Sunday

15th Dec 2019

Green MEPs unconvinced by Romanian commissioner

  • 'Green Deal in transport does not seem to be in safe hands,' Green MEP Bas Eickhout tweeted after the hearing (Photo: European Parliament)

MEPs gave the green light to Romanian's new commissioner-designate for transport, Adina-Ioana Vălean on Thursday (14 November) - but she did not manage to convince MEPs from the Greens, who have requested to ask her additional questions concerning environment and consumer rights.

For the vice-chair of the parliament's environmental committee Dutch MEP Bas Eickhout (Greens/EFA) the performance of Vălean, who was also chair of the same committee in the last legislature, was not convincing.

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"Green Deal in transport does not seem to be in safe hands," Eickhout tweeted.

One of the main topics discussed during Vălean's grilling was a possible tax on aviation fuel (kerosene), which the next commissioner for the Green Deal Frans Timmermans recently backed.

But the Romanian commissioner-designate told MEPs that taxation is only "one of the possibilities" to make aviation more sustainable and efficient.

Aviation tax

Environmentalists have been demanding the introduction of a kerosene tax for years, to reduce considerably the production of CO2 in Europe - emissions from aviation account for about three percent of the EU's total greenhouse gas emissions and more than two percent of global emissions.

Earlier this month, nine member states - Belgium, Bulgaria, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and Sweden - call upon the incoming European Commission to open a debate on aviation pricing.

However, Vălean believes that "the kerosene tax is only one of the measures available".

Speaking to Irish MEP Clare Daly (from the left-wing GUE/NGL), Vălean said that with taxation there is the risk that the costs will increase, what "will be a burden on the mobility of people" - adding that she had only a few days to look into the details of transport policy.

When Green MEP Ciaran Cuffe asked her about whether the new commission should prioritise reducing the number of flights, the Romanian commissioner-designate said that she will focus on making trains more affordable with lower prices.

"We don't need fewer flights, we need to be more efficient and sustainable," she added.

Vălean, who is one of Romania's longest-serving MEPs, was grilled by MEPs in the parliament's transport and tourism committee mainly over how transport policies can be aligned with the targets set by the new commission, while ensuring that no one is left behind.

"When you look at a map of Europe there is a huge difference in connectivity between east and west," said Vălean.

"The eastern part of Europe needs to be fully supported," she added.

Emission trading 'necessary'

Speaking to German MEP Ismail Ertug (S&D) about the climate goals set out by Ursula von der Leyen, Vălean said that it was not good for business to change the targets before the adoption and implementation of policies because "we need to be predictable with the regulation we are producing".

Earlier this year, the new chief of the EU commission said that she wants a more "ambitious" EU's target, reducing emissions from the current 40 percent to 55 percent by 2030.

"We have to have in this [Green] deal all parts involved. We need to keep the competitiveness of the industry, but we need to be socially sustainable," she told MEPs.

Transport policy will be essential for the Green Deal to success due to the huge impact of this sector on the environment.

But "the EU emissions trading scheme will be absolutely necessary," said Vălean.

The commission is trying to extend the Emissions Trade System (ETS) to cover aviation and maritime sectors, which were sectors were left out of the Paris climate agreement.

Keeping her promise to have the first gender-balanced college, commission president-elect von der Leyen chose Vălean over MEP Siegfried Muresan, who had also been proposed to become the Romanian commissioner - after the original candidacy of socialist Rovana Plumb was rejected by the legal affair committee.

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