Támogasd Te is küzdelmünket a zöld és igazságos jövőért!

Greens/EFA MEPs call on Council of Europe to monitor Romanian government

In response to recent attempts on the part of the Romanian government to decriminalise corruption and weaken the country’s conflicts of interest rules, a group of Greens/EFA MEPs has written to the Council of Europe and the Council of Europe Group of States against Corruption (GRECO).

The letter [available on the Green/EFA website] calls on GRECO to take concrete steps to examine the situation on the ground in Romania, and to ensure that the most recent developments are taken into account during the current compliance report assessment. The MEPs have also requested a meeting with GRECO to discuss the issue further.

Please see below a quote from Greens/EFA transparency spokesperson Benedek Jávor.

“The Council of Europe needs to take action where the European Commission has so far failed to do so. The Commission has already demonstrated weakness in responding to corruption by shelving the EU anti-corruption report originally due to be published last year. Until the Commission is prepared to take its responsibilities more seriously, we call on the Council of Europe to make sure that the deeply concerning recent events in Romania are properly monitored and followed up on where necessary.”

The full list of signatories is: Karima Delli, Pascal Durand, Sven Giegold, Rebecca Harms, Heidi Hautala, Benedek Jávor, Eva Joly, Ulrike Lunacek, Julia Reda, Terry Reintke, Michèle Rivasi, Bronis Ropé, Jordi Solé, Bart Staes, Indrek Tarand, Josep-Maria Terricabras, Claude Turmes, Ernest Urtasun


(Image source:  Daniel Mihailescu/AFP via Getty Images)

Political Discrimination in Hungary – Policy Solutions case studies

In this paper, we analyse political discrimination against those Hungarians who have been opponents of the government’s politics in the last few years. Although political and other types of discrimination are severely prohibited by Hungarian laws, and while freedom of expression is a right laid down in the constitution, it is not uncommon for the government to retaliate against those with opposing views, and the impaired democratic institutions cannot always protect citizens from these retaliations. The case studies of our analysis illustrate the tools the Hungarian government uses against its own citizens, taking advantage of the fact that democratic functioning and the rule of law are often just pretences, as the government could eliminate “in time” many of the checks and balances that are supposed to protect its subjects.

The ten cases examined in this study show that various forms of political discrimination – from employment dismissal to economic undermining – are present in both the public and private spheres. Though there is a good chance that most instances of political discrimination do not make it into the news, we still managed to bring case studies from virtually all of the main “points of contact” between the government and citizen. The judiciary, the media, education, local government, agriculture and the third sector are all areas where today it is inadvisable to oppose the government. Retaliation sometimes occurs not due to the government’s will but as a result of overzealous lower-level state or local officials’ desire to conform. Still, the government itself leads the way by utilizing the state to undermine its real or supposed political opponents.

Of course, pockets of freedom of varying sizes continue to exist in Hungary, and we cannot speak of a dictatorship. The courts and the Equal Treatment Authority often come down against the government. This shows, on the one hand, that the state has indeed politically discriminated against individuals and organizations, and, on the other, that some parts of the judiciary have maintained their relative independence.

From the research presented here, containing investigative reports, judicial decisions and case studies, a Hungarian Potemkin democracy is sketched out, whereby political discrimination is possible in a way that the state exerts influence not based on but despite legal regulations. Nonetheless, we certainly cannot proclaim the complete undercutting of dissidents – instead, we can identify a gradual restriction of their options. The Hungarian system is not best defined as exercising total control over opinion, but there is, in fact, government demand for such an outcome.

Visibly, this regime, which sees political enemies behind all criticism, has had and will have many innocent victims. The state has ruined (often apolitical) people who were simply doing their jobs. Nonetheless, they found themselves in the crosshairs of the government. The destroyed lives of these people – their lost work, their bankrupted businesses and in some cases even their death – are perhaps the best illustrations of why the protection of human rights and the prevention of political discrimination are so important in every instance.

Below you can read the entire study in PDF.

