OPP Meeting Summary: EP ENVI Committee – Exchange of views with Mr Neno Dimov, Minister of Environment and Water, Bulgarian Presidency (24 January 2017)

A summary of the exchange of views is available with a focus on environment and climate change issues.

EP ENVI Committee Meeting – 24 January 2018
Exchange of views with Mr Neno Dimov, Minister of Environment and Water, Bulgarian Presidency

Neno Dimov, Minister of Environment and Water

  • the transition to a Circular Economy was one of their main priorities along with eco-innovation. In this regard, the Presidency welcomed the mini Circular Economy Package adopted by the Commission last week and were planning to prioritise the Plastic Strategy by organising a Ministerial level discussion during the Council meeting in March. The discussions would focus on how to increase recycling and significantly decrease landfill waste and incineration. Based on the results of the discussion, they would work on the adoption of Council conclusions in June, which would serve as guidance for the Commission on the next steps that needed to be implemented as a priority. The debate would also include the Communication on the interface between chemicals and waste legislation;
  • air quality was another priority for the Presidency. Efforts would be directed towards initiatives related to making use of  mechanisms and innovative solutions to improve air quality. This would be the main topic of the conference on eco-innovation, organised in conjunction with the Commission on 5-6 February in Sofia. Air quality would also be discussed at the Informal Environment Council in April. He invited the ENVI Chair to participate in both events;
  • better regulation was also a priority. There were contradictions between EU legislation in the areas of environment, agriculture, climate and energy which needed to be resolved in order to guarantee better implementation. The Presidency would lead the political discussion on the topic at the Informal Council in April and address the issue in the context of greening the European Semester during the Council meeting in March;
  • he stressed the existence of a political consensus in Europe on climate change issues and measures that needed to be undertaken. Bulgaria was part of this consensus and would work actively to maintain it. In the next few months, they would be preparing for COP24 with the upcoming facilitative dialogue for the implementation of the Paris Agreement. Adaptation issues would be addressed and better mobilisation of financial resources from the EU budget;
  • the legal framework for the decarbonisation of transport was another area the Presidency would be active in. They were aiming for political agreement in negotiations on monitoring and reporting of CO2 emissions from and fuel consumption of new heavy-duty vehicles They had also started intensive discussions on CO2 emissions standards for new cars and vans. They planned on organising a Ministerial debate during the June Council with a view to securing political guidance on the process and a vision for the decarbonisation of the sector.

Giovanni La Via (EPP, IT)

  • the greening of agricultural policy was an area the EP felt very strongly about. There was concern that with regards to the CAP, a move towards a denationalisation of policy and a fragmented environment policy was happening;
  • he asked the Presidency’s views on the revision of the Drinking Water Directive, given the problem of water scarcity.

Neno Dimov, Minister of Environment and Water

  • water quality was also important, from an environmental and health angle. The results of the Water Directive overview had concluded that implementation was one of the key components for guaranteeing good water quality. At the same time, problem areas had been detected which needed improvement (such as information provision to end-users, quality standards). He hoped the upcoming review of the Directive proposed by the Commission would address these issues.

Simona Bonafè (S&D, IT) 

  • she agreed with the importance of the priorities mentioned (mini Circular Economy, air quality, reducing CO2 emissions in transport, the Paris Agreement);
  • she had been Rapporteur on the Waste Package and a provisional deal had been reached in December. The process was now stuck in the Council Secretariat and she called for the Presidency’s assistance so they could move forward on this dossier, whilst respecting the agreement and implementing measures on recycling as well as waste and landfills;
  • technological solutions as well as innovation was important in order to create products that could be sustainable throughout their entire life-cycle. She again called on the Presidency’s assistance in terms of ensuring the Circular Economy Package proposals would be made by the Commission as soon as possible;
  • finally, sustainability and competitiveness were not mutually exclusive and she suggested producing a shared document between the Competitiveness and Environment Council.

Neno Dimov, Minister of Environment and Water

  • the Circular Economy and eco-innovation were priorities. In times of crisis, the ability of Europe to create had brought about a return to prosperity. Long-term action was required and he was certain future Presidencies would retain these priorities;
  • in February they planned to introduce the Waste Package to Coreper in order to continue with the progress made under the Estonian Presidency.

Julie Girling (ECR, UK)

  • Bulgaria shared the problem of poor air quality with other Member States (MS). She expressed her support for action to be taken prior to legislation, for example a declaration by MS that they were prepared to take serious action in this area. It was an issue that had reached a crisis point and she asked what the Presidency could bring to the table on this matter.

Neno Dimov, Minister of Environment and Water

  • measures would have to be taken to tackle air quality, either via legislation or non-legislative act;
  • the Environment Ministers from the Western Balkans had been invited to attend the Sofia Forum in February, The Western Balkans should be included in the dialogue and measures taken;
  • eco-innovation could be used to tackle poor air quality.

Gerben-Jan Gerbrandy (ALDE, NL)

  • with regards to the comments made on climate change within the EU, the Minister had questioned the influence of humans on climate change and the theory of sea level rise. In this regard, as he would be chairing many important meetings, he asked where he stood individually vis-a-vis climate change;
  • he was pleased air quality was a priority. However, at the same time, Bulgaria had joined Poland in a legal challenge against legislation on new emissions standards for large combustion plants that would have a huge positive impact on air quality. He asked for this comments on this;
  • on the 2020 biodiversity strategy, all indicators but one had received a red light. Biodiversity had not been mentioned in the Presidency programme,therefore he asked if the Presidency would take any action on this matter over the next 6 months.

