My Department has received the document entitled Greening Europe, which was prepared by Birdlife International, with input from its Irish partner, BirdWatch Ireland, in prospect of the Irish EU Environment Presidency.
My priorities for the Irish Presidency are focused around three key areas: 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 issues including a proposal to extend the current LIFE regulation programme are ongoing with a view to maximising progress at the Council of Environment Ministers' meeting on 2 March; 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; and effective participation by the EU in wider international fora. I am working 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 7th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity, incorporating the first meeting of the parties to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, which I attended last week in Malaysia, 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 from 14 to 16 May 2004 and will focus on communications from the European Commission on the sustainable use of natural resources and the recovery and recycling of waste. I will also be hosting a major stakeholder conference in May on implementation of the EU biodiversity strategy of action.