Political Discrimination in Hungary-2

Comitology – Commission proposal would do little for accountability or public health

The European Commission has today published its long-awaited proposal for the reform of the comitology process, used to approve or renew products, such as GMOs and pesticides (see background below). The proposal comes after a series of “no opinion” conclusions from standing committees, due to a number of member states consistently abstaining.

Commenting on the proposals, Greens/EFA transparency spokesperson Benedek Jávor said:

“While we are pleased that the Commission is finally taking action, the proposals announced today fall far short of what is needed. They are merely tinkering with a system that needs to be completely overhauled. The decision making process must be made more accountable and much more transparent. For this to be achieved, decisions should fall to the governments of the EU member states and the European Parliament.”

Green food safety spokesperson Bart Staes added:

“We have seen time and time again that important decisions on GMOs and pesticides are being taken behind closed doors. Give these decisions, as in the recent case of glyphosate, carry significant health implications, they need to be made more openly. The Commission would clearly like to have greater political backing for the approval of GMOs and pesticides, but these proposals will simply mask the political disputes linked to GMO authorisations in the EU.”


The Commission suggests four targeted amendments:

  1. The qualified majority (55% of Member States representing 65% of population) in the appeal committee will be calculated only on the basis of the number of Member States taking part in the vote (either in favour or against), while abstentions would carry no voting weight at all.
  2. Transparency of the votes in the appeal committee
  3. When no opinion is reached either in Standing Committee or in appeal Committee, there will be the possibility of a second referral to the Appeal Committee where Member States are represented at Ministerial level
  4. Introduction of a right for the Commission to refer the matter to Council for a non-binding opinion/position

Report on the protection of whistleblowers

The European Parliament has today voted in favour of a report on the protection of whistleblowers. Please see below a quote from Greens/EFA transparency spokesperson Benedek Jávor, alongside a short update on activity currently underway on whistleblower protection at EU level.

“The European Parliament has once again called on the Commission to propose a horizontal directive to ensure the proper protection of whistleblowers across the EU. The Greens have been pushing for EU-wide legislation that would protect whistleblowers in all areas of EU competence. This way, citizens across Europe will be able to speak up about environmental crimes, human rights violations and other wrongdoing without fear of reprisal.

“We also want to see the establishment of an independent body to receive alerts about budgetary fraud affecting the EU. Whistleblowers play a crucial role in preventing and uncovering fraud and mismanagement of the EU budget and there needs to be a secure channel for them to share vital information.”



Since the Greens/EFA group launched a proposal for a draft EU Directive in May, the Commission has faced increased calls to act to protect whistleblowers. A coalition of almost 80 NGOs and trade unions was launched in Autumn to push for whistleblower legislation in Europe. The Financial Affairs Council called on the Commission to assess the scope for further action to protect whistleblowers in October.

The Commission is due to launch a public consultation on whistleblower protection in March, and recently published an Inception Impact Assessment in which they analyse the impact that a lack of whistleblower protection has on the EU market, on human rights and on the environment. The Commission is currently working on a complete Impact Assessment, with results expected before the summer.

In addition to the report from the Budgetary Control Committee voted today, the European Parliament is working on another initiative report in the Legal Affairs Committee, which will go beyond the scope of EU financial affairs. Following some disagreement between the JURI Committee and Conference of Presidents on who should be the rapporteur for the file, a final decision on the matter is still pending.

European Parliamentary committee writes open letter to VP Frans Timmermans on hindered corruption report

The European Commission Vice-President Frans Timmermans has written to the European Parliament’s Civil Liberties and Justice committee, saying he has shelved plans to publish a report on corruption in the EU this year.

You can find a copy of the letter here (or will attach if no link)

Please see below a short quote from Greens/EFA transparency spokesperson Benedek Jávor.

Timmermans seems to think that the European Commission is already doing more than enough to fight corruption in Europe. Apparently he sees no need for measures like the long awaited 2016 anticorruption report. With 200,000 protesting corruption in Romania last night, and corruption one of the issues identified as a major problem of public concern in Europe, he is painfully out of touch with what the public expects. 

 The EU is absolutely not doing enough. The 2016 report must be published, including a chapter on the EU institutions, something that was missing from the previous effort. This would be a positive first step to restore the trust of citizens in the EU institutions.

