Dods EU Briefing: Missing Commission proposals on the Environment

ENVI committee raises question of missing environmental proposals

By Dods EU monitoring

26 Sep 2014

Please note that this does not constitute a formal record of the proceedings of the meeting. It is dependent on interpretation and acts as an unofficial summary of the debate.

On September 24, the ENVI Committee heard an oral question from Bas Eickhout (Greens/EFA, NL) to the Commission on missing Commission proposals in the field of the environment. Please find below a summary of the subsequent debate.

Oral question by Bas Eickhout (Greens/EFA, NL) on Missing COM proposals

Bas Eickhout (Greens/EFA, NL) explained that the Oral question comes as a follow-up to the meeting with Commissioner Potočnik on the fate of different legislative or political initiatives that are due, namely access to justice, environment inspection, sustainable food consumption and a strategy on endocrine disrupters. Commissioner Potočnik explained that the material is ready, but so far the Parliament has not seen it. All these proposals are also mentioned in the Commission work programme, Eickhout added. He recalled that the Parliament adopted several resolutions and reports on these matters. So, somehow, the proposals are being blocked. The Greens/EFA group is asking what the situation is and what is hampering the Commission from coming forward with these proposals. He continued by explaining that in the 7th Environment Action Programme (7th EAP), which is EU law, it is said that one of the priority objectives is for EU citizens to have access to justice on environmental matters and also mentions requirement relating to inspections. This requires the adoption of binding criteria. Furthermore, on endocrine disrupters, the Commission is expected to develop and implement an approach to addressing safety concerns related to endocrine disrupters in all relevant EU legislation. Therefore, the question is: what is taking so long? To whom the 7th EAP is not binding? Maybe next time the Committee might need to have the Secretary General to respond to the ENVI Committee, he concluded.

The representative from the Commission confirmed that the services of the Commission follow along the lines of the 7th EAP as adopted by the institutions. The Commission follows the lines not only generally but in details in respect of the different initiatives within it. The Commission has followed up on it and on these four proposals.

In respect to access to justice and environment inspections, the services have prepared the necessary initiative and the Impact Assessments. These have also undergone the scrutiny of the Impact Assessment board of the Commission.

On food waste, the Commission has adopted this summer a package on the revision of the waste policy and targets of the EU. This Communication was prepared by the Commission services but it was finally not part of the package. The representative drew attention to the fact that better measuring of food waste has been included in the waste review proposal. All the others initiatives are being prepared by the Commission services.

As for endocrine disrupters, he confirmed that the preparatory work has been performed by the services of the Commission and sometimes going beyond the boundaries of the Commission with contributions of EFSA and the JRC which brought in necessary data for the scientific aspect for the determination of the criteria on endocrine disrupters. Broadly, the work has been done and the work on the content has been done.

However, at least some of the four proposals were not included formally in the Commission work programme for 2014, at least not in the first section of the work programme which is considered by the Commission as being binding. For the adoption of an initiative, two elements have to be met, the technical preparation and the political decision, he explained. The technical preparation and the content are broadly ready. Now a political decision needs to be taken to bring them forward.

To conclude, he explained that it would be unrealistic to say that this decision could be taken by the end of this Commission term. Following their adoption, the Committee will have its turn to scrutinise on these initiatives.

Bart Staes (Greens/EFA, BE), focusing on food products, explained that in April 2013, the Commission announced that it would bring a Communication on sustainable food policy, not just on food waste, by the end of 2013 or at the beginning of 2014 at the latest. Just before the elections, it was said that it would be adopted by the Commission on May 7. Presumably, pressure from the Secretary General and President Barroso meant that it was taken off the agenda, to avoid having these issues affecting the campaign. The Commission came out with a circular economy communication with a few points on food waste. But the Communication was as not forthcoming on the other topics. Nine months later, the excuse is that there are only a few weeks before the new Commission. He explained that there has been a public consultation and a resolution of the Parliament in 2012. Everything is ready. He therefore could not understand why the Commission does not dare to publish these documents. He questioned what authorities are blocking the initiatives, and the Secretary General of the Commission, or even President Barroso, should be summoned to the Committee.

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