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2019.09.10 17:11

How influential will EU commissioner for environment and oceans be?

BNS2019.09.10 17:11

If Lithuania's Virginijus Sinkevičius is approved as the EU Commissioner for Environment and Oceans, he will have limited influence, political analysts say, even though environmental protection is becoming an increasingly important item on the European Union's agenda.

“It will be more of a technocrat position than a political one,” political scientist Tomas Janeliūnas told BNS.

Since Frans Timmermans of the Netherlands is to be put in charge of the climate change agenda, he will have the final say on how much responsibility Sinkevičius will be given.

Read more: Lithuanian Sinkevičius proposed as EU commissioner for environment

According to Janeliūnas, Timmermans' stewardship of the agenda might be beneficial, bearing in mind Sinkevičius' limited experience. But it also means that the Lithuanian commissioner will have less political weight and will focus more on implementing and monitoring specific commitments of the EU.

Political scientist Ramūnas Vilpišauskas says the most sought-after positions in the Commission are usually related to competition, external trade, monetary policy and internal market, since in these areas the EU has the upper hand.

By contrast, the EU has limited power in the area of environmental protection, according to Vilpišauskas, even though the growing urgency to fight climate change is making this area increasingly important politically.

“It's an important political responsibility, but that importance will probably be attributed to European Commission Vice President Timmermans, and Lithuania's commissioner will be in charge of only a part of that area. And we can only guess which part it will be,” Vilpišauskas told BNS Lithuania.

Linas Kojala, director of the Eastern Europe Studies Center, noted that Sinkevičius was tipped for a “portfolio [that] falls under one of the key priorities, green economy”, and Britain's withdrawal from the EU would make fisheries an even more important issue.

“In the outgoing Commission, the commissioner in charge of this area had quite a lot of weight in dealing with issues related to the fisheries policy, which is important in the Brexit context, and biological diversity. We could probably expect a similar thematic spectrum now as well, but a lot of things will depend on the relation with executive Vice President Timmermans,” he told BNS.