1693676670 New climate commissioner The fuss over Hoekstra shows fault lines

New climate commissioner?: The fuss over Hoekstra shows fault lines in the EU

On Friday, Hoekstra resigned as Dutch foreign minister. The politician wrote on Twitter (X) that he wanted to prepare for his likely new role as EU Commissioner for Climate Protection and submitted his resignation papers to King Willem-Alexander.

He is expected to succeed Dutchman Frans Timmermans, who was previously seen as the driving force behind the Commission’s European “Green Deal” and who is now turning his back on EU politics for the national election campaign. The fact that Hoekstra, 47, who worked for the oil company Shell for 20 years and previously at the management consultancy McKinsey, will now inherit his legacy immediately caused anger in his home country.

European “Green Deal”

The European “Green Deal” stipulates that emissions across the EU will be reduced to zero by 2050. The target is legally binding in EU climate legislation. By 2030, net greenhouse gas emissions must be reduced by at least 55% compared to 1990.

30,000 petitions signed

Hoekstra did not distinguish himself as a climate protector, neither as Minister of Finance nor as Minister of Foreign Affairs, the citizens’ movement “De GoedeZaak” (The Good Cause) wrote in a petition in which he called on parliament to nominate another candidate who “will lead to climate protection seriously.” ”.

“Although Hoekstra does not have the knowledge, skills or will to take action against a total climate catastrophe, he, of all people, is being appointed EU Commissioner.” After just a few days, the petition had already been signed by more than 30,000 people. . They called Hoekstra’s cabinet appointment “a final change in the old government culture.”

“The future of our climate is also in the hands of Brussels,” the Dutch public broadcasting association BNNVARA quoted the director of the citizens’ movement, Jurjen van den Bergh, as saying. “Hoekstra’s profile doesn’t fit: a former Shell manager who previously backed KLM (the airline, mind you) with a billion-dollar package without batting an eyelid and didn’t want to tackle the nitrogen problem. Parliament should at least debate such an appointment.”

Von der Leyen sees “relevant professional experience”

The head of environmental organization Client Earth Europe, Jagoda Munic, also described Hoekstra’s appointment as EU climate commissioner as “depressing news.” Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, however, said that Hoekstra had “relevant professional experience” for the new role. His government experience will also be a “huge advantage” for the EU ahead of the UN climate conference (COP 28) in Dubai in December.

President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen

APA/AFP/Jean-Christophe Verhaegen According to von der Leyen, Hoekstra’s professional experience is an advantage for COP28

Hoekstra demonstrated “great motivation for the role and great commitment to the European Union,” von der Leyen said earlier this week after a conversation with Hoekstra. The 47-year-old now has to be confirmed by the EU Parliament and Member States. Hoekstra must expect a difficult hearing in the European Parliament, where he will have to receive a positive assessment and pass a possibly close vote in the plenary session with a majority, writes the Portal news agency.

Conservative group criticizes climate policy

Criticism of Hoekstra’s appointment has once again sparked discussions about the role of the European Parliament’s conservative group in taking action against the climate crisis. The EPP, which is made up of Christian Democratic and civil conservative member parties in the EU, recently rejected crucial proposals as part of the “Green Deal” – such as the regulation on the sustainable use of pesticides and the law to restore nature.

Helmut Burtscher-Schaden from the environmental protection organization Global2000 told ORF.at after the EVP’s rejection of the nature conservation law.There has long been a feeling that the EPP is moving closer to “post-truth” politics of US Republicans. He is observing a “radicalization” of conservatives. It is no longer about “scientific facts or Christian democratic values”, but just about preventing them.

EU Parliament plenary session in Brussels

AP/Virginia Mayo There have recently been discussions in the European Parliament about parts of the “Green New Deal.”

Above all, “the role of farmers as pioneers of the green transition and a resilient agricultural sector”, as a debate in the EU Parliament is called, has been questioned by the EPP in recent months. While the “Green Deal” itself is not in question, there is a “problem of excessive bureaucracy” and a looming dependence on imports. The ÖVP, like the entire EPP, is concerned about “more burdens” for farmers and Europe’s food security.


Climate crisis: what lies ahead?

Media: “Like-minded people” are an advantage

Von der Leyen did not get along very well, politically or personally, with the social democrat Frans Timmermans, writes “de Volkskrant”. Furthermore, the Timmermans were criticized in the EU Parliament, especially by von der Leyen’s Christian Democrat group. With Timmermanns, a “climate policy heavyweight is now leaving the European stage,” Spiegel said. Rarely has an EU commissioner been so well-known, feared and popular outside the Brussels bubble. Such a strong climate advocacy voice is hard to replace.

The fact that Hoekstra already knows the organizer of this year’s COP28, oil manager Mohamed bin Issa al Jaber, due to the conclusion of an agreement between Dutch companies and his company Masdar, could still prove to be an advantage. It could also be an advantage for “von der Leyen’s fight for EU Parliament support for European climate policy” if it is propagated by a person with similar political ideas in the future, writes “de Volkskrant”. This is how power politics works.