German EU Council Presidency 2020

What are the German Presidency’s goals in the area of environmental policy?

Each Presidency is tasked with managing day-to-day Council business. Generally, this means working on proposals for new regulations, directives, strategies etc., organising political coordination and votes and negotiating with other institutions. The priorities for environmental protection and climate action during Germany's EU Presidency are mitigating climate change, conserving biodiversity and shaping the digital transformation consistent with the needs of the environment. The first goal of the Federal Environment Ministry over the six months of the German EU Council Presidency is to combine recovery from the crisis with climate action and nature conservation. The focus of these efforts will be the implementation of the Green Deal to bring about the social and environmental recovery of our economy.

What is a Presidency trio?

The EU Council Presidency changes every six months. It is sensible for consecutive Presidency holders to coordinate their plans in order to facilitate a smooth transition and set priorities. In 2007, the Presidency trio was introduced for this purpose. In a trio Presidency, the three member states of the trio draw up an eighteen-months programme that describes common priorities. Presidencies should build on the work of previous presidencies so that common goals can be pursued over a longer period of time. From the second half of 2020 to the end of 2021, the trio will consist of Germany, Portugal and Slovenia.

What are the benefits of an EU environmental policy?

It is easier for the EU to achieve ambitious environmental and climate goals than it would be for Germany alone. Only the EU can adopt effective and binding provisions that are applicable throughout Europe and address the many transboundary environmental problems in an efficient way. The EU guarantees high environmental standards in all member states, which contributes to the well-being of the public and ensures a functioning internal market. EU legislation is the basis of around 80 percent of environmental law in Germany. The EU also helps enforce environmental standards. The European Commission monitors compliance with EU law and can initiate legal proceedings to enforce implementation. If all else fails, the European Court of Justice may impose financial sanctions.

What is being done to make the EU Council Presidency sustainable?

The German EU Council Presidency aims to organise events in a sustainable manner to protect the environment and stabilise the climate, i.e. we hold events that are sustainable as long as it is actually permitted under pandemic rules. The German government published a comprehensive guidance laying out its plans to ensure sustainability. For example, climate-friendly transport by train or public transport should be available, and venues should also be easy to reach on foot or by bike. Another part of the concept is waste avoidance and the prudent use of valuable resources such as water and paper. Any unavoidable greenhouse gas emissions that are caused by air travel or the events themselves will be compensated through high-quality certificates. This is already standard for business trips taken by federal employees.

How are the German government and the Federal Environment Ministry preparing for the Presidency?

The government’s task force, headed by the Federal Foreign Office, is drawing up a programme for the Presidency which sets out the priorities. The BMU is responsible for the meetings and decisions of the Environment Council.

The German government is cooperating with Portugal and Slovenia in a trio. Together they are drawing up an eighteen-month programme that will help smooth the transition between their terms of office.

What are Germany’s tasks during the EU Council Presidency?

Germany will take up the EU Council Presidency in the second half of 2020. During this time, Germany will have to find compromises in order to draw up common positions of the Council and thus of the member states. Germany will take on the role of a neutral mediator and preside over almost all Council configurations and the corresponding Council working groups. Germany will also represent the Council when dealing with other EU bodies such as the parliament, and it will speak (together with the Commission) for the EU at international level.