The hyperactive French EU Presidency led by Nicolas Sarkozy has relieved the Czech Republic of several thorny issues: the energy-climate change package, CO2 emissions from cars and fuel quality. The Czech EU Presidency has, therefore, presented an environmental programme for the first half of 2009 that is lighter at EU level and steered more towards key international events.


Climate change will remain the main concern of the 27 in the environmental sphere in 2009. The work plan and calendar agreed at the Poznan Conference of Parties to the United Nations Climate Convention and the Kyoto Protocol (1-12 December 2008) will impose a sustained work pace throughout the year: at least four preparatory meetings for the World Conference in Copenhagen (December 2009) are planned, two of which during the Czech EU Presidency, from 29 March to 8 April and 1 to 12 June, in Bonn.

For the March meeting, the parties must have detailed their objectives, and for the June session, the draft agreement - ie the text that will be the subject of the final negotiation - will have to be on the table. The negotiations will then get to the heart of the matter. The European Union's position was clarified in the conclusions adopted for the Poznan conference, on 4 December, and the energy-climate agreement, so the Czech Presidency is equipped to defend it on the international scene. It will organise a large number of bilateral meetings, in particular with the biggest economies - the United States, China, India and Russia - but also with a number of other partners. Prague will work closely with Sweden, which will take over the EU Presidency during the latter half of 2009, and with Denmark, which will host and chair the world conference.

Negotiating a legally binding instrument to reduce the use of, and control trade in, mercury will be the second big international issue the Czech Presidency will have to tackle. Talks will resume, from 16 to 20 February in Nairobi (Kenya), under the auspices of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). The EU firmly supports the emergence of such an instrument and prepared the ground in the negotiating brief adopted in the Council, on 4 December 2008. As is often the case, however, it will have a hard time convincing some of its main partners of the importance of the initiative. Prague has, therefore, planned to organise bilateral meetings with, among others, India, the United States, Brazil, Canada and Russia.


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