Parliament was assured during the negotiations that the final text agreed by the institutions satisfied the Parliament's intention to make the measures legally binding."
Demanding that the Commission offers its own interpretation, the letter adds: "While it is our intention to conclude with the first reading as soon as possible, we are reluctant to vote on the report when the actual legal meaning of it is subject to disagreement."
The 'hazardous substances' directive lists 11 dangerous chemicals to be eliminated from surface water - lakes, rivers and groundwater - and targets a further 11 for scientific review within four years.
But MEPs say they are taking advice on whether the directive can be used to close loopholes. "If [Wallström] is unable to reaffirm her original interpretation then we should take advantage of the directive to build in those requirements," Davies said.
"It may be that we've been snookered - that the Commissioner gave us her interpretation and is subsequently found to have mis-advised us, and nothing can be done about it."
Euro MPs are threatening to cancel a vote over concerns that they may have been 'mis-advised' by Environment Commissioner Margot Wallström over the enforceability of rules designed to reduce levels of toxic chemicals in rivers and lakes.