Habitats and birds directives to be reviewed by European commission

10th September 2014

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Rohini Mukherjee

The candidate for the new post of environment, maritime affairs and fisheries has been asked to consider the merger of the habitats and birds directives as a priority, it has emerged.

President elect of the European commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, announced the line-up of the new European Commission this morning.

The post of commissioner for environment has been merged with that of maritime and fisheries. Karmenu Vella, a member of the Maltese Labour party, has been nominated as candidate. In a letter to Vella outlining details of the position, Juncker asked Vella to focus on five issues.

The first is to carry out an in-depth evaluation of the birds and habitats directives and “assess the potential for merging them into a more modern piece of legislation”.

Other issues Vella has been asked to prioritise are the negotiations on an air quality strategy; assessing the state of play of the circular economy package and how it is consistent with the jobs and growth agendas; implementing the reform of the EU common fisheries policy and engaging in shaping international ocean governance in the UN.

The portfolios of the climate action and energy commissioners have also been merged, with Miguel Arias Cañete , a member of Spain’s ruling People party nominated to take the role.

Last week, 25 MEPs wrote to Juncker to oppose the merger of the roles, warning that it risked weakening both agendas.

The negotiations next year on a new international climate agreement would require a dedicated climate change commissioner, the MEPs argued.

Magda Stoczkiewicz, director of Friends of the Earth Europe, commented: “While climate and energy are inextricably inter-related, there is a real danger that by merging these two departments climate concerns will be side-lined by energy issues.”

Greenpeace EU managing director Mahi Sideridou said that Cañete was a “surprising” choice. Cañete is a director of oil company Petrologis Canarias, according to the declaration of public interests he made when nominated as president of the European parliament.

“To prove he is the right man for the job, he’ll have to resolve conflicts of interests and improve on his environmental record as a minister,” Sideridou said.

A new commission vice-president for energy union will oversee the role of climate action and energy commissioner.

Alenka Bratusšek, the former prime minister of Slovenia, has been nominated for this job.

Juncker listed reform of European energy policy as one of his top five priorities as commission president, particularly increasing renewable energy generation in Europe.

The European parliament will interview and vote on the proposed commissioners at the end of this month before their mandate starts on 1 November.

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