Juncker Commission fails Europeans and their environment

The ‘Green 10’, a collection of 10 environmental NGOs, have sent an open letter to incoming European Commission President Jean Claude Juncker expressing their concerns about these decisions. You can read the full letter below.What a week.

Monday started well as a new EuroBarometer survey showed that 95% of Europeans believe “protecting the environment is important to them and many think more can be done.”

In terms of having a mandate for action, NGOs like IFAW and bodies like the European Commission couldn’t have hoped for better.

Two days later, when the next European Commission was announced, it seemed there was only contempt for Europeans.

The declared structure along with the portfolios of the commissioner-designates for the first time in 25 years will NOT have a commissioner whose sole responsibility is protecting the environment of the EU, upon which we are all entirely dependent.

The mission letter to Environment Commissioner-Designate Vella calls for an ‘overhaul’ of the Birds and Habitats Directives – landmark legislation designed to protect Europe’s ecosystems.

What’s more, there is almost no mention of the environment in the responsibilities of the Vice-Presidents.

Their conclusion is clear.

A further concern is that the proposed commissioner for Climate and Energy is involved in a farm dedicated to raising bulls for bullfights.

He seems to think the best way to protect them is to have them killed for the entertainment of crowds.

Astonishing.

The ‘Green 10’, a collection of 10 environmental NGOs, have sent an open letter to incoming European Commission President Jean Claude Juncker expressing their concerns about these decisions.

We here at IFAW strongly echo those concerns and believe that the EU Commission structure and portfolios should reflect the views of Europeans including:

  • the 95% who believe protecting the environment is important to them and many think more can be done
  • the 84% who want more EU funding to be allocated to supporting environmentally-friendly activities
  • the 77% who believe that environmental problems have a direct effect on their daily lives
  • the 77% who agree that European environmental legislation is necessary
  • the 59% who believe that social and environmental factors should be as important as economic criteria in measuring progress

The next European Commission clearly isn’t listening to its citizens – so who is it listening to?

--SVT

Read the full letter from the Green 10 NGOs to President Juncker below:

Dear President Juncker,

I am writing to you as Chair of the Green 10, the alliance of leading environmental NGOs at EU level, supported by over 20 million EU citizens and active in all 28 Member States, to express our grave concerns over the direction the EU seems to be taking with the announcement of your new team.

The structure of the new Commission, the mission letters, 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.

This would represent a betrayal of the interests of EU citizens, a vast majority of whom feel strongly about the environment. The special Eurobarometer 416 from the 8 September 2014, shows that despite the economic crisis 95% of the 28.000 interviewed citizens said that protecting the environment is important to them personally and that more should be done.

It would also mean downscaling EU ambition precisely in one of the few areas where there is a broad consensus on the usefulness of EU action. And finally, it would destroy Europe’s standing in the world as a pioneer and champion of tackling the global ecological crisis and switching to a green economy.

In particular we are concerned that:

  • The move from a Commissioner with dedicated responsibilities for environment to having this policy area shared with other demanding dossiers represents a clear relegation of environmental issues in the order of political priorities. This is reinforced by the virtual lack of any reference to environment in the responsibilities of the Vice-Presidents.
  • The mandate to the Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Commissioner seems entirely centered on deregulation, asking a review of all current major initiatives underway. It does not mention the need to achieve any EU objectives, let alone take new initiatives;
  • The inclusion in the mandate of orders to consider changing the EU Nature protection legislation, pre-empting the results of the ongoing fitness check, suggests a high level decision to weaken biodiversity protection in the EU. This is even more troubling as the Environment portfolio is given to a Commissioner whose government is under intense international criticism for failing to implement EU bird conservation legislation, which the Commissioner will now be in position to amend.
  • The merging of the climate and energy portfolios and putting this Commissioner under a Vice President for Energy Union could imply thatClimate Action is considered subordinate to energy market considerations.
  • The choice of a Climate and Energy Commissioner with well-known links to the fossil fuel industry raises issues of conflict of interest.
  • The shift of the responsibility for  relations with the European Chemicals Agency, whose job is to protect European citizens from harmful chemicals, from DG Environment to DG Enterprise shows a clear bias towards prioritizing business interests over protection of human health and the environment and flies in the face of the objectives of the REACH Regulation.
  • The fact that sustainable development, resource efficiency and the green economy are not covered at all at Vice-President level implies a Commission that will be operating on the basis of an outdated paradigm of economic growth, one that benefits the industries and jobs of the past over those of the future, and detached from real world constraints and limits.
  • Your promise not to authorize any legislative initiative that is not in line with your priorities, combined with the virtual absence of any environmental priorities, suggests a de-facto shut down of EU environmental policy making

We believe these concerns must be addressed if the European Parliament is to approve this Commission, and more importantly, if this Commission is to respond to the needs and expectations of EU citizens of present and future generations.

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