BirdLife Europe: ‘Vella fails hearing’ • Socialists: ‘promising performance’, EPP send positive signs

Birdlife Europe and European Environment Bureau call for rejection of environment commissioner-designate Karmenu Vella

BirdLife Europe: “Juncker and Vella must get this message loud and clear: we cannot support this Commission.”
BirdLife Europe: “Juncker and Vella must get this message loud and clear: we cannot support this Commission.”

Karmenu Vella has failed to impress Europe's main environmental groups, conservationists BirdLife Europe and the 140 organisations from the EEB federation, that he is the man to lead Europe's environment commission.

Ariel Brunner, head of EU Policy at Birdlife Europe said Vella was “vague, evasive and often inaccurate” in his replies to MEPs during his three-hour grilling by three parliamentary committees.

“Claiming that there is no need for a Vice President on sustainability because the issue is 'self evident' is naive and ultimately unsustainable.” Brunner said. “Blue fin tuna quotas are not politically determined? Gold cannot be extracted without cyanide? Malta has less infringements on nature directives than Germany - how about adjusting by country size? The Birds Directive must be reviewed because it’s being interpreted in the Courts just like any other law? I don’t think we can feel reassured in any way by his performance.”

Pieter Depous, EU Policy director at the European Environmental Bureau, said: “Either Vella was not allowed to make any commitments during his hearing or he did not have sufficient knowledge to do so. Either way the conclusions for the Environment Committee should be crystal clear. They cannot let him pass if they want the European Parliament to be taken seriously in the next 5 years.”

Angelo Caserta, Director of Birdlife Europe concluded: “No one expects a new commissioner to be on top of all the dossier, but they should at least to show ambition and determination to tackle environmental issues. Vella clearly failed on this front.

“If you add to that the fact that Juncker has essentially ignored both the appeal of the environmental community and that of the members of Parliament, starting from his President Schulz, to assign sustainability to one into his Vice-Presidents it is clear to me that this Commissioner must be rejected, to force Juncker to reconsider his approach. Juncker and Vella must get this message loud and clear: we cannot support this Commission.”

Socialists & Democrats welcome Vella's performance

Maltese Commissioner-designate Karmenu Vella gave a convincing performance at a European Parliament hearing today in Brussels, the S&D group said.

Following Vella's hearings the S&D Group said it was confident that Vella will boost the EU agenda on environment, fisheries and maritime policy and also help raise the political profile of the new Commission.

"I was glad to hear that Commissioner-designate Vella has a very balanced approach to sustainable development. Although it was initially unclear what the link between his environment and fisheries portfolio would be, he has clearly underlined that for him fisheries is not only a matter of conservation, but also of jobs and the economic viability of coastal regions. Our fears have been dissipated. Furthermore, his ambition to develop existing and new activities at sea in order to unleash the potential of blue growth sounds promising and balanced with regard to sustainability," S&D Vice-president Isabelle Thomas said.

"Commissioner-designate Vella was convincing in today's hearing by committing to an agenda which addresses the key priority issues of sustainability, resource efficiency and the green economy. He gave also encouraging answers on the Bird and Habitat directive.  I am glad that environmental policy will not take a back seat, although we call on Mr Juncker to appoint a Vice-President responsible for environment. We are looking forward to put these commitments to work, to ensure that our goals lead not only to the protection of the environment, but to new jobs linked to the idea of a green economy," Matthias Groote, S&D spokesperson on environmental policy, said.

"After today's hearing, I am confident that Commissioner-designate Vella will implement the reform of the Common Fisheries Policy in spirit and letter. Future legislation should not be used to weaken the discard ban or to divert from the MSY-principle (maximum sustainability yield). Moreover, close consultation with all stakeholders, and most importantly fishermen, is vital in order to base the implementing legislation on a broad consensus that is supported by all those who will be affected by it," Ulrike Rodust, S&D spokesperson on fisheries policy, said.

EPP reaction

The European People's Party, the political bloc of which the PN forms part, appears to be supporting Vella's nomination, although it said Vella must be committed to the implementation of and future action on EU legislation.

"The EU must keep its leading role in environmental and maritime standards. Commissioner-Designate Karmenu Vella must be committed to the implementation of and future action on EU legislation. There is a lot to do. Clean air, efficient use of resources and the current Seventh EU Environment Action Programme," the EPP said.

On the EU Birds Directive, the EPP called for the enforcement of existing legislation. "The Commissioner-Designate must keep a firm grip on the implementation of the EU Birds Directive, and also in his home country, Malta.”

Turning to the fisheries portfolio, the EPP said Vella's priority should be the implementation of the recently-agreed reform of the Common Fisheries Policy.

"Putting the EU firmly on the path of a sustainable fishing sector and fishing communities must be the top priority for Mr Vella," the EPP said.