Agriculture chief Franz Fischler has emerged with flying colours as the surprise choice of NGOs as the ‘greenest' member of the European Commission.
Austrian Franz Fischler shares the accolade of “greenese commissioner” with Environment Commissioner Margot Wallström in a review of the executive's policies by the ‘Green-8' group, which includes Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF).
Fischler's bold drive to streamline the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and his bid to address the problems of over-fishing earned five ‘smileys' from the NGOs in their mid-term assessment of the Prodi Commission.
”Commissioner Fischler was a surprise,” said Greenpeace EU policy advisor Jorgo Iwasaki-Riss. ”He's not directly responsible for the environment but his courageous recent initiatives on CAP and fishing were commendable.”
Iwasaki-Riss commended Wallström's efforts in pushing for the ratification of the Kyoto Protocol on climate change, despite the absence of support from the United States. However, the Swede was chided over her record on material and waste management.
The Green-8's wooden spoon went to Transport and Energy Commissioner Loyola de Palacio, who props up the green league with six ‘frownies'. Just above her are Enterprise Commissioner Erkki Liikanen, with three frownies, and Research Commissioner Philippe Busquin on two.
“De Palacio is the Commission's environmental bad guy,” Iwasaki-Riss lamented. “She's actively trying to block and dilute environmental policy, not only in her own area, but in a wider context.”
The review's authors have a long list of gripes with the Commission vice-president, including her active promotion of nuclear power despite the Commission's official neutral stance, and her support for “unsustainable” transport development in Central Europe. “She's clearly a talented political player, but she's on the wrong side,” the Greenpeace man said.
Prodi's Commission as a whole, three years into its term, earned a general thumbs-up from the Green-8. But Iwasaki-Riss said it sometimes lacked the political will to see its potential through on a range of crucial environmental issues. The campaigner urged the executive to put its full weight behind its landmark proposals for the CAP and the chemical industry.
The Commission broadly welcomed the NGOs' report as complementary to its own internal review of environment policies. “The mid-term review of eight environmental NGOs is part of the Commission's permanent dialogue with civil society,” it said in a statement.
The executive, however, disagreed with some of the report's findings. It insisted that it was taking a leading role in promoting global sustainable development, had taken concrete steps to tackle waste management and was working to decouple the link between economic growth and transport consumption.
This article first appeared in the 25-31 July 2002 edition of The European Voice.