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Maltese MP to lead EU environment policy

A former tourist minister in the Maltese parliament has been chosen to lead a newly formed European portfolio encompassing environmental and maritime affairs.

Karmenu Vella

Karmenu Vella, a  member of Malta’s Labour party (left), will be the commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, reflecting the European Commission’s (EC) belief that environment and maritime conservation policies should play a key role in creating jobs, preserving resources, stimulating growth and encouraging investment.

The environment directorate-general includes responsibilities for waste and recycling initiatives, while oversight of policies related to food waste has been moved to the commission for Health and Food Safety.

Vella stepped down from his position as Malta’s minister of tourism after being nominated in April to the pool of potential EC leaders, the College of Commissioners.

He has been a member of the Maltese parliament since 1976 and won nine consecutive elections, holding several roles including minister for public works and minister for industry.

Vella will take over the work on the circular economy carried out by outgoing commissioner Janez Potočnik, who in his last act urged MEP to support his policy package aimed at improving resource efficiency in Europe.

Vella will take office after the European parliament formally approves the College of Commissioners nominated by president-elect Jean-Claude Juncker.

“I am putting 27 players in the field, each of whom has a specific role to play - this is my winning team,” Juncker said.

As part of the restructuring, Juncker also announced the Commission will have seven vice-presidents, each leading a project team that would cut across the different directorates-general.

Environment, maritime and fisheries will be under the supervision of vice-president for energy union Alenka Bratušek, which also includes climate action and energy, transport and space, internal market, industry, entrepreneurship and SMEs, regional policy, agriculture and rural development, and research, science and innovation.

Juncker said: “I want to overcome silo-mentalities and introduce a new collaborative way of working in areas where Europe can really make a difference.”

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