ENDS Europe, 9 July 2014
Juncker states his opposition to fracking
By Roz Bulleid
Jean-Claude Juncker has told MEPs he is personally opposed to fracking for shale gas because of uncertainties about its long-term consequences.
But Mr Juncker, who was answering questions from Green MEPs at a hearing on Wednesday, could not say whether the new European Commission will propose tighter controls if he becomes its president. MEPs will vote on his election on 15 July.
The Commission has to behave democratically and it is impossible to say exactly what position it will take, the former prime minister of Luxembourg said, a point he repeated several times during the Greens/EFA hearing. He would prefer to take a cautious approach to all new technologies, he added.
Mr Juncker got a cheer from the MEPs when he expressed concerns about the EU approval system for genetically modified crops, which leaves the Commission forced to back crops when member states cannot agree a position. The whole system is not very transparent and there could be potential for reform, he said.
When asked about climate and energy targets, Mr Juncker was more cautious. He wants ambition and said the UN climate talks in Paris next year deserve attention but stressed he would need to study the dossiers in more detail before taking a position.
One area where Mr Juncker was more certain was on the benefits of energy efficiency. As things stand, he said he would favour a 2030 target that requires the EU to keep improving its efficiency by 2% a year beyond 2020.
The current energy commissioner Günther Oettinger, who plans to serve another term in the Commission, is thought to back a 27% target on energy efficiency based on energy intensity rather than total energy consumption.
Asked about the trade deal the Commission is currently negotiating with the US, which campaigners fear will allow private companies to challenge the EU’s environmental rules, Mr Juncker stressed that the normal, publicly accountable, court system should be used instead of private courts or arbitration panels.
Consumer rights, food security and data protection must be protected too, he said.
Mr Juncker also emphasised the need for more transparency in the EU policy making process. The transparency register for lobbyists must be mandatory, he said, and apply to all institutions including the Council of Ministers.
The Council of Ministers has given Mr Juncker its backing, despite fierce opposition from the UK, which does not think he will do enough to reform the EU. The Luxembourger must win a majority in the Parliament to be elected.
If he is successful, he will work with member states to select his team of commissioners. MEPs will also have to approve the selections.
Reacting to his comments on fracking, lobby group Shale Gas Europe said shale gas developed within an environmentally sustainable framework can substitute more carbon-intensive fuels, improve energy security and offer a range of economic benefits.