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Majority of MEPs oppose Clean Air Package withdrawal

European Parliament fails to adopt resolution on Commission’s 2015 agenda, but votes show support for air quality proposals

The majority of MEPs voting in Strasbourg yesterday (January 15) backed calls for EU proposals on air quality not to be withdrawn or weakened in this year’s legislative agenda.

However, despite majority opposition to withdrawing or delaying air quality proposals, MEP political groups were unable reach agreement on the wording of an overall joint resolution, which means the European Parliament has not formally objected to the Commission’s proposed 2015 workplan.

The MEP vote took place during this week's plenary session at the European Parliament building in Strasbourg, France

The MEP vote took place during this week’s plenary session at the European Parliament building in Strasbourg, France

When European Parliament negotiations broke down over the joint resolution this week, each political group tabled its own resolution, but none of these received overall majority support from the total 751 MEPs yesterday (January 15).

It is the first time in two parliaments that the various political groups in the Parliament have failed to agree a joint resolution on the Commission’s work programme.

Nevertheless, on Wednesday (January 14), UK Conservative MEP and the European Parliament’s rapporteur on air quality legislation, Julie Girling, said she had received assurances from Commission Vice President Timmermans that the legislative process for the Clean Air Package would “continue as plannedâ€? (see airqualitynews.com story).

In addition, MEPs from the liberal, socialist and green political groups had this week clubbed together to vote in favour of individual amendments criticising the withdrawal or delay of the air quality proposals, which received narrow majorities of between 327 and 332 votes in favour to between 283 and 309 against.

To be adopted, though, these proposed amendments needed to win overall majority support – more than half – from the 751 MEPs in the Parliament.

And, despite the European Parliament failing to adopt a joint resolution yesterday, UK Liberal Democrat MEP Catherine Bearder said the vote on individual amendments still sent a message to the Commission that the majority of MEPs are against weakening proposals on air quality.

Lib Dems

Catherine Bearder is part of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) group, which agreed a resolution earlier this week stating that it “disagrees strongly with proposed withdrawalâ€? of air quality package (see airqualitynews.com story).

The European Parliament building in Strasbourg, France

The European Parliament building in Strasbourg, France

The Lib Dem MEP said: “A clear majority of MEPs have signalled that they don’t want to see a weakening of EU proposals on waste and air quality. This sends a simple message to the Commission: yes to better regulation but not at the expense of our environment.

“Businesses and the public are crying out for action to put our economies on a more sustainable footing. The Commission must deliver for them now.â€?

The MEP for South East England added that “almost allâ€? right and centre-right MEPs from the European Conservatives and Reformists group (ECR) and the European People’s Party group (EPP) voted for their own resolutions which “avoided open criticism of the Commission’s plansâ€?.

However, Conservative MEP Julie Girling disputed this interpretation and attacked Ms Bearder on social media on Wednesday (January 14), stating: “I told you yesterday Commission confirmed direct to me as Rapporteur that Clean Air package is NOT withdrawn. Y r U creating divisions?â€?

Labour

Labour MEP for London, Seb Dance – who as part of the Socialists and Democrat (S&D) political group also supported a resolution against weakening the Clean Air Package – commented: “The S&D resolution has taken a strong position on environmental and social issues – which certainly can’t be said for the other parties.

“I’m particularly proud of our strong commitment to the air and waste packages which our group will fight to ensure remains on the Commission’s agenda in 2015. It’s a shame that the EPP motion doesn’t do the same.â€?

The S&D group’s agreed resolution states that it “Strongly opposes the Commission’s announced intention to withdraw a number of legislative proposals, in particular the air quality legislation (given that 400 000 Europeans die every year as a result of air pollution)…â€?

It adds that “the entire air quality package, including the proposal for a new national emissions ceiling directive, is of the utmost importance and will bring important health, economic and environmental benefits for citizensâ€?.

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