European Commission President-elect Jean-Claude Juncker proposed, on September 10th 2014, his Commissioner’s lineup and a revamping of the college organigram. His lineup has been called controversial by many, including the environmental campaigners.
In short, as Martin Harper from the RSPB/BirdLife UK rightly says “If you care about anything other than economic growth, his agenda makes miserable reading”. So, after merging DG Environment and DG Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, what is actually at stake for the marine environment in this new commission?
- Environmental deregulation, starting with the Bird’s and Habitat’s directives: This means EU will fail to establish a connected marine Natura 2000 network through full designation and proper management in the next 5 years – possibly ending the whole notion of a functional “Natura 2000 network”. Commissioner-designate Vella is asked to overhaul and consider merging and “modernising” the Birds and Habitats Directives – basically code words to lower the level of nature protection in the EU. In a time that where the EU is still failing to achieve its biodiversity target and to live up to its international commitment, this is a ridiculous mandate.
- Lack of implementation of policies, including the Common Fisheries Policy: New regulations that need to be proposed such as the Data Collection Framework Regulation and the Technical Conservation Measures Regulation might fail to come into existence, be massively delayed, or just not be fit for purpose. The Vice Presidents need to back any new regulation. However, none of them have a mandate to uphold a sustainable Europe, let alone a sustainable fisheries sector. Furthermore, the First Vice President is also responsible for further scrutinising all legislation proposed to fit with the political priorities (e.g. growth, jobs, and monetary reform), adding another level of filtering of would be needed legislation.
- Not achieve Good Environmental Status of European seas by 2020: In order to see this through, the European Commission will need to sit on Member States to deliver ambitious targets, programmes of measure and monitoring programmes. However, there is little incentive for the Commissioner-designate Vella to do so. His mandate does not mention the need to actually achieve any already agreed EU objectives (i.e. the targets in the Marine Strategy Framework Directive).
At this point, the only option is for the European Parliament to step up its game and ask to:
- Establish a Vice-President for Sustainability,
- Upgrade the Vice-President for Energy Union to a Vice-President for ‘Climate Action and Energy Union’
- Ensure the Environment portfolio is reinstated
- Resolve potential conflicts of interest
Bruna Campos, EU Marine and Fisheries Policy Officer at BirdLife Europe