Támogasd Te is küzdelmünket a zöld és igazságos jövőért!

Can the EU do more for a healthy media sector?

On 23rd January we organised a conference together with Fondation Euractiv about the media sector. What can the EU do to support independent journalists? What is a role of the media sector in a democracy? Can we do more to help the innovation of the media?

Healthy democracies need a healthy media sector. Yet, faced with multiple attacks and challenges, notably technological and financial, the sector needs a coordinated response. This conference gathered 80+ participants from EU Digital and Media sector. Media independence for quality debates: This first exchange was focused on media independence and freedom of the press in Europe, moderated by Stephen Boucher, with MEP and Benedek Jávor (Greens/EFA), RSF, and other high-level speakers from the media, foundations and NGOs. Keynote speech: Digital Commissioner Mariya Gabriel What can the EU do for the media sector’s sustainability: This second panel was moderated by Christophe Leclercq and bring together key MEPs, notably Maria Joao Rodrigues (S&D), academics, industry representatives, foundations and NGOs.

The Future of Europe – The Europe of the Future international conference in Budapest

The European Greens, the DiEM25 (Democracy in Europe Movement) and the Progressive Hungary Foundation has organised a one-day-long conference in Budapest at the A38 ship on 19 September 2016.

Benedek Jávor and more than twenty other speakers came to take part in five international and one Hungarian round table talks. 250 people attended the venue in Budapest and several hundred people followed it on our live stream.

European progressive and green politicians, thinkers and leaders came to the conference, among others Yanis Varoufakis previous Greek minister of finance, the initiator of DiEM25, Philippe Lamberts co-chair of European Greens or Zoltán Pogátsa Hungarian DiEm25 initiator, economist. This was the first international public conference when European Greens and DiEM25 leaders discussed various issues. There were diverging views in certain topics, but the commitment for rethinking the foundations of European integration was the same.

Benedek Jávor in his opening speech emphasised the EU has torn away from its citizens, but the nation state can no longer mitigate the consequences of the mistakes made at EU level. The real conflict is not between the EU and the nation states but “between the policies that serve the interests of and are accountable to the community, and the policies implemented by the corrupt elites and conducted against the interests of the community, both at EU and national level.”


Paks hearing summary

Given the recent developments in the Paks-case, the hearing on the planned nuclear power plants at Paks – jointly hosted by Benedek Jávor and Rebecca Harms – was given a special emphasis.

Ms. Harms started by reminding the audience that just as we have passed the fourth anniversary of the Fukushima accident, we are nearing to the 29th of the Chernobyl disaster. She also expressed her concern over the incident at the Paks power plant in 2003 and enlisted some of the serious risks of the aftermath of the incident, such as the shipment of hazardous waste via the conflict-heavy Ukraine. In her introduction she urged the European Commission to respond.

In his opening speech, Mr. Benedek Jávor started by recalling that the EURATOM Supply Agency has just recently taken a negative decision on the fuel supply contract. Mr. Jávor warned that since the Hungarian Government has not engaged in a proper dialogue with the EU institutions, including EURATOM, now it has to restart negotiations; therefore, the Russian partner’s involvement in the project might easily become uncertain due to the conditions on fuel supply diversification. Meanwhile, during his visit to Budapest, President Vladimir Putin made no secret of his commitment to carry out the project despite the changed economic conditions. Mr. Jávor emphasized that beyond the obvious environmental dangers, there are serious political and economic risks that cannot be properly assessed due to the lack of public debate and the classification of all the relevant documents. He also reminded that in the context of the debate on European Energy Security Strategy so far, gas supply has been in the centre of attention while nuclear investments carry the same risks despite the multiple forms of dependence it creates. The dependence is not only financial and technological, but also on the fuel cycle.

