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News 28 August 2023

Top story of the week: Reshaping the European Green Deal landscape: Timmermans' departure and Šefčovič's challenge

On 22 August, Frans Timmermans, the European Commission’s Executive Vice-President, announced his resignation, a decision closely linked to his bid in the forthcoming Dutch elections scheduled for November. Timmermans, who had led the ambitious European Green Deal, will hand over the reins to Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič. This transition not only implies a significant change in leadership but also carries consequences for the trajectory of the European Union's climate agenda.

Frans Timmermans' tenure as the steward of the European Green Deal has been characterised by his unwavering dedication and fervour in translating environmental aspirations into tangible actions. His departure, while abrupt, is rooted in a strategic political move. With the impending departure of the Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, who announced his intention to step down after a decade in power, Timmermans saw an opportunity to contribute to Dutch politics once again. Rather than opting for a leave of absence to run in the elections, he chose to resign, setting the stage for a new chapter in his career.

Timmermans' decision to step aside has sparked discussions about its impact on the momentum of the European Green Deal. This comprehensive plan, designed to guide the EU towards becoming the world's first climate-neutral continent, has seen remarkable progress under his guidance. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen commended his "passionate and tireless work" in making the Green Deal a reality, highlighting the strides made in alignment with global climate objectives. As Šefčovič assumes this pivotal role, he shoulders the responsibility of advancing the Green Deal's key initiatives.

Maroš Šefčovič, a seasoned member of the European Commission, assumes leadership at a critical juncture. His experience and adeptness in handling challenging portfolios equip him well to continue driving the EU's environmental ambitions, and his previous role as Commissioner for Energy indicates great suitability to navigate intricate matters in this realm with effectiveness. As the EU progresses through its climate agenda, crucial decisions lie ahead. These include establishing a 2040 climate target, appointing a representative for the COP28 summit, finalising the Nature Restoration Law, and outlining the plan for industrial carbon management.

The upcoming State of the Union speech by President von der Leyen in mid-September is expected to highlight the significance of green issues during her remaining tenure. With mounting pressure to balance environmental commitments and economic considerations, the role of Timmermans’ successor in maintaining the impetus of the Green Deal becomes pivotal to ensure the EU's commitment to climate neutrality remains steadfast.