Commission push against red tape scores points in Parliament

EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker (L), and Frans Timmermans, Commission First Vice-President, 22 Oct. 2014

EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker (L), and Frans Timmermans, Commission First Vice-President, 22 Oct. 2014 [© European Union 2014 - European Parliament/Flickr]

EU lawmakers have failed to agree on a stance against the European Commission’s plans to scrap some environment policies, marking a victory for the executive’s push for less regulation.

In December, the European Commission laid out its legislative plans for 2015, with a promise to focus on priorities such as jobs and boosting the economy.

As part of a campaign to cut red tape, it said it planned to withdraw proposals made by the previous EU executive, including on air pollution and reducing waste, spurring a backlash from some member states and political groupings.

However, members of the European Parliament were unable to settle on a cross-party motion opposing the Commission’s proposals before a vote planned for Thursday, politicians said.

Instead, each political group came up with a different resolution, making it unlikely any of them would receive the majority needed to pass.

British liberal lawmaker Catherine Bearder blamed centre-right politicians for failing to stand up for measures to improve air quality and resource efficiency.

“Unfortunately, what could have been a strong, united position from the European Parliament has collapsed due to narrow political interests,” she said.

A spokesman for the centre-right European People’s Party said negotiations were continuing and it had no immediate comment.

A Commission official, who asked not to be named, said the Commission could always review the work plan in the event of strong opposition, but that it was already discussed extensively with politicians and member states before its publication.

Jean-Claude Juncker, the new President of the European Commission, pledged to refocus the EU executive on the bigger political issues of the day and cut regulations seen as unnecessary or hampering business activity.

Commission First Vice-President Frans Timmermans was given a mandate to cut red tape and deliver “better regulation”.

He is currently analysing about 130 pieces of pending legislation left over from the Barroso Commission to decide if any should be dropped.

Proposals on the list include a circular economy package, air quality legislation and a draft directive on maternity leave, which has been stuck in the Council of Ministers, the institution representing the 28 EU member states.

>> Read: Commission to cut maternity leave from 2015 work programme

The Commission's "better regulation" drive has caused unease with environmental organisations, trade unions and consumer groups, which have called on the Commission not to drop the proposed gender and environmental laws.

They called on the Commission to keep those laws on the Commission's 2015 work programme, presented in December.

>> Read: Don't axe gender and environment laws, NGOs tell Timmermans

Responding to NGO calls, Timmermans announced that the Commission would ditch the Circular Economy package to replace it with “more ambitious” legislation in 2015, and change pending air-pollution rules.

>> Read: Circular Economy package to be ditched and re-tabled

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