Letter: Flexible EU best answer to pollution

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Sir: Sarah Helm, in her excellent report from Brussels (14 January), suggests that transport and environmental issues are not appropriate for a flexible European Community.

Surely the opposite is the case. The Centre for European Studies has compiled a long list of problems that cross national borders in Europe but do not cross all the frontiers that divide the existing member states, let alone the 20 or more of the future. Let me give two examples.

1) North Sea pollution is getting gradually worse. Some 12 countries pour their filth into its waters that once had an abundance of fish. Unless we begin to reverse the process of biological death soon, it could take decades for the North Sea to recover. For the UK or any other individual country to end its flow of pollution by itself would be near-futile. A common programme of action is needed desperately, in which all countries take part. But why should the Italians or the Portuguese be required to do so and pay a share of the cost?

A flexible Europe, by bringing the offenders together, could achieve the kind of international co-operation that ought to be the basis of all European decision-making.

2) How can we safeguard the future of the forests of Central Europe and Scandinavia from acid rain? Some of the peripheral member states - Ireland and Greece particularly - neither have responsibility for what has happened nor gain advantage from a remedy. Again, why should they pay for a policy or be troubled by taking part?


(Holland with Boston, C)

Chairman of the Trustees

Centre for European Studies.

London SW8