EU climate package: the bubble is seething

Food production is one of the few economic sectors that is not directly affected by the EU Commission's new climate package. And yet the day after it was mostly about food. “The citizens want to know what to eat. They are not interested in the internal organization of the kitchen, "said EU Climate Commissioner Frans Timmermans on Thursday morning when asked about disagreements within the Commission over the climate package.

The day before it was apparently heated in the Berlaymont building, in which the highest EU authority is based. Individual components of the climate package fueled anger there - above all the plan to introduce emissions trading for road traffic and greenhouse gas emissions from buildings at European level, as has been in place in Germany since the beginning of the year. But the project is controversial, and not just within the Commission.

Critics accuse the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, of orienting herself too much towards the political events in her home country. You describe the idea as toxic because the project is likely to significantly increase climate costs for consumers as well. A 144 billion euro social fund, which is to be fed partly from the income from emissions trading, is intended to cushion social hardship. The details are still unclear, however, and so many fear that there could be large-scale protests, along the lines of the yellow vests in France. “We know that the menu will be expensive, but there is no price on the menu yet!” Was how a journalist took up Timmermans' metaphor on Thursday.

But there was also resentment about Ursula von der Leyen's management style - again, one has to say. This is not the first time that the tendency of the CDU politician to make important decisions in small groups, in Brussels sometimes even without consulting the responsible commissioners, which can already be observed in Berlin. At the end of January, for example, the Commission President announced that she wanted to partially override the Northern Ireland Protocol on Brexit - which she had not previously informed the Irish government, Irish Commissioner Mairead McGuinness or EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier. After a moderate diplomatic crisis, she admitted a mistake and reversed the decision.

The dispute also sparked off at an SZ interview

This time the dispute was sparked, among other things, by an interview that von der Leyen had given to the SZ and other European newspapers. In it, she discussed the main features of the climate package, including those of the controversial emissions trading system. The interview appeared on Tuesday evening - and thus at a time when the package had not yet been finalized.

A spokesman for the commission admitted on Thursday that Budget Commissioner Johannes Hahn, a Christian Democrat from Austria, had actually contradicted the project in a vote - apparently because of the interlinking between the income from the new climate instruments, the EU budget and the repayment of the funds from the Corona development fund was not specific enough. Hahn assured on Thursday that he would support the package as a whole that had been passed without him.

The other participants also made an obvious effort not to make the quarrel a big issue in the college. The fact that there was a heated debate was “in no way abnormal,” said Economic Commissioner Paolo Gentiloni, a social democrat from Italy, who himself is more of a critic. After all, according to Gentiloni, the Commission is also a political entity. What he might have meant by that: Often enough, governments try to torpedo unpleasant legislative proposals through their commissioners in advance. Even the French Thierry Breton, a confidante of President Emmanuel Macron, was apparently not completely satisfied.

The Commission needs the approval of Member States and Members of Parliament

In several articles it was emphasized that the Christian Democrat von der Leyen had encountered headwinds from within her own ranks as well as from social democrats and liberals - precisely from the factions on which she relies in the EU Parliament. In order to implement its climate plans, the Commission needs the okay from both sides: the Member States and the MEPs.

According to Timmermans, who was a member of the EU Commission under Jean-Claude Juncker, there have been internal disputes in all of the major crises in recent years. In French, he declared that the debate about a possible dispute within the EU Commission was “hyper-bulle”, i.e. an issue at best for the Brussels bubble of journalists, diplomats and members of the European Parliament.

But they know that big projects can fail before they are even presented. And so Bas Eickhout, Green MEP, congratulated his compatriot Timmermans at a hearing in the EU Parliament: "The fact that you have received the package from the College of Commissioners is already a huge success."

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