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Press statement by Commissioner Sinkevičius after the informal video conference of the EU Ministers for Environment

Met dank overgenomen van Europese Commissie (EC), gepubliceerd op donderdag 18 maart 2021.

Good afternoon everybody.

And thank you Joao Pedro.

Let me also share with you my takes from this very fruitful VTC of Environment Ministers today.

The morning was indeed dedicated to Climate issues, and in particular the Climate Adaptation Strategy and the European Climate Law, both covered by EVP Frans Timmermans. Then, in the discussions on the greening the European Semester, the EVP recalled the need to ensure that Member States' reforms and investments under the Recovery and Resilience Facility contribute to environmental sustainability and that national Recovery and Resilience Plans are aligned with the country-specific recommendations and with challenges identified in the context of the European Semester. Ministers were also reminded of the need to ensure that the central European Green Deal principle of ‘do no significant harm' is observed in practice on the ground.

This afternoon we turned to the Environment.

We had a very important policy debate on the Batteries proposal presented by the Commission in December. Minsters looked at three aspects of the proposal - the legal basis, the sustainability requirements, and the methods and targets for collection and recycling. I explained why the Commission had retained the proposed internal market legal basis, recalling also that the proposal takes a life-cycle approach to regulating products, and that its scope covers the key aspects that make batteries truly sustainable. We now hope that the European Parliament will also start its discussions on this important proposal, which we of course want to see adopted as quickly as possible.

We then went through a number of AOB points.

The Presidency presented the Council mandate on the 8th Environment Action Programme, adopted yesterday by COREPER, which brings us one step closer to the adoption of this Action Programme. I overall welcomed the broad support from the Council on the lean approach proposed by the Commission, and we hope that the European Parliament will be able to adopt its negotiating mandate later in spring, so that the three institutions can enter into trilogues still before summer.

We also touched upon the Council conclusions on the Chemicals Strategy for Sustainability, our first step towards the Zero Pollution Ambition for a toxic-free environment. These Conclusions were adopted earlier this week, and I am extremely thankful for the support shown by the Council for the ambition of the Commission's Strategy. I assured Ministers that we remain fully committed to delivering the actions included in the Strategy, and to engaging with all stakeholders and Member States during the implementation phase. I also encouraged Ministers to support the Strategy at the national level, in particular to promote the transition to safe and sustainable by design chemicals and materials through funding and investment instruments.

Together with the Presidency, I then reported briefly on the outcome of the first part-session of the fifth gathering of the United Nations Environmental Assembly in February. I thanked Ministers for the good cooperation, and welcomed the launch of the Global Alliance for Circular Economy and Resource Efficiency.

I also informed Ministers on the state of play of preparation of the upcoming EU Forest Strategy, which will also be discussed at the AGRIFISH Council next week. As in many Member States Environment Ministers are either in the lead or at least co-responsible for forests, the Commission thought that it would be very important to ensure that both Agriculture and Environment Ministers would be involved in these discussions. The state of EU's forest ecosystems is truly dire and there is an urgent need to reverse this trend if we want forests to continue to provide both, their socio-economic benefits and their essential ecosystem services. I assured Ministers that the upcoming Strategy will help forests fulfil their environmental, social and economic functions and foster their multi-functional character.

We finished the day with a presentation from Executive Vice-president Valdis Dombrovskis on the Trade Policy Review. Trade policies will play an important role in promoting greater sustainability and the 2030 agenda. And the EVP shared his views with Ministers on how we can expect trade to support this green transition.

Thank you and now I am happy to answer your questions.

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