The Environment, Public Health and Food Safety, and Fisheries Committees questioned Virginijus Sinkevičius, candidate for the Environment and Oceans portfolio. Political groups’ coordinators and chairs from the two committees will meet later today to assess the performance of Lithuanian Commissioner-designate Sinkevičius. The hearing was co-chaired by Chris Davies (Renew Europe, UK; Fisheries Committee Chair) and Pascal Canfin (Renew Europe, FR; Environment, Public Health and Food Safety Committee Chair). The Committee for Agriculture was associated to this hearing.

Forests, biodiversity and oceans governance

During his introductory speech, Mr. Sinkevičius listed three priorities for environmental matters: biodiversity, the circular economy and zero pollution. He spoke in favour of working at global level to achieve the equivalent of the Paris climate agreement for biodiversity. He also proposed extending circular economy policies to new sectors, such as textiles, food and the information and communications technology sector. To fight pollution, he announced he will focus on the challenges of hazardous chemicals, endocrine disruptors, as well as the runoff of nutrients, pharmaceuticals and microplastics in water.

Regarding fisheries, he committed to fully implementing the Common Fisheries Policy and its upcoming evaluation. He added that the EU must remain a global leader for sustainable fisheries and ocean governance. He also mentioned the importance of healthy oceans to ensure healthy fish stocks and thriving fishing communities.

MEPs put forward several questions on how EU environmental policies can enhance the role of forests as carbon sinks and biodiversity reservoirs, tackling air pollution from agriculture and industry. Members also questioned the Commissioner-designate on plastic pollution, over-packaging and eco-design.

Fisheries-related questions touched upon the desired reciprocal agreement to access waters & resources in the event of Brexit, employment and youth matters for small fishing communities, multi-annual fishing plans, as well as the future of the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund.

Based on the committees’ recommendations, the Conference of Presidents will decide on 17 October if Parliament has received sufficient information to declare the hearing process closed. If so, the plenary will vote on whether or not to elect the Commission as a whole on 23 October, in Strasbourg.

EPP: Sinkevičius did not disappoint, he has potential

“Sinkevičius is a man with huge potential”, said Peter Liese MEP and Francisco José Millán Mon MEP, EPP Group Spokesmen for the Environment and Fisheries Committees, respectively, following the hearing of the Commissioner-designate for Environment and Oceans.

“He is the first representative of the millennium generation in the European Commission. A good signal for the young. His background as Minister for Innovation will be helpful when we address environmental problems”, said Liese.

“Even though I don’t agree with all his statements during the hearing, we are ready to support him and work with him. We expect him to listen carefully to the biggest political group of the European Parliament”, he continued.

“The future of the planet is justly green and blue, but that does not mean the future of fisheries has to look grey. We are happy that Virginijus Sinkevičius is committed to making fishing a noble profession. We need to focus on quality, not quantity”, said Millán Mon.

“The fisheries sector will face many challenges, not just due to climate change but also because of the possible Brexit. I hope that Mr Sinkevičius will keep his promises not to leave fisheries behind”, concluded José Millán Mon MEP.