1 October, Brussels – Jean-Claude Juncker has been forced to defend his decision to merge the portfolios of Energy with Climate Change, and Environment with Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, in the face of fierce criticism from environmental groups and MEPs. These criticisms have been accompanied by calls from Martin Schulz, President of the European Parliament, to create a dedicated Vice-Presidential mandate for Sustainability.
Green groups have expressed concern that the merged portfolios will lead to weakened sustainability and climate change policy. However, Juncker insists that his new structure, which will also see the new Commissioners working under the view of Vice-Presidents, will help the Commission to create more coherent policy and, “overcome silo-mentalities and work in a new collaborative way”.
Schulz, however, thinks that Jyrki Katainen, Vice-President for Jobs, Growth and Investment, and Competitiveness, should also have a mandate for sustainable development. “The cross-cutting issue of sustainable development is not integrated into the portfolio or the mission letter of vice-president Katainen. This means that vice-president Katainen is not being asked to integrate nor take into account this dimension while steering, co-ordinating and proposing policy choices,” Schulz said.
In response, Juncker has said that he considers sustainable development to require, “more than the action of a single Commissioner”. Instead, it is an issue that should be considered across the board, in all portfolios.
Hearings of the new Commissioners-Designate are ongoing in the European Parliament.