For decades, companies have been deploying the Energy Charter Treaty (ECT) to sue 55 Member States in investor state dispute settlement proceedings for amounts running into billions if these, due to (environmental) laws, risked reducing their chances of making profit. The Energy Charter Treaty in particular precludes the fight against the climate crisis and the necessary conversion to CO2 neutral energy, like the phase-out of oil and coal.
Due to the fact that their predecessors had been rejected by the European Parliament, the hearings of the three Commission candidates, who were subsequently nominated by their Member States, took place on 15th November 2019 before the European Parliament. Particular focus was put on the Rumanian Adina Vălean, who had been recommended for transport matters. Especially this policy area requires significant changes if the EU really wants to achieve the targets of a CO2-neutral continent by 2050 and a socially fair transition.
European Commission, Council and Parliament are currently negotiating the final version of the so-called Mobility Package within the trilogue process. A debate in the Employment Committee on the current state of the negotiations showed that many key issues are still open. However, from the AK’s point of view there are many red lines, which have to be taken into consideration to ensure that the Package does indeed improve drivers’ working conditions and that wage and social dumping is effectively combatted.
The bankruptcy of the travel agency Thomas Cook on 23rd September 2019 left more than 600,000 travellers stranded at their holiday destinations and put 22,000 jobs at risk worldwide. Due to these dimensions, the European Parliament on 24th October 2019 adopted a resolution on the negative effects of Thomas Cook bankruptcy on European tourism and set out measures to improve the protection of travellers with a clear majority.
AK expects that the incoming Commission will continue on the path of multilateral, ambitious climate policy, further evolution of its goals and the continuation of its leading role in international negotiations. Questions of social justice – in particular the distribution of costs of restructuring and adapting the system, the effects on the quality and quantity of employment as well as negative effects on the workers affected – must be at the heart of the definition of targets and the implementation of climate policy.
The Commission President-designate Ursula von der Leyen has made the fight against climate change one of the top priorities of her new Commission. From the AK’s point of view, this approach is to be welcomed. However, it must be ensured that the measures, which will be taken in future, will be socially just: Europe needs a “just transition”.
The Commissioner-designate for Environment and Oceans, Virginijus Sinkevičius from Lithuania was given the task by future Commission President Ursula von der Leyen to - among other - ensure improved air and water quality. From the Chamber of Labour’s point of view, this target is to be welcomed; after all, currently changes to Europe’s water policy are being discussed on EU level.
AK sees the risk that the current high standards for water could be watered down if the Water Framework Directive (WFD) were to be reviewed. Austria’s experience shows that the WFD is in itself a good instrument to protect water as a resource. Therefore, AK argues that the WFD is “fit for purpose” for the comprehensive and preventive protection of water. It has to be retained in its current form in the interest of water as a public good and public service. Instead, action is needed in other fields to effectively support the aims of the Water Framework Directive.
The social legislation for HGV and bus drivers is one of the most controversial EU Dossiers of recent years. The Transport Committee of the EU Parliament confirmed the compromises so far at the votes on 19 and 24 September. The trilogue negotiations between European Parliament, Commission and Council and shall start in October – it should be the last stage within the framework of the EU legislative process.
During the coming months, the European Commission will focus more and more on climate change and the necessary changes within society associated with it. Important in the AK’s opinion is that all people will be positively affected within the framework of a so-called “just transition”. To achieve this, it is crucial not to lose sight of the social aspects of climate change.