The group of the European Left at the European Parliament has criticised the nomination of Wopke Hoekstra as EU climate commissioner saying he “cannot possibly fill Timmerman’s shoes”.
The Dutch foreign affairs minister was nominated by prime minister Mark Rutte to replace Frans Timmermans, who resigned from the commission to lead a left-green alliance in November’s national elections.
Timmermans was executive vice-president in charge of the European Green Deal, a massive legislative package aiming to cut greenhouse gas emissions in Europe in line with the Paris climate agreement.
Following an interview yesterday, European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen proposed Hoekstra for the climate action portfolio, “under the guidance” of new Executive Vice-President for the European Green Deal, Slovakia’s Maroš Šefčovič.
Hoekstra’s “governmental experience will be a strong asset, in particular for Europe’s climate diplomacy in the run-up to COP28 and for climate finance, as well as for the implementation of climate-related legislative instruments,” Von der Leyen said. “Mr Hoekstra stressed during the interview his commitment to continuing an ambitious climate policy and to maintaining a social balance in all necessary joint efforts on the road to climate neutrality.”
The appointment has to be approved by the European Parliament, following a committee hearing and then be confirmed by the EU Council. But some left-wing groups have expressed concerns.
“Wopke Hoekstra is a former Shell employee and a member of a party that has systematically been trying to sabotage important parts of the European Green Deal such as the nature restoration law,” said MEP Anja Hazekamp, of the Partij voor de Dieren, member of The Left, in a press release.
“The nomination of Hoekstra as climate commissioner was a big surprise for us as he does not have a great climate record. He will definitely face a tough hearing in parliament, where he really needs to show some proper climate ambitions,” a spokesperson for the Greens told Dutch News.
Environmental groups also expressed reservations. “We are in the midst of a climate emergency and we cannot afford less than a great leader in the driving seat of the climate portfolio, defending enhancing emissions reductions, forging alliances with Global South partners at COP28 and finalising the important remaining files of the European Green Deal package without delays or compromises,” Chiara Martinelli, Director of CAN (Climate Action Network) Europe, an umbrella group of environmental organisations, told Dutch News.
But others gave Hoekstra a slightly warmer reception “He will have to demonstrate he is the right man in the right place. This is not a done deal,” said Pascal Canfin, chair of the parliament environment committee, and a member of Renew Europe, on social media.
Peter Liese, the German Christian Democrat who is the European People’s Party lead in the environment committee, said Timmermans had “great merits” but “the interests of agriculture and industry were not adequately acknowledged”.
He stressed that Hoekstra will have to focus on international climate negotiations. “We can only combat climate change effectively if we also convince other partners around the world. As a former foreign minister, Wopke Hoekstra has good prerequisites,” Liese said.
The date of the parliament hearing should be decided next Thursday, at the meeting of the heads of EU political groups, Dutch News understands. Meanwhile, the Volkskrant has suggested that Diederik Samsom, head of cabinet under Timmermans, will remain in post for Hoekstra’s term.
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