European environmental NGOs concerned about Juncker’s new direction for the EC
On 10 September European Commission President-elect Jean-Claude Juncker announced his team for the new European Commission. As set out in his Political Guidelines, Juncker has set out to streamline the EC. Significantly, this has involved the combining of the Environment and Maritime Affairs and Fisheries portfolios, under Karmenu Vella, and there will now also be one Commissioner in charge of both Climate Action and Energy policy, namely Miguel Arias Cañete.
Under Juncker’s new system, the College will have seven Vice-Presidents, each leading a project team. The new Environment and Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Commissioner and the new Climate Action and Energy Commissioner will fall under the Energy Union, led by Vice-President Alenka Bratušek. The Vice-presidents will steer the Commissioners and will also have the power to stop members of their team from bringing legislative proposals to the college.
Concern has been voiced by an alliance of European environmental NGOs – the ‘Green 10’ – about the new direction that Juncker has set for the EC. In an open letter, the Chair of the Green 10 Angelo Caserta, Regional Director of BirdLife Europe, stated: “The structure of the new Commission… and the choice of Commissioners all reveal a serious downgrading of environment and a roll back of EU commitments to sustainable development, resource efficiency, air quality, biodiversity protection and climate action.”
In his Mission letter to Karmenu Vella, Juncker has asked Vella to focus on carrying out an in-depth evaluation on the Birds and Habitats directives and “assess the potential for merging them into a more modern piece of legislation.” The Green 10 state in their letter to Juncker that this could potentially weaken biodiversity protection in the EU.
Over the coming weeks Juncker’s team of Commissioners will undergo hearings. This is an opportunity for the Commissioners to present their ideas and visions for their areas of responsibility and allow the European Parliament to pose questions to the Commissioners ahead the final European Parliament vote on the new Commission on 21 October.