Presidency of the EU: Spain must drive key environmental files, Sweden disappoints

Spain is taking on the rotating 6-month Council Presidency of the EU from July, amidst the illegal Russian war in Ukraine and energy and inflation crises creating social hardships across the EU. At the steering wheel, Spain must advance the European Green Deal as a key tool to support the EU’s energy independence, accelerating towards a 100% renewables, zero pollution future and putting in place energy and resource saving measures, while committing to restore nature.


Patrick ten Brink, EEB Secretary General said:

“Spain inherits significant legislative and policy responsibilities, carrying on the leadership on files launched by its Presidency predecessors. It forms the penultimate presidency of the Council before the 2024 European Elections at a time where crucial environmental debates are escalating, with regressive voices growing louder and louder. Amidst this pressure, Spain must drive the European Green Deal and ensure files like the REACH Revision, the Nature Restoration Law and the Sustainable Use of Pesticides Regulation sit firmly on the agenda and commit Europe to progressive change that gives hope to the youth and voters as we head towards the European Parliament elections.”


Spain inherits a legislative portfolio that represents a major opportunity to promote transformative change and secure the EU’s resilience, while also investing in a just transition and social justice. 


Swedish Presidency fell short of expectations

In the context of the triple biodiversity and pollution and climate crises, the advances under the outgoing Swedish presidency were disappointing. The EEB found poor progress across most environmental files, with disappointing performance for health and environment, but with some progress on climate and energy files. 

Little was done on air, water and chemicals pollution, beyond a helpful declaration that the presidency was ready to give time within the Council to the critically important REACH revision on chemicals, whose launch by the Commission has been delayed. There were missed opportunities to advance on air pollution through the Gothenburg Protocol and the now updated Swedish National Air Pollution Control Programme, required under the National Emissions Ceilings, was delivered.

The Nature Restoration Law – the first positive agenda on biodiversity and essential for climate mitigation and adaptation and future agricultural, forestry and fisheries productivity –  barely made it through the Council and only after it was weakened. The Swedish Presidency also did not provide leadership in the Council to advance negotiations on the Sustainable Use of Pesticides Regulation (SUR) proposal, which had been stalled for much of 2023.

“We recognise that the Swedish Presidency, contrary to expectations, largely upheld the tradition of neutral broker on most files, advancing negotiations without pushing its national agenda in the European position with the exception of forests. Especially when it came to final agreements on the crucial Nature Restoration Law, we noticed an unfortunate push from the Swedish Presidency to delay the agreement at the last hour, which in the end required an additional effort of supportive Member States.”


On climate, several important climate and energy files advanced, with agreements reached on:

  • Emission Trading Scheme (ETS and ETS2) 
  • Carbon Border Adjustment Mechanism (CBAM)
  • Social Climate Fund (SCF)
  • Renewable Energy Directive (RED)
  • Energy Efficiency Directive (EED)

However, agreements often came at the cost of weakened provisions. Combined with the insufficient progress on Energy Performance of Buildings Directive (EPBD), the F-Gas regulation and Energy Taxation Directive (ETD), the weaker measures give scant hope that EU commitments to keeping warming to within 1.5 C will be met. Spain must commit to more ambition.

EEB also recognises the high level of engagement and commitment of the Minister for Climate and the Environment, Romina Pourmokhtari, which enabled more progress than feared, though unfortunately at the cost of less ambition.  

Sweden’s reputation as a country committed to progressive environmental legislation and practice has, unfortunately, suffered. 


Notes to editors

Every six months at the rotation of the two EU presidencies, the EEB publishes an assessment of the outgoing Presidency and Ten Green Tests for the incoming presidency.

Read our full Memorandum to the Spanish Presidency here.

The full Assessment of the Swedish Presidency can be found here.

Presidency of the EU: Spain must drive key environmental files, Sweden disappoints
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