Vella’s appointment ‘sparks fear’ among environmental community

BirdLife Europe says Vella’s mandate, as described by Juncker, will be one for “inaction and deregulation… a weakening of EU legislation and policy is on the cards.”

Karmenu Vella: his appointment is not welcomed by the green lobby
Karmenu Vella: his appointment is not welcomed by the green lobby

Maltese commissioner Karmenu Vella is already suffering the brunt of the baggage of his Labour government’s record on wildlife and environmental protection.

BirdLife Europe, who will be watching Vella’s forthcoming overhaul of hunting rules with eagle eyes, said that President Jean-Claude Juncker’s choice for commissioner has “sparked fears” in the environmental community.

BirdLife’s head of EU policy Ariel Brunner said the nomination of the Maltese commissioner to the environment post, coming from a government with a very poor track record on illegal killing of birds, raised serious concerns.

“He will need to convince that he will not be weakening the EU Birds directive in order to satisfy his domestic constituencies. We should not forget that Malta has been condemned for violation of the directive, and that the illegal shooting of migrating birds in Malta is a well-known international scandal.”

Similar questions will be asked on the nomination of Miguel Arias Cañete to the climate and energy portfolio when the Spanish government rolled back climate action in Spain, authorised and strongly pushed the expansion of fossil fuel extraction.

“These choices are worrisome, starting from the general approach: the environment and climate action seems to have been marginalised,” Brunner said. “The climate portfolio, merged with energy and put under the energy vice-president; sustainable development seems to have disappeared from the agenda. Our main fear is that the mandate of the Environment Commissioner will be one for inaction and deregulation. The wording in Juncker’s letter to Vella on nature legislation, the air package and the circular economy seem to suggest that a weakening of EU legislation and policy is on the cards.”

Angelo Caserta, Birdlife Europe Director said Juncker’s choices had raised a number of doubts on the environmental credentials of the new Commission.

“On paper this Commission looks back to a world based on fossil fuels and nature degradation. We sincerely hope that President Juncker will dispel these fears. We also appeal to the European Parliament to intervene and ensure that the new Commission delivers on the environmental objectives.”

BirdLife Europe is a partnership of nature conservation organisations in 49 countries, including all EU Member States, and a leader in bird conservation.