Environment committee blasts commission over circular economy

MEPs have called on the European commission to reverse its decision to withdraw a group of waste management proposals.

By Mate Csicsai

22 Jan 2015

The environment committee of the European parliament has held a heated debate on the circular economy package. The group of waste management proposals controversially withdrawn by the commission despite vocal opposition from MEPs, ministers and civil society.

In the absence of environment, maritime affairs and fisheries commissioner Karmenu Vella, members had the commission's director-general for environment, Karl Falkenberg listen to their often strongly-worded criticism.

While Falkenberg reaffirmed the commission's commitment to table a "more ambitious" proposal this year, he failed to detail the concrete changes planned. MEPs were quick to pick up on this and accused the decision of being politically motivated and a result of pressure from business.

Parliament's political groups were unanimous in condemning the decision and demanded that Vella and vice-president Frans Timmermans appear in front of the committee and provide real reasoning rather than echoing the general slogan of "better regulation".

Despite the commission's pledge that work conducted so far will be taken into account, and the argument that the new targets will only have to be reached by 2030 therefore the re-tabling is not a loss of time.

MEPs were clear in their call for Jean-Claude Juncker to reverse his decision, with the atmosphere in the room best summed up by Green MEP Margrete Auken, who sent a Danish proverb as a message to the commission president, saying, "The noble art of losing face may someday save the human race".

Following the debate, a public hearing was also held with representatives of industry and civil society, where participants joined the widespread criticism of the withdrawal. While industry representatives all had their own opinions on what should be changed, they argued that these modifications should be made during the negotiations between parliament and council, as is the case with all draft legislation.

Both decision makers and stakeholders are mostly concerned by not understanding the changes the commission intends to make to the legislative proposals.

The circular economy package aims at improving waste management and increasing resource efficiency across the EU to move towards a sustainable model of economy and draw on the job creation potential of the green sector.

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