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Environmental Liability Directive (ELD)

ELD is a key piece of legislation aiming to establish a framework of environmental liability based on the ‘polluter-pays’ principle and to prevent and remedy environmental damage.

Note: The ELD has recently undergone a REFIT evaluation to check whether the legislation is fit for purpose. A (long overdue) implementation report based on Member States reporting has also been published. This provided the basis of the current work of the Parliament. I am providing remarks as rapporteur of the ENVI opinion to the JURI’s work on the implementation report on ELD (ENVI was associated committee under Rule 54)

As both the Commission report and the JURI Committee has highlighted, despite some improvements the directive has shown ‘incompleteness’ and thus limited effectiveness.

The implementation still varies significantly from one Member State to another.

We have a patchwork of liability systems (also due to the interplay with existing laws) which in my opinion can undermine common standards and expose some Member States or regions to greater risk of environmental disasters and the financial consequences thereof.

As it is clear from the ENVI opinion, better implementation of the directive (incl. the via improving the information base and  providing more trainings and assistance to MSs a key pillar of the Commission’s action plan and multiannual work programme) is needed, but not sufficient.

We should remaining challenges in a systemic manner and revise the directive in the near future in the light of the recent REFIT exercise.

A revision would allow us to extend the scope and the applicability of the directive by making operators of all activities strictly liable for all environmental damage they cause (=removing the limitation in Annex III).

In this context, the INI report rightly calls on the Commission to impose liability for damage to human health and the environment in the future and for the removal of certain exemptions.

I also welcome the call for rethinking of the financial security system.

This would imply

  • (preference for) a high-level, mandatory environmental liability insurance for operators
  • differentiated ceilings for activities with different risk factors
  • the creation an EU-wide fund to bear the cost of relevant measures beyond the mandatory security (in case of large-scale disasters).

I also stress that the proper involvement of inspection bodies is key. In this context, the Commission should further develop inspection support capacity at EU level and help Member States strengthen their national bodies.


Let me highlight one more message: we urgently need EU legislation on the minimum standards for implementing the Aarhus’ Conventions access to justice pillar.

You can watch my speech here.






Written comment to the European Parliament’s debate on the protection of journalism

The murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia is a tragedy and  at the same time deterrent manifestation of what lengths the power can go to in order to conceal the truth. Even the smallest constriction on independent journalism is a serious violation of citizens’ rights to the pluralism of information. And where a journalist pays with her life for revealing corruption and abuse of the power, there democracy is shaken to its core.

Aggression by those in power against free and independent news reporting must have consequences. The Maltese government must step down, as they were unable to come clear against the charges of corruption. In addition, the European Commission must launch a prompt and thorough investigation in order to find those who were responsible for these developments.

In several Member States, the systemic curtailing of the free press has already started or has been already going on for years. In these countries, it is in the power’s interest to abolish the independence and pluralism of the media. This cannot ever deteriorate into a situation, in which people who seek to reveal the truth can no longer feel safe. Urgent and effective action must be taken in order to prevent any government from using intimidation of journalists as a means to hide the truth.

Transparency and a free, independent media are core European values, the protection of which now sadly needs to constantly be reinforced, we Greens propose an award with the name of Daphne Caruana Galizia to be given each year to investigative journalist in order to value and protect their work

EU Public Prosecutor To Fight Fraud

It’s Hungary’s version of a train to nowhere.

A train connecting two remote villages with links to the Prime Minister and largely funded by EU money.

Call it a coincidence.

Whether Hungary, a major recipient of EU funds, spends the money properly, is hard to find out, if the Hungarian authorities don’t investigate.

Benedek Jávor, a Hungarian member of the European Parliament from the Greens had this to say:

“The son-in-law of the Prime Minister, Mr Istvan Tiborc, was investigated by Olaf (the European Anti-Fraud Office) regarding some public light projects and the Hungarian public prosecutor did not investigate in a proper way in these cases, and finally nothing was done, nothing really effective was done in those cases.

But in Hungary we know dozens and dozens of cases where politically-related corruption cases are not properly investigated.”

To investigate potential fraud, the EU decided to establish the EU Prosecutor’s Office.

But 8 members are refusing to participate, prompting a warning from Brussels.

“The states which have a lot of EU money or will have in the future budgetary period, they should be under more control and there should be more preventive measures to protect the taxpayers’ money”, says Věra Jourová, the EU Justice Commissioner.

While in the states which are participating in the EU Prosecutor’s Office, there could be simplified rules without so much control and audit. “

The EU Prosecutor will have exclusive and EU-wide jurisdiction to deal with suspicions of criminal behaviour.