Ámon Ada Paks konferenciaMs. Ada Ámon, director of Energiaklub, explained that the problem with Paks2 is Paks2 itself. Today the 4 block at Paks have a generation capacity of 2000 MWs. This would be more than doubled by the new nuclear power plant to 4400 MWs. The cost of the total investment, she continued, is 12.5 billion Euros, which is 20% of the Hungarian yearly budget with 10 billion coming from the Russians, the rest from state budget. This will lead to a substantial increase in energy production in Hungary, which, given the long term trends in energy consumption, would barely leave any room for other types of energy on the national market. From among the problems raised by the project, Ms. Ámon emphasized the lack of transparency and public debate, which highly increases the likeliness of corruption. Furthermore, we are facing a case of potential illegal state aid, the exclusion of experts from the decision making process, the lack of an alternative energy-scenario, and the centralization of the country’s energy supplies. All the above mentioned go against EU objectives. She also emphasized the lack of tendering, calling it the sign of the government’s indifference towards market efficiency. In addition, there is a persistent threat of increasing national debt by 5-8%. According to Ms. Ámon Paks2 will never be built, because it does not serve either interest of the Hungarian public or the European Union.

Stephen Thomas Paks ConferenceProfessor Stephen Thomas from the University of Greenwich presented a comparison of the British Hinkley Point C and the Paks power plants. Beyond the many similarities, including the lack of tendering and the probability that tax-payers will suffer the consequences if the plan goes wrong, there is a difference in the ability to withdraw from carrying out the project: while in the UK this possibility can still be considered, the situation in Hungary is not so straightforward. Another difference lies between the economic situations of the two countries: Hungary is much more prone to go bankrupt after building two new power plants, whereas the UK would most likely not suffer such harsh consequences. The risks are also higher in the case of Paks, because there is a possibility that the new power plants will not yet be operational by 2026, the year when the government will have to start paying back the loan. In addition, the question of the inclusion of the overnight costs in the price also differs in the two cases: these costs are clearly included in the prices of the Hinkley Point power plants; as to Paks, the status of the cited price is not obvious. An important similarity, though, is the classification of data, hence the lack of public discourse. There is also quite a great deal of uncertainty surrounding the affordability of the Paks plants: the Russians, said Mr. Stephenson, cannot even afford plants in their own country; it is highly questionable, therefore, how they would be able to pull through with the Paks investment.

Tóth István János Paks ConferenceDr. Todor Galev, researcher at the Center for the Study of Democracy in Bulgaria, explains how the consequences of the Ukrainian crisis have had a major impact on dealing with the question of energy dependency. Mr. Galev expressed his concerns over how Bulgarian politics are penetrated by Russian influence, meanwhile suspicions circulate that certain Bulgarian political parties are financed by Russia. He urged measures to be taken in connection with the formation of a regional cooperation, saying that without such a joint action, no country can protect itself from Russian influence.

Dr. István János Tóth, researcher at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences and the Corruption Research Centre in Budapest, described the nature of corruption within Hungary’s energy sector, where the lack of transparency is more typical than in any other sector. With regard to the Paks2 project, he described the so-called “white elephant syndrome”, i.e. the lack of an actual objective, where corruption itself is the goal. Based on statistical evidence, he said that the Paks2 project will be loss-making. He presented a comparison of 75 projects carried out between the years of 1966 and 1977, which pointed out that the price of nuclear power plant investments were the double or even the triple of their original price in addition to the fact that the time of their construction also typically expanded.

Massimo Garribba Paks ConferenceOn behalf of the European Commission, Mr. Massimo Garribba from DG Energy emphasized two major elements in connection with EU regulations since the Fukushima accident: firstly, the so-called stress tests and secondly the improvement of the legislative framework. He reminded, however, that nuclear energy is an important element of the EU energy mix. He enlisted the different aspects under the EU’s scrutiny of the project. First, he confirmed that negotiations about the fuel supply contract have restarted. He also confirmed that both DG COMP and DG GROW are instigating the project. In addition, he expressed the Commission’s commitment to reach an increased transparency in nuclear issues and called on the Hungarian government to declassify as many documents as possible.

The question of illegal state aid recurred during the question panel as well. Professor Thomas explained that at this stage there is no way of knowing whether there is state aid involved, because the documents are made secret; however, he said, it is clear that public money is involved, since the company responsible for carrying out the project is itself state-owned. His stance was seconded by Mr. Garribba, who said that some clarifications are required in order to know more. The debate on this issue tied in with, Mr. Garribba’s stance that the Commission aims towards requesting as much transparency as possible.

