Vella hints at new circular economy direction
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The replacement for the scrapped circular economy package may contain more non-legislative policies to help cut the administrative burden of implementing EU waste goals, environment commissioner Karmenu Vella suggested on Wednesday.
He was speaking to journalists after an Environment Council meeting where ministers heavily criticised the European Commission for wasting time and effort already expended on the circular economy package with its plan to table a replacement proposal.
Issues to be addressed in the new policy through non-legislative measures will include investment and business opportunities, Mr Vella said, adding that it was too early to go into detail as MEPs and the Council need to be consulted.
He told ministers that the replacement package would take into account the different situations in member states. Many Eastern member states are concerned that any new EU initiative on waste will be too ambitious for them, with Romania, Hungary, Croatia and Bulgaria arguing on Wednesday that the new proposal must better reflect national differences.
Mr Vella did not respond to ministers’ requests for clarification on the timing of the new proposal.
The Italian presidency of the EU Council, supported by many other countries, said the Commission’s withdrawal of the existing proposals sends out a negative signal at a time when investment in the circular economy is urgently needed.
Member states have put a lot of work into finding a compromise on the waste proposal over the last six months, Italy said.
The existing proposal includes strengthened recycling targets and a ban on landfilling recyclable materials as part of a wide-ranging overall of the EU’s waste policy.
Austria said the Commission has chosen “the wrong path” and argued that the co-legislators would have managed to find a common position, but would now lose a year waiting for a new proposal.
Several ministers questioned why the new Commission, which is prioritising jobs and growth, would withdraw a proposal that helps those objectives.
Environment ministers also approved a political agreement reached last month with the European Parliament to reduce the use of lightweight plastic bags. Ministers were united in their support for the new law that will update waste packaging rules to cut down marine litter and promote efficient use of resources.
The French minister said the law will now allow France to finalise its own ban on single-use plastic bags.