Here is the link to the letter


(Image source: politico.eu)

Interview with Benedek Jávor: Hungarian argument for Paks II nuclear project is invalid

Below is Euractive’s original interview with MEP, Benedek Jávor in its entirety:

There are players in the game who are ready to take the Pak II case to the European Court of Justice – and I am one of them, Benedek Jávor told EurActiv Czech Republic.

Benedek Jávor is a Hungarian Green and one of the complainants against the Paks II Nuclear Power Plant project.

Jávor spoke to EurActiv.cz’s Adéla Denková.

The European Commission has recently closed the infringement procedure launched against Hungary over compliance with public procurement laws in the Paks II Nuclear Power Plant project. This means that Hungary was not obliged to announce a public tender for the power plant’s construction and that the agreement with Russia does not violate European law. You are one of the critics of Paks II. What do you think about the decision?

According to European rules, there might be certain exceptions to EU public procurement law in the event of existing technical requirements that make it impossible to announce a public tender. The Hungarian government argued that there was no need for a tender in the case of Paks II, because Hungarian regulations and technical standards make it impossible for anyone other than Rosatom to construct the plant. The European Commission accepted this so-called “technical exclusivity” explanation, but I believe it is not a valid argument for several reasons.

Why do you think the explanation provided by Budapest is invalid?

A nuclear power plant is not a bicycle that you buy in one piece. It’s always a tailor-made project constructed in compliance with local regulations. Initially, none of the designs provided by nuclear technology companies meet the requirements of any state, but the winner of a tender will then modify its design according to the country’s individual specifications.

Okay, but the decision suggests that Rosatom is somehow more eligible for the project.

We don’t know whether the other possible suppliers of nuclear technology could have met the criteria, as this has never been established, but according to a recent article in Politico at least Westinghouse was interested in submitting a bid. One thing is for sure, though: not even Rosatom had been able to meet Hungary’s requirements initially. The Hungarian government’s special envoy for the Paks II project, Attila Aszódi, personally stated that several hundred modifications to the original Russian design have been required in order to comply with Hungarian regulations.

Flawed regulation

You said there are other arguments supporting your criticisms of the agreement. What are they?

If we are to accept the government’s technical exclusivity argument, meaning that Hungary’s strict regulations made a public tender unnecessary for the Paks II project because only one supplier could meet them, this means that the regulation itself violates European law. There have been a series of cases at the European Court of Justice which clearly demonstrate that any regulation restricting the market without a compelling reason should be phased out.

The implication for Paks II is as follows: if EU public procurement law permits non-tendering under technical exclusivity, then there is a strong case for launching an infringement procedure against those national regulations which gave rise to a non-competitive technical exclusivity scenario.

Are you going to pursue this argument?

There are players in the game who are ready to take the case to the European Court of Justice, and I am one of them. The question of the tendering or non-tendering of a project may be brought to the Court only by market competitors. But if a case concerns a discrepancy between European and national law, then as an MEP I am entitled to bring it myself. And the Commission must know that if the case is taken to the Court, they can easily lose it.

You were the complainant against the agreement between Budapest and Moscow. What is the history of this case?

The investigation into a possible violation of EU public procurement law was based on a complaint I submitted in 2014, and in November 2015 the Commission announced an infringement procedure over the project’s non-tendering. In the opening letter of the infringement procedure, they stated that Paks II fell under the EU’s public procurement regulation and that an international tender should have been conducted. Almost a year later – in August last year – I received a letter from the Commission outlining a compromise with Hungary which followed a completely different line of reasoning, based on the arguments made by Budapest.

Another strange aspect of the compromise is the fact that this argument apparently occurred to the Hungarian government only at the very end of the procedure. For years, they were not aware that no one else could meet the Hungarian standards and that this was the reason they didn’t conduct a public tender. They used completely different reasoning and never mentioned technical exclusivity until the Commission had rejected all the other arguments. It was only two years after granting the project to the Russians that they suddenly realised that only Rosatom could meet the Hungarian standards.

