First Commission Vice-President Frans Timmermans last night (4 February) asked Green MEPs to give him a chance to prove them wrong and demonstrate his commitment to environmental and social laws.
The man tasked by Jean-Claude Junker to deliver “better regulation”, was accused of pursuing a deregulation agenda by Philippe Lamberts, a Belgian MEP. Lamberts is co-chair of the Greens/European Free Alliance group, which held a hearing with Timmermans in the European Parliament in Brussels.
The former Dutch foreign minister is criticised for ditching the Circular Economy package of waste, recycling and incineration laws, despite the objections of MEPs and EU environment ministers.
Timmermans blamed the press and his own officials for the controversy over the withdrawal of the bill. “I now have learnt how it works. There is always someone in my administration who feels so attached to a proposal […] that the whole publicity circus starts,” he said.
He has promised the executive will re-table a “more ambitious” proposal to replace the bill proposed by the outgoing Barroso Commission. “I am highly attached to the Circular Economy”, he said, before saying there was “no doubt” the new bill would be ready in 2015.
Critics are suspicious of the motivation behind its withdrawal, as it was on a hit list of laws that lobby organisation BusinessEurope wanted killed off by the executive.
“Let me be candid, the reputation better regulation had, even before I came into office, has followed me since I took office,” Timmermans said.
During the previous Commission, “everybody, especially on left side said it was about attacking social rights and lowering standards,” he said.
“Give me a chance to prove you wrong […] to do that I need to put things on the table, ” he said.
He stressed the re-submitted package would be wider in scope. “The waste package was the not the full circle of the Circular Economy,” he said.
Timmermans explained that a full circle would ensure that the waste would not be created in the first place. This can be achieved by legislating to encourage the use of materials that are create less waste and are easy to recycle.
He thought the axing of the package would create momentum within the Commission and give him the chance to check the individual proposals in the waste package .It consists of six bills on waste, packaging, landfill, end of life vehicles, batteries and accumulators, and electronic equipment waste.
“We are not challenging the goals [of the package], but we are challenging the instruments in parts of the package,” he told MEPs.
Timmermans said he believed that a comprehensive package would travel faster through the legislative process, than a piecemeal approach.
Reinhard Bütikofer, a German Green, did challenge Timmermans, but the hearing was not the grilling that some had predicted. Timmermans was even congratulated for showing emotion about the Circular Economy, to which he replied, “I am not a bloody robot!”.
NGOs want evidence
Environmental campaigners on Monday (2 February) demanded the European Commission provide any analysis it has that justifies its decision to ditch the Circular Economy package of recycling, waste and landfill rules.
No such evidence has been given since Timmermans announced the laws would be axed in December, said four non-governmental organisations (NGOs) in a letter officially applying for the release of internal documents.
— Reinhard Bütikofer (@bueti) February 4, 2015