As indicated in the reply to Question No. 119 of 9 October 2003, my priorities for the Irish Presidency are focused around three key areas.
First, advancement of the EU's internal environment policy and legislation agenda. The Environment Council has a wide-ranging policy and legislative agenda and I am giving priority to key proposals on air quality, waste management, climate change, chemicals and nature conservation. Negotiations on a number of proposals is ongoing or planned with a view to maximising progress at the Council of Environment Ministers' meetings on 2 March and 28/29 June.
The second is preparation of the environmental contribution to the annual review of the Lisbon Agenda by the European Council at its spring meeting. Informed by a number of inputs from the European Commission, such as the recently published annual environment policy review 2003 and spring report, I will emphasise the need to decouple economic growth and social progress from environmental degradation. In particular, I will be promoting innovation and investment in clean technologies with a view to boosting competitiveness and growth, increasing employment and strengthening environmental protection. Finalisation of the environmental contribution to the annual review of the Lisbon Agenda will be a priority for the Environment Council meeting on 2 March.
The third is effective participation by the EU in wilder international fora. I intend to maintain the EU's leadership in promoting sustainable development at international level, including through pursuit of the Plan of Implementation arising from the World Summit on Sustainable Development held in Johannesburg in 2002. My main priority is to lead EU participation in a number of significant international meetings in the first half of 2004, including the seventh conference of the parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity, incorporating the first meeting of the parties to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, to be held in Malaysia in February and the 12th session of the UN Commission on Sustainable Development to be held in the United States in April 2004.
In addition to the above, my Department is organising or involved in a number of conferences and seminars which will be held in Ireland during the Presidency. An informal meeting of the Environment Council will be held in Waterford on 14 to 16 May 2004, and focus on Communications from the European Commission on the sustainable use of natural resources, and the recovery and recycling of waste. The discussions will inform further consideration of these issues by the Council at its June meeting.