European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has addressed criticism that he wasn’t giving sustainability and environmental issues enough of a priority by handing responsibility to First Vice President Frans Timmermans (pictured).
The Dutch Labour Party Politician is effectively the second in command to Jean-Claude Juncker along with High Representative Federica Mogherini and is responsible for better regulation, inter-institutional relations, the rule of law and the Charter of Fundamental Rights.
It is not yet clear how this new structure will work with Jean-Claude Juncker previously giving this responsibility to Vice President for Jobs, Growth, Investment and Competitiveness Jyrki Katainen. Karmenu Vella is the Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Commissioner and Miguel Arias Canete the Climate Action and Energy Commissioner further down the structure.
A number of MEPs and green groups had criticised Jean-Claude Juncker for giving few mentions of sustainability and environmental issues in his mission letters to the designate Commissioners. He also asked Karmenu Vella to review the resource efficiency package voted for by MEPs in July to assess it impact on jobs and growth. It is unclear whether this review is to continue.
Speaking ahead of a vote in which the European Parliament is expected to ratify the Juncker Commission that will begin on 1 November, Jean-Claude Juncker said to MEPs: “The hearings have revealed a broad consensus around the team that I have proposed. You have, however, also expressed some concerns – during the hearings and in your contacts with me. I am ready to swiftly address the issues that you identified as relevant to the functioning of the new Commission.”
On sustainable development, in what appears to be a softening of this approach, he added: “I have decided to enlarge Frans Timmermans’ remit to include the horizontal responsibility for sustainable development. As you know, sustainable development is a principle enshrined in EU Treaties (Article 3 TEU) and should thus be taken into account by all institutions in all their actions and policies.
“It is also part of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights for which Frans is horizontally in charge. Sustainability and environmental concerns are important to our citizens. We have the tools to address them in the new Commission with powerful green portfolios that have big budgets and regulatory teeth.”