MEPs back Vella as environment and fisheries commissioner

MEPs in the environment and fisheries committees in the European Parliament approve Karmenu Vella as commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, amid criticism from environmental organisations regarding his poor hearing performance.

The group co-ordinators from the environment and fisheries committee today issued a recommendation letter, backing Karmenu Vella as the next European commissioner for environment, fisheries and maritime affairs. However, MEPs also write in their evaluation that “the lack of reference to sustainable development in the mission letter of Vice-President Katainen and to the full implementation of the objectives of the 7th Environment Action Programme […] continue to raise concerns”.

The recommendation letter further notes some “lack of details” in Vella’s replies to the questions from MEPs.

Environment NGOs were more outspoken. “Vella fails to give any convincing answers on environment. Evasive, vague, often inaccurate”, BirdLife tweeted. Jorgo Riss, director of Greenpeace EU, said: “Vella did not display a firm grasp of the dossiers he is meant to take responsibility for. He failed to convince that he is up to the job of environment, maritime affairs and fisheries commissioner.”

Javier Garat, president of the fishing industry organisation Europêche, was happier. He issued a press release saying: “Although the merger of the portfolios of Environment and Fisheries came as a surprise to the industry, it could be beneficial if Vella is committed to real sustainable development and not to radical conservationism.”

Reactions from political groups
The EPP Group’s fish spokesperson Gabriel Mato said: “Implementing the recently-agreed reform of the Common Fisheries Policy to put the EU firmly on the path of a sustainable fishing sector and fishing communities, must be the top priority for Mr Vella”.

The S&D group issued a positive press release, in which MEP Ulrike Rodust said “After today’s hearing, I am confident that Commissioner-designate Vella will implement the reform of the Common Fisheries Policy in spirit and letter.”

The Greens issued a largely critical statement: “He was non-committal when asked about the goal of ending over-fishing by 2015 to allow stock recovery, under the new Common Fisheries Policy. He lacked the ability to into detail on key files and seemed overly keen to exploit exploitation of the marine area without worrying about environmental constraints and possible damage.” But the Greens also welcomed Vella’s commitment to continue the fight against illegal fishing.

João Ferreira, GUE/NGL, said it is an error to merge the environment and fisheries portfolios.

Watch the hearing video
Storified version of the hearing
EuropeanVoice live blog from the hearing

Axel Naver

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