The European Commission will ditch the Circular Economy Package, replace it with “more ambitious” legislation in 2015, and change pending air-pollution rules, First Vice-President Frans Timmermans told MEPs on Tuesday (16 December).
He also set a six month deadline for blocked legislation to extend fully paid maternity leave to 18 weeks to be passed. If it wasn’t, it would be ditched, he said.
Timmermans was presenting the European Commission’s 2015 work programme at the European Parliament in Strasbourg.
The European Parliament had called for an extension of fully paid maternity leave to 20 weeks, which the Council of Ministers did not accept. It has been blocked since 2009.
“We are ready to make one last effort to unblock it but in six months we will take it off the table […] the onus is on the three EU institutions to create momentum around this proposal,” he said.
Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker had tasked Timmermans to screen pending pieces of legislation as part of a drive for “better regulation”. 80 pending bills will be withdrawn.
Among the bills facing the axe was the Circular Economy Package. One MEP shouted “shame” at Timmermans when he confirmed it would be scrapped. Timmermans reacted by saying the new proposal would come in 2015.
“We will do this very quickly because we want the Circular Economy […] we want to put something on the table that is more ambitious.”
“We want to make sure the Circular Economy is approached in a circular way and not just half a way,” he added.
The Circular Economy Package was intended to increase recycling levels and tighten rules on incineration and landfill. It consists of six bills on waste, packaging, landfill, end of life vehicles, batteries and accumulators, and waste electronic equipment.
It was put together by the Barroso Commission, which said it would create €600 billion net savings, two million jobs and deliver 1% GDP growth.
EU environment ministers have signalled their support for the Circular Economy Package and will discuss the decision at their meeting in Brussels tomorrow (17 December).
Air Quality package
Anti-air pollution rules will be changed to make it more likely for the Council of Ministers and European Parliament to agree an identical text. Both must agree the same text before it can become law.
The proposed rules, part of the Clean Air Package, fix emissions ceilings at national level, for nitrogen dioxide for example, obliging member states to hit air quality targets. But Timmermans said the gap between the Council and Parliament had got too big to bridge.
The changed bill would also take into account the EU’s 2030 climate and energy targets, agreed by EU leaders at their October summit in Brussels.
Rules governing emissions from medium sized combustion plants stood a good chance of gaining the necessary support to get on the lawbooks, he said.
“We are not compromising on the goals we want to attain, we are looking critically at the proposals so that we can have an agreement soon,” said Timmermans.
Both the Council and the European Parliament will be consulted before any proposals are withdrawn. The Parliament has decided to vote on a resolution on the work programme in January.
The maternity, air and recycling rules were on a hit list of laws sent by trade association BusinessEurope to the Commission.
NGOs, other business and MEPS have called for the Circular Economy proposal to be saved.