Expensive power

Another investigation has been launched against Paks II, this time concerning state aid. Do you think the project can survive without financial support from the government? 

Since the very beginning, I have pointed out that the new nuclear power plant at the Paks site would be problematic not only with respect to security, safety and environmental considerations, but also from a budgetary perspective. If current market prices for electricity persist, the project will never pay for itself and will clearly need substantial state aid in order to survive. In addition to the infringement procedure concerning public procurement rules, November 2015 – which was a black month for Paks II – also saw the Commission announce an in-depth investigation into possible state aid in the project.

The Hungarian government endeavoured to convince the Commission that there was no need for state aid. The government commissioned a study, carried out by Rothschild & Cie, which concluded that the project was able to generate fair profits and would pay for itself. This conclusion was broadly communicated by the government. The more interesting part is that according to the study – and this has not been publicised very extensively – Paks II would pay for itself only if electricity prices in the EU market were to double over the next couple of years. No one is actually anticipating this, however.

But aren’t experts expecting a certain increase in electricity prices during this period? 

Prices on the EU electricity market have been low for quite a long time, and the indicators we have do indeed lead us to expect a slight price rise in the next couple of years. But here we’re talking about 20 or 30%, which is very far from a doubling of the price. And following this increase we’ll likely see another decline in wholesale electricity prices because the costs of renewable energy sources keep falling. The above-mentioned study is therefore based on an unrealistic set of assumptions.

Do you have any information about the Commission’s view on the state aid case?

There has been no official communication in this regard, but according to the information we have the Commission may conclude that the project’s estimated costs and estimated incomes are out of balance, and that there will be a clear deficit during its operational life. If they insist on this point, then Budapest will have to accept it.

Still, the Commission could rule that Hungary may provide financial support to the power plant under certain conditions. 

Indeed, the European Commission may accept the need for state aid if special circumstances obtain on the Hungarian power market and the government is unable to resolve the situation in another way. In my view, however, such a deal could also be taken to the Court, and the Commission would be unable to defend it. There’s no proof that constructing a nuclear power plant is the only way to solve the ostensible problems on Hungary’s electricity market. Actually, no one has ever investigated alternative solutions, and the Hungarian government’s estimates of expected total electricity consumption in 2030 and other indicators are based on unrealistic data.

Do you have any estimates regarding the amount of money that could be provided to the project?

According to my calculations and independent assessments, the required state aid may be as much as HUF 100 billion (€300 million) per year. These are conservative numbers, and other estimates range as high as HUF 250 billion annually. Just for comparison, the incomes of the existing nuclear power plant in Paks do not exceed HUF 180 billion per year. And remember: these figures aren’t profits, but total incomes. This suggests that the Paks II project will need state aid in an amount close to the existing power plant’s total incomes and perhaps even exceeding them.

And I haven’t even mentioned the fact that in the last 15 or 20 years none of the nuclear power plant projects in the EU have been completed on time, and total construction costs have been double their initial budgets on average.

Future of the EU power market

On the other hand, investors are currently having a hard time on the European energy market. The general view is that it’s not profitable to invest one’s money into any kind of energy source without state aid. Why then is financial support for a nuclear power plant such a problem? 

The EU electricity market is currently undergoing a transition, and it’s very difficult to say exactly what it will look like in future. Nevertheless, it’s quite clear that the market is becoming much more flexible and will be based increasingly on local small-scale installations. The age of big utilities is over, and baseload generation will no longer play an important role.

You’re right that current electricity prices do not send the right signal to investors. As I have already mentioned, in the next couple of years we’ll most likely see a price increase that will facilitate new investments into energy infrastructure and generation capacities. But that’s not the question: you have to look at the levelized costs of different energy sources. In renewables, costs are declining very quickly. We can also mention natural gas power plants, the construction of which is much cheaper than that of nuclear power plants. This is why, once prices rise, it will still be much more profitable to invest in renewable sources or natural gas.

Do you believe the energy system will be based on renewables and gas in future? 

