Council and Commission agree on EU representation
By Anne Eckstein | Monday 07 June 2010
On 4 June, the EU Council appointed the Presidency of the Council to represent it “in matters falling within its competency” with regard to international negotiations on mercury and called on the European Commission and the Presidency, acting on behalf of member states, to work in a “coordinated” manner and in close consultation with the permanent representatives of the member states (Coreper) with a view to reaching an international agreement on mercury.
A few minutes before the expiration of their mandate, the EU Council of Ministers finally succeeded in unanimously adopting a negotiation mandate, on 4 June, in the form of Council conclusions
(1), for the session of the intergovernmental committee responsible for negotiating an international agreement on mercury. These negotiations officially began on 7 June in Stockholm, under the auspices of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the first round being anticipated to last for one week (until 11 June). This mandate, and more specifically the issue of the EU’s international representation, had for several weeks been at the centre of a dispute between the Council and the Commission, both institutions having reached the point of mutually threatening to refer the matter to the Court of Justice (see
Europolitics3984). Reason finally prevailed and the EU will be well and truly present in Stockholm. The Council’s conclusions, however, place the two institutions back to back and maintain the current status quo but do not resolve the fundamental issue with regard to the adoption procedure for such a “mixed” mandate by means of the “Council conclusions,” a procedure that does not exist as such in the treaty and whose legal scope may thus be subject to caution.
The Council recalls its commitment to reduce the risks posed to the environment and human health by all mercury waste and its components and, wherever possible, to eliminate waste in the air, water and soil. It underlines that, for the EU and its member states, an international agreement is the most appropriate instrument for resolving this issue on a global level and that such an agreement must relate to the entire life cycle of mercury. The future agreement, continues the Council, must include provisions covering aspects relating to the safe supply, storage and elimination of mercury on an environmental level, the production and processing of mercury, international trade, atmospheric emissions, and the healthy management of waste containing mercury and/or its components. The agreement must also contain measures laying down the obligation to respect these provisions, the exchange of information and technical assistance with regard to implementation and construction capacities and financial aid in order that all parties may effectively contribute to its application.(1) The conclusions are available at
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