On 20th March 2014, Jean Lambert MEP was the guest of honour to a 1 to 11 Round Table Meeting hosted at BN Magazine’s head office. Elected as London’s MEP for the Green Party in 1999, Jean Lambert is a member of the Employment and Social Affairs Committee and a substitute member of the Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee; moreover, she also serves as the Chair of the Delegations for Relations with the Countries of South Asia.
Discussing the subject concerning the relationship between business and the environment, Mrs Lambert introduced the topic by focusing on policy efforts at the European Union level such as the renowned Europe 2020 Strategy. Launched by the Commission in 2010, this initiative aims at providing “smart, sustainable, inclusive growth” by: boosting investment in advanced communication technology and development of a digital single market, moving towards a low-carbon economy with a greater role for renewable energy sources, and focusing on job creation and poverty reduction.
Despite pointing out that a green policy sector is quickly developing throughout the EU, Mrs Lambert also underlined the most concrete challenges to achieving the targets set out in the Europe 2020 Strategy. Besides the ever-growing relevance of climate change in the policy discourse, the use of energy sources and the rise in energy costs were identified as impacting harmfully on small and medium enterprises. Excessive spending for importing fossil fuels into the EU (€400 billion) and the gradual reduction of governmental feeding tariffs for solar panels were identified as clearly harmful factors for businesses. Mrs Lambert also pointed out that only €3 billion have been made available for SMEs within the EU’s Multiannual Financial Framework between 2014 and 2020, instead of the initially hoped €8.5 billion. In addition, the difficulty for SMEs to gain access to these funds remained a significant obstacle – Mrs Lambert explained.
Questions from the audience touched upon a variety of relevant issues, most notably how to make it easier for SMEs to access EU funding and how the recent developments in the Ukraine are likely to affect energy throughout Europe. In response to the first question, Mrs Lambert stated that governments should certainly be more involved to advertise these funding opportunities for SMEs, while at the same different channels (i.e. chambers of commerce, business associations, educational institutions) should also be encouraged to play a more active role in advertising access to these funds. Talking about the Ukraine, she explained that the country finds itself at a difficult junction in history due to its heavy dependence on Russia for energy supplies and lack of clear signals on renewable energy sources; Mrs Lambert explained that there is still much hesitation about what the Ukraine is going to commit to in the nearby future.
Additional questions from the public also asked for comments by Mrs Jean Lambert on issues such as the frequent denial of global warming by other political members and the current status of unemployment throughout the EU.