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MEPs question new environment commissioner

The likely new environment commissioner was vague on the future of the EU circular economy package when he was grilled by MEPs ahead of his official appointment.

Maltese politician Karmenu Vella, who has been selected to lead the newly formed environment and fisheries commission, was the first candidate to be questioned in a series of parliamentary hearings.

The team of commissioners is due to be confirmed by the European Parliament on 22 October and MEPs have the power to veto the appointments.

Vella said he will be “fully engaged” in taking the resource efficiency forward, but added: “This will include assessing the state of play of the circular economy package to ensure it is consistent with our jobs and growth agenda and our broader environmental objectives.”

The set of policies put together under the leadership of former commissioner Janez Potoċnik includes recycling targets of 70% and a ban on landfilling recyclable materials.

Vella also stressed he would seek to limit the “regulatory burden” of environmental laws.

“My main responsibility will be to further develop the green growth approach to environment policy to improve environmental protection, safeguard human health and contribute to economic growth with least regulatory burden,” he said.

Environmental groups have expressed concerns that the new commission, which merged the environment and fisheries portfolios under the oversight of a vice-president for energy, would be more focused on deregulation than environmental protection.

“The move from a commissioner with dedicated responsibilities for environment to having this policy area shared with other demanding dossiers represents a clear relegation of environmental issues in the order of political priorities,” said the eco-campaigning coalition Green 10, which includes Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth.

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