When you have a large proportion of renewables in your energy mix, you also need flexible energy sources to provide grid regulation. Natural gas power plants are a good fit here, but in the long run even natural gas could be phased out of the system, which will be based on renewables and a high degree of demand-side management, in other words smart technologies and energy efficiency. I cannot see any place for nuclear power plants in such an energy system.

In a nutshell, the trouble with nuclear investments is not a question of tendering or non-tendering. I wouldn’t be satisfied with Westinghouse, EDF, KHNP or any other company winning the tender, because their nuclear power plants would incur the same or even higher costs. With or without a public tender, there will be serious problems with profitability, because nuclear energy is no longer competitive.

Indeed, I don’t believe it ever was competitive; I think it only survived thanks to hidden subsidies. In Hungary, for example, we don’t actually know the real cost of the Paks I nuclear power plant built in the 1980s, because economic relations between the USSR and Hungary at that time were based on barters. With some exaggeration, one could say that we paid for the nuclear power plant with cans of green peas. Anyway, I think Hungary’s high level of indebtedness in the 1980s was closely linked to the construction of Paks I.

On the subject of natural gas, one always comes to the question of energy security. Europe depends on fuel imports, and nuclear power is generally considered more secure in this regard. 

In terms of energy security, building a new nuclear power plant would not be much better in this case. It will be the Russians who will construct it. It uses Russian technology and will be dependent on Russian fuel. Russia will provide a € 10 billion intergovernmental loan to Hungary, which creates a financial leash between the two countries. The Hungarian prime minister may be of a different opinion, but I’m convinced that it’s really dangerous to be dependent on Russia in several ways.

Couldn’t another fuel supplier be found?

The question of fuel dependency was raised by the European Commission, and the Euratom Supply Agency refused to counter-sign the first draft of the agreement on Paks II between Budapest and Moscow, as they considered the 20-year exclusivity provision for the Russians to supply the new power plant with fuel to be unacceptable. Ultimately, they agreed that this period would be shortened to 10 years, after which there would have to be an open tender for a new supplier.

This looks fine on paper, but in reality there’s no other supplier for this type of Russian nuclear power plant. The first third-generation VVER reactors only started operation in 2016 in Russia. It’s expensive for a nuclear technology company to develop a new type of nuclear fuel, and this will be a small market with most of the reactors operating in Russia or Belarus, which means that no market player will be willing to develop fuel of this type for just Paks in Hungary and Hanhikivi in Finland.

I have also been telling the Commission for two years now that they cannot approach the Paks case as an isolated Hungarian issue. Once they sign off on the agreement with Budapest, they will be flooded by demands from other member states to approve similar deals. This would completely destroy the EU energy market. If tens of thousands of megawatts of energy generation capacities in Europe are exempted from the common rules, then – I’m sorry to say – we can forget about a single market.

What the Hungarians think

Recently, you submitted another complaint against Paks II. Does this one concern market conditions? 

This is a question I raised in September at the European Nuclear Energy Forum in Bratislava, and the investigation by the European Commission is still in its early stages.

What is the essence of your complaint? 

The Hungarian government and certain people at the Commission argue that the Euratom Treaty creates a completely independent legal framework, and that nuclear investments are therefore exempt from EU competition and public procurement law. This is very dangerous. My complaint concerns Article 8 of the Electricity Market Directive, which states that there should be a capacity tender announced in each and every case where a government claims there is a risk of a capacity gap on the national market and therefore it seeks to actively intervene in order to solve the problem.

This is fine, but they have to open a public capacity tender that is technologically neutral, meaning that it does not require a particular technology. No such tender was ever announced in Hungary, and thus, in this case it is not the non-tendering of the project which violates EU law, but rather the non-tendering of the capacity. And with respect to this latter issue the Euratom Treaty has no bearing.

What do people in Hungary think about Paks II? Is it a major issue in the public debate? How is it perceived? 

I started my activities in the area of energy policy 15 years ago when I worked at an NGO. Just six or seven years ago when we were campaigning against nuclear energy, we were seen as crazy extremists. There was a consensus among 80% of society that nuclear energy was a good thing. In just a few years’ time, however, we managed to raise public awareness of the problem of profitability, and then the Fukushima accident focused attention on questions of security and safety.

