Lithuania’s EC nominee prepares to show muscle in EP confirmation hearings

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As Lithuania’s European Commission nominee, Economy Minister Virginijus Sinkevičius prepares for his confirmation hearing in the European Parliament, MEPs who will question him say they will be looking for personal engagement with environmental issues.

Sinkevičius has been nominated to oversee Environment and Oceans and his hearing is scheduled for Thursday. He will be questioned by members of the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety Committee and the Fisheries Committee.

Pascal Canfin, the chairman of the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety Committee, says Sinkevičius will have to prove his ability to lead.

“He has to find his place in Frans Timmermans’ team,” Canfin has told LRT.lt.

Timmermans, one of the would-be vice-presidents of the Commission, is entrusted with the EC’s climate change policy which, for the first time, has such a prominent place in the EU agenda, according to Canfin. Sinkevičius will have to demonstrate his personal engagement in the field.

The Environment, Public Health and Food Safety Committee chairman says that the Lithuanian nominee is not one of the controversial candidates and should perform well at the confirmation hearings.

Chris Davies, the chairman of the Fisheries Committee, notes that overfishing is a pressing problem in Europe and the world. The committee will look weather the EU commissioner nominee supports a reform to seriously limit fishing by 2020.

In the eastern Baltic Sea, in particular, fishing volumes need to be cut by up to 70 percent to avoid depletion, according to Davies.

“It’s a very complicated situation, but some of the governments in this region are hiding their heads in the sand and only using short-term measures,” Davies has told LRT.lt.

Sinkevičius himself believes that efforts to preserve biodiversity will be one of his focal challenges, if he is confirmed. The pollution strategy, looking to cut carbon emissions to zero by 2050, will be another important issue. He also sees opportunities in circular economy for businesses and startups to find new markets and create new jobs.

Sinkevičius adds that, if he is confirmed, he will attempt to engage in a dialogue with the fishing sector.

One of the MEPs who will question Sinkevičius on Thursday is the Lithuanian member of the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety Committee, Liudas Mažylis.

Mažylis, who sits with the European People’s Party (EPP) group, has refused to disclose the questions he is going to give, only saying that the EPP is interested in Sinkevičius’ ideological orientation regarding the environment.

He adds that he has received questions from fellow EPP members about the party that Sinkevičius represents, the Lithuanian Farmers and Greens Union.

“What kind of a party is it? I heard this question a number of times,” Mažylis has told LRT.lt. “They can’t be farmers and greens at the same time. They can’t, I tell them, but here they’ve been in power for the last three years.”

Unlike most of the European green parties, Lithuania’s Farmers and Greens Union is socially rather conservative and does not focus on environmental policies.

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