Results of the Czech Presidency of the EU Council in the area of the environment

During the term of the Czech Presidency of the EU Council in the first half of 2009, the Ministry of the Environment has led the European debate especially in the area of climate protection. A key UN climate summit will be held in Copenhagen in December, with the aim to conclude a new treaty on climate protection to replace the Kyoto Protocol.

Therefore, it has been up to us to negotiate, on behalf of the EU, which is the leader in the field of protection of the Earth’s climate, with other key players - i.e. with the new U.S. Administration, China and Japan, as well as with developing countries, which are affected most by climate changes. Further priorities of the Czech Presidency in the area of the environment have also included the protection of human health and of the environment, sustainable production and consumption, and conservation of biodiversity.

The Czech Presidency has negotiated six legislative regulations between the EU Council and the European Parliament and achieved their adoption in the first reading, which fact could be seen as a substantial success compared to the six previous presidencies (beginning with the Austrian Presidency in the first half of 2006 and ending with the French Presidency in the second half of 2008). In fact we have achieved six agreements in the first reading, which is the most ever. This includes the Biocide Directive, the EMAS Regulation (eco-management and audit scheme), the Eco-labelling Regulation, the Regulation on substances depleting the ozone layer, the Directives on stage II of petrol vapour recovery and the Regulation on trade in seal products.

If the last six presidencies are compared on the basis of the number of adopted Council conclusions, the Czech Presidency has come in second together with France, with six adopted conclusions of the Council (only the German Presidency in the second half of 2006 achieved seven adopted Council conclusions).

During the term of our presidency, conclusions of the Council on the future Copenhagen treaty on climate change and Council conclusions encompassing a contribution to the spring meeting of the European Council were adopted at the March EU Environment Council. At the June meeting of the Council, Ministers of the Environment then adopted Council conclusions on biodiversity and invasive species, on bio-waste and on adaptation to climate change. They also managed to facilitate a political consensus of the Member State on the recast of the Directive on industrial emissions (IPPC).

The Czech Presidency (CZ PRES) has successfully conducted numerous international negotiations and has organized several important events in the Czech Republic.

Climate protection

The Czech Presidency has led a number of international negotiations concerned with increased protection of the climate. Despite the prevailing difficult economic situation, it was concerned to retain the EU’s position as global leader in this area. Representatives of the Czech Presidency were in charge of negotiations with the Indian government regarding cooperation in the preparation of the new global climate protection treaty. They also contributed to the initiation of cooperation with the Administration of the United States in this respect, as well as to the preparation of the EU’s common position for the Copenhagen conference in December 2009.
On March 2, the Ministers of the Environment adopted conclusions of the Council defining the fundamental EU positions for the new global treaty related to the new regime of climate protection after 2012. This important debate also involved the Ministers of Finance (ECOFIN) and for Regional Development (CODEV). The newly established joint EPC/EFC group provided a forum for discussions on the future financial architecture, which is one of the key instruments for the global climate protection treaty. CZ PRES organized two joint meetings at the level of deputy ministers and other senior representatives of ministries of the environment and finance of the Member States and the Commission on this important topic. The March and June meetings of the European Council, which were held during the term of the Czech Presidency, confirmed the ambitious goals in respect of the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and financing mitigation and adaptation measures in developing countries. The heads of States and governments also determined clear priorities and goals for further work of the EU, which must be completed prior to the conference of the parties in Copenhagen. At the June meeting of the EU Environment Council, the ministers reiterated the EU’s commitment to achieve a comprehensive global agreement on climate protection with the aim to limit the growth of the global average temperature to less than 2°C.

A number of various diplomatic activities and negotiations took place during the CZ PRES in relation to strengthening the EU’s position as the global leader heading into the key EU conference in Copenhagen in December of this year. A meeting of the Ministers of the Environment of the G8 countries took place in Syracuse in March. CZ PRES actively negotiated on behalf of the EU in three preparatory meetings of the Major Economies Forum on Energy and Climate (MEF) in Washington, Paris and Mexico City. International issues of climate change were also on the agenda of bilateral EU summits with other countries (e.g. South Korea, Canada, Japan and China). The Sustainable Development Summit held in New Delhi, India, on 5 to 7 February was also important in this respect. These contacts also included bilateral negotiations within other international forums (e.g. the 25th session of the UNEP Governing Council). A visit at the level of the ministerial Troika was made to Tokyo and also to Washington, where cooperation was initiated with the new U.S. Administration aimed at approximating the positions of the EU and the U.S. in the negotiations.

