New Commission sidelining environment

11 September 2014

The line-up of new European Commissioners nominated to be the European Union's most senior civil servants for the next five years was announced yesterday.

The roles given to the team of 28 representatives – one per EU member country – include significant changes in portfolios compared to the outgoing Commissioners. The responsibilities for climate action and energy have been combined. Five Vice-President positions leading teams of Commissioners have been created, including one with responsibility for 'better regulation', although it is unclear how these will work in practice.

Reacting to the new European Commission line-up, Magda Stoczkiewicz, director of Friends of the Earth Europe, said:
"The European Commission will have a critical role in dealing with the multiple crises Europe is facing over the next five years. Commissioners will be judged on their actions, and we can only hope they perform better than the outgoing Barroso II Commission that has let us down in many important environmental and social areas.

"While climate and energy are inextricably inter-related, there is a real danger that by merging these two departments climate concerns will be side-lined by energy issues. Given the enormity of the climate challenge, it is essential that the new set-up results in coherent, ambitious policy on both climate and energy.

"We hope that the merging of environment and fisheries will mean better protection for oceans and marine biodiversity which is desperately needed, but this will remain to be seen.

"The creation of a First Vice-President position in charge of 'better regulation' is highly alarming. If this signals a strengthened attack on so-called 'red-tape' – which has so far been pushed hardest by the UK – then it could put essential measures to protect people and the environment at risk. Health and safety, environmental protection, labour and consumer standards are not administrative burdens but essential rights of European citizens that must be protected."

Today, Friends of the Earth Europe with the Green10 – the alliance of leading environmental NGOs at EU level, supported by over 20 million EU citizens and active in all 28 Member States – wrote an open letter to President Jean-Claude Juncker to express grave concerns over the direction the EU seems to be taking with the announcement of his new team.

The coalition highlights that 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.

The European Parliament will interview and vote on the proposed Commissioners at the end of this month before their mandate starts on November 1.