Interview with Brinkhorst, Laurens Jan

From the The European Commission 1986-2000. Memories of an institution Collection

Identity Statement

HAEU Reference Code
Interview Informations

Recorded in 24 April 2017 The Hague
Interview by Jan-Henrik Meyer in English

Access Level
Open Transcript, Open Audio

Electronic File



In this interview, Laurens Jan Brinkhorst discussed the following topics:
- childhood, international travel and language learning, education, law studies in Leiden and at Columbia University;
- becoming a European in the US, working at Shearman & Sterling law firm in New York for Citybank;
- invitation to come back to Leiden to build up Common Market Law Review, creating field of European Law, associate professor in Leiden at age 28, chair of European Law in Groningen;
- family background, joining D66 party right after its foundation, political career;
- previous invitations to join Commission, going to Japan in 1982, activities in Japan, “Poitiers case” trade negotiations, industrial cooperation with Japan, exchange programmes with Japan;
- becoming Director-General for Environment, D66 and environmental concern, Club of Rome, resources, “never a specialist”, extraordinary professor of environmental law 1989 in Leiden, SEA and environment, national experts, alliance with Danish, German and Dutch environmental ministries, creating “Environmental Policy Review Group”, temporary national experts from national ministries, passion and motivation of the officials, 1970s emergence of the policy, heads of unit;
- summing up 7 years as DG environment: internally: standards for the Single Market, internationally: leadership: The four big conventions: Biodiversity diversity, Climate change, the Chemical convention, Basle Convention on the dangerous waste and the Ozone layer, EC capacity to legislate important for environmental policy, negotiations with member states about environmental objectives e.g. road building in Spain, nuclear safety after Chernobyl, Chernobyl directive, attitude to nuclear power, founding Europe Environmental Agency,
Fourth Environmental Action Programme, hooked on Single Market programme, becoming a leader, creating the 5th action programme with Green Paper, Habitats directive and consequences, Carbon Tax Proposal, alternative example of US SO2 trading, model for Carbon Cap and Trade, SAVE directive, Climate Change: Rio 1992 CO2 reduction Framework only for developed countries, environmental NGO as allies;
- European Parliament, Hemmo J. Muntingh, European Environmental Bureau, interservice consultation, absence of support by other DGs, World Business Council, Green images in industry;
- MEP, Rapporteur for budget 1997;
- Professor of European Environmental Law in Leiden until 1999;
- Minister of agriculture, tough decisions nitrates directives, foot and mouth disease, Minister of economic affairs, extend nuclear energy in Holland;
- typical working week as DG, morning meeting with directors and advisors, travelling, negotiations, mode of working with staff, recruitment;
- newspapers, languages;
- events: Chernobyl, reverse subsidiarity
- agenda setting by the member states, memorable officials, Commissioners;
- private papers still in store.

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