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What does the Dutch EU Council Presidency mean for environment and health?

On 1 January the Netherlands took over the EU’s six-month rotating Council Presidency from Luxembourg. The Presidency includes opportunities as well as challenges for the environment and public health, which will be followed closely by HEAL and our members.

The Netherlands will hold the Presidency for the twelfth time from January to June 2016 and aims to work closely with Slovakia and Malta over the next 18 months, in a partnership known as the ‘Trio Presidency’, In its six month mandate, the Dutch Presidency will focus on three principles:

1. A Union that focuses on the essentials;
2. A Union that creates innovative growth and jobs, and;
3. A Union that connects with society [1].

Parallel to these principles, the Netherlands has also indicated to focus on a set of four key priorities, one of which is particularly relevant for HEAL’s work - a forward-looking policy on climate and energy [2].

Taking the COP21 Paris Agreement of December 2015 as a key starting point, the Netherlands plans to focus efforts on creating a future-proof model for sustainable growth. This will include its support for the Commission’s proposal to a sustainable circular economy and its intention to present a proposal for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in Europe and beyond, a revisal of the EU emissions trading system (ETS), and continuing work on concluding the National Emissions Ceilings Directive (air quality).

In addition, under the topic of Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs, the Dutch Presidency considers it important to address the risks that endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) pose to humans, animals and the environment, especially in the context of the EU Commission delay in putting forward criteria to identify these chemicals. The Presidency also acknowledges the recent European Court of Justice ruling on the Commission’s delay.

Dutch health and environment ministers urge action on EDCs during EP discussion

HEAL welcomes that the Dutch Presidency has made EDCs a priority, and will continue to track Council developments. The topic has already been brought up in a recent EP Environment Committee meeting with the Dutch Environment and Health Ministers (14 January 2015). The Health Minister Schippers urged the Commission to come out with criteria “as soon as possible”. The Environment Minister Dijksma also stressed EDCs as a priority and said she hoped for support at the Dutch Ministry of Health. The recording is available here.

Better Regulation continues to be a hot topic for the EU and during the Dutch Presidency, particularly regarding the further developments on the Inter-Institutional Agreement between EU-Parliament, the Council and the EU Commission. HEAL hopes that the Dutch Presidency will not pursue an agenda of deregulation of key environmental legislation under a Better Regulation approach, but take a more balanced view and consider gaps in implementation of EU environmental rules which lead to health harms (e.g. failure to comply with EU air quality standards). We will therefore closely watch deliberations under the “Make it Work” initiative, a British-Dutch-German initiative aiming to improve implementation, consistency and coherence of EU environmental legislation so that it will be better able to deal with future challenges.

In addition, the Presidency should not pursue initiatives to set an EU wide target to reduce regulatory burden, but instead focus on the benefits of regulation for the health of Europeans and the environment.

HEAL members, especially those in the Netherlands are focusing closely on the Dutch Presidency over the next six months:

In the coming months Women in Europe for a Common Future (WECF) in the Netherlands aims to work on awareness raising and outreach with the Ministry of Environment (IenM) as their main entry point in the Netherlands and with sustainable, critical consumers and sustainable SMEs as their focus groups for awareness raising campaigns on EDCs. WECF states: “The Dutch Presidency should strongly demand immediate action from the EU Commission to put EDC criteria in place, and call for further exposure reduction measures for Health and environment, especially for vulnerable groups such as pregnant women and children”.

WEMOS is also focusing on the Dutch Presidency in terms of maintaining their priority on EDCs. WEMOS argues that the Netherlands should use their Presidency to make sure the Commission immediately publishes the criteria for EDCs following the recent Court case. WEMOS follows the national position on EDCs and uses media outreach and parliamentary pressure to promote policy measures on EDCs during the Presidency. WEMOS works closely with Dutch civil servants on national EDC policy and will highlight reports on national measures of countries such as Sweden and Denmark – they have already taken national measures in addition to European law to protect citizens against EDCs. WEMOS is in regular contact with MEPs to promote the position of the EU Parliament in the trialogues on medical devices concerning EDCs, and hopes to move the Council towards the EP amendment regarding the phase out of EDCs in certain medical devices.

This article is based on the information provided in the official Program of the Netherlands Presidency of the Council of the EU, which can be found online here

Resources:

Upcoming events:

  • Dates of upcoming EU Council Summits: 17-18 March and 23-24 June; and possibly extra Summit in late February
  • Last week of February: Sustainable Mama Master classes at the Nine Month Fair by HEAL member WECF NL. More information available at www.wecf.eu or www.eenveilignest.nl

Last updated on 26 January 2016

About HEAL

The Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL) is a leading European not-for-profit organisation addressing how the environment affects health in the European Union (EU). We demonstrate how policy changes can help protect health and enhance people’s quality of life. Read more »

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HEAL has over 70 member organisations, representing health professionals, not-for-profit health insurers, doctors, nurses, cancer and asthma groups, citizens, women’s groups, youth groups, environmental NGOs, scientists and public health institutes. Members include international and Europe-wide organisations, as well as national and local groups. Read more »

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