MEPs Go to Court in Bid to Reform EFSA

Green MEPs have lodged a complaint to denounce the lack of transparency in EFSA’s assessment of glyphosate. They hope to change the internal rules of the agency to boost transparency and limit lobby influence.

“Secret science is bad for your health,” said Michèle Rivasi, a French Green MEP. Together with three of her colleagues, she is campaigning for more transparency within the EU’s scientific agencies.

On 24 May, Heidi Hautala (Finland), Benedek Jávor (Hungary), Michèle Rivasi (France) et Bart Staes (Belgium) lodged a complaint against the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) for not releasing the studies upon which it based its assessment of glyphosate.

In 2016, the agency deemed that this controversial pesticide posed no threat to consumers. Just the previous year, however, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) had judged the substance “probably carcinogenic”.

Since then, the European agency has refused to release most of the studies behind its opinion, arguing that they come from the industry and are thus protected as trade secrets.

Scientific controversy

“But without this crucial data, independent experts cannot check the validity of EFSA’s conclusions. This has been underlined by the toxicologist Christopher Portier in his letter to Jean-Claude Juncker”, said Rivasi, who is a biologist.

The shreds of information the Greens did manage to obtain by piecing together redacted data and missing documents are, however, enough for the toxicologist to conclude that the assessment carried out by EFSA did not consider important elements that could prove glyphosate’s carcinogenicity.

“It is essential to modify the internal regulations of the European agencies so they can only use publicly available studies, just as the IARC does,” Rivasi added. “The Monsanto Papers scandal shows us yet again the necessity of putting an end to the interference of the agrochemical industries in public health policies.”

EFSA sitting on the fence

If the agencies could only use publicly available studies for their opinions, the “multinational corporations that hide behind trade secrets” would not have so much influence over legislation, the French MEP explained.

In practice, internal regulations can be changed on the initiative of the commissioner responsible for them. In this case, it would be Vytenis Andriukaitis. “We have already succeeded in having the regulations changed, we will keep up the pressure,” Benedek Jávor insisted.

Yet, the publication of information concerning emissions of chemicals into the environment is supposedly guaranteed by the Aarhus Convention on access to information, public participation in decision-making and access to justice in environmental matters, as well as by several past court judgements.

Towards a reformed agriculture

Of course, the agrochemical industry and traditional farmers claim it is impossible to farm without glyphosate. But a number of studies, as well as the proven success of alternative practices, such as organic agriculture, contradict this claim. “They always say it’s impossible, we should not believe it. That’s what they said about asbestos,” said Bart Staes.

“We do not need to find new chemicals, we need to change the way we cultivate,” Jávor added.

Solutions exist, even for the agri-food sector, Rivasi promised. And those solutions do not imply any necessary decrease in yield and production. Furthermore, added Heidi Hautala, they are usually much better for the environment and the soils.

These solutions do not necessarily mean getting rid of all pesticides. Agroecology is a practice by which farmers try and reduce as much as possible the chemicals and external products they use on their crops.

What this does imply is a progressive end to monocultures and artificial practices such as desiccation. The principle of desiccation involves killing the plant (by spraying glyphosate on it, for example) before harvest. The dying plant then sends all its remaining resources into the grain, which looks bigger when harvested.

The executive director of EFSA himself, Bernhard Url, is not opposed to this notion of reforming agricultural practices.

“It is not so much of a safety question because we only authorise products that do not cause harm, but we are entering a discussion about the acceptability of certain practices. Here we can say that maybe if consumers knew, they would make different choices. This is true for organic farming: consumers know that there is a different system available and make a choice”, he said in a recent interview with EURACTIV.com.

This new debate also concerns products such as Smartfresh, a gas that enables the conservation of apples, for example, for months, without their external appearance changing. But according to some research, it seems that the products conserved lose their nutritional value in the process.

Smartfresh is not dangerous, it is safe for human consumption, but are these practices really necessary?

This “is not our primary mandate, which is safety and not efficacy or risk-benefit assessment. But it is a very pertinent question whether in the future more of these risk-benefit questions should come to our table,” Url said.

Medicines agencies work in this way. “Medicines are tested not only for safety but also for efficacy and quality. In food, as there are no authorisations, we are really sticking to the safety mandate.”

Polish MEP Under Pressure on Crucial EU Energy Saving Law

An update of the EU’s Energy Efficiency Directive risks coming undone as a result of political infighting between the Polish lawmaker charged with helming the European Parliament’s revision of the legislation and much of his own political group, EURACTIV.com has learned.