The topic of the lack of a public debate over the Paks decisions was given a twist as Dr. Attila Aszódi, responsible government official for the construction of the new Paks power plants, gave his remarks on the issues discussed at the hearing. He began by expressing his disappointment that no one from the Hungarian authorities had been invited to tell their side of the story. Mr. Jávor later responded to this remark saying he had no intention of creating an inconvenient situation in which a governmental official was asked questions he is legally bound not to answer, as the documents on Paks2 are classified. However, he expressed his appreciation for Mr. Aszódi’s participation in the hearing, saying this way at least a debate can finally evolve.

Mr. Aszódi also explained that one third of Hungary’s electricity is imported and it mainly consists of coal-based technologies. “We strongly believe that this isn’t sustainable,” he said, “we need energy sources not relying on coal.” 40% of Hungary’s electricity should come form from nuclear energy in the long run according to the energy mix chosen for long term by the Hungarian government, he explained. He also pointed out that the country would be much more able to use green energy if it had high mountains, like the Alps; however, Hungary is flatland and as such, its energy policy is determined by limited possibilities.

In response to Mr. Tóth’s presentation and other remarks on non-transparency, Mr. Aszódi rejected claims that the Paks project was in any way corrupt, as corruption, he said, is a crime. He urged the speakers to initiate a legal procedure if they suspected corruption. He also warned Mr. Tóth not to mix the concept of corruption risk with nuclear safety. He stated that the 12,5 billion euros is the total cost of the project with all inflation and other risks included.

Mr. Jávor provided Mr. Aszódi with the conclusions of a recent study that found that there had not been any investigations initiated on corruption cases by the Public Prosecutor’s Office in the last 5 years. He also called Mr. Aszódi’s attention to the fact that there were a number of occasions when he filed reports on corruption with documents and evidence to the public prosecutor, however, without any effect. He also mentioned, that the total cost cannot be 12,5 billion euros, because the interest is around 11 billion to begin with, so the total cost (overnight+capital costs together) of the project should be over 20 billion euros.

Ms. Harms also reacted to Mr. Aszódi’s comments telling about her visit to Paks in 2013, when her aim was to find out more about the project; however, as she said referring to the problem of secrecy and non-transparency, during her visit she found out more about the gardening around the plants than the actual project itself. Should she be invited to Paks this time to have a more elaborate view, she would be more than happy to come, she said.

SOER workshop opening speech

Dear participants,

First of all, let me express my warm welcome to all of you who decided to take part in the SOER2015 launch event at the European Parliament.

A special welcome to Mr Falkenberg and other representatives of the COM, Mr Bruyninckx and his colleagues from the European Environment Agency including Ms Fay, Mr Scoullos, to our knowledgeable expert speakers, the co-hosts and all MEP colleagues. Unfortunately, Mr Leinen could not join us but we very much welcome Ms Miriam Dalli as our co-host from the SnD Group, together with Mr Jose Inacio Faria representing the ALDE group. I am Benedek Jávor, Green MEP and first vice-chair of the ENVI Committee.

I feel honoured to co-host the event as the State and Outlook report is highly relevant for the work of the members of the European Parliament and other stakeholders as its serves as a key source of feedback for environmental policies in place in terms of their achievements and impacts. This is an essential element we crucially need for policy adjustment and improvement.

The flagship report of the Agency analyses the state of Europe’s environment every 5 years. It is not a simple study with standalone figures. Importantly, the 2015 report provides a state and outlook placed in the context of the 7th Environment Action Programme and its 2050 vision. The report clearly demonstrates that despite some positive short-term trends Europe is not on track to achieve long-term sustainability. Just to name a few areas where long term prospects are alarming: land use and soil functions, climate change and the associated health risks, energy consumption as well as transport demand. Biodiversity and habitat loss, land-take and overexploitation of resources continue despite existing policy targets at different levels. As the report itself stresses, in some cases the level of ambition of our existing policies seems inadequate. Current efforts will not be sufficient to achieve the 2050 vision set in the 7EAP.

