The Alliance of Conservatives and Reformists in Europe (ACRE) hosted the second annual Blue-Green Summit in Brussels on May 22, highlighting the full spectrum of conservative environmental thinking while discussing how best to improve the environment using market mechanisms, as well as innovation that comes from competitive capitalism, and a natural sense of trusteeship that is part of Burkean conservatism.
New Europe journalists Irene Kostaki and Violetta Rusheva sat down with the several speakers at the Summit and discussed the hottest issues.
Capezzone is an Italian politician and Vice President of the Alliance of Conservatives and Reformists, with whom New Europe met at the Blue-Green Summit. He believes that the EU’s interference in the issues of environmental policy only exacerbates the problem and cannot bring an effective solution:
NE: Mr. Capezzone, do you think that on the European level, the Brussels policy makers do enough in terms of environmental protection and addressing the issues of degrading ecology?
Capezzone: I think the EU regulators abuse the power given to them by the sovereign Member States and interfere in areas where open and free markets could have done much more in terms of effectively addressing environmental problems.
NE: Could you please specify what you mean when you say ‘abuse their power’?
Capezzone: Look at the tools available to EU policymakers. What do they do? They excessively regulate and penalise the sovereign Member States, when in their opinion, a Member State doesn’t meet its obligations and then relocates the funds in the means of subsidies. The recent EU Energy packet is another set of legislation, not to mention waste and eco-design directives, that will cost additional money to our taxpayers.
NE: What is the solution to the problem? Do you think that all the Member States can promptly and effectively address the issues on the national level?
Capezzone: I think that we have to move away from the EU’s excessive regulation and unleash the power of free market. At present, we have a situation where certain groups have access to funds and subsidies, whereas business has to fight for its survival under high competition. Look at the US example. The American government supports the free market and encourages the development of technologies and personal liability. The results they achieved are much more impressive than the EU’s. I do not think that it makes us more competitive.
Vălean is an MEP and Chairwoman of the Committee on Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI)
NE: How can we be more inclusive towards a Blue-Green economy?
We can’t say we are discussing a Blue-Green economy without everyone being involved. We can’t have anyone out, in order to succeed. You can’t do that without having the businesses as partners. Citizens alone can’t make a plan without the support of the business environment. There are changes in the way business models are evolving as well as new technology out there, and that is the key. We have to find the right incentives to put the policies forward, otherwise the policies alone will not succeed.
NE: How your experience is as the chair of ENVI Committee?
Even though I have been a MEP for 11 years, I didn’t know how complex ENVI committee was, with five agencies – public health and food safety – the work is really complex. The best challenge is to encourage people to find ways to gain back the public trust in science. A good example was the glyphosate case, which worried a lot of people. The agencies say everything is fine, but now there’s a call to ban it in Europe, which will heavily impact agriculture. Where is the science that we can trust? If we can’t rely on the agencies, then what can we rely on what?
Datuk Franki Anthony Dass
The Chief Advisor & Value Officer of the Sime Darby Plantation.
NE: How do you see the EU’s strategy on palm oil?
It is important to have free and fair trade. If there is a need for any tariff instead of setting restrictions, they can work with the Council of Palm Oil Producing Countries and find a better way to have balanced trade. We want one global certification that applies to all crops, no matter what you grow – soya beans, canola, palm oil, olive oil. That’s the way you manage biodiversity. You set sustainable development goals in line with the WTO. Yes, one needs to protect its own market, but there comes a point when you have to find a mechanism on how to enhance trade. Having 120 years of success story at Sime Darby Plantation, where we use innovation, come out with new materials, help farmers, and have strong fire prevention and a sustainable growth policies. That is the way we need to work.
Dato’ Lee Yeow Chor
Dato’ Lee Yeow Chor is the Chairman of the Malaysian Palm Oil Council
NE: What is your main message for the Blue-Green summit and the way forward?
One of the main messages from my side is that palm oil is the most productive seed crops in the world. Palm oil productivity, per hectare of land, is 5-10 times more productive than grape seed and soya bean. If people are really concerned about the environment, they should not discriminate against it, but rather encourage the production of palm oil. There is always a group of people wanting to protect their domestic industry, but there are also a lot of young people having been fed with wrong information, especially in terms of the usage of land. Vegetable oil production in the world occupies just 3% of the crops, so it is a very small percentage in terms of the result, but with huge productivity.