Suddenly, the issue of nuclear energy became completely political. Government supporters became great friends of Russia. The same people who took to the streets in 2008 to protest against the then prime minister’s gas supply deals with Russia have now become best friends with Mr Putin. They consider any statement against Paks II to be a statement against the Hungarian nation.

More importantly, however, most of the public is now convinced that Paks II is an insane project that will create financial dependency on Russia, will never pay for itself, and will be harmful to the environment and future generations. Moreover, those journalists who were clearly pro-nuclear seven or eight years ago have changed their minds.

If one takes into consideration the government’s aggressive propaganda efforts, it’s a significant achievement that there is now a broad consensus among 50 or 60% of the population that we don’t need this project. The government is well aware of this, which is why they blocked a referendum on the issue. They may not be paying attention to it now, but in the long run, they will have to come to terms with the fact that most Hungarians no longer believe in the project.

ITCO, UNODC and GRECO say to European Commission: Open Up !

Strasbourg, 14 December 2016

Today, representatives from the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, the Group of States against Corruption (GRECO) of the Council of Europe and the transparency intergroup of the European Parliament (ITCO) appeal on the European Commission to finally start reporting about its anti-corruption policies.

Co-chair of the ITCO-intergroup, Dennis de Jong: ́ We were told by the European Commission that early this year, the European Parliament would receive its second anti-corruption report. In the meantime, all we received was a disappointing letter from Vice-President Timmermans that the report would be submitted in due course and that it would not contain a section on the internal anti-corruption policies of the European institutions themselves. I therefore welcome the idea of asking GRECO to submit its evaluation on anti-corruption policies of the EU and its Member States, so that the Commission can finally make some pro gress in this regard ́.

The appeal also addresses the concerns of UNODC and GRECO. De Jong: ́I t is embarrassing that until now the Commission has refrained from participating in the Implementation Review Mechanism under the UN Convention against Corruption, to which the EU is a party. I praise the patience of UNODC and its offer the assist the Commission in this respect. I urge the Commission to step up its efforts and to set the right example to the international community, instead of lagging behind as it did until now. Similarly, the EP should receive as soon as possible a full legal analysis of the obstacles the Commission is facing in becoming a party to the GRECO-mechanism of the Council of Europe. Also in this regard, sw ift progress has to be made ́.

Appeal on European Commission: Open Up!

  1. We are concerned about the lack of progress made by the European Commission in respect of its reporting activities on anti-corruption policies and measures, not only of Member States, but also of the EU-institutions themselves.
  2. We are disappointed that the second anti-corruption report of the European Commission, originally due for early this year, has not come out yet and we call upon the Commission to provide the European Parliament with a comprehensive report, including measures taken by the EU-institutions themselves, without further delay.
  3. We invite the Commission to examine ways to speed up the preparations for EU-membership of GRECO, the Council of Europe ́s mechanism to monitor compliance of its members (including all EU Member States) with the organisation’s anti-corruption standards. Similarly, we call upon the Commission to speed up the preparations for its participation in the Implementation Review Mechanism of the UN Convention against Corruption (UNCAC). We understand that there may be legal obstacles to overcome, but we demand transparency in this respect and invite the Commission to publish a legal analysis of the problems and possible solutions.
  4. In the meantime, we invite the Commission to explore, together with GRECO, possibilities for developing a pilot project, in which the EU participates, on a purely voluntary basis, in GRECO ́s review process in order to become acquainted with the procedures.
  5. We note that the Commission stated as one of the reasons for not being able to report on anti-corruption policies and measures that it cannot really critically evaluate its own measures. We therefore invite GRECO to offer support in this respect by providing the Commission with a targeted evaluation.
  6. We recall that in its Resolution of 25 October 2016, the European Parliament called upon the Commission to meet its reporting obligations under the UN Convention against Corruption to which the EU has become a party, and also to do its utmost to contribute financially to the technical assistance programme of the UN in the context of the Convention.
  7. We welcome the offer made by UNODC to assist the Commission with fulfilling its reporting obligations and with participating in the Implementation Review Mechanism of the UNCAC, so that the Commission could make itself acquainted with the monitoring procedures.
  8. The Members of the European Parliament, participating in the Intergroup Integrity, Transparency, Corruption and Organised Crime stand ready to engage in a meaningful dialogue with the European Commission on all of these issues, together with representatives from the Council of Europe and the UNODC.