As our speakers will also highlight, we urgently need to create more integrated, coherent and truly ambitious policies and actions. We need to further strengthen implementation and improve governance as well as our institutions. I believe that institutions should better reflect long term sustainability efforts and the needs of future generations. New approaches in governance could help us exploit synergies among policies and policy approaches. And above all, we need to bring about profound changes in practices and behaviour – taking into account possible lock-in effects and trade-offs as well. These aspects are all reflected in the SOER report. The report goes beyond the long-term vision and offers credible and feasible transition pathways.

Another asset of the SOER2015 report is that it is based on objective, reliable and comparable environmental information, and draws upon the evidence and knowledge base available to the Agency and the European environment information and observation network in 39 European countries. We need to further improve the knowledge base, to rethink some of our indicators and in more general terms, how we measure progress. I was also happy to find reference to the importance of giving full value to natural capital.

The report states that implementation of existing environment and climate policies resulted in improvement on the state of the environment and reduced health risks yet it also stresses that further implementation efforts by countries can reinforce these trends. I am convinced that governments and other actors need to be assisted, inter alia by providing room and level playing field for citizens` based initiatives, by ensuring that citizens are well-informed and have effective access to justice in line with the Aarhus Convention and by strengthening environmental inspections e.g. through extending the inspection requirements. These are of utmost importance when it comes to the effectiveness of our policies. As for better regulation and governance, I feel a bit concerned about some recent developments in this respect – e.g. in the 2015 work programme of the Commission there are a huge number of withdrawals or modification of pending proposals including crucial pieces of environmental and health legislation such as the circular economy package. I believe that the EU must prioritise legislation that serves the citizens’ needs and lead to the fulfilment of the 2050 vision of 7EAP ’living well, within the limits of our planet’.

To sum up, I would like to underline one of the key messages of the SOER2015 report, namely the need to recalibrate existing policy approaches. I truly believe that policy coherence, long-term thinking and sustainability should become the guiding principles for the revision and continuous improvement of European policy processes. I envisage a policy improvement process based on three distinct elements:

  1. proper signals on the state of the environment quality of life, well-being, progress and social cohesion, transition to a green economy as well as information on potential synergies and trade-offs of our policies..
  2. systematic evaluation of existing polices to assess the tangible effects, the actual added value as well as to point out the shortcomings.
  3. political willingness and stakeholder engagement, outreach to the general public to help them understand the various effects EU policies can have on their daily life

I believe that the reason the SOER reports are extremely valuable is because they contribute substantially to all three elements I just mentioned. I truly hope that the report will experience a broadening uptake reaching out to an ever-wider audience, including the Members of the European Parliament and all policy and decision makers at all levels. This could lay the foundations for reshaping European policies with holistic and long term approaches.

As for the format of the event, first the Executive Director of the European Environment Agency, Prof. Bruninckx will deliver his keynote speech on the main outcomes and policy-relevant messages of the SOER2015 report. Then our well-known and very knowledgeable experts speakers, namely Mr Luc Bas, Director of IUCN, Mr Ernst von Weizsäcker,Co-President of the Club of Rome, Ms Laura Burke,Director General of the Environmental Protection Agency of Ireland and Mr Janez Potocnik, co-chair of the UNEP International Resource Panel will respond from perspectives of the priority objectives of the 7th Environment Action Programme (natural capital, resource efficiency, human health and well-being, implementation) In the Q/A session we will open the floor for all participants to raise questions, give comments. This will be followed by reflections from Mr Falkenberg, Director General of DG ENVI. After the closing remarks by Mr Jose Inacio Faria we will have a short, technical break and a cocktail reception here in the room.

I wish ourselves a fruitful workshop and a lively exchange of views.

Benedek Javor, MEP

TTIP Talks: What’s Cooking? – Perspectives on Food & Farming

Benedek Jávor MEP moderated a panel discussion at a succesful event on TTIP and its impacts on food and farming, organized by the Greens/EFA last December.

Here you can find the Live Stream and Programme that 500 persons followed live online.

