Greens threaten new environment commissioner

Wallström urged to promise a sixth environmental action programme, or risk rejection by parliament

The Green group of MEPs is threatening to oppose the appointment of the new EU environment commissioner, chosen by president-in-waiting of the European Commission Romano Prodi, unless she promises to publish a detailed long-term policy strategy.

The 47-strong group has told ENDS Daily that it will insist on an assurance from Margot Wallström that, once in office, she will bring forward a sixth environmental action programme (6EAP) setting out a strategy for the coming years. If she gives no such commitment, the Greens will move to block her appointment during the parliament's session in September when they will scrutinise all of Prodi's 19 candidates.

The Greens want to make sure that the parliament is given a chance to properly debate - and propose amendments to - the EU's environmental strategy for the start of the next decade. They fear that the Commission will drop the tradition of having an environmental action programme when the current one comes to an end in 2000.

An official at the Commission's environment directorate (DGXI) said it would be up to the new commissioner to decide whether or not there would be a 6EAP, but admitted that many civil servants would prefer to avoid it. The fact that the parliament now has co-decision rights on such matters would mean it could take years for such a document to be adopted by MEPs and EU ministers - time which could be spent adopting legislative dossiers, she said. "We need to avoid that the adoption of a programme is not an obstacle to the adoption of measures."

The Commission is conducting a "global assessment" of the 5EAP - a detailed strategy adopted in 1992 - which it will present at December's EU summit in Helsinki, where the integration of environmental issues into other sectors will be discussed. However, Green MEPs say they will not wait until then for a decision on a sixth strategy and will demand a commitment from Ms Wallström by September.

Although parliament cannot remove individual commissioners or candidates, it could put pressure on Mr Prodi to do so by passing a resolution expressing no confidence. If a majority of MEPs are unsatisfied with his choice they could vote to reject the whole proposed team. With German Christian Democrats unhappy with the "political balance" of Mr Prodi's team, and UK Conservatives opposed to the return of four commissioners from the former Commission that resigned in March, the Greens' threat adds to the uncertainty over whether parliament will approve the new EU executive team.

Follow Up:
European Parliament, tel: +32 2 284 2111.

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