Eurofile: UK cuts off clean air plan

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The Independent Online
AN ATTEMPT by Germany to get an agreement on an EU plan to restrict carbon dioxide emissions has been blocked by Britain.

Klaus Topfer, the German Environment Minister, emerged at the end of a marathon session of environment ministers in Luxembourg to say that his plan had foundered on British resistance to a European Union tax on carbon and energy use.

The idea is cherished by the greens in Germany and Mr Topfer tried until early yesterday morning to broker a deal. Diplomats say that although John Gummer, the British minister, was the most resistant to the idea, other ministers also harboured doubts. Ministers will try again in December.

THE EU will ratify the new Gatt world trade deal by the end of this year, Sir Leon Brittan, the Trade Commissioner, said on Tuesday. The Commission added yesterday that it has drawn up a complex package of legislation to implement the trade agreement. Although a dispute over how governments and the Commission share out new powers under the deal has not been resolved, the European Court of Justice will deliver a definitive judgement in mid-November. Foreign ministers agreed on Tuesday to send the Gatt package to the European Parliament in any case, to avert a possible clash with the legislature, which wants to have its say in the matter.

JACQUES SANTER, president of the European Commission, said yesterday that he will share out portfolios in the new Commission by the end of this month, although it has become a highly politicised battle. The Belgian commissioner, Karel van Miert, told a Belgian newspaper yesterday that he wants to stay on as Competition Commissioner, one of the most powerful posts in Brussels.

Mr van Miert complained that governments were leaning on Mr Santer to find good jobs for their commissioners - a sign that the French government wants his job for one of its nominees.

THE WEB of agreements that link Western and Eastern Europe is expanding rapidly. Belarus is to get the chance of a Partnership and Co-operation Agreement with the EU, similar to those negotiated with Ukraine and Russia, foreign ministers decided. The package will cover trade, investment and political dialogue, and is a sign that the EU is slowly sorting out its policy towards the former Soviet republics.

Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia could be the next in line. But Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan are more distant prospects, ministers said. The EU is also to prepare a more detailed strategy in support of Ukraine, a country that is turning into a test case for EU foreign policy. Since Ukraine borders countries that could be in the EU at the end of the decade, its stability is considered a matter of vital concern.

The Baltic republics are likely to remain in a half-way house between the Central Europeans, who have a prospect of membership, and the other former Soviet republics, who do not.

LATVIA has joined Lithuania and Estonia in gaining membership of the Council of Europe, which is seen as the ante-room to a seat at the EU table. The EU is also to forge links with Croatia.

All this talk about Central and Eastern Europe makes the southerners in the union nervous. Led by France, the 'Club Med' countries have pushed for a new strategy for Mare Nostrum. It was agreed by the foreign ministers yesterday that the Commission will put together a new set of proposals for the Mediterranean countries, especially Morocco, Tunisia and Israel.