This month’s news headlines were understandably dominated by the negotiations at the Eurogroup on the future of Greece’s economic adjustment programme. Along a parallel track, the Commission’s country-specific updates in the framework of the European Semester left little room for hope that the crisis is nearing an end: it signals alert for 16 member states (including Germany and France), whose macro-economic imbalances are of serious concern for possible negative spill-overs to the economic and monetary union. It is important to note that a number of recommendations included in the Semester reviews focus on greening the path of member states towards growth and these are indeed important to follow.
On the sidelines, an important green policy initiative was killed before birth: the Circular Economy Package is now officially a victim of the Juncker Commission’s fixation with rapid growth at all costs. Why scrap environmental law, especially when it promises to create green jobs, boost growth and improve the environmental and innovation outlook of Europe’s economies? Are the pressures by high-footprint industry resisting change so politically effective? It seems they are, despite evidence, such as the report announced a few days ago by the UK’s environmental department, that environmental regulation and compliance pays off and the benefits accrue to society more widely.
Crisis often causes fear and clasping to business-as-usual in quest for “safe” solutions. This in turn leads to political inaction and recurring crises or collapse. It is high time for Europe to see its own green writing on the wall and use the current crisis as an opportunity for much needed change towards long-term sustainable economies.