About the event

In the first event of its kind, the Greens/EFA in the European Parliament with the support of civil society and farmers’ organisations from both sides of the Atlantic, is pleased to invite you to a conference on the impacts of a potential EU-US trade agreement (TTIP) on food and farming.

With invited speakers from the food and farming sectors and civil society, and invited respondents from the European Commission, this conference promises to be an open and frank debate on TTIP and its potential consequences on food safety standards, consumer rights, animal welfare and the wider impact on rural areas.

With much of the debate on TTIP focusing on questions relating to food, we want to examine in further detail:

  • How can such differing standards for food and farming be harmonised without a serious compromise on the European side?
  • Will TTIP lead to the further industrialisation of agriculture in Europe?
  • Who benefits from the deal? Agri-businesses or farmers?
  • How can we maintain a high level of transparency and traceability for European consumers?
  • How a lack of transparency in the negotiations themselves is doing nothing to stem public fears that the TTIP negotiations could already be watering down key rules and standards for food and farming.


Greens-EFA in cooperation with ARC2020, Compassion in World Farming, Corporate Europe Observatory, Euro Coop, European Milk Board, Friends of the Earth Europe, Slow Food & European Coordination Via Campesina.


Welcome word
by MEP Ska Keller – general concerns about TTIP

Keynote speech
by Robert Weissman, President of Public Citizen (USA)

Start of the first panel
, moderated by MEP José Bové

TTIP – trading away good food and farming

Objective: general overview major concerns for consumers, farmers and food producers

Short, 5 min contributions (key concerns) from:

  • Magda Stoczkiewicz, director Friends of the Earth (precautionary principle, food safety differences EU-US)
  • Karen Hansen-Kuhn, Director International Strategies at Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP) (on US-EU perspective, via video connection in Washington)
  • Todor Ivanov, Secretary General EuroCoop (on consumers rights, labeling issues and food safety standards)

from John Clarke, Director of International affairs in DG AGRI, European Commission

Response by
Elena Bryan, Senior Trade Representative at the US Mission to the EU

Debate / Q&A

Start Second Panel
moderated by MEP Bart Staes:

Harmonizing rules and standards – a race to the bottom?

Objective: clear examples about different standards applied in EU and US

Short 5-minute contributions (key concerns) from :

  • Olga Kikou, Compassion in World Farming (on animal welfare issues)
  • Vito Buonsante, Client Earth (on pesticides and chemicals in food)
  • Robert Weissman, President of Public Citizen (on US perspective consumer protection)
  • Michael Scannell, Director of the Food and Veterinary Office FVO (on controls and inspections)
  • Erica Smith, law and policy consultant for the Centre for International Environmental Law (CIEL)  (on how the pesticide industry uses TTIP to harmonise EU and US law)

from Ladislav Miko, Deputy Director General DG SANCO,  European Commission

Debate / Q&A

Start Third panel
, moderated by MEP Benedek Javor

TTIP: Socioeconomic Impact on Food and Farming

Objective: Who benefits in the farming sector, who is losing and impacts on working conditions

Short 5 minute contributions (key concerns) from:

  • Hanny van Geel, Via Campesina (on consequences for farmers of free trade agreements)
  • Sieta van Keimpema, Vice-Chair European Milk Board (on consequences for farmers of free trade agreements)
  • Robert Marshall Pederson, Food Policy expert Aalborg University and Arc2020 (on impacts on nutrition and dietary transition, sustainable food and agriculture systems)

Response by Monique Pariat, Deputy Director General DG AGRI, European Commission

by Jim Higginston, Minister Counselor for FAS (foreign agriculture service) US Mission to the EU

Concluding remarks
by MEP Philippe Lamberts, vice-president Greens/Efa Group in European Parliament


Below you can find more information about the event:

Video clip from the event: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UtgCG3JAAOc&feature=youtu.be

compiles interventions of our MEPs and guest speakers.


Photos of the event: https://www.flickr.com/photos/greensefa/sets/72157649287771168/
All photos of MEPs, speakers and the audience.


Twitter Storify: https://storify.com/EUFoodChat/ttip-perspectives-on-food-and-farming-in-collabor

Overview of the TTIP&Food discussion held on Twitter ahead of the event.