The Presidency has drawn up comprehensive conclusions concentrating on adaptation to climate change in Europe, where it follows-on from the White Paper published by the EU Commission. The conclusions on adaptations were approved at the June meeting of the EU Environment Council. These conclusions determine the main focus of the EU and the tasks for experts who deal with the impact and vulnerability of the individual countries and regions of Europe and seek possibilities for adaptation to the conditions of a changing climate.

In relation to preparation for the Copenhagen treaty on the international regime of the fight against climate change, the Czech Presidency has prepared, and the Council has approved, conclusions of the Council where the EU called on the secretariat of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to submit an amendment to the Kyoto Protocol.

Protection of human health and the environment

The successes achieved by the Czech Presidency include approval of the revised Regulation on substances depleting the ozone layer, which will lead primarily to restriction of production and use, and from 2020 a strict ban on production and use, of “soft freons” (HCFC).
The Directive on stage II petrol vapour recovery at filling stations during refuelling of passenger vehicles has also been approved. Based on the compromise achieved by the Presidency, certain filling stations are required to install equipment for capturing petrol vapours released in refuelling motor vehicles within a period of several years. This Directive will also contribute to increased protection of the air and human health, as well as to savings of petrol.
On March 24, 2009, the European Parliament approved, in the first reading, a proposal for the Directive on marketing biocidal products with respect to extension of certain time periods – this was also a successful first step en route to overall revision of this Directive, which the Commission published in the middle of June 2009.
At the June meeting of the EU Environment Council, after very difficult negotiations, the Czech Presidency reached a political consensus of the Member States in the Council on the proposal for the Directive on industrial emissions (IPPC - integrated pollution prevention and control). The proposal consists in a package of seven, currently separate, legislative regulations, which it combines in a single document (in addition to the IPPC Directive, it also includes, e.g., the Directive on large combustion plants, Directive on incineration of waste, etc.). The Presidency has also strived to find a compromise that would provide for more effective protection of water, soil, the air and other components of the environment, while not endangering competitiveness of the European industry. CZ PRES negotiated a consensus of the Member States on this highly comprehensive proposal and thus opened the way to agreement with the European Parliament in the second reading. This is another important step on the pathway to a greener economy.

In June, the EU Environment Council led by CZ PRES also approved conclusions on the Green Paper on bio-waste, where the Member States agreed that the Commission should present a proposal for an arrangement of management of bio-waste at the European level. If an impact analysis shows that this is necessary, the Commission will put forward a proposal for new legislation.

Furthermore, the Czech Presidency initiated a discussion at the level of the Council’s working group on two new proposals for Directives related to waste electrical and electronic equipment. These include proposals for a Directive on the use of certain hazardous substances in electrical and electronic equipment (RoHs) and for a Directive on waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE).

In January 2009, the Czech Presidency managed to complete difficult international negotiations on reform and continuation of the “Environment for Europe” process within the UN Economic Commission for Europe, which should facilitate better harmonization of the interests of environmental protection with increased competitiveness and social stability of the European continent. Under the leadership of the Czech Presidency, the reform was then approved by the 63rd plenary meeting of UN ECE on April 1, 2009.

At the 25th session of the UNEP Governing Council on February 2009, the Czech Presidency successfully negotiated, on behalf of the EU, a total of 17 decisions on protection of the environment, including particularly a decision on chemical substances, on the basis of which an intergovernmental negotiation process will be initiated in 2010 with the aim of adopting a new international legal instrument for control of mercury.

The Czech Presidency managed to incorporate a number of EU priorities in the ministerial declaration of the 5th World Water Forum – particularly transboundary cooperation in international watersheds, good governance and anti-corruption measures. During the negotiations, the Presidency participated in the creation of a strategy of incorporating the aspects of water into the 15th Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, to be held in December.

The Czech Presidency negotiated, on behalf of the EU, at the 4th meeting of the Conference of the Parties the Czech Presidency of the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants held on 4 to 8 May in Geneva. A fundamental decision to extend the scope of the Convention from 12 to 21 substances was adopted at the Conference; this decision will substantially improve the protection of health and the environment against toxic substances, which cause a number of diseases.

