Fri. Feb 23rd, 2024

Brussels buries a law on pesticides

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The law proposed by Brussels provided for binding objectives to halve the use and risks of chemical phytosanitary products by 2030. (Archive photo)

Agence France-Presse

In a new pledge given to farmers, the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, delivered the final blow on Tuesday to a legislative project, already blocked by MEPs, aimed at reducing the use of pesticides.

A key element of the Green Deal, this text proposed in mid-2022 by Brussels provided for binding objectives to halve by 2030 the use and risks of chemical phytosanitary products in the EU compared to years 2015-2017.

It has become a symbol of polarization, Ms von der Leyen lamented before the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, while angry farmers have been denouncing excessive ecological standards for weeks.

Moving forward requires more dialogue and a different approach. The Commission could make a new, much more mature proposal, with the participation of stakeholders, Ms von der Leyen added, without giving a timetable.

Farmers need economic reasons to adopt nature protection measures, perhaps we have not presented these reasons convincingly, she regretted.

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Ursula von der Leyen intends to submit a “much more mature proposal”, without however indicating a timetable. (Archive photo)

Copa-Cogeca, an organization bringing together the majority agricultural unions at European level, had castigated a purely ideological text, poorly calibrated, unrealistic and unfunded.

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Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo, whose country holds the rotating presidency of the EU, welcomed the withdrawal: It is crucial to keep farmers on our side for a more sustainable future of agriculture, the dialogue continues, he said.

< p class="StyledBodyHtmlParagraph-sc-48221190-4 hnvfyV">Long live the farmers, whose tractors are forcing Europe to reverse the madness imposed on them, added Italian Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini.

The European Parliament rejected the pesticide proposal at the end of November, after amendments from elected representatives of the European People's Party (EPP) largely emptying it of its substance to spare the agricultural world from constraints considered untenable.

An extremely rare blockage which contributed to de facto burying it a few months before the European elections of June 2024, while the EU Green Deal appears as a scarecrow.

Theoretically, the Ministers of Agriculture could continue to debate the text, but the negotiations were permanently bogged down, with several States expressing alarm at the impact on yields and food sovereignty.

[Production] reductions were planned, it was not sensible. Thanks in particular to our work, this proposal has been swept aside, reacted the leader of the EPP, German elected official Manfred Weber, from the same camp as Ms. von der Leyen.

We will remain the farmers' party, we are at your side, he added, making the right a key argument in the elections.

Pascal Canfin, president of the parliamentary Environment committee, deplored an error, a missed opportunity. We were about to rework this text in depth, he assured.

The withdrawal comes a few hours before the announcement of a roadmap where Brussels will recommend a climate objective for 2040, which should relatively spare agriculture (11% of European greenhouse gas emissions).

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European farmers have increased their pressure tactics in recent weeks.

Faced with tractor parades, Brussels is stepping up its actions towards farmers.

The Commission proposed last week a partial exemption from fallow obligations and a limitation on Ukrainian imports, two major reasons for the protest, while promising to simplify the Common Agricultural Policy.

She also recognized that the conditions were not met to conclude the trade agreement with the South American Mercosur countries, a red line for farmers and certain states.

Already last year, Brussels had given up on proposing a text on nutritional labeling which was upsetting the agri-food sector.

Ursula von der Leyen once again assured Tuesday that she is aware of the agricultural malaise: faced with the effects of climate change and the Ukrainian conflict, many farmers feel cornered […] They deserve to x27;be listened to.

We must go beyond a polarized debate, build trust […] We must avoid we blame each other, and look for solutions together, hammered out the one who could run for her own succession after the elections.

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