Parliament splinters over commission work programme

Written by Julie Levy-Abegnoli on 15 January 2015 in News

MEPs fail to reach agreement on joint resolution on commission work programme.

The European commission's 2015 work programme is expected to go ahead without any input from parliament, after groups were unable to agree on the wording of a joint resolution.

Team Juncker was heavily criticised by MEPs when it unveiled its plans last December, due to proposals to withdraw legislation on clean air and waste.

S&D group vice-president Enrique Guerrero Salom said, "we expect the commission to deliver in 2015 on air quality".

Philippe Lamberts, co-president for the Greens/EFA group, accused the commission of "sharpening its knives to cut a number of important legislative proposals", imploring the college to "fight tooth and nail" to ensure laws on air pollution were not scrapped.

Bas Eickhout, treasurer for the group, said, "it seems the Juncker commission is rather 'big for big corporations'". 

"Euroscepticism is not caused by ambitious EU legislation on cleaner air, a more resource efficient economy creating jobs, or better protection of pregnant workers" - Bas Eickhout

He added, "Euroscepticism is not caused by ambitious EU legislation on cleaner air, a more resource efficient economy creating jobs, or better protection of pregnant workers".

Eickhout warned that "putting these proposals into question or delaying them will only confirm those claiming that the EU puts industry lobby interests before the public interest".

He called on the commission to "make sustainability and social progress guiding principles in 2015".

Before the breakdown of the talks, Catherine Bearder, who is ALDE's shadow rapporteur on national emissions ceilings, stressed that "environmental legislation must not be dropped or watered down - the parliament must stand firm on this".

ECR deputy Vicky Ford said, "yes, we share wider objectives - higher living standards, the environment, opportunity, equality - but we need strong economies to deliver this, the economy must come first".

Clearly these objectives were not enough to bring the groups together, as negotiations collapsed after the EPP, ECR and S&D groups dropped out.

An EPP spokesperson reportedly told MRW (Materials Recycling World) that the group pulled out of negotiations because it believes groups "should let the commission work".

It is unclear, then, what exactly parliament's role in the legislative process should be.

"Environmental legislation must not be dropped or watered down - the parliament must stand firm on this" - Catherine Bearder

GUE/NGL president Gabi Zimmer explained, "as there was no common ground possible with the other groups, we will put forward our own resolution tomorrow where we will criticise Juncker's new investment plan, which is nothing more than fantasy because it will not bring us out of the crisis".

A representative for ALDE said a resolution could have gained a majority, had the S&D group aligned itself with the liberals and the greens.

Each group brought forward its own text in plenary, however, none of the resolutions were adopted as they did not win a sufficient majority.

Nevertheless, most MEPs urged the commission not to drop draft legislation on air quality.

Bas Eickhout described the vote as "a shambles [that] reflects poorly on the European parliament", adding, "the message the European commission must take from this vote is that these proposals must be maintained". 

An EPP spokesperson said, "the group voted against the resolutions on the commission's work programme because we fully support the work programme that was presented by the commission".

A joint position on the work programme might have changed the commission's mind regarding its plans for clean air legislation, however, Juncker's team does not need parliament's approval in order to go ahead with its proposals.


About the author

Julie Levy-Abegnoli is a journalist and editorial assistant for the Parliament Magazine


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