Potocnik to quit as environment commissioner
EU environment commissioner Janez Potočnik confirmed in a statement last week that he will stand down at the end of his term in October. Slovenia’s outgoing government, that lost a snap general election in July, did not name Mr Potočnik among its three nominees for the country’s new Commissioner under the next European Commission to be headed by Jean-Claude Juncker. Mr Potočnik is widely regarded as a committed advocate of environmental protection. He has particularly pushed for sustainability to be integrated into other policy areas, such as agriculture, and into the economy through improved resource efficiency. His efforts have though often been frustrated by an adverse political climate within the Commission over the past five years with a number of proposals having to be handed over to the new Commission. Connie Hedegaard, the current Commissioner for Climate Action, is also expected to step down.
Taking climate out of the environment department also allowed Mr Potočnik’s team to work on legislative proposals in areas including water, air pollution and resource efficiency – issues that may have been sidelined by climate action. The European Environment Bureau is calling on the new President to see the environment department put fully in charge of GMOs, pesticides and chemicals policy in the next Commission, in the hope that this would boost regulation, including of endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs). The Commission’s health department currently leads on GMOs and pesticides, while the industry department deals with the REACH chemical regulation. NGO climate coalition CAN Europe is not in favour of Germany’s Günther Oettinger continuing in his current role as energy commissioner as they do not see him as strong enough on cutting greenhouse gas emissions. Meanwhile, Janez Potočnik is looking forward to returning to his native Slovenia to help the European Union and Slovenia, especially on the path towards the common goal of sustainable development. ENEP has had the opportunity to meet with Commissioner Potočnik twice in the last 12 months in a private meeting with ENEP’s President and members from Spain, Romania and the UK and later at Green Week 2014. Members of ENEP wish Mr Potočnik all the very the best in the future.