Joint appeal of the ITCO intergroup and the UNOCD.

MEP Benedek Jávor’s written statement on the plenary debate of the Energy Winter Package

The Energy Winter Package would have been a unique opportunity to fill with content many of the promises on making the EU number one for renewables and world leader in tackling climate change. I must say: the Commission missed this opportunity. I see a general lack of ambition and the biggest market distortions being left unaddressed in the package.

First, it disregards the Paris agreement and slows down the EU’s efforts to limit global temperature increase to 1.5 C.

It doesn’t address the problems of overcapacity. It doesn’t address the loopholes in the Energy Efficiency Directive. It doesn’t stop backdoor subsidies for fossil fuels and nuclear. Instead, it allows financial flows to fossil fuel and protects the privileges of nuclear via capacity markets and the lack of a credible liability regime.

A mere 27% renewable target and the removal of priority access to new RES projects simply puts the brakes on the European energy transition. Governance and transparency about future support schemes are also weakened.

The new biofuels targets leave much room for bioenergy without effective measures to ensure it is sustainable.

This proposal is clearly insufficient and fails to take us to the needed transition in Europe’s energy systems.

Nature Directives: Commission commits to Action Plan to ensure full compliance

Following an orientation debate held today by the College of Commissioners, the European Commission has confirmed it will develop an Action Plan to improve implementation of the Birds and Habitats Directives (Nature Directives) and their coherence with other EU policies.

The Greens/EFA group – speaking with the same voice as NGOs and key Member States – has been advocating against opening the Directives up to revision, and has called instead for a focus on addressing enforcement problems.

After long delays in the refit process of the Directives, strongly criticised by the European Parliament, today’s orientation debate indicates that the Commission is finally willing to conclude the refit exercise and come up with the final results of the fitness check. The State of Nature report (1), also used in the process, makes it clear that EU enforcement action has been instrumental in better implementation of the Nature Directives so far. However, more needs to be done to ensure full compliance.

Commenting after today’s orientation debate, Greens/EFA MEP and Vice-Chair of the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety Benedek Jávor said:

“We very much welcome the commitment of the Commission to develop an Action Plan to correct the implementation deficiencies related to the Nature Directives. This is something that we have previously called for (2).

“It is important to go beyond guidelines and provide effective support to national and regional actors and improve environmental inspections, including through competence and capacity building and better allocation of resources.

“In order to ensure policy integration, we must also strengthen the environmental liability directive and make sure all infrastructural developments are fitted with proper environmental safeguards.

“Last, but not least, the EU cannot leave financing investments solely to local actors.  Biodiversity has to be mainstreamed in the EU budget beyond 2020, with natureconservation earmarked in each individual EU funding instrument as well as a dedicated biodiversity scheme. This would require further extension of the LIFE programme.”

(1) http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-15-4965_en.htm

(2) http://www.greens-efa.eu/eu-nature-legislation-16307.html

EU research grant scheme for investigative journalists – Press release

On 1 December, the European Parliament passed the 2017 budget of the EU. Due to an amendment by MEPs Benedek Jávor (Greens), Helga Trüpel (Greens), Petra Kammerevert (S&D) and Yana Toom (ALDE), it includes a 500.000 euro grant scheme for journalistic investigations into cases affecting at least two EU countries. The grant scheme will be implemented in the next three years as a preparatory action probably by the Leipzig based European Centre for Press and Media Freedom, in view of establishing a similar programme permanently. The independence and confidentiality of the proposed investigations will be fully respected.

The EP previously added a similar line to the budget in 2009, but then the programme never took off the ground. MEP Jávor made it one of his priorities to reinstate the programme ever since he took office in 2014, and to uncover the causes of the failure of the first attempt, to make sure that it will not default again.


(Image source: advancingthestory.com)