Wednesday, 4 February 2004

Ceisteanna (226, 227)

Eamon Gilmore

Ceist:

317 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the plans he has to ensure that environment and heritage issues are at the heart of European policy during the Irish Presidency; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3356/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government)

The Irish Presidency attaches a high importance to taking forward the EU's progressive approach to environmental protection and sustainability and I am focusing an agenda around three key areas: advancement of the EU's internal environmental policy and legislation. Negotiation on a number of proposals in the areas of air quality, waste management, climate change, chemicals and nature conservation is ongoing or planned with a view to maximising progress at the Council of Environment Ministers meetings on 2 March and 28-29 June. A second area is preparation of the environmental input to the annual review of the Lisbon Agenda by the European Council at its spring meeting in March. Finalisation of the environmental input will be a priority for the Environment Council meeting on 2 March. The third area is effective participation by the EU in wider international fora. 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 this month.

An informal meeting of the Environment Council will be held in Waterford on 14 to 16 May, and will address future policy development on the sustainable use of natural resources and the recovery and recycling of waste.

In addition, my Department is organising or involved in a number of events to be held in Ireland during the Presidency. These include: a Conference on Emissions Trading in February; a meeting of the European Forum for Architectural Policies in April; a Conference on Sustainable Development in April; and a stakeholder Conference on implementation of the EU Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plans in May.

Eamon Gilmore

Ceist:

318 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government his views on the EU Commission's proposals to extend the LIFE Instrument to 2005 and 2006 and for the alignment of LIFE with the Sixth Environmental Action Programme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3357/04]

Amharc ar fhreagra

The proposal to extend LIFE III until the end of 2006 is a pragmatic approach to facilitate continuity in the LIFE programme and thereby: avoid a legal gap between the expiry of LIFE III on the 31 December 2004 and the introduction of the post-2006 financial perspectives; allow for alignment of the LIFE Regulation with the provisions of the current financial regulation applicable to the general budget of the European Communities, and allow for the guidelines that define the priority areas for the LIFE- Environment demonstration projects to be revised to link with the priorities set in the Sixth Environment Action Programme, adopted in 2002, and the recently published EU Environmental Technology Action Plan.

Ireland supports this proposal, which will avoid any break in LIFE funding and is pursuing an agreement between the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament as part of theenvironment programme of Ireland's EU Presidency.