By Bibi Linder
January 27, 1999
Generally, the European Commission is not really open to dialogue with civil society. Important information is given directly on the meeting at a fast pace instead of sending out policy papers and other relevant documents in advance.
Generally, the Commission seems to think that the Committee on Trade and Environment within the WTO is doing what it can do within its limited mandate.
When it comes to promoting Environment as a single issue in the WTO the Commission holds the Council responsible for not allowing the Commission to negotiate separate areas apart, and tells the NGOs to go lobby their own governments respectively.
Furthermore, the Commission blames the developing countries for not being willing to consider environment at all.
Directly asked whether the EU will be willing to offer market access to developing countries in return of improvements in the environmental area, the answer was: Some memberstates (a minority) would like EC to go to WTO with a check book (market access) in return of environmental agreements, others will not speak of it at all, and the last group might be willing to speak of it, but not this year.
The Commission distributed a paper on investment in WTO at the meeting. It was a kind of discussion paper, informing where some of the problems would lie, and it was quite 'NGO-friendly' in the sense that it mentioned environment, developing countries and the need for balancing rights of investors with the ability of the State to regulate its own economy and environment. During the meeting the NGO's revealed that they were already in the position of a leaked paper from EC to the 113 Committee (where EC meets with member states representatives to discuss trade related issues once a week). This paper is much more of the MAI-type that the paper presented to the NGOs. The EC answered to this by saying that the 113 paper was from December, and that their ideas were still being developed. The NGOs felt rather convinced that the 113 paper represents the points of views of the Commission, but it seems from rumours that the member states in the 113 Committee had told the Commission to learn more from experience and not present more or less the same material as was given up in the MAI. One element of progress from MAI in the 113 paper is that the possibility of a sector-by-sector inclusion (bottom-up model) is mentioned. But developing countries are not thought of at all!
The meeting was directed by Mr. Madelin from DGI, while DG XI working on environment was not present.
Bibi Linder, policy adviser, MS - Danish Association for International Co-operation