THE FIRST of the Commissioners’ hearings scheduled over the next two weeks, Karmenu Vella’s performance raised serious concerns about the ability of President Juncker’s Commission to play its institutional role of safeguarding environmental protection and promoting sustainable development, despite the general commitment made by Juncker when nominated.
Jorgo Riss Director of Greenpeace EU said: “The Commission started off on the wrong foot. Despite President Juncker’s commitment to put the environment at the top of his Commission’s political agenda, what we heard today raises more concerns than it addresses.
Vella did not display a firm grasp of the dossiers he is meant to take responsibility for. In today’s performance, he failed to convince that he is up to the job of environment, maritime affairs and fisheries commissioner. He did not show understanding of the complexity of environmental issues, ranging from nature and health protection to circular economy, dodging many specific questions and giving vague and general answers. Today’s hearing raises serious doubts not only about the candidate, but also about President Juncker’s commitment to make environmental protection and sustainability central to the new Commission’s work”.
The move from a Commissioner with dedicated responsibilities for environment to having this policy area shared with other demanding dossiers like fisheries and maritime affairs in practice relegates environmental issues in the order of political priorities. Vella’s hearing confirmed these fears. The effective downgrading is reinforced by the virtual lack of any reference to environment in the responsibilities of the Vice-Presidents.
President-elect Juncker has been criticised by a cross-party group of MEPs for failing to structure the new Commission in such a way that sustainable development indeed gets top political attention. So far Juncker has shown no understanding of this criticism. Today’s poor performance by Commissioner Candidate Vella adds further doubts as to whether Juncker’s general commitment to put sustainable development at the top of its political agenda can be taken seriously.
A series of 27 auditions for candidate-commissioners are scheduled between 29 September and 7 October, ahead of the European Parliament’s vote on the overall Commission on 22 October.