Slovak Environment Minister in ENVI Committee

On September 8 2016, the ENVI Committee held an exchange of views with Slovak Minister of Environment, Mr László Sólymoson the priorities and programme of the Slovak Presidency in the area of environment and climate change. Please find below a summary of the discussion.

By Milla Tiganj

12 Sep 2016

Slovak Minister of Environment, Mr László Sólymos stated he is looking forward to working with the European Parliament, in particular with the ENVI Committee. He said that the EU is facing several challenges (refugee crisis etc.), and there are sustainable solutions needed. During the Presidency their focus would be to bring what the citizens expect – concrete results. The aim is also to bring the EU closer to the citizens. They want people to start believing in the EU project. He underlined that Slovakia is since the beginning a great supporter of the EU, as the EU has brought many benefits to them and made them economically and socially stronger. Their aim is to progress during their presidency.

Their ambition is to deliver on four main priorities, namely, an economically strong Europe, a modern single market, sustainable migration and asylum policies and a globally engaged Europe.

In addition, their work will be driven by three interconnected principles, i.e. achieving tangible results – the aim is to demonstrate to EU citizens that joint European projects have a practical impact on improving their quality of life; overcoming fragmentation – they will seek to achieve results which help connect Member States more closely within the single market; and focusing on the citizen – the ability to deliver specific results and overcome fragmentation is the key to bringing the Union closer to its citizens. The Slovak Presidency aims to restore citizens' confidence in the common European project, he highlighted.

Furthermore, Minister Sólymos turned to an explanation of the priorities related to environment and climate change.

He noted that the Presidency organised an event on September 7 in Bratislava on the topic of greening . 32 countries attended the event. He understands the green economy as a great opportunity and the possibility to overcome the crisis and to save the resources as well. During the event they managed to develop a broad platform on the transformation towards a greener economy. They had an opportunity to exchange views with different parties (stakeholders, policy makers from all levels, financial institutions etc.). They also had the opportunity to think about possible financial resources and the obstacles that prevent the move towards the green economy .

However, the result of the conference showed that everything is available to help us to move towards greening (statistical data, information on energy union and circular economy), but what is missing is the regular possibility to discuss the results of these partial assisting mechanisms which would help to assess the progress towards a greener economy. They concluded that this so-called " Bratislava greening process" has to be followed up and that a regular exchange of the views needs to occur on the progress.

Moreover, he stressed the most important topics they will deal with during their Presidency, i.e.:

1.Climate change

Firstly, they will work in the EU area and they will proceed on the approval of the Paris agreement. Ratification of the Paris agreement is high on not just the European, but also the international agenda. Ratification of this agreement by China and the US last week indicates that this agreement could be ratified by the end of 2016. The ratification on the European level was also a subject of discussion at July's Council in Bratislava, where the ministers have agreed that this ratification needs to occur as soon as possible. He stressed that this ratification needs to be done both at the EU level and the level of Member States. He underlined that the Presidency will do their best to speed up and facilitate the ratification.

The Presidency's goal is to complete the work on the current ETS proposal and to discuss two related legislative proposals from the European Commission, namely the proposal on the sectors not included in the Emissions Trading System and the proposal on the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions related to land use, land-use change and forestry. He would like to discuss these issues at the October Environmental Council and start a discussion on the roadmap.

As the climate change is of significant importance, they are organising several meetings and events on this topic. They will also try to attend as many international events as possible (for example a conference in Morocco).

The aim of the presidency is to meet the EU commitments and maintain the Paris dynamics and make sure that the Paris agreement comes to force as soon as possible. In these terms the presidency will provide necessary preparations for the further implementation of the agreement once ratified.

They are also working on post 2020 legislation, as it is important to push the countries to take the measures that they have approved in Paris. The Presidency will also attend the ICAO meeting in Montreal.

1.Circular economy

On these particular files, the Minister noted that they intend to achieve progress. He sees the circular economy proposals as something that drives the EU towards a green economy. He is aware that the transition to a circular economy will require a lot of commitments in all sectors and all levels of governments and member states. The circular economy can help the EU to overcome the crisis and become a real global leader that will be able to reconcile economic, social and environmental development.

They will strengthen the cooperation between relevant partners from various sectors, as it is very important to reach broad political agreement.

1.Protection of natural resources

He emphasised that the Commission will soon publish the results of an assessment of effectiveness of the tools for the nature protection and biodiversity. The results of this assessment of directive on birds will show what progress has been achieved and what has to be improved in the future.

In this respect he invited the MEPs to come to an expedition in Brussels (September 19).

1.Integrated water management related to climate change

In this field, the Presidency is mainly focused on water scarcity and droughts, as well as floods that are somehow happening more often recently. They consider the integrated management as a highly important topic related to the protection of water resources in Europe. This was also debated in July's Council, he said, by adding that the results of the Council will be also included in the Council Conclusions on this matter.

Outside these four main priorities in the area of environment and climate change, the Slovak Presidency will also continue the work on other ongoing files, such as chemical substances, ratification of the Minamata convention on Mercury, cooperate with the Parliament on EURO 5/6 about the emissions from transport etc.

Finally, he underlined also some important international events, such as the COP22 in Morocco on climate change and the meeting on substances that damage the ozone (October, Ruanda).

The Minister assured that the EU and member states will be presented at all the important international events, like the upcoming 17 th meeting of CITES , convention on Biodiversity (December) etc.

He concluded by saying that they have a lot of ambitions. He expressed the hope to cooperate with the MEPs on the files on environment and other issues. They want to make a change for EU citizens and bring back the trust into the EU.

Peter Liese (EPP, DE) called on the Presidency to ratify the Paris agreement as soon as possible. He welcomed the strong sense of commitment of the Presidency, in particular to bring back the trust into the EU and to satisfy their expectation on environmental policy as the member states cannot do much on their own.

He continued by saying that the EPP is very much in favour of free certificates for trading emissions to be increased. If the Parliament manages to adopt such a position, it would be great if the Council could proceed in this regard.

On the Paris agreement he added that the EU should cooperate closely with China and the US in order to fill in the gaps. The EU cannot work on its own and a joint approach is necessary.

As it concerns the air traffic and upcoming ICAO meeting in Montreal, he said that there is going to be a market mechanism for air traffic following the discussion from last year. The latter brought big disappointment across the entire political spectrum, as they believe the proposal would not help the climate. The representatives of the EU in Montreal should convey necessary messages very clearly, he said.

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