A promise that must be kept

17th December 2014 Posted by

Yesterday (16 December 2014), the European Commission withdrew the so-called “circular economy package”, developed by the previous Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik, amid cries of “shame” from MEPs assembled in the European Parliament.

The package was withdrawn for two reasons: the “principle of political discontinuity”, a notion that, judging from the reaction of many MEPs during the parliamentary debate, evidently puzzled them as much as it did other observers, and the judgement that there would be “no foreseeable agreement” on the package.  On this latter point, several MEPs pointed out that virtually every piece of legislation would have been stillborn if the Commission had applied this criterion – the better option would have been to present an amended package, rather than withdraw it completely.

With several MEPs expressing “disappointment” and “disillusionment” over President Juncker’s decision, the Commission was at pains to clarify that the Commission Work Programme was for 2015 only.  It said it was committed to making sure that the circular economy “would be applied in a circular way” (whatever that means!) and that a “more ambitious” version of the circular economy package would be presented to Parliament in 2015, in line with President Juncker’s Investment Plan for Europe.

An Investment Plan for Europe (COM 2014 903 Final) is a Communication from the European Commission outlining plans to mobilise €300 billion in additional public and private investment in the EU’s economy over the next three years, over and above funds provided by the Commission.  “Energy and resource efficiency” projects are listed as potential recipients of funding although this represents, at best, a piecemeal approach to the circular economy that is unlikely to be scalable beyond the confines of the project itself.

With the Commission’s commitment to develop a “more ambitious” circular economy package for unveiling in 2015, the next step for our sector will be to open a dialogue with Commission officials to ensure that this promise is kept.

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