Neno Dimov, Minister of Environment and Water

  • he would be willing to discuss personal matters but not inside this room. Consensus was a political instrument to achieve certain aims. Science did not believe but was searching and provided a variety of arguments. He reiterated that the Presidency wished to maintain this consensus;
  • Poland and Bulgaria were contesting the way a legal procedure was adopted. Legislation should be observed and procedural infractions challenged;
  • Bulgaria had one of the largest Natura 2000 areas in Europe (over 34% of the country). Economic development should be balanced with the protection of the environment and nature.

 Kateřina Konečná (GUE/NGL, CZ)

  • the Circular Economy and waste legislation were important topics. However, LULUCF, governance of the Energy Union renewables and energy efficiency had not been mentioned. She questioned if the Presidency would push these issues forward;
  • on the subject of biofuels, she asked for views on the phase-out of first generation biofuels within a short deadline and the abolition of biofuels from palm oil.

Neno Dimov, Minister of Environment and Water

  • on renewables, energy efficiency and governance, the Bulgarian Presidency would continue to work actively on the Clean Energy Package and on the basis of steps taken during the Estonian Presidency. They expected trilogues to begin on governance, energy efficiency and renewables.

Dubravka Šuica (EPP, HR)

  • with regards to the Western Balkans, marine waste from mainly Albania and Montenegro had recently caused an ecological disaster on thee coast of her hometown of Dubrovnik and the Croatian islands. Although the countries in question had signed the Barcelona Convention, the amount of waste was increasing. In this regard, she welcomed the Plastics Strategy. She asked if more proactive cooperation between EU MS and neighbouring candidate countries was necessary to implement better environmental policies and was there a possibility of introducing stricter criteria for opening and closing environment chapters in the enlargement process.

Neno Dimov, Minister of Environment and Water

  • the Presidency would give priority to the Plastics Strategy and would organise a Ministerial debate at the Environment Council in March. Based on the results of the discussion, they would work on the adoption of Council conclusions in June, which would serve as guidance for the Commission on the next steps that needed to be implemented as a priority.

Gilles Pargneaux (S&D, FR)

  • he had heard positions voiced by the Minister which did not align with the EU position on climate change. He expressed his hope that he would be able to put aside his personal views during the Presidency;
  • he asked if the Presidency intended to organise a special Ministerial meeting related to climate finance as a follow-up to the One Planet Meeting.

Gesine Meissner (ALDE, DE)

  • she was pleased the Plastics Strategy had been identified as a priority. An exhibition on plastic waste from the sea was planned and she suggested the Presidency should work in cooperation on this. Marine health was an important issue;
  • 1st June would be the European day of the Seas. As Minister for the Environment, she expected him to be involved and asked what the focus would be (marine biodiversity, climate change or water quality).

Neno Dimov, Minister of Environment and Water

  • he confirmed an event would be organised on 1st June. A project was being prepared for the mapping of the Black Sea under Natura 2000.

Soledad Cabezon Ruiz (S&D, ES)

  • she had been shocked by the Minister’s questioning of the reality of climate change. This was shocking and had resulted in a lack of trust. The science was clear and the consequences of climate change needed to addressed and mitigated;
  • the Commission had made a proposal on an EU Civil Protection Mechanism that could mitigate these effects. Prevention and repairing the damage also needed to be worked on immediately. For example, forests damaged by fires in Europe;
  • she asked for the Presidency’s views on GDP per capita and how this was calculated.

Neno Dimov, Minister of Environment and Water

  • the Presidency would be working on effective mechanisms for enhancing civil protection, including reducing the risk of natural disasters on the national and EU level and a quicker response period.

Stefan Eck (GUE/NGL, DE)

  • he referenced the Minister’s personal views on climate change and asked if the Presidency was working towards a cap on emissions from agriculture. Emissions from intensive animal husbandry were so large that action was required and needed a Presidency that had the courage to push this forward.

Tiemo Wölken (S&D, DE)

  • he also referenced the Minister’s personal views on climate change. Statements about consensus were not enough. It was damaging to call climate change into question;
  • with regards to the Drinking Water Directive, 1 million citizens in the EU did not have access to drinking water so it was an important issue. There were two political options for supplying these 1 million people with water and he asked if the Minister had a preference.

Neno Dimov, Minister of Environment and Water

  • with regards to water, the health and quality of citizens was important. There would be developments on drinking water.

Karin Kadenbach (S&D, AT)

  • she asked a question about the a national park in Bulgaria. The measures being taken there for development were potentially not in line with the Habitats and Environmental Assessment Directive.

Neno Dimov, Minister of Environment and Water

  • he did not wish to discuss national policy. He did say that the area she had mentioned was a buffer zone under UNESCO and all actions were allowed within this zone. The other 45% of the area was used was a source for drinking water. This was allowed by EU legislation.

Neno Dimov, Minister of Environment and Water responded to concerns about his personal views on climate change:

  • he repeated his views on consensus and politics as mentioned in the first round of questions.

Source: One Policy Place

The simultaneous interpretation of debates provided by the European Parliament serves only to facilitate communication amongst the participants in the meeting. It does not constitute an authentic record of proceedings. One Policy Place uses these translations so this text is only a guide and should not be relied on as an official account of the meeting. Only the original speech or the revised written translation of that speech is authentic.

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