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Brussels Purge: New EU Leaders Neuter Green Lobby

Dave Keating, European Voice

Business groups have welcomed Juncker’s new streamlined Commission structure, but green campaigners have decried the loss of dedicated environment and climate commissioners. The elimination of a dedicated environment portfolio has come as a genuine shock to green groups.

Jean-Claude Juncker’s decision to group commissioners into teams serving under a vice-president has been welcomed by some interest groups, and derided by others.

Environmental campaigners are furious with the new organisation, while industry groups say it will avoid disjointed or conflicting policies and will reduce red tape.

Juncker has grouped energy, climate and environment portfolios together serving under Alenka Bratušek, the vice-president for Energy Union. Within this subject area, he has merged four existing commissioner posts into two. Energy and climate, which are currently two separate portfolios, have been combined into one post to be held by Miguel Arias Cañete from Spain. Environment and fisheries, previously two separate posts, have been merged into one to be held by Karmenu Vella from Malta.

The remaining commissioners on the team will be Ireland’s Phil Hogan as agriculture commissioner, Romania’s Corina Creţu as regional policy commissioner and Portugal’s Carlos Moedas as research, science and innovation commissioner.

Rumours of the intention to combine the climate and energy portfolios have been sparking alarm among environmentalists for weeks. But the elimination of a dedicated environment portfolio came as a genuine shock to green groups.

Today (11 September) the ‘Green 10’ – an alliance of European environmental NGOs – sent a letter to Juncker saying his restructuring decisions suggest a “de-facto shut down of EU environmental policymaking.”

The campaign groups say that placing these commissioners under a vice-president for energy union “could imply that climate action is considered subordinate to energy market considerations”. Only vice-presidents will be able to put policy proposals onto the Commission’s agenda according to Juncker’s new system. The campaigners say there is a “virtual lack of any reference to environment in the responsibilities of the vice-presidents”.

“The biggest change is the structural blocks put on any new legislative activity,” says Tony Long, director of campaign group WWF. “Every avenue is blocked because it all has to go through a vice-president and then a first vice-president.”

The campaigners say the mandate letter sent by Juncker to Vella indicates that the commissioner’s role will be an agenda of environmental deregulation. […]

However business groups say the new structure will eliminate inefficiencies that were causing confusing and inconsistent policy indications in the previous commission. For instance, Connie Hedegaard and Gunther Oettinger, the commissioners for climate action and energy respectively, battled on most issues and their departments were sometimes telling stakeholders conflicting things.

Markus Beyrer, director-general of BusinessEurope, described Juncker’s reorganisation as a “courageous approach for a streamlined structure of the new Commission.”

“This underlines the clear aim to focus on the crucial priorities necessary to make Europe more competitive in order to deliver more growth and more jobs,” he said. […]

The mandate given to Corina Creţu, who is to be the regional development commissioner, has also sparked some concern among environmental groups. The Barroso commission earmarked €38 billion from the regional funds to be tied to climate action, and also tied funding to resource efficiency. Juncker’s letter seems to suggest that this will no longer be the case.

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