Dissecting Juncker’s Commission: Spain’s Commissioner

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This is a part of a translation of an article first published by Contexte.

Juncker Entrusts Energy and Climate to Spanish Conservative

The former Agriculture Minister Miguel Arias Canete is an expert on European politics. His close ties to the oil industry have earned him the scorn of ecologists, who do not deem him progressive enough. The Spanish government, however, is satisfied with his portfolio. The former Agriculture Minister under the Rajoy administration will be in charge of energy and climate. Spanish conservatives are obviously delighted by the news. The decision was announced on the 10th of September by the president elect of the European Commission, Jean Claude Juncker, and must still be approved by the European Parliament. The candidates will be evaluated by the European Parliament on the 29th of September.

A choice criticized by ecologists

The decision has already drawn the ire of many environmental groups including Europe Ecologie Les Verts  (EELV), a French environmental party, which declared that “Canete cannot spur the energy revolution that Europeans desperately need”. Greenpeace also spoke out on the issue, calling it a “controversial decision” Jose Ignacio Torreblanca, a Spanish policy expert at the European Council on Foreign Relations, is less surprised. According to him, Canete’s ideology is not significantly divergent from that of the European Peoples’ Party on the main issues of European energy policy. “He’s not so much a radical conservative as he is a pragmatist, listening to the input of the energy industry” says Torreblanca.

An opponent of renewable energy?

French Deputy Ecologist Yannick Jadot accuses the Spanish candidate of opposing the implementation of renewable energy. In fact, the Spanish government decided in mid-2013 to levy new taxes against renewable energy providers in an effort to offset the debt left by the previous administration’s tax breaks. The retroactive implementation of the reform was criticised by the renewable energy sector. “There was a need for reform, but not in such a brutal way, and completely ignoring the advice of pertinent parties and invested citizens”, said Florent Marcellesi, spokesperson for the Spanish Greens. Jose Ignacio Torreblanca believes that Canete will primarily use a cost-benefit analysis when deciding between energy sources. In the mission statement addressed to the candidate by Jean Claude Juncker, the Commission president calls on Canete to turn Europe into a “world leader” in renewable energy. “it is both an economic and political imperative, if we are to have affordable energy at our disposition in the near future”, writes Juncker.

This article is part of a series of views on the portfolios and the people of the new European Commision, including Josef Janning's article on the importance of the new cluster structure. For the full collection, go here.

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