Press Statement by Commissioner Virginijus Sinkevičius following the Environment Council, on 10 June 2021

(Source: European Commission)

“Check against delivery”

Good afternoon everybody, and thank you for tuning in.

My thanks go to the Portuguese Presidency for running a very productive Council today, and for their great support over the last months. Thank you, João.

Pollution is one of the main concern of Europeans. Thus today a key focus of our discussions was the Zero Pollution Action Plan for a toxic-free environment, adopted by the Commission on 12 May.

This Action Plan is one of the key overarching strategies of the European Green Deal, aimed to ensure a healthy and habitable planet. Ministers exchanged views on the scope and on the level and ambition of the Action Plan, on the need for synergies with other policy areas and on the main implementation and enforcement actions set out in the plan.

I reminded Ministers that actions on national, regional and local level are key in this regard. If we want to reduce the number of premature deaths caused by air pollution by 55 percent, the share of people chronically disturbed by transport noise by 30 percent, or if we want to reach any other target proposed in the plan, concrete actions at every level will be necessary.

The other key topic in the area of environment we discussed were batteries. The Presidency reported on progress made on the Commission proposal, adopted in December last year.

Discussions centered on sustainability and safety requirements, end-of-life management, the restrictions of hazardous substances, extended producer responsibility and the choice of the legal basis. I am truly thankful for the tremendous work undertaken by Presidency on this file.

The Commission is fully committed to a successful conclusion of the negotiations in the first half of 2022. That would allow this vital piece of legislation to come into force in time to influence the major increase in battery production expected in 2023. I know this is a very ambitious timetable, and we need to focus all our attention now to make further progress and to ensure high quality legislation.

But we cannot miss the opportunity if we want to allow the European batteries industry to develop and enhance our open strategic autonomy.

We also discussed a number of AOB points today.

One of them, closely linked to zero pollution, was about the need to reverse the decline of pollinators. As insect populations, including wild pollinators, are declining at an unprecedented rate, I was personally reassured to hear Ministers call for reinforced EU action to reverse the trend. The Commission has just reviewed the EU Pollinators’ Initiative and will now start work in view of a possible revision. To this end, we will launch, still this year, a broad stakeholder consultation.

The Agrifish Council at the end of this month will also discuss the risk assessment of pesticides on bees, which needs to be strengthened. We count on all member states to ensure close cooperation on this important matter and to ensure the EU is set on the right path to reverse the decline of pollinators by 2030.

The Presidency also presented the state of play of the negotiations on the revised Aarhus Regulation, following the first trilogue with the European Parliament. Swift progress is needed to ensure that a political agreement can be reached on time for the Meeting of the Parties of the Aarhus Convention in October.

Finally, we ended with a presentation by the incoming Slovenian Presidency of their work programme, which will be at least as busy as the Portuguese one, and I am particularly looking forward to continue discussions with my colleagues already in July, during the Informal Environment Council in Slovenia.

Thank you very much and now I am ready to answer your questions!

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