The 2nd meeting of the International Conference on Chemicals Management (ICCM2) took place in Geneva on 11 to 15 May with the purpose of reviewing implementation of the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management. The Czech Presidency managed to enforce all the EU priorities at this meeting.

Sustainable consumption and production

The Presidency has also managed to facilitate the approval of two proposals related to the topic of sustainable production and consumption. This includes revision of the Regulation allowing voluntary participation by organisations in a Community eco-management and audit scheme (EMAS). This revision should ensure that an increased number of organisations employ the EMAS scheme and also increase the emphasis placed by organisations outside the EMAS scheme on selection of their suppliers from the viewpoint of participation in the EMAS scheme.

Furthermore, this also includes adoption of the Regulation on eco-labelling. The resulting proposal should increase the attractiveness of the eco-label and simplify the system of its awarding. An objective also consists in improving the awareness of consumers of the impact of products and services on the environment, as well as understanding and general acknowledgment of this eco-labelling scheme in the European Union and also on a global scale.

The Czech Presidency also managed to incorporate a number of EU priorities in the decision of the 17th session of the UN Commission on Sustainable Development in May 2009 aimed at speeding up the implementation of sustainable development in the areas of agriculture (here, the EU was represented by the EU Commission), development of rural areas, soil, drought, desertification, Africa and cross-cutting topics (e.g. sustainable farming and production of biofuels, protection of services provided by ecosystems, sustainable land management, integrated management of water sources, strengthening implementation of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification, promotion of sustainable development of farming in Africa).

The Czech Presidency formulated a consensual position of the EU on Brazil’s proposal to hold a high-level conference on sustainable development in Rio de Janeiro in 2012 (Rio + 20), where it points out the need to avoid duplication of other processes and recommends that the agenda of the conference be concentrated on key issues that would promote the concept of green economy, innovative technology and sustainable consumption and production.

Conservation of biological diversity

Marked successes of the Presidency include the achieved consensus on the proposal for a Regulation on trade in products made from pinnipeds. The Regulation aims to restrict marketing of products from pinnipeds that are commercially hunted for their skins and other products. Only articles and products originating from traditional hunting by native inhabitants will be eligible for marketing. Products coming from limited coastal hunting may also be marketed; however, the thus-obtained products may not be utilized commercially.

The Presidency exerted considerable efforts to discuss the proposal for a Directive on soil protection, which was presented by the Commission in September 2006. A report on the progress achieved in discussing this Directive was included in the agenda of the June meeting of the EU Environment Council; given the substantially differing positions of the Member States, no consensus has yet been reached.

Furthermore, the Presidency prepared, and the June Council unanimously approved, conclusions of the Council on biodiversity and invasive species (mid-term assessment of implementing the EU Biodiversity Action Plan and Towards an EU Strategy on Invasive Alien Species). The Member States agreed that conservation of biodiversity should be integrated in all sectoral policies (agriculture, land-use planning, climate protection) and a solid strategy should be prepared as soon as possible – legislative and other instruments that would be used to confront the threats posed by invasive species. The EU must increase its efforts aimed at halting the loss of biodiversity.

The March meeting of the EU Environment Council adopted a decision of the Council on the position that should be maintained on behalf of the European Communities as regards the proposals for amendments to the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling and its schedule.  By a qualified majority, the ministers approved a common position of those EU Member States that are simultaneously members of the International Whaling Commission (IWC), with the objective of ensuring the most effective protection of endangered species of cetaceans. The most widely discussed topics included the aspect of the moratorium on commercial hunting for whales and restriction of hunting for small cetaceans. The adopted position provides an opportunity for effective negotiations, particularly with Japan, on protection of the most endangered species of cetaceans.

CZ PRES coordinated the preparation of common positions at the 7th meeting of the international Ad Hoc Open-ended Working Group on Access and Benefit-sharing in the area of genetic resources within the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). This was the first time ever that the working group discussed draft operational texts presented by the Contracting Parties to the CBD, which should become part of a legally binding protocol in the future.

In cooperation with the European Commission, the Czech Republic held a Conference on Wilderness and Large Natural Habitat Areas in Prague on 27 to 28 May. The conference, which was attended by representatives of the academic sphere, businesses and non-profit organisations, initiated a discussion on the need for conservation of these areas.


  • Jakub Kašpar, Spokesman of the Ministry of the Environment
  • Tel.: +420 267 122 040, GSM: +420 724 175 927, E-mail:

Last update: 16.8.2011 15:17

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