If you missed Monday 29 September’s European Parliamentary’s confirmation hearings of Malta’s Karmenu Vella I wanted to provide a recap.
He’s been given the reponsibiltiy for both the Environment agenda and Maritime Affairs and Fisheries. A mamouth task made only easier by a seemingly clear signal from the new Commission to do little new on the environmental agenda.
There is little doubt that the grand coalition of the EPP and S&D will confirm Mr Vella.
You can watch Mr Vella’s light cross-examination by MEPs here.
– In his first ten minutes, Vella stated policy-makers had to be business-friendly. He is keen to meet, listen and learn. He acknowledged (some would say he was playing it safe), that his portfolio is broad and that there was a lot he needed to learn about.
– He also said environmentalists, corporations and policy-makers had to work together to come to solutions
– Against expectations, no questions were asked about his past relationships with industry
– Having a combined portfolio merging environment and fisheries is not contradictory. On the opposite, he claims it will make both areas much stronger, combining blue and green growths
– Vella wants the EU to continue to be and further develop as an international superpower on Sustainable Development Goals
– Environment mainstreamed into all EU policies
o To reassure MEPs about his role, his broad portfolio and the way Juncker has envisaged the constitution of this new College, Vella called throughout his hearing for the continued mainstreaming of the environment into all EU policies
o Even if environment and sustainability might not be spelled out in every single mission letters to the Commissioner Designates, it is built into the Treaty and therefore a corner stone of all EU policies and initiatives. he claimed it was “everybody’s responsibility”.
– Implementation of EU regulation
o At several occasions, Commissioner designate Vella was questioned about the poor implementation of EU laws (e.g. Karl Heinz Florenz)
o This issue was also raised in the context of Malta’s own practices. After responding a few times that he was not a Maltese Commissioner but a European Commissioner, and stating that he was well aware of Malta’s issues from his time as Minister for Tourism, he eventually shared with MEPs the number of infringement for the non-respect of EU environmental legislation against Malta compared to other Member States.
o Implementation, enforcement, and taking stock of existing laws will be a key aspect of his responsibilities: “no abuse will be tolerated”. “If Member States do not respect rules, there are two options: shame them or help them”.
– On shale gas, he stressed that it was up to Member States to decide on their energy mix. Member States need to make sure that shale gas is done in the proper way. Before going forward with any specific proposal or action, he prefers to wait and see how Member States are implementing the existing initiatives.
– He will work to continue to implement REACH and thought it was a success with 1,000 substances being evaluated.
– In relation to two questions about endocrine disruptors (Dutch Bas Eickhout and Swedish Jytte Guteland) he seemed to state that this file was now under the management of the Health Commissioner.
– On bees he considered that it was not just chemicals that are killing bees but also monoculture. If confirmed, he will closely work with the Commissioner in charge of Health on this dossier.
– Although less detailed in answering with specifics, he re-enforced his support for the circular economy, the waste package and air pollution.
– Coming from Malta and a fishing village, these issues are very close to his heart
– The implementation of the CFP reform is key and much effort will be dedicated to maintaining momentum:
o Regionalisation is a key tool to guarantee success
o Although difficult to implement, the discard ban needs to be put in place and to deliver
o The fight against IUU will continue. IUU are threatening our stocks and our fishermen. All illegal fishing or hunting (he was referring to birds protection in Europe and in Malta) will be punished.
– At the international level, he called for better governance of fisheries to preserve fishing stocks. The absence of respect of these rules will call for penalisation of countries
– Dutch MEP Bas Eickhout asked how he would deal with ENVI and PECH not agreeing on key issues, like in the past. Vella’s answer was far from clear…