Stubborn EU member states ‘sabotaging’ circular economy transition

Certain EU member states are “sabotaging the transition to a circular economy”, according to the European Environmental Bureau (EEB), while EU Council leaks expose the “divide and doublespeak” between countries on proposals on waste law.

The claims come after the EEB continued to monitor EU negotiations on EU waste law proposals, with some countries branded ‘laggards’ and accused of “sabotaging” any chance of a transition to a circular economy by an investigation in May by the EEB, Zero Waste Europe and Friends of the Earth.

The EEB has reiterated that stance, claiming some countries are “shying away from their commitment to a stronger and more resource-efficient economy”.

The criticism from the investigation and sparked by the leak falls largely on the less ambitious waste proposals made by the European Council, aiming for a 60 per cent recycling and reuse rate, rather than the higher rates presented by the European Commission and the European Parliament.

If this position were to come out on top in the ongoing negotiations between the three institutions, the EEB says, it would constitute a significant barrier to the transition to the circular economy.

Commenting on the leaks, Piotr Barczak, Waste Policy Officer at the EEB, said: “The EU Council chaired by the Maltese Presidency was supposed to represent the interest of the European people on the waste front. Instead it raised uncertainty over the future of the circular economy in Europe.

“We expect [the upcoming Estonian Presidency, in place from this month] to be more resolute and listen to NGOs, businesses and policymakers calling for stronger waste laws for our future generations.”

The first round of negotiations, or trilogues, between the EU Council, the European Parliament and the European Commission began on 30 May after the EU Council confirmed its negotiating position earlier in the month, while the European Commission made the initial proposition back in December 2015 and the European Parliament deciding on its position in March.

Negotiation meetings are set to take place in September and October, with Environmental Council meetings planned for October and December. If these fail to reach a satisfactory agreement, the EEB says, negotiations may continue into 2018, though the three institutions each committed last year to give priority to the negotiations on the waste proposals and to have them completed, if possible, by the end of 2017.

What the leaks revealed

The recent leaks from the EU Council’s meetings and discussions over waste law proposals, which took place “behind closed doors”, reveal, according to the EEB, that:

  • Romania maintained a weak position on waste prevention while investing in three incinerators and asking for more time to introduce a landfill tax;
  • Poland called for a 50 per cent recycling target by 2030, far below even the European Council’s ‘unambitious’ 60 per cent target;
  • Germany confirmed its support for a 65 per cent recycling rate;
  • Denmark, Finland, Hungary, Lithuania and Latvia remain strongly opposed to most proposals;
  • The Czech Republic, Italy, Sweden, Portugal and Luxembourg reject high ambition for waste prevention while backing higher recycling targets;
  • Greece, France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Spain remain the “leaders” in calling for higher recycling, waste prevention, preparation for reuse and separate collection targets; and
  • Ireland, Slovenia, Croatia and the UK have remained silent over the issue and are keeping their cards close to their chest.

The UK was among the ‘laggards’ criticised in the EEB’s report in May for not sharing its position with the investigation, an action that it said highlighted ‘a long-standing transparency problem during negotiations between member states’.

The investigation also blasted Denmark, Finland, Hungary, Lithuania and Latvia for their planned ‘categoric’ rejection of higher ambition and Italy, Sweden, Portugal and the Czech Republic for opposing plans to make preparation for reuse mandatory and to set new waste prevention targets.

Related Articles