The European Commission said today (16 January) that it will not withdraw a draft proposal on air-quality restrictions, as suggested in its work programme for 2015. However, despite protests from MEPs, it will withdraw a proposal on waste.
The 2015 work programme, unveiled last month, selects new proposals and pending legislation for withdrawal or amendment. It has been heavily criticised by MEPs and some national governments for its plan to withdraw the two environmental proposals, which had already begun to make their way through the legislative process. Yesterday, bickering between political groups prevented the Parliament from adopting an official response to the work programme. However, a majority of MEPs voted in favour of amendments criticising the withdrawals.
The fate of the air quality proposal has been unclear, but today the Commission said that it will not withdraw the legislation. Nor will it modify the proposed text itsself, which cannot be done without a withdrawal. It will instead encourage MEPs and member states to make changes to the proposal during the normal legislative process. The Commission cannot make changes to a proposal that it has already adopted without withdrawing it.
However, the waste proposal, known as the ‘circular economy package’, will still be withdrawn. A Commission spokesperson said it would “replace it with more ambitious plans in 2015”.
There was hope that the Commission would change its mind if the Parliament and the Council both officially objected to its plans. The Commission had indicated in December that it would “wait for the views of the European Parliament and the Council on these proposals before formalising the withdrawals”.
“We have consulted the Parliament and the Council before adopting the work programme, and we consulted them afterwards,” the Commission spokesperson said today. “There is no formal timeline for these consultations to take place.”
Commission sources confirmed that the withdrawal of the waste proposal will definitely go ahead.
Karmenu Vella, the European commissioner for the environment, will appear before the Parliament’s environment committee next week and may give more details about the plans and the timeframe for re-proposing the circular economy package.
Negotiations on the air-quality proposal will now resume. Julie Girling, a British Conservative MEP who is in charge of steering the legislation through the Parliament, will meet rapporteurs from other political groups in the coming weeks, with a view to holding a vote in the environment committee in the spring.
Catherine Bearder, a shadow rapporteur on the file, said that she was “glad the Commission has confirmed it won’t be weakening this vital piece of legislation.”
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