Unlike its sister piece of legislation, the Energy Performance of Building Directive (EPBD), the Energy Efficiency Directive (EED) update has been far from smooth sailing.

Adam Gierek, the Polish MEP in charge of steering the draft law through the European Parliament, has been accused of negotiating key aspects of the directive against the line of his own political group, the Socialist and Democrats (S&D).

His stance on the EED is indeed much closer to the centre-right European People’s party (EPP) and the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) groups, sources familiar with the file told EURACTIV.com.

Adam Gierek’s initial draft report on the European Commission’s proposal was widely criticised for focusing too heavily on primary energy consumption and for ditching the S&D’s 40% energy saving target for 2030, which is the centrepiece of the legislation.  

Instead of a 40% target, Gierek first opted for a far lower 28% objective before raising the bar to 35%, under pressure from MEPs in his S&D group.

The European Parliament has twice backed a 40% energy saving target, an objective again confirmed when the assembly’s environment committee voted on the EED in September. So Gierek’s insistence on diluting the target is now putting him in an awkward position with the European Parliament as a whole.

Political infighting

Relations with “shadow” rapporteurs from other political groups in the European Parliament have also been fractious. Sources familiar with the situation claim that Gierek no longer takes bilateral meetings with his colleagues and that he mistakenly identified two of the shadow MEPs as assistants during one meeting.

Gierek’s latest position actually backs the 40% energy savings goal, suggesting that he is now toeing the S&D group’s long-held energy efficiency target.

But Green lawmaker Benedek Jávor, who is shadow rapporteur on the EED, branded Gierek’s 40% offering as mere “window dressing” and told EURACTIV that a proposed change to final energy consumption would actually decrease the target to just 30-31%.

Jávor explained that under Gierek’s current proposal the EU would fail to reach primary energy targets in 2030, adding that the latest compromise from the Polish MEP is “unacceptable” and nothing short of a “trick”.

As things stand, the S&D vote together with the Greens/EFA and GUE/NGL groups would on paper be enough to form a majority and pass a report that supports the 40% target, as happened recently with the opinion adopted by the Parliament’s environment committee.

But Jávor suggested that Gierek may in fact be trying to split the vote of the S&D group in order to deliver a majority to the EPP and ECR, who support a much less ambitious energy efficiency directive.

Gierek is said to be securing the support of Socialist MEPs from Eastern Europe, making it uncertain which way the vote would swing as support is so finely balanced. 

Markus Pieper, the shadow rapporteur for the centre-right EPP, has reportedly been trying to convince his group to back the Gierek proposal. Pieper declined to comment when given the opportunity to do so.

Gierek out?

A final vote in the Parliament’s industry committee is scheduled for 28 November. Calls for Gierek to be stripped of his duties as lead rapporteur have been made before and this fresh pressure could force the S&D group to consider its options again.

Socialist MEPs meet on Tuesday (17 October) for a regular horizontal working group meeting, where the EED will almost certainly be on the agenda.

When asked if he believes Gierek’s time in charge is over, MEP Jávor insisted that it is an “internal problem” which the S&D group will have to address themselves.

When contacted on Friday (13 October), Gierek was unreachable for questions.

Removing a lead rapporteur from a file is very much a last-resort option for a political group. It has happened before in Parliament but has mostly been due to technical reasons and very rarely this late in the game.

Files are awarded to political groups after intense negotiations and it is up to the relevant group to decide who in its ranks becomes rapporteur. It is then also up to the same group to decide if an MEP should be removed from their role if they are not pushing the right political agenda.

The EED is a crucial part of the Clean Energy Package and the draft report adopted by the Parliament’s industry committee at the end of November will eventually form the basis of the assembly’s position during trilateral talks with the Commission and EU Council.

The environment committee’s opinion was widely praised for being ambitious and reflecting Parliament’s position on energy efficiency, as well as a number of resolutions passed by the institution so far.

Whoever is dispatched to negotiate in trialogue for the Parliament will also be expected to mirror this position as closely as possible, especially given the Council’s insistence on a non-binding 30% target, adopted back in June.

Monsanto’s Tricks – The Greens’ video on the Monsanto-documents

The Monsanto Papers are secret, internal documents that have now been made public thanks to over 10,000 farmers who have taken Monsanto to court, accusing the company’s glyphosate weedkillers of causing them to develop a cancer called non-Hodgkins Lymphoma.

The documents reveal the various strategies and tactics used by Monsanto to ensure that they can sell their star product, RoundUp, despite the clear dangers for humans and for the environment. This trailer highlights some of Monsanto’s tricks.


(Image source: en.wikipedia.org)