The European Parliament’s Commissioner Hearings

The new European Commission will officially take office … but not on the planned date of 1 November 2019!  This delay should not be viewed in a negative light; rather it is a sign of democracy working. The hearings for the individual Commissioners nominated for the new European Commission were held in October. They can all be viewed on the European Parliament’s website in all 23 community languages. Their interest lies not so much in how well the nominees managed to “defend” themselves against the MEPs’ questions, but rather in order to understand what their priorities will be in the overall context of the policies set out by the new Commission and approved by the Council and the Parliament. Here are some brief thoughts about the nominee Commissioners in relation to the issues that concern us most closely.

The Commissioner for the Environment, Virginijus Sinkevicius (Latvia), replied to questions on biodiversity, forestry, pollution, the air, plastics, cement, the circular economy, medicines, endocrine disruptors, and above all fisheries. Although he is new to this field, he showed evidence of being both competent and serious.

The Commissioner for Agriculture, Janusz Wojciechowski (Poland), was less impressive. Indeed he was asked to appear again as his replies to written questions did not persuade the MEPs. At the second hearing his commitments were clearer and he also touched on the theme of land grabbing.

The most impressive was without doubt the Vice President elect, and the person responsible for the Green European Deal, Frans Timmermans (Netherlands). He showed himself capable of interacting appropriately with MEPs on subjects such as biodiversity, air, water and forest pollution, access to markets and international relations. He showed his familiarity with the material and the desire to build synergies around environmental targets that have become indispensable for the lives and economies of people in Europe and around the globe. In this instance MEPs perhaps showed less incisiveness, asking questions that at times reflected local or sectorial interests, some of them truly grotesque; the Vice President elect responded to these by “isolating” the questioner politically.

All this is just words. However, the incoming Commission faces powerful demands for change, especially as regards environmental questions. We hope they will be able to live up to this challenge. If the interests of the few continue to hold sway, if we succumb to blackmail from vested interests or the markets, European decline will be set on a course that will be unstoppable.

In all of this the soil was … simply forgotten. No one was asked the simple question: “Will you commit to a directive on the protection of the soil?” So it is not the “fault” of the Commissioners designate. This is why the SIP Forum must focus its communication and awareness-raising activities more intensely on MEPs. It is a matter of simple fact that they do not yet understand the importance of the soil in all the other environmental questions they focus on, from CO2 to biodiversity, forests, wildfires, plastics, atmospheric pollution and so on.

All the hearings are available on this EP website, simply select the language you wish to listen in: http://bit.ly/2O3HNAB