Despite promising to ensure that the “Green Deal continues to thrive“, Commissioner Šefčovič dodged questions about key Green Deal legislation on food, animal welfare and chemicals which have been delayed, raising concerns it may be abandoned entirely.
Taking urgent action on chemical pollution whilst delivering healthy and sustainable food systems and strong animal welfare legislationis vital for the Green Deal, as recognised by Šefčovič. But it is also wanted – and increasingly demanded – by people everywhere.
Direct democratic engagement on animal welfare issues show that citizens want change, with five of the ten successful European Citizens’ Initiatives concerning animal welfare.With diet-related diseases on the rise, huge amounts of food waste, and ‘greedflation’ putting pressure on consumers, civil society and scientists have urged the EU to urgently put forward legislation on food systems,warning that “‘business-as-usual’is no longer a viableoption”.
Yet despite this, the European Commission’s commitment to deliver promised legislation on food, andthe long-awaited revisionof chemicals (REACH) andanimal welfare legislation rests on shaky ground.
Under the EU Green Deal, a revision of 15-year–old animal welfare legislation, a new law on Sustainable Food Systemsand REACH had been promised for the third quarter of 2023.Both the animal welfare and food laws received a greenlight from the EU’s Regulatory Scrutiny Board in July – REACH receivedit back in November 2022– clearing the way for their publication.However, when pressed by MEPs on a publication date, Sefcovic responded that “work is ongoing”, a clear sign of the Commission bowing to pressure from industry lobbies and reactionary political forces who have waged an all-out war on agriculture and chemical related elements of the EU Green Deal in recent months.
In the coming weeks, the Commission is due to publish the last Work Programme of its mandate which will give a final indication of whether the Executive’s commitment to all parts of the Green Deal remains strong.
“Our food system drives enormous environmental destructionand makes us sick, with diets now the leading cause of early death. The EU must deliver the promised new lawon sustainable food systems now to address these huge challenges. Any further delay is ablow to the millions of Europeans struggling to access healthy food, to the farmersbeing pushed out of business by a cut-throat food system, and to future generations who will have to deal with the environmental degradation we are causing.”
“This Commission promised to deliver on EU citizens’ express will and revise the outdated and unscientific EU legislation on animal welfare. After years of work on this file, Šefčovič today gave no explicit indication that the revision will be published and instead insisted it is a “complicated matter”. It’s not. The science is there, the work has been done, and EU citizens have spoken. Anything short of delivery would show a blatant disregard for the suffering of millions of animals as well as EU democratic process.”
“The Green Deal will be broken if the toxics-free and zero-pollution pillars fail. Fixing REACH is the only way forward to our common future. It is the most important tool to achieve these goals, but the long-awaited revision is under threat, as the European Commission remains ambiguous on the future of the chemicals law reform. The EU cannot turn a blind eye to chemical pollution. Our citizens are astute and discerning, and they will recognize if their health and well-being as well as the planet and all living beings are being sacrificed for empty gestures as a gift to polluters.”
Notes to editors
Maroš Šefčovič, the Slovak Commissioner, is the leading candidate set to replace Frans Timmermans, who resigned on 22 August to run as a candidate in the upcoming general elections in the Netherlands.
Part of the appointment process involves an assessment of Šefčovič’s skill, experience and suitability by MEPs from relevant Committees, followed by a vote in Plenary on Thursday 5 October. While the Parliament only holds a consultative role in this selection, the Commission is obliged to take its opinion on board.