Hoekstra's European Commissioner job still uncertain after hours of questions
After over three hours of answering the European Parliament’s Environment Committee’s questions on Monday, Wopke Hoekstra’s appointment to succeed Frans Timmermans as the new European Commissioner for Climate is still uncertain. The Committee members were not yet convinced Hoekstra was suitable and postponed their decision. The committee will meet again on Tuesday afternoon, NOS reports.
After the committee’s decision, the entire European Parliament will vote on Hoekstra’s appointment as Climate Commissioner on Thursday. The former CDA leader can only call the job his if a majority of the MEPs support his appointment. Much depends on the support of the Greens and the Social Democrats for the necessary two-thirds majority.
Hoekstra stepped down as Minister of Foreign Affairs and the CDA’s Deputy Prime Minister in the fallen Rutte IV Cabinet a month ago to prepare for Monday’s meeting. He spent three hours defending his candidacy to the environment MEPs in Strasbourg. He said he wants to work on a global tax on kerosene, a maritime tax, and a tax on fossil fuels. He also said he wants to reduce the European Union’s CO2 emissions by 90 percent by 2040. He then answered questions about his climate ambitions but also had to answer for previous statements made and for his work for Shell, McKinsey, and as CDA leader.
Despite Hoekstra’s insistence that he would act independently and without bias, several MEPs wondered whether his past as a consultant for fossil fuels could be reconciled with Europe’s climate ambitions. His commitments did not convince everyone. “It would be wiser for you to say you regret things,” said Silvia Modig of the Left Group in the European Parliament (EP). Hoekstra’s own faction in the EP came to his defense - Tomas Tobe of the Christian Democrats mockingly responded that no one should ever dare to hold a public function after working in the private sector.
Hoekstra also spoke about the criticism he received during the coronavirus crisis for his harsh words about Member States who asked for support. “At the beginning of the pandemic, I did not sufficiently consider the difficulties some Member States faced. I want you to know that I believe I should have done it differently.”
The EU has already legally established that Europe must be climate-neutral by 2050, but European experts want to accelerate the emissions reduction to 90 percent by 2040. Hoekstra said he thinks Europe should aim for this. That’s not up to the European Commissioner for Climate to decide on his own, critical MEPs said.
Others criticized him for not aiming for more. Bas Eichout, group leader of GroenLinks, mentioned transparency about Member States’ current fossil fuel subsidies as an example. What exactly is Hoekstra going to do about that, Eickhout wanted to know. Eickhout also criticized Hoekstra’s promise to ensure that fossil subsidies are no longer part of the EU’s next long-term budget. “Every member state has already promised to phase out fossil subsidies.”