Persoonlijke brief aan Potocnik

Met dank overgenomen van S. (Stientje) van Veldhoven-van der Meer i, gepubliceerd op donderdag 16 februari 2012.

Stientje van Veldhoven en Europarlementarier Gerben Jan Gerbrandy hebben vandaag een persoonlijke brief aan Eurocommissaris Potocnik overhandigd, voor het gesprek dat Potocnik heeft met Bleker over de Hedwigepolder. Van Veldhoven en Gerbrandy maken zich zorgen over de reputatie van Nederland in het buitenland, vooral doordat het kabinet vrijwel alleen naar Brussel gaat om te vragen of het wat minder mag. Terwijl Nederland juist belang heeft bij handhaving van de Europese regels. Of het nu gaat om de Euro, het vrije verkeer van goederen, de mogelijkheid ook in andere Europese landen te werken of de realisatie van voldoende biodiversiteit in Europa.

Aangezien Bleker voor de zoveelste keer om een onsje minder vraagt in Brussel, wil D66 duidelijk maken dat er ook een ander geluid in Nederland is. Van partijen die het wèl belangrijk vinden om internationale afspraken na te komen en verdragen uit te voeren. In de brief spreken Van Veldhoven en Gerbrandy hun zorgen uit over de wijze waarop er wordt bezuinigd op natuur, de vertraagde aanwijzing van de Europese Natura 2000 gebieden (al ruim een jaar te laat) en uiteraard de plannen van Bleker over de Westerschelde.

De brief:

Dear Commissioner Potočnik,

In light of your meeting with junior minister Bleker today, we would like to take this opportunity to inform you of our urgent concerns regarding the position taken by the Dutch government on our environmental obligations as described in the relevant European treaties and legislation.

In our work as members of Parliament, we meet every day with citizens, volunteers, businessmen and women, children, farmers and conservationists who are passionately dedicated to protecting and strengthening the environment they love dearly. These people are our constituents and their voices are not reflected in the position of the Dutch minority government.

Historically, the Netherlands have been one of the strongest supporters of stringent European nature legislation. Dutch ministers have fought for this high level of legal protection for years. For the simple reason that human kind is totally dependent on what nature provides us, and that we live on the resources of our children.

We have noticed that the Commission highlighted it’s concerns about the Dutch environmental policies in a letter sent on the 4th of April 2011, focusing in particular on:

  • the designation of Natura 2000 sites protected under the Bird and Habitat directives
  • the effects of the significant cuts to the relevant budget for nature conservation and
  • the insufficient measures being taken to restore the environment of the Western Scheldt estuary

We share these concerns.

Budget cuts for environmental conservation

The Dutch government has decided to drastically reduce its spending on nature conservation and the restoration of water quality. Collectively, these cuts amount to around 600 million Euros in total for the years between now and 2015, or approximately 70% of the previous budget. A scientific study, recently published by the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency concludes that the remaining budget is insufficient to fulfil our international obligations in both the short and the long term.

Designation of protected sites under the Natura 2000

Although the deadline for the designation of N2000 sites expired a year ago, more than a hundred sites (roughly two thirds of the total for the Netherlands) have not yet been formally designated. This delays the realisation of conservation measures in the field. Furthermore, hydrological measures related to achieving the water quality objectives of the Water Framework Directive, inter alia aimed at mitigating the environmental effects of drought are being postponed.

Western Scheldt Estuary

We have a particular concern fore the situation in the Western Scheldt Estuary. As you know, upon taking office in late 2010 the new Dutch government reneged on its bilateral treaty obligations with Flanders (the 2006 Scheldt treaty) relating to specific conservation measures to be taken to restore the environment of the Western Scheldt estuary to mitigate the damage caused by dredging. These measures, specifically the recreation of the equivalent of 295 hectares of the Western Scheldt tidal habitat environment lost due to dredging by removing the Hertogin Hedwige polder, were envisaged as part of the necessary conservation of the estuary habitat as protected by the Habitats Directive. The alternative proposed by the Dutch government is criticized by experts, as it would be insufficient to restore the damage done. Also, the alternative could prove to become much more expensive (in case Flanders would not financially contribute to the alternative or in case more measures in phase 3 are required). Additional funding for such drawbacks has not been secured, and is likely to prove difficult to secure, given the current financial space for nature conservation measures- see point 1. We therefore fear that this will further delay the necessary restoration measures, for which a feasible plan is available (Hedwige).

We hope that in writing and delivering this letter to you personally, we are able to convey both the level of concern shared by many Dutch citizens at the environmental policies of the current Dutch government as well as our support for a common and ambitious pan-European approach to protect our environment.

We sincerely hope that you, as guardian of the European treaties and legislation, will continue to support European governments in taking the long term perspective of the conservation of our European biodiversity over short term national interests.

Yours faithfully,

Stientje van Veldhoven-van der Meer, Member of the Dutch Parliament for Democrats 66

Gerben-Jan Gerbrandy, Member of the European Parliament for Democrats 66