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Gabriel blames conservatives for failure of environmental rulebook

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Gabriel blames conservatives for failure of environmental rulebook
Photo: DPA
12:46 CET+01:00
Environment Minister Sigmar Gabriel of the Social Democrats (SPD) launched an angry broadside against coalition partners Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and its Bavaria CSU allies on Sunday for blocking the long-planned environmental rulebook in this legislative period.

“Germany will be without a simple, transparent, un-bureaucratic environmental protection law for the foreseeable future,” Gabriel said in Berlin. The project has been scuppered by “the dumb aversion to reform and blind blockade politics of the CDU,” Gabriel said.

The proposed law was agreed by the federal government, but will not be allowed to proceed into the legislative process in this parliamentary period, after a final attempt to agree terms with the Bavarian government failed this week.

The rulebook, which was first conceived in Germany by a group of environmental law professors in 1990, has experienced an agonising gestation period, with industry interests and constitutional concerns continually blocking its path.

In 1997, an independent report commissioned by then Environment Minister Angela Merkel of the CDU proposed an environmental rulebook encompassing 775 paragraphs. By 1999, when the Environment Ministry was in the hands of the Green Party, one part of a rulebook was proposed regulating the permissions and control law for industrial plants. Constitutional concerns blocked its path.

The 2005 coalition contract between the CDU and the SPD included a paragraph stating “German environmental law should be simplified and put into an environmental rulebook (UGB),” to be passed into law in 2009.

But in recent months it has become clear that the project will once again be obstructed, partly because of a 2006 federal reform that gives the states more environmental power.

Peter Struck, leader of the SPD parliamentary group, this month proposed omitting certain proposals from the rulebook to help it through parliament before the election in September, but that too appears to have failed, much to the disappointment of environmental groups.

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