EU: Parliament approves new Environment Commissioner

Incoming Environment Commissioner, Margot Wallström, won enthusiastic support from MEPs after a parliamentary hearing in which she pledged to pursue the early adoption of a 6th Action Plan for the Environment and give the Parliament equal powers of decision over its content.

Outlining her priorities, Wallström stressed the need to protect citizens from environmental risks, introduce the Precautionary Principle in the use of chemicals, protect Europe’s water, extend EU environmental legislation to Central and Eastern Europe, and take concrete actions to combat climate change.

The new Commissioner undertook to make every effort to ensure that the Kyoto Protocol is adopted as soon as possible, and said she thought legislation necessary on energy taxes and energy efficiency. In response to doubts over whether environmental taxes could be adopted in a situation where a single member state may veto taxation measures, Wallström maintained that countries would only support this kind of tax if it proved to be profitable, and that once this initial hurdle had been cleared the veto would not be exercised. She deplored the fact that the current energy taxation proposals had been watered down by environment ministers, and expressed a preference for an “unrestricted” proposal.

“She expressed a willingness to work closely with Parliament, and to enter a genuine debate with MEPs: this is greatly welcomed by the Committee and will be a refreshing change from her predecessor. Her attitude also promised a forcefulness in pursuing her objectives which the Committee considers very important since she will need to ensure that other Commissioners are conscious of environmental concerns and embody them in their policies,” said Caroline Jackson MEP, the new head of the EP Environment Committee.

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