The European Commission is having to re-order its priorities in the face of the coronavirus crisis, with “non-essential” initiatives like the biodiversity strategy and the farm-to-fork strategy likely to be delayed by several weeks.
Officials admit that Brussels is having to review its priorities in order to throw all its weight behind the ongoing fight against the coronavirus crisis.
“At this point in time, we do not have any comment to make on any knock-on effect that this could have on legislative work in general,” said Eric Mamer, chief spokesperson of the European Commission, during a regular press briefing on Tuesday (17 March).
However, he also suggested that a reshuffling of priorities was underway at the EU executive, also because of constraints posed by teleworking.
“For legislative activity to work, we need to have the institutions able to operate,” Mamer admitted, saying Commission services and other EU institutions “will definitely have to prioritise their work in order to cater for the current needs.”
“Non-essential” initiatives delayed
As a result, “non-essential” initiatives like the biodiversity strategy and the farm-to-fork strategy are likely to be delayed by a few weeks. According to the Commission’s work programme, those were supposed to be adopted before the end of March. Other Green Deal-related initiatives likely to be delayed include the raw materials strategy.
“If we adopt those strategies in two or three weeks, that won’t make such a big difference,” one official sid on condition of anonymity. “We have to concentrate on the corona crisis,” the official explained.
But that doesn’t mean Europe should “forget about the Green Deal” to focus on the coronavirus, as suggested by Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš on Monday. Nor will the Commission put its carbon trading scheme on hold, like Poland requested through the voice of its Deputy Minister for State Assets, Janusz Kowalski, officials said.
“The long-term work on the Green Deal continues in parallel” to the coronavirus firefighting “and continues to be one of the priorities as well,” said Vivian Loonela, EU Commission spokesperson for the European Green Deal.
“We have preparations ongoing for the next initiatives and this work is continuing,” Loonela said. That work is “underway through our colleagues who are in teleworking,” she said in response to press questions on Tuesday (17 March).