In a letter addressed to Europe's environment ministers meeting in Brussels this week, the European Environmental Bureau - largest federation of environmental citizens' organisations in the EU - is calling for a much higher ambition level on the Thematic Strategies on Air Pollution, Waste and the Sustainable Use of Natural Resources. The EEB is also urging the Environment Council of Thursday 9 March to move forward swiftly with key environmental tax reform plans, as well as to ensure urgent flood risk management measures across the EU to fulfil the requirements of the Water Framework Directive.

On the eve of the Environment Council, the EEB and the Austrian Environment Minister Josef Pröll are co-hosting tomorrow a discussion between European Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas and EU environment ministers, specifically to discuss the Sustainable Development Strategy.

The EEB considers the proposed strategy - due for adoption at the June European Summit - to lack a clear vision and clear targets. The strategy should contain much bolder new policy initiatives if the economic, social and environmental objectives of the Lisbon process are to be simultaneously achieved. Launching a major public procurement campaign to boost the use of energy-efficient products and services, for example, and taking a more critical attitude to biofuel use in the EU, are just two of the EEB's requests. John Hontelez, Secretary General of the EEB, said today: " We very much look forward to an open and concrete dialogue with Europe 's environment ministers. Clear leadership is needed from them on the urgent initiatives the EEB is proposing, such as environmental taxation reform in all EU Member States. Another key element should be an agreement on effective instruments for accelerating the uptake of eco-innovations - such as performance targets for major product groups, and levies or subsidies to steer market uptake. In addition we insist on priority attention being given to green public procurement across the Union ".

Thursday's Environment Council will also debate GMO policy in the EU. The EEB urges ministers to ensure that risk assessment requirements of EU legislation on GMOs are strictly implemented, coupled with full transparency and public access to data. Member State concerns should be taken carefully into account by both the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the European Commission, before the authorisation process of GMOs in Europe is taken any further. Regarding the discussion on the Thematic Strategy on Air Pollution, the EEB thinks Member States must commit to more environmental protection by raising the ambition level. Kerstin Meyer, EEB Policy Officer for Air, said: "Considering the devastating health effects of air pollution, it is irresponsible if Member States are not prepared to push for further reductions. The problems with meeting current requirements should not be used as an excuse. A recent EEB report shows that this is due to acting too late and investing insufficiently in protection policies - Members States' current plans risk remaining paper tigers because they are underfinanced".