The EU on the environmental path
The European Union (EU) is a local political and economic union between 28 member-states. However, apart from its domestic political significance it is also considered as an important international actor, which participates in the ongoing debates concerned with number of issues. These issues go beyond traditional security and economic threats along with questions posed to the members of such international organizations as the United Nations (UN). Thus, apart from negotiation or evaluation of traditional threats, such matters as environmental problems, poverty, illiteracy ect. became an important part of global and international political agenda. As a result of increasing public concern and awareness of the ecological problems, the “politicization” of environmental agenda impacted on creation of number of international and regional resolutions to be involved into daily politics of states.
The EU ratified the UN treaties on the environmental protection and adopted its own regulations to comply with them and consequently create its own environmental policies. In other words, the main aim of the EU was to become a global leader in advancing this field. Thus, in 1980s there was an increasing wave of environmentalism, with inclusion of “green” parties to the empowered European Parliament (Hey 2005, 22), along with increased interest in completion of the single market agenda in Europe (Yesilada and Wood 2010, 43). Thus, enhancing similar environmental standards, increased public access on the agenda-setting process in the EU institutions, and international political trends were the main reasons for environmental direction of the EU politics.
Nevertheless, there existed other issues underlying the great start of the environmental programs and treaties. To be specific, harmonization of trade, production and environmental standards, along with their compliance with international treaty requirements created large debate among member states and their following disagreements with the EU supranational institutions on the matter of homogeneous intra-EU environmental standards. However, at the same time the EU remained as a successful actor in implementation of international treaties. Therefore the following question arises:
What can explain why the EU is more influential as a global environmental actor and not as an intra-EU promoter of high environmental standards?
The proposed hypothesis is that the EU member-states are more successful and prefer to act as independent political units when it comes to comply with the international environmental standards due to the fact that their citizens are not willing to exercise their powers given by elections to such supranational institutions as Parliament. When the matter of intra-EU decision-making occurs, including presence of both supranational and intergovernmental institutions, there are vast disagreements among the member-states with the